With the credit crunch still being felt in our wallets, trips to exotic locations might be beyond most people’s budgets. Thankfully, there’s some exotic locations right on Europe’s doorstep. Malta, with its Mediterranean climate, can be the perfect place for a quiet holiday exploring ancient ruins, majestic churches and the many beaches dotted around the country. Whatever you enjoy doing, be sure you visit these 5 amazing tourist attractions.
1. St. John’s Co-Cathedral
See this building from the outside, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s simply yet another church, as you will no doubt see while you go around Malta. Take a step inside however, and be awed by the gold plating on every surface, the elaborate designs in stone and the world-class paintings by renowned artists. Said to be one of the richest churches in the world, this legacy from the time of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St. John has withstood the plunder of Napolean and Luftwaffe air raids during the Second World War to remain a must-see for every person visiting the Maltese Islands.
Hewn out of the living rock over 5000 years ago, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is astounding evidence of ancient man’s prowess. Spread of an area of about 500m², it consists of three levels built over different periods, with different styles of craftsmanship evident. Seeing it a must, but watch out, since renovation works in the ’90s, only 80 people a day are allowed in. Make sure to book tickets online from Heritage Malta, the governmental body taking care of Malta’s ancient wonders.
The ancient walled city of Mdina has the oldest fortifications on the island. Built during Phoenician times (c. 300 B.C.), it remained the capital city until the 16th century. With its narrow, winding roads, it brings to mind other medinas (literally meaning ‘walled city’) around the Arab world. On these curving streets you may find cafes, museums, ancient dungeons, and of course beautiful churches.
4. Mosta Rotunda
Situated on a major north-south artery, you will definitely see this imposing church as you travel around the island. Boasting the third-largest unsupported dome in Europe, it stands as a testament to the locals’ religious devotion. Built in the mid-19th century over a previous, smaller church, it was planned to cater for the village’s growing population. It was constructed using stone from a nearby quarry and with a local labour force consisting mainly of farmers willing to sacrifice their time and strength for the cause. Visit in the first two weeks of August, before the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady on the 15th, to see it at its resplendent best.
5. Fishing market of Marsaxlokk
Famous around the island for its vast array of sea food, the market in the traditional fishing village of Marsaxlokk, in the South-East of the island, will surely dazzle you. Take a walk along the front and examine the wares, before going in to one of the nearby restaurants serving exquisite sea fare.