EVOKE Visits The Mediterranean Mecca Of Malta (2023)

I've long wanted to visit Malta. As a bit of a history nerd with an appreciation for architecture, my favourite holidays have always been to places that involve more walking around with a map than lying on the beach with a pina colada and, of course, some sunshine.

The tiny Mediterranean island nation ticks all boxes.

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After a three-hour 40- minute direct flight from Dublin, it was after midnight when we arrived so a short transfer to our hotel, the Intercontinental in the tourist area of St Julian, was extremely welcome.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a team of friendly and efficient staff who were happy to quickly check us in and show us to our rooms. I was on the tenth floor, overlooking a beautiful manmade oasis below. Even though the main strip was mere yards from the front door of the hotel, I was pleased to note that the only noise I could hear was that of a fountain in the oasis. I settled in for an extremely restful sleep in a soft, king-sized bed with spongey pillows and freshly pressed linen.

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The following morning, we tucked into an enormous breakfast buffet that literally catered for every taste. Over the course of our four-day stay, I made a point of sampling each continental, hot buffet, pastries and eggs made to order.

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We explored the hotel which could have easily kept us occupied had we decided not to leave for our daily excursions, with a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking the bustling streets below.

As a fitness fan, I was very excited by the state-of-theart gym facilities and the fact that there were ample machines and free weights to cater for everyone. A games room with pool tables, foosball, board games and card games also offers away to while away the time should you want to opt out of the sunshine.

But there's far too much to see on this jam-packed island, so we made our way to the stunning walled medieval city of Mdina. Familiar to anyone who has watched Game of Thrones, access to the tiny town of meandering laneways, stunning and well-preserved sandstone buildings and tumbling flowers is via a bridge over a moat that was the King's Landing backdrop in HBO's hit series.

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This beautiful town is home to fewer than 300 residents, however there are many traders that keep the vibrant city alive.

Known as the Silent City, there are very few cars and the businesses have strict noise regulations. It's perfect for a blissful stroll.

From here, we headed to renowned Maltese designers Charles and Ron's boutique café for lunch. These designers have shown their craft at New York Fashion Week and the food in the café was perfect for what we were looking for sandwiches, soups and pasta, with a small and varied wine list.

The décor very much paid homage to some of the designer's more elaborate creations; with some stunning haute couture dresses on display along with photography from their shows and screens showing the exquisite pieces on international runways. It was comfortable, tasty and I found it hard to resist treating myself to a handbag from the shop on the way out.

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After a relaxing afternoon by the pool, we enjoyed an evening meal in a restaurant called The Chophouse. It is a snazzy venue, with subtle jazz music and stunning views of the city of Valletta across the harbour it is one of the most beautiful settings I have ever enjoyed dinner in.

The following morning, keen to soak up more sights, we travelled to the island of Gozo, one of the places that enticed me to Malta in the first place.

The stunning cliff walks and small bays make for perfect photo opportunities as does the striking citadel and churches on the island. It is extremely small and easy to get around in a small buggy in fact, I think it's probably the only way to see the island properly.

The roads are extremely narrow, and only a quad bike or small buggy can manoeuvre some of the more scenic sites. We stopped for a short dip in the Mediterranean, before enjoying a fabulous seafood lunch at Il-Kartell Restaurant, where we dined right by the water's edge. The hazy sunshine was glorious and comfortable.

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While Gozo had been on my bucket list, I had vastly underestimated Valletta itself. I was absolutely blown away by this beautiful walled city. Starting with a stroll through the tiny streets, we took in the harbour route and views over to The Three Cities across the water.

From there we made our way to St John's Co- Cathedral one of the most incredible buildings I have ever seen.

I genuinely was lost for words upon entry when I saw the elaborately colourful religious artwork. It is a masterpiece. Even the floor has so much to look at, as the tombs of more than 400 knights are marked by individual stones with colourful designs and written dedications.

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Of course, you can also behold Caravaggio's The Beheading of St John The Baptist. It's believed the artist arrived in Malta in 1607 as he fled Rome, where he was wanted for murder. He presented the knights with this painting to show his gratitude for being given refuge, and it's thought it took around three years to complete. I was transfixed, it truly is out of this world.

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Having seen them from Valletta, a trip to the Three Cities was a must and we decided to tackle it on the Rolling Geeks. These golf buggies are a very cool way to see the sites and you can self-navigate around the streets. They are fitted with an audio tour that gives you directions and can tell you exactly what you're looking at as you're driving past.

It takes around an hour and is a bit of fun especially if you've never driven a golf buggy. Some of the rambling laneways are far too narrow for conventional vehicles so it really is the most convenient way to see everything without taking hours.

By the time we had finished the city tour, it was lunchtime, and we visited the Michelin-starred Tartarun seafood restaurant in nearby Marsaxlokk. There's a stunning little waterfront market where we were able to pick up a few mementos of Malta traditional snacks and treats, scarves, bags before we sat down to be treated to a magnificent meal.

I opted for something I never would normally try prawn carpaccio for starter, followed by some fresh fish caught earlier that morning, and locally made cheese and crackers for dessert. The wines on offer were perfectly matched with the food, the ambiance was just lovely, and the staff couldn't have been more helpful while maintaining a discreet presence.

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There was one last stop on the agenda at the Ta' Betta wine estate. A family-run venture set up in 2003, we were given a full tour of the grounds and the cellars.

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We were told about all the processes involved in creating their blends, some of which had a very unique taste, particularly the Isabella Guasconi, a fresh, dry Syrah rosé.

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Paired with a vast cheese and antipasti platter in a stunning function room with a huge balcony that's tastefully decorated with fairy lights and over-looking the vines, I could absolutely see myself enjoying a special occasion like a wedding or, more likely in my case at this stage, a significant birthday here.

Malta truly is an island with an abundance of things to do. We travelled in October and the weather was a pleasant 26 degrees, dropping to a comfortable 16 degrees at night. During summer months, temperatures can go up to the 30s while in the winter they drop to the high teens.

It's definitely a destination I would consider for both winter and summer sun.


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Ryanair (ryanair.com) operates five non-stop flights from Ireland per week to Malta on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from Dublin and Wednesdays and Saturdays from Shannon.

Flight prices start at €180, with January the cheapest month to travel.

For more information about the various excursions and restaurants go to visitmalta.com. For accommodation information, visit malta. intercontinental.com, rooms from €95 per night.

Check out more photos of EVOKE's trip to Malta in the gallery below


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