Valletta is small, but yet there is so much to discover. The big attractions alone could take you plenty of time ... and these narrow streets can be easily overlooked. So don't be afraid to 'lose yourself' and explore the tiny narrow streets ... they have a fascination of times long forgotten, and rest assured it will be like nothing you have ever experienced before.
Briefly, the 'Green Man' is a pre-Christian symbol of fertility and new life which has been around for millennia. He is a male face, always shown either peering out through leaves or with leaves growing from his face and mouth.
Like many pre-Christian symbols, customs and sacred sites he was absorbed into Christianity (I have seen him referred to as 'the god of lies' ) as it spread throughout Europe.
But those pre-Christian ideas and symbols still remained in the culture and in people's minds.
In the UK, you will almost always find a Green Man carving somewhere in any Medieval church. They are usually pretty well hidden. I think a 'blind eye' was turned to the stonemasons incorporating him into their carvings, but it woud not have been acceptable for him to be too obviously displayed.
It was only fairly recently that I realised he also appeared in mainland Europe.
And yes, he's in Malta too. In this case, inside St John's Co-cathedral. Well-hidden, again, amongst the intricately-carved wall decorations. But he is there (see photo).
You may be able to spot him when you visit the cathedral...or there may be more Green Men there that I missed.
Rabat is the bigger than its Siamese twin town of Mdina. It's name derives from the word "suburb" in Arabic, a name it shares with the capital of Morocco, and once upon a time it was exactly that: the suburb of Mdina. There's not a huge deal to see in Rabat, but if you are visiting Mdina (and you should) it's a shame not to make Rabat a little side-trip. The church of St. Paul's in the centre is particular worth a visit.
Directions: Take a bus to Mdina. It's on the left side of the road when the bus stops (Mdina's on the right side).
Like many Mediterranean cultures, the Maltese share a belief in the evil eye that brings bad luck upon those it gazes. One way of warding off the evil eye is by painting it onto the object you wish to protect, like your house, or in the case of the fishermen of Marsaxlokk: your boat. You'll find these traditional luzzo boats all over Malta, painted in bright blues, and striped in yellows, reds and ochres, but Marsaxlokk is one of the best places to see them. They'll often have two little eyes on the prow of the boat too.
Directions: Buses 81 and 85 run here from Valletta.
Floriana is both a town of its own and the suburb of Valletta. It was built as living space for Valletta, but at the last minute it was granted its own name and individual town status. It's surprisingly leafy streets feel much more relaxed than neighbouring Valletta, and has quite an English feel to it, especially the very British Wesleyan Chapel.
Perhaps the best way to experience Floriana is to take a stroll from Valletta's bus station through Maglio Gardens, and the snake your way down to the Waterfront. From here you can take the lift back up to Valletta many stories above.
Directions: Starts at the bus station in Valletta.
Qawra, along with Bugibba, form a single conurbation along St. Paul's bay about 20 km from Valletta. It has a beautiful coastline that's perfect for sunbathing, but not so good for making sandcastles as it has no beach. For me this area was the most touristic of all I saw in Malta, and to be honest I didn't like it much. I felt I could be anywhere in the Mediterranean - any tourist town in Greece, Cyprus, Spain or Turkey. There was no distinct character, although it was pleasant enough. It was full of big hotels, restaurants, new-build apartments and retired Brits buying rolling tobacco from the local newsagent.
There is one place worth visiting in Qawra if you are interested in cars: It has a fine car museum and it's only a short bus ride from Valletta.
Directions: Bus 12 runs to Qawra and Bugibba from Valletta via Sliema.
Mdina is Malta's original capital and a very old city. While Valletta dates to the 16th century, Mdina was founded by the Phoenicians in 700BC. It remained Malta's capital until the island came under the control of the Knights of Malta in 1530. But the Knights didn't abandon Mdina, they just felt the whole country would be better protected with fortifications around the Grand Harbour. The Knights swore an oath to protect the city and country here, and after the city was severely damaged by an earthquake in the 17th century, they rebuilt the city.
Today Mdina is called the "silent city". It is small, and has a population of only 300 people. Cars are mostly banned. Its located on a hill in the centre of the island, and this allows it amazing views back towards Valletta and the coastline. It is small, but home to some fine buildings, especially St. Paul's Cathedral. Combined with its near neighbour, the town of Rabat, it makes a fine day trip from Valletta.
Directions: Take buses 51, 52 and 53 from Valletta or bus 203 from Sliema. Note that Mdina is the walled city on the other side of the park, and Rabat the town on the other side of the car park.
With the some of the best views in all Malta, Sliema is a town sitting across the water from Valletta rising up onto a small hill. Here is one of the most affluent regions in the country, and a popular residence for monied Maltese. While the sea front is awash with shops, restaurants and hotels, behind this facade the place feels comfortably lived in. It felt more like a real town to me than St. Paul's Bay, St. Julian's, or even Valletta.
There's not a lot to see, apart from the amazing walk along the waterfront, but it's a great place to stay.
Directions: Buses 12, 13 and 15 run here from Valletta.
There's not really a lot to see in Sliema, but what exists in pretty dramatic and unmissable. The view of Valletta is the best, taking in the spire of St. Paul's Cathedral and the dome of the Carmelite church at the best possible angle. When the sun shines its softened light from the west about an hour before sunset, this is the perfect time to be here and take pictures. It makes the ideal place for posing, and you'll find many people doing just that.
Directions: Take bus 12 or 13 from Valletta to the Sliema Ferries stop, or one of the stops before, and just walk.
Recently redeveloped, the Tigne Point area of Sliema offers a quiet, traffic free walk along the coast, with the best views of Valletta in town. This is where Sliema juts out into the rough seas of the Mediterranean, so the breezes are fresh and cool. The walk is worth coming twice a day for, and best of all its kid friendly, with high fences, stone walls, and no cars. While they demolished the old barracks to make way from the shopping centre, hotels, cinemas and recreation areas, they left Fort Tigne, which you can visit on your walk around the peninsula.
Directions: Walk along Sliema promenade towards the sea.
A cruise around the Grand Harbour is a must for any visit to Malta, and trips are easy to arrange from the Strand in Sliema where the water taxis go from. In fact you'll have salespeople falling over themselves to sell you tickets. In the off season you can even bargain the prices down a little if you have patience. A typical cruise of the two harbours will take about a couple of hours and cost around 10 and 15 Euros. It can get quite choppy out on the wild Mediterranean when you are switching between harbours, so pick your day and take a bigger boat if you suffer from sea sickness.
Directions: Take bus 12 or 13 from Valletta to the Sliema Ferries stop.
Birgu is the original city of Malta's urban sprawl, and its second capital after Mdina. It's older than Valletta. In fact the reason Valletta was built was to protect Birgu from attack: The Ottoman Turks laid siege to Birgu from the peninsula that Valletta now occupies. Birgu takes its other official name, Vittoriosa from Malta's victory in that battle (Città Vittoriosa or "victorious city"). Today it forms part of the history area known as The Three Cities.
The city grew out of a need to protect this Grand Harbour from attack. Fort St Angelo, sitting at the end of the peninsula and jutting out into the waters, was the perfect place for the Knights of Malta to build their new capital; Mdina was far too inland to be practical. Birgu continued to be strategically useful long after capital status past to Valletta, and the British navy made the city its base of operations in the Mediterranean.
Birgu was smashed to pieces during World War 2, but has been partially reconstructed. It's a little off the tourist trail, but combined with the rest of the three cities makes an interesting, and less touristy, day trip.
Directions: Take bus 2 from Valletta to Birgu.
East of Valletta on Malta's northern coast is the town of St. Julian's. It's more like a suburb, though, as you can't tell where the town begins and where the adjacent town of Sliema ends. St. Julian's is one of the most touristy parts of Malta, full of English style pubs, British shops and franchise restaurants. There's even a Wagamama's here.
The coastal area is pleasant to stroll along in the evening, and it makes a nice walk from somewhere more central. It's also party central. The beating heart of this haven of pubs, clubs and restaurants is called Paceville. It has a reputation for drunkenness, and occasionally violence, but no more than you'd expect at a night out in England, and probably a lot less.
Directions: Buses 12 and 13 run from Valletta via Sliema to St. Julian's.
Even thought the Palace is the official residence of the President of Malta, the San Anton Gardens have been open to the public since 1882, and can be visited for FREE.
There a couple of entrances to the gardens, and both are only a short walk from the bus-stop. We entered through an archway in the thick high perimeter wall and into a little piece of paradise.
The gardens are laid out in a formal style, and each section has an information board describing what you are seeing.
It was peaceful in here! So nice walking underneath some shade on a hot day, viewing sculptures, ornamental ponds, families of ducks and swans, flowers, shrubs and exotic plants, some that have been here hundreds of years.
On entering the gardens, I first saw the floral clock, really a lawned clock!
GARDENS OPEN....7am till 6pm between June and September.
7am till 5pm during the rest of the year.
ADMISSION IS FREE
Attard is halfway between Valletta and Mdina so easy to reach by car.
Take Bus number 54 from Valletta or local routes 106,109 and 202.
The Sightseeing Bus also calls at Attard.
Read more: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/225732/#ixzz25RzuQRBA
This photo was taken from the ring road of the University of Malta which is situated in Msida. Just turn around the roundabout and follow signs to University. Its quite a complex building with loads of greenery around it - even though it seems to be diminishing too by time !!!!
From University you can see this view however and its very impressive when the weather is all foggy !