Written by dkm1981 on 11 Nov, 2009
There are so many fascinating places to visit in Malta, that just one week wasn't enough to cover them all. However these are the places that we did visit and I believe that all of them should feature on any prospective visitor's list:-Qawra and Bugibba-…Read More
There are so many fascinating places to visit in Malta, that just one week wasn't enough to cover them all. However these are the places that we did visit and I believe that all of them should feature on any prospective visitor's list:-Qawra and Bugibba- I've coupled these together as it's very hard to tell where one starts and the other ends. Located on the south side of the island, around 20 minutes drive from the airport, these are purpose-built towns directed solely for tourism. They were only built around 20 years ago; however they already have the well used look of the island in general. We stayed here at the Sunflower Hotel (review to follow) and enjoyed the laid back, Mediterranean feel of the area. The central focal point is Bugibba Square which is home to a number of restaurants, bars and shops as well as being the setting for various events. Whilst we were there, we saw the annual Raw Bikers of Malta Rock Concert, which was fantastic! Despite my lack of interest in both bikes and rock music, the party feel of the place was infectious and welcoming. There is a sea front, with lovely views of St Paul's Islands and the sea, however this isn't the place to come if you want to lie on the beach all day. There is a man-made beach, although it isn't nearly as good as the real thing. Most people use the lidos, which are spread across the front. The lidos all have their own bars, restaurants, swimming pools, toilets etc and cost only a few Euros for daily entrance. They also have access to the sea via steps across the rocky edges. Also in this resort is a casino (you'll need photographic ID to get membership, which is free), a bus station which connects you to most of the rest of the island and various shops, restaurants and museums - definitely plenty to keep you entertained for a week, although I'd urge you to travel a bit. -Valetta- This is Malta's capital and was built after the Great Siege to create an impregnable fortress against another assault. It was in fact, Europe's first planned city. It is much the same now as it was when it was built and you get a real sense of what the city has been through by just wandering around. We went on a public holiday, which meant that the streets were very quiet, except for the steady stream of tourists that are to be expected in a place like this. To be honest, we didn't actually go in anywhere, but I had a fabulous day wandering around the maze of streets (that are often very steep) and looking at the impressive Fort St Elmo (which is designed in a star shape to give the best advantages points and minimise the threat of a surprise attack) and the equally impressive grand harbour (home to thousands of yachts.) If you like to do things, there are plenty of museums, all of which are described in any guide book and plenty of shops for those who love to part with money! -Mosta- Mosta is in the centre of Malta and is a residential area that is quite compact. Its crowning glory is the Mosta Rotunda, which is an impressive and imposing building that stands above and beyond the sea of rooftops. Built over 27 years, this parish church is home to Europe's fourth largest dome. The main draw though, is the replica of the 200kg bomb that fell through the roof of the dome during a service in 1942. Fortunately it didn't explode and the replica can now be found in the church's sacristy (conveniently located right next to a gift stall!). Close
My first experience with Malta was as a child and I had fond, if not a little vague, memories of it. It was with this in mind that I decided to take advantage of a cheap package deal to the small island in the Mediterranean.…Read More
My first experience with Malta was as a child and I had fond, if not a little vague, memories of it. It was with this in mind that I decided to take advantage of a cheap package deal to the small island in the Mediterranean. We only spent six days there and this isn't nearly enough time to visit all the sights that Malta has to offer, so I won't presume to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But here is the general information you'll need about the island itself:-Getting there- As I said, we went on a package deal with Cosmos, flying with Air Malta. Browsing through the in flight magazine told me that Air Malta fly to and from most major UK airports on at least a weekly basis. I also noticed the familiar liveries of Easyjet, Ryannair, Monarch and Thomas Cook at Malta International Airport, so there is plenty of choice. -Getting around- Bar far the cheapest and surely most fun way to see the island is by the very comprehensive bus system that operates to all the tourist hotspots. The buses themselves claim to be 'the cheapest and safest way to get around'. I'll agree whole heartedly on the first point; fares start from as little as 30c and the most we paid was E1.16 for a journey that lasted around 45 minutes. The second point I'm not so sure about, but that adds to the fun. The buses are rickety to say the least and the drivers, who clearly have no responsibility for their buses, work them hard. This coupled with the very uneven road surfaces makes for a bumpy journey, reminiscent at times of an old roller-coaster. Don't let this put you off though - I'm still alive to tell the tale! For those a little less adventurous and a little better off, there are plenty of taxi ranks around the resorts, which have the benefit of air conditioning - a very welcome commodity in 30+ degree heat!-General Information-Local Beer - Cisk, it's brewed on the island and is one you have to bear with - the further down the glass you get the better it tastes!Local Wine - Verdala, again it tastes better the more you drink, but I would say that's because you are getting more drink in this case! Soft Drink - Kinnie has a very acquired taste, it looks like Coca Cola, but don't be fooled - it's very different. It's made with oranges and plenty of spices, but it's not a taste I miss! -Overall opinions- As I said, I only covered a small number of the hundreds of things you can do in Malta, leaving me plenty to explore if I should ever return. The question is then, would I ever return? Possibly is the honest answer. I saw enough to get a feel of the place and I really did enjoy my time there, but there are so many places in the world to visit and for me personally, it didn't stand out enough to make me want to go back time and time again. The main problem, I think was that I was looking for a relaxing break and whilst you can have that on Malta, you feel obliged to go and see the many splendours it has to offer, meaning that when I got home I felt I needed a nice sit down - which is what I'd gone there for in the first place! Malta is oozing with history and culture and is a fascinating place with lovely people. The food is good (the national dish seems to be rabbit) and it's a very safe place, where you will feel comfortable wandering around. If this is the kind of thing you look for in a holiday, then go and you won't regret it. But don't expect it to be a lazy holiday, because there is just so much to see! Close
No holiday in Malta is complete without a trip to Gozo, a smaller island to the south. It can be reached by any number of organised boat trips from almost anywhere in the island, however the cheapest way to get there is by the ferry…Read More
No holiday in Malta is complete without a trip to Gozo, a smaller island to the south. It can be reached by any number of organised boat trips from almost anywhere in the island, however the cheapest way to get there is by the ferry (E4.50 per person, return) that leaves the Southern tip of Malta every 45 minutes. If you do make the trip, don't miss the caves and rocks of Dwerja Point. The bus goes there from Victoria every two hours, giving you plenty of time to admire the giant and obscure rock formations (especially Azure Window and Fungus Rock). We had a fabulous time exploring the rock pools and just feeling very relaxed. The surface in the area is very uneven and gives you the impression that you are walking on unchartered territory. Also, you should definitely take a boat trip (only E3.50 per person - well worth it) through the caves, where you will be amazed by the coral and the beautiful inky blue water. You'll go from the lagoon through the natural gap in the rock and it feels like you're on a ride at Disney, but much, much better. The boat ride lasts around ten minutes and the guide will point out the various points of interest.Around this area you'll also find a gift shop selling local glass scultpures and an array of coloured glass pottery, as well as numerous stands selling a much needed cold drink or ice cream and some public toilets. Also on Gozo, you can't miss Victoria, the island's main town and centre point for all the buses. Dominating from upon a hill is the Citadel, which affords great views of the surrounding area and is home to various small museums and the cathedral. It's free to wander around the grounds of the Citadel.Don't be put off by the cathedral's rather plain exterior, because the inside is very impressive. The best feature, in my opinion, is the trompe l'oeil, painted because there is no dome where the church's designer intended there to be one. At E6 though, it isn't the best value for money and probably not worth the dome alone - much better if you have an interest in this type of building.There are also plenty of local markets selling all manner of gifts and things, great for those who can't resist a bit of shopping! Close
Written by UK Flower Girl on 13 Sep, 2009
After landing on Gozo, we headed to the north of the island. Our guidebook mentioned salt pans. Neither of us had ever seen a salt pan so intrigue brought us there more than anything else.What we found was simply spectacular. From the…Read More
After landing on Gozo, we headed to the north of the island. Our guidebook mentioned salt pans. Neither of us had ever seen a salt pan so intrigue brought us there more than anything else.What we found was simply spectacular. From the road above the sea these "pans" were laid out in seemingly random tracts. This name, salt pans, seemed such a bland name for the magnificent sight before our eyes. Settled below perfectly sculpted sand were these pools of water. Some were perfectly lined-up geometrical pools and others seemed haphazardly dug. I couldn't contain my excitement. I bundled Sofia into the sling and set off down for a closer look. It it wasn't for the wind, the weather would have been perfect. I read about the wintertime mirror-like appearance of the salt pans which we didn't see due to the unruly wind.The sculpted sand I mentioned was just that. Up close you could see broken seashells all along the sand. We walked down to the pans weaving our way around the water puddles. I would truly like to better understand how this system worked. There were pans of water with channels, deep and shallow, that ran between some of the pans. About the only thing that is clear to me is that the waves crash up and splash water into the pans. The sun evaporates the water and leaves behind salt crystals which are harvested in the summertime. The harvested salt is mostly sold in local shopsWe spend a good hour wandering around down here. The pans stretch around 2 km along the coast. Wild waves crashed against the cliffs causing water to spray up into the air. On the western side of the salt pans we found a snail carved into the side of the sculpted sandbank which Sofia seemed to enjoy.Definitely make a jaunt up to see the salt pans on Gozo. Even if you don't venture down on to the pans, the view from above is astounding. With all of the history and architecture and everything else on these islands, the salt pans were my favourite. Close
Written by UK Flower Girl on 12 Sep, 2009
On the western coast of Gozo there are several natural attractions in one small area that can be seen at one time: Azure Window, The Inland Sea and Fungus Rock. This is a Nature Reserve area with protected status.The area called Dwejra is…Read More
On the western coast of Gozo there are several natural attractions in one small area that can be seen at one time: Azure Window, The Inland Sea and Fungus Rock. This is a Nature Reserve area with protected status.The area called Dwejra is where you will find these natural attractions. Either take the bus to Dwejra or park in the car parks near the inland sea.Azure Window: A natural window in the cliffs nearly 100m high created by wave erosion.Fungus Rock: Known as the General's Rock in Maltese, Fungus Rock was named for the fungus growing on the rock's flat top. The fungus was used for medicinal reasons ages ago, but it was eventually found that there were no medicinal properties to it at all. In fact, it was found that the fungus was not a fungus at all but a tuber with a horrible smell. The rock is 70m in height and is protected for the Malta Fungus that grows on it as it is rare and is extremely rare elsewhere in the Med.Inland Sea: Qawra in Maltese, the Inland Sea is located off the coastline at Dwejra Bay. It is a landlocked body of seawater connected to the Mediterranean by a narrow natural arch or tunnel in the cliffs. It is thought to have been created by a sea cave that collapsed. The tunnel is 80m long and 25m deep. Boat trips take you through the tunnel to explore the area. It was so windy when we visited that I had a hard time even visualising a boat going though the arch. The Inland Sea is also an amazing dive site, one of Jacques Cousteau's favourite dives.It really is a lovely area to visit. We spent quite a bit of time wandering around looking at rocks, the gorgeous water, the fisherman's villages and letting my daughter play "rocks". I highly recommend a visit to this area should you ferry over to Gozo. Close
I am not one to frequent a doctor's office. If I am ill I would rather let it run its course than go to the doctor for anything. I had a terrible winter for flu, colds, sinus and chest infections. I thought…Read More
I am not one to frequent a doctor's office. If I am ill I would rather let it run its course than go to the doctor for anything. I had a terrible winter for flu, colds, sinus and chest infections. I thought I was better, but found myself feeling quite poorly when I landed at Malta. As we were driving around on Saturday I decided to stop into a pharmacy and get an expectorant. Luckily, Malta has a very high rate of English speakers (so much that there are schools there to teach people English). The pharmacist was only too happy to help me. Not only did she give me an expectorant for my chest, but, much to my surprise, prescribed me an antibiotic saying that I probably wasn't healed from prior infections. I was completely taken aback. On top of that it was quite reasonable.Long story short--Don't be shy about visiting the pharmacy for minor illnesses. You don't always have to go see a doctor which can be a bit more work. Pop into a pharmacy to see if they can help you first.As I was paying for my purchases the pharmacy assistant handed me a box about the size of a hard cover book. "It's for you". Great, a special little gift just for me. I waited to open it in the car. What did I find inside? A box full of little toothpick clowns. See attached photo. I have *no idea* what I was meant to do with these. Were they some sort of local custom. Did we miss some celebration and these were leftover? Instead of taking the whole box home I saved a few for our memory box of travel things and left them in the hotel room. Maybe the housekeepers found use for them. Close
Written by Travelenthusiast on 16 Mar, 2007
If you are going to Malta and you enjoy a little exploring, I highly recommend taking a trip to Gozo, a slightly quieter island than that of Malta, and beautiful in its own right. The ferry to Gozo (Mgarr) from northern Malta (Cirkewwa) runs regularly…Read More
If you are going to Malta and you enjoy a little exploring, I highly recommend taking a trip to Gozo, a slightly quieter island than that of Malta, and beautiful in its own right. The ferry to Gozo (Mgarr) from northern Malta (Cirkewwa) runs regularly (24 hours a day in both the mid and summer seasons, which are listed as the May 30 to October 29 for 2006). The trip is both quick (25 minutes) and inexpensive.
When on Gozo, there is a bus system, but they do not seem to run as regularly or as late (to some of the destinations) as they do on Malta. Buses from the port of Gozo to other sites leave only shortly after the arrival of each ferry and is loaded with people. The bus goes to Rabat (also known as Victoria), the main city on Gozo. Go to the tourist office near here (signs are vague, but locals are extremely helpful) for a bus schedule and walking maps of The Citadel.
The Citadel (entrance is free) provides fantastic views of the Gozo countryside and allows visitors to get an idea of the size of this island. Walk around the highest points of the fortification (on top of a hill) and see the Mediterranean in the distance.
The bus going to the Blue Window is pleasant and also stops at Ta' Pinu Basilica. Views of this site can be seen from the bus, so be sure to sit by the window (right side when going to the window) to catch a glimpse if you don't wish to stop.
Written by sylvia13 on 23 Aug, 2006
We took a taxi at exactly 5am on Feb 20, 2005, to go to the airport and it was a bit scary when the driver went through a stop sign on the way! His only comment? “Next time”! We flew north to Frankfurt first and…Read More
We took a taxi at exactly 5am on Feb 20, 2005, to go to the airport and it was a bit scary when the driver went through a stop sign on the way! His only comment? “Next time”! We flew north to Frankfurt first and then south to Malta. Just like other Mediterranean islands, Malta also has many stones and the cactuses and olive trees reminded me about the island of Mallorca. Driving on the other left was a bit confusing at first, even though we used to drive on the left in Australia, but that had to be added to the fact that there were some crazy drivers around! There was a strong wind blowing when we arrived and in the afternoon we tried to walk to the ferry, but the cold wind made it very difficult, so we had to turn back. In the evening we went out looking for a restaurant that was recommended on the guide, but found it closed! We soon found another one and spent some time watching them prepare pizzas to eat there or take away. Many people worked hard, the cook, an old waiter, a young one, plus two women who were cutting things up. We noticed the ingredients were all set out on metal bowls for the cook and they put many cut up olives on the pizza too. The food took a while to arrive, but we were entertained watching everything! Servings were gigantic, but the price was quite reasonable. We woke up in the middle of the night with what sounded like a hail storm, but I think it was just big drops of rain hitting the balcony door. I was happy with the bed in the hotel and that they provided blankets and heating, because they were sure needed! We all enjoyed breakfast in the hotel and as Christopher likes yogurt, he had many servings! We visited the next village and walked a lot. Sidewalks were very uneven and streets narrow. The second day was a bit warmer, with less wind, and it sure felt good in the sun! We decided to have the Maltese dinner in the hotel that evening and at the end we concluded that it was a rip off, as the food was not very good and the waitresses kept shuffling plates and cutlery around, making a lot of noise. That dinner turned out to be the worst of all the ones we had and the most expensive too! We decided to look for food outside the hotel from then on. It was a pity because the hotel was good otherwise. We went to a bay and Gernot and Christopher went up to to a hill to have a look at a Roman bath, while Gisela and I stayed on the beach watching the waves. It was nice to see the turquoise colours wherever one looked and the water was very clear too. Blue colours, sand, breaking waves, and even the smell of the sea, like a dream come true! The wind was not strong and the whole scenery reminded me of Australia! We kept on driving and ended up in Valetta, where we parked the car and went for a walk. In the evening we went to a Chinese restaurant. The service there was good and we enjoyed what we ordered. For dessert the kids had their usual flaming ice cream, while Gernot and I ordered lychees with vanilla ice cream. The bill was much cheaper than the Maltese dinner, of course! The woman was very nice and she even gave Christopher a card with his name written in Chinese characters! We went to the ferry and made it just in time, even though I don’t think they are very punctual anyway. The ferry might look small from afar, but it reminded me of the big ones we took to go to Corsica and Corfu. They were well organized too, so things ran smoothly and within 20 minutes we were in Gozo. Immediately we noticed that, just as they mentioned in the guide, the place was greener, with more trees and it is definitely cuter, a different pace altogether! The cacti looked bigger in Gozo too and they also had more eucalyptus trees. In Gozo they seemed to have even less street signals, so it was not that easy to navigate around. We stopped in a town and bought a beach towel with a tiger that Gisela liked. We also went to an inland sea, where there was an arch and we took many pictures. We bought a warm sweater for Gisela and we can’t believe the prices, as the amount wouldn’t even buy the wool in Austria! We stopped in a beautiful, quiet bay, with many Maltese boats around and we had a fish lunch while sitting at the water’s edge. It was very cute and Gisela even commented it was idyllic! We also noticed that we find cats wherever we go, but they don't seem to be very friendly and don’t like being patted either! We had a quiet day in the hotel. I read a book, Gernot worked on his computer and the kids watched TV and also tried the gym. We go out at midday and have lunch in a Spanish restaurant by the sea. As it was our last day in Malta, we went back to Gozo again, managing to take the same 10:30am ferry we took last time. We tried to retrace our steps and managed to visit a different bay, where we found some fishermen having lunch. We walked around, while the kids watched the sea. We also returned to another beach, where this time we found bigger waves and more cats! A visit to the handicraft village was also a must and there we went into some shops, where we bought a colourful Maltese fishing boat. Nearby we also visited a glass factory and it was interesting observing the men at work. As memento from our trip we bought a blue and green vase, but the choice was difficult, as they had so many beautiful things! For dinner we returned to the Chinese restaurant and found the place had many people this time!Best way to get around Malta is by rented car, as it is the only way really to get around and see the sights.I did not get to have any Maltesers chocolates during our trip, but at least I got some British Rowntree fruit pastilles, which I cant get in Austria! Close
Written by hagnel2 on 25 Mar, 2005
Malta is an archipelago of three islands situated in the eastern Mediterranean; its location between Sicily and the African coast has made it a strategically important territory for centuries. The islands were once part of the Roman Empire and St Paul is said to…Read More
Malta is an archipelago of three islands situated in the eastern Mediterranean; its location between Sicily and the African coast has made it a strategically important territory for centuries. The islands were once part of the Roman Empire and St Paul is said to have converted its inhabitants while shipwrecked here.
In 1530, the King of Spain gave Malta to the Knights- Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, a religio – military order that cared for pilgrims in that city from the 11th century. They had their headquarters in Rhodes but were ousted from there by an ottoman invasion in the year 1522
In 1565, Knights of St John withstood another siege by the Turks but this time they held the enemy at bay. Control of the island passed to the British Empire in 1814. Malta served as a Naval base in WW2 suffering through a blockade and five months of bombing raids. King George recognized the bravery of the Maltese people by awarding the George cross to the island; the cross is eight pointed and can be seen on the islands flag. Malta became an independent democratic republic in 1974.
Today’s port Valletta is the country’s capital. It is named after a heroic knight who successfully led resistance against the ottoman fleet.
Valletta contains superb architecture and fortifications and interestingly the town’s layout was designed to allow natural breezes to waft through it. One of the unique aspects of this town is the fact that at the end of almost every Valletta Street or Side Street, there is a glimpse of bright blue water eloquently framed in golden stone. To savor this town to the full wander its streets, squares and gardens. Everywhere you walk, you can’t help but absorb its historic atmosphere, beginning of course with the encircled honey coloured wall fortifications.
We walked from the port to the town. There are many taxi touts waiting to whisk you to the center but we always feel we can acclimatize ourselves by walking. The narrow sidewalks and the steep climb to the town gave us quite a work out but we enjoyed seeing the ancient buildings along the quayside. Many of the buildings were being used as small workshops, wine bars, storage, and cafés. The area is gritty and shabby. Most of the doors are small but the crumbing stone facades give the place character certainly one can feel the areas history. It took about thirty minutes of negotiating the steep sloping streets before we reached Merchants street where a daily flea market was in progress. We didn’t linger at the packed market and continued to stroll.
As we were climbing more steep steps we met a friendly Maltese gentleman who greeted us in English, in the course of conversation, he advised us to check out the gold in the jewelers and cautioned us to buy only from the accredited shops. Up to that point, we did not intend to buy, but on our walk, we peered in windows and saw some exquisite filigreed work and some beautifully crafted chains. We ended up buying two 22k gold necklaces, one medallion and a pair of earrings for a fraction of North American prices. They accepted Amex. I must add we never buy costly jewelry when abroad but this stuff was a steal; our subsequent Canadian appraisals bore this out.
The cities main shopping area is Republic Street it is also the historic center. The central area is the only place that is flat - a respite from climbing. We stopped at one of the many cafes for a coffee and pastry, browsed for souvenirs for our grandchildren then continued along to St Johns Square to visit St Johns Co Cathedral definitely Valetta’s jeweled centerpiece.
The plain unremarkable façade belies its outstanding interior and if like us you only have the time to visit one church, I strongly recommend this one. Those people who may not relish the ornamentation of ecclesiastical buildings will find it impossible not to admire the craftsmanship and artistry. The cathedral was built between 1573-1577, some additions were made into the 18th century but the ceiling painted in 1661 by Mattia Preti an Italian artist is a masterpiece depicting the life of John the Baptist.
The sense of contrast with its plain façade is definitely overwhelming. Arabesque intricate carving covers every inch of the wall space. The floor studded with inlaid marble tombstones in green, red, and yellow gleam and shine. Each stone is imprinted with the coat of arms of the person beneath and inscription of their valor. There are many side chapels dedicated to each of the seven nations. National sections of the order had their own chapels in which they prayed and heard mass all the chapels are masterpieces of art. Twelve of the grand masters are entombed in the crypt.
In the cathedral’s museum, you will find Carravaggio’s painting of Saint John the Baptist. The colours of the painting and the expressions on the faces are awesome; most chilling is the young girl waiting with outstretched arms holding a bowl for the head of the saint. Also in the museum are beautiful Flemish tapestries and exquisitely illustrated manuscripts.
We left the cathedral reluctantly, there is too much to see in this cathedral the mind and spirit are overwhelmed. But time was pressing on and we walked back to the ship via the city gates. We didn’t have time to wander the lovely gardens to the right of the gates but we hope to remedy that on our next trip. Valetta is an easy port to explore independently and the Grand Harbour is simply awesome; do get up early in order to experience its majesty from the sea.
Cathedral St John: admission. One Maltese Lira. Open 9:30-12:30. -1:30pm-4: 30pm Mon- Fri. Sat.9am: -2pm
Tourist Info. Freedom Square. Open. 09:00-17:00 Mon- Fri. Sat.-09:00-1700. Sun 09:00-12:30. Phone. 21 2377 47. Bus Station. Located outside City gates. Visit Malta bus tours the island and costs in the region of two Maltese Lira.
Ships Tours: Mosta & Rabat half day tour$40
Malta Panoramic tour half day $39
Fernandes 6hour cruise along the coastline on a Turkish Gullet. $90
Written by marif on 27 Sep, 2005
Named Rabat by the Arabs in A.D. 870 and deprived of protective walls, Mdina's suburb is a country village that has changed constantly over the years. With a character of its own, it provides visitors with plenty of interesting sights and attractions and gives a…Read More
Named Rabat by the Arabs in A.D. 870 and deprived of protective walls, Mdina's suburb is a country village that has changed constantly over the years. With a character of its own, it provides visitors with plenty of interesting sights and attractions and gives a vibrant testimony to Maltese village life and a real feeling for Maltese history and folklore.
Buildings of all periods and architectural styles have been blended together harmoniously to form an interesting ensemble of residential houses, shops, monasteries and churches. Don't expect to find a concentrated array of historical monuments and treasures as within the walled city of Mdina. Nevertheless, Rabat offers plenty of scattered curiosities that Mdina cannot provide, simply because there's no room for them within the old capital.
Parish square is considered to be the commercial and business centre of Rabat. Bustling with activity from early morning till late at night, it is ringed with a wide selection of small shops and a handful of surprisingly good restaurants. Some of the best souvenir and handicrafts made from Maltese cotton and Malta lace are on sale here. Every Sunday morning, this square becomes the venue for a traditional flea market, mostly equipped with items for tourists. A wide display of homemade delicacies include genuine bee honey, Maltese nougat, carob juice and a good selection of Maltese wines and vintages. Don't hesitate to try. All is fresh, tasty and dirt cheap.
The highlight here on Parish square is unquestionably St.Paul's Church. Originally built in 1572 above an underground chapel which you can still visit today, it was reconstructed and enlarged in 1694. Its peculiar interior becomes particularly attractive during July when it is fully decorated for the annual village festa. Don't miss the painting by Mattia Preti above the high altar. From the church's front parapet, step down into the cave-like underground chapel, reputedly the first Christian chapel in Malta. Called 'St.Paul's Grotto', and regarded by the locals as miraculous, it houses splendid frescoes, a priceless statue of St. Paul, and a golden galley that dates back to the time of the Knights of St. John.
From Parish square, take St.Agatha street and walk straight on towards St.Paul's Catacombs, a Roman and Byzantine complex of labyrinthine underground burial chambers and vaults that were still in use by the Maltese Christian community in the 4th century. The signposted streets that lead to the complex are themselves lovely, atmospheric and reminiscent of the good old times when everything was made by hand and access was only on foot. The entire space nearby is a maze of alleys, cul-de-sacs and narrow walkways that stand as a memorial to Malta's pre-medieval past. Excavated by a Maltese archaeologist in 1894, St.Paul's Catacombs consist of an imposing central hall from which several rock-hewn passages lead into a bewildering series of tomb galleries. Though faded and in a fragmentary state, a number of surviving murals that decorate the chamber walls stand to witness Malta's rich Roman period. Among the interesting features inside are large circular tables complete with benches, hewn out in one piece to form a single architectural unit inside a vaulted recess. These were probably used to host commemorative meals during the annual festival of the dead when the rites of burial were renewed. The entrance ticket which includes the use of an audioguide costs 5 Euro for adults, 2.5 Euro for students and senior citizens.
Back on Parish square, St.Paul street leads northeast towards Howard gardens, a small park that looks over Mdina's Greek Gate and a long stretch of bastions. Nearby, you will find Rabat's prime attraction. Known as the Domus Romana, it is a one-storey structure that preserves within its walls the ruins and remains of a former Roman House that dates back to the first century B.C. During excavations in 1881, numerous remarkable polychrome mosaic pavements and priceless architectural remains were uncovered. These were meticulously restored and are now on display together with other collections of Roman antiquities. The wide selection of domestic Roman artefacts includes amphorae, perfume bottles, weaving looms and an abundance of statues that were used to decorate Roman buildings. Don't miss the exclusive collection of Roman coins that date back to the first and second century B.C. More remains, mostly of interest to archaeologists and historians are exhibited on an open-air site behind the Roman House. The entrance ticket costs 6.25 Euro for adults, 3 Euro for students and senior citizens. A multi-site ticket costing 12.5 Euro gives holders access to St.Paul's Catacombs, the Roman House and the Museum of Natural History in Mdina.
After seeing Rabat's most frequented spots, it's advisable to wander along the streets of the village to discover for yourself more interesting attractions. South of Howard gardens along St.Augustine street, you will find a 16th-century priory, still inhabited by monks of the order of St.Augustine. The priory cannot be visited by the public but the adjoining church opens daily when there is no church service. This Renaissance edifice was designed by Gerolamo Cassar, the same architect who was responsible for the construction of St.John's Cathedral in Valletta. The church's barrel-vaulted interior is massive and imposing.
Further south along St.Francis street, you will come across another conventual building that is also still being used by a small community of monks of the order of St.Francis. The adjoining monastic church houses numerous artistic works that include splendid ceiling frescoes, marble statues, gilded church ornaments and a wonderful painting above the high altar.
From the southernmost end of St.Francis street, a short walk along G. Borg Olivier street brings you right in front of the largest and most pleasing monastery in Rabat. This huge building occupies one complete side of St.Dominic square. The 16th-century Baroque church which adjoins the monastery has just been restored and contains inside a couple of interesting architectural features that lovers of church architecture will definitely admire. Both the monastery and the church open daily for visitors. If the door that leads into the monastic cloisters is found closed, ring the bell and ask for permission to get inside.
If you still have time, from the stop in front of the church, take Bus 81 to the village of Dingli, only a 10 minute bus ride. This small pleasing village, characterized by a two mile stretch of terraced cliffs is ideal for walking. The gorgeous view from the cliffs over the dark blue Mediterranean is one reason for coming here. The small rocky island you see half a mile away at sea is the uninhabited island of Filfla.