City Focus - Valletta, Malta

ALEX BENASULI DISCOVERS THAT IN THE CASE OF MALTA’S BREATHTAKING BAROQUE CAPITAL, SMALLER IS UNDENIABLY GRANDER

Despite its petite scale Malta’s capital city is an exciting blend of history, culture and al fresco Mediterranean life, whose charms are more captivating and alluring today than ever before. One of the world’s smallest capitals of one the world’s tiniest nations is very much having a moment right about now. Having just completed its stint as head of the rotating European Presidency and about to host the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018 (with partner Dutch city, Leeuwarden), Valletta is reaping the benefits of infrastructure investment, the ongoing renovation of its historical heritage, new museums and improved cultural offerings.

Record visitor numbers and a more discerning demographic are helping to update Valletta and infuse the city with more contemporary influences, fuelling the opening of design-led boutique hotels and the emergence of a more fashionable restaurant scene.

These are empowering the bijou city to hold its own amongst its more dynamic and much larger European peers. Valletta is changing and only for the better. However its heart and soul remains traditional and relaxed. Welcoming outdoor cafés and inviting restaurants gently facilitate lazy afternoons and long evenings of eating and drinking. A funky bar and music culture keeps things lively. Moreover, Valletta is home to some of the best examples of European baroque architecture and there are a number of world-class paintings dispersed amongst the city’s various cultural landmarks.

More than anything, Valletta is stunning to gaze upon. Surrounded on three sides by water, buffeted by impressive ramparts and total architectural integrity of honey coloured sandstone buildings and distinctive brightly painted window trim and balconies, this low-rise city scape pierced by church spires, roof terraces and one amazing harbour view after another is altogether breath-taking. Valletta has movie star good looks yet is friendly, down to earth and affordable.

It is impossible to spend any time in Valletta without understanding its history and origins, since visitors literally come face to face with ancient reminders at every corner. Malta lay at the crossroads of Europe for many centuries. Off the coast of Sicily, close to North Africa and almost exactly midway between the eastern and western halves of the Mediterranean, Malta acted as a vanguard against the westward expansion of the Ottoman Turks, and Valletta was literally born out of Christian Europe defending itself from their advances. On the tip of the peninsula that currently defines Valletta’s boundaries, lies Fort Saint Elmo.

In 1565 the Ottomans sought to control Malta as a pivotal part of their western expansion and gain control of the some of the world’s most lucrative shipping routes. Defence fell to the Knights Hospitaller, a medieval Catholic military order, drawn from the noblest European families, that was granted Malta as its dominion after being routed from the Holy Land during the aftermath of the crusades.

In one of epic episodes of European medieval history, 2,000 knights and a militia of 3,000 Maltese men, women and children held off 40,000 Ottoman soldiers in a bloody and ruthless siege. For centuries this siege was regarded as the single most important event in European history. After the siege, Jean de Valette, Grand Master of the Knights and commander of the victorious forces, laid the first stone of what would come to be known as La Valletta, a fortified city that would serve as both a permanent bulwark against the Ottomans and a means for the Knights to solidify their hold over Malta.

In expressions of gratitude and to consolidate its strategic importance, vast sums of money flowed into Malta from Spain, France, Italy and the Germanic states and so the construction of Valletta was almost completed within five years. The money was well spent – most of Valletta still looks today as it did back then. The elaborate system of soaring fortifications and ramparts that surround the city are some of the best preserved in the world and were still considered an engineering marvel centuries later.

One of the best spots to appreciate the scale and beauty of Valletta’s fortifications are the Upper Barrakka Gardens near the city’s main entrance. This small but perfectly formed public garden occupies the highest spot of Valletta’s city walls. Sandstone arches frame breath-taking vistas. Geometrically patterned landscaping evokes an exotic and decidedly eastern air. The views are truly mesmerising. To one side a sweeping panoramic view of Valletta’s Grand Harbour comes into view.

Regarded as one of the most impressive natural harbours in the Europe, the Grand Harbour, seen from the vantage point of the Upper Barrakka Gardens, is nothing short of marvellous.

Across the shoreline a cluster of picturesque harbour towns – collectively known as the Three Cities complete with their own bustling waterfronts, centuries-old forts, churches and working shipyards – complete the perspective. The gardens combine the meditative spirituality of a cloisters courtyard with the expansiveness offered by being perched seemingly on top of the world. The sandstone, the bright blue sea, the garden landscaping and period skyline all come together to create an outer world experience which is emblematic of Valletta and the beautiful island nation. It’s no surprise that many of Valetta’s sites such as Upper Barrakka Gardens have been popular backdrops for celluloid productions ranging from Gladiator to Game of Thrones.

From the gardens, it’s a lift ride or a series of stairs down to the waterfront and a leisurely fifteen-minute harbour fronted walk, through the equally beautiful Lower Barrakka Gardens to Fort Saint Elmo which makes up Valletta’s northern tip, strategically positioned between the entrance to the Great Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour. It was at star shaped Fort Saint Elmo that the Knights and their Maltese supporters held out against the Ottomans. Today its bastions house the National War Museum, well worth a visit not only to understand in more detail the Great Siege of Valletta but also to gain perspective of the rest of the nation’s history and how important Valletta was over the centuries.

Napoleon swept through the city in 1799 and, after his defeat, the British would come to regard Valetta as one of its key overseas possessions. During WWII Valletta was constantly under threat, yet it was from Fort Saint Elmo, amongst others, that the British were able to keep the Germans and Italians from dominating the Mediterranean.

Gazing upon the open seas without the protective gauntlet of either of the two harbours, one really appreciates Malta’s geographic isolation and how remarkable it is that Valletta was founded here and has positively thrived ever since.

A walk along the fortifications, along Valletta’s north and western flanks, takes in Marsamxett Harbour and vistas across to Sliema, a town located on the northeast coast of Malta which can be accessed via a small passenger ferry. It is from Sliema’s waterfront that most harbour boat tour cruises depart. 90 minutes on the water is an entertaining way to add another dimension to any visit to this visually captivating city, with the added bonus of receiving an audio history of the surroundings.

Valletta is such a pleasant and compact city with a uniquely laidback pace, that it’s easy to just wander around and discover for yourself, without the relentless pressure that often accompanies visits to more culture packed and larger capitals.

However there are two must-sees: On the exact location where Jean de Valette laid his namesake’s first stone is one of the best examples of Baroque interior design in the world. Never known for minimalist style, Baroque was encouraged by the Catholic Church and monarchies to celebrate exuberance, grandeur, drama and tension, all within a religious context. While Valletta’s main place or worship St. John’s Co-Cathedral may look somewhat austere from the outside, the interior is a triumph in gold, carved stone, vaulted ceilings, marble and richly woven tapestries. The opulence is overwhelmingly beautiful and truly jaw dropping. Saint John’s was built expressly for the Knights of St. John and has eight individually decorated chapels for each of the kingdoms from where the knights hailed.

The cathedral is also famous for housing Italian artist Caravaggio’s The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, one of his largest canvasses and widely regarded to be not only one of his greatest masterpieces but also one of the most important works in Western painting. Just a stone’s throw away from Saint John’s is the Grandmaster’s Palace, originally the headquarters of the Knights of Malta and currently the office of the country’s President. The series of wall paintings in the Throne Room depicting the siege of Valletta, and the lavish tapestries in the Tapestry Hall transport the visitor to the pomp, circumstance and secrecy of the Knights.

At roughly one square mile, Valletta can be comfortably navigated on foot. The city was one of the first in Europe to be designed on a grid system, making it easy to find your way around. The long avenues and side streets make for endless vistas towards the harbours and breezes tease their way through the lanes during the sultry summer months. There is literally a historical treasure (a baroque church, a state building or aristocratic mansion) around every corner.

Valletta is also fun. Outdoor cafés, restaurants and a bohemian bar scene fill the streets with vitality and soul and ensure that after dark the city comes to life and its inhabitants come out to play. Good weather year-round is the backdrop to an energetic outdoor scene. Whilst the overall mood is relaxed there are two notable emerging trends: Smarter and more design-led eating and drinking venues are beginning to open-up. And a burgeoning arts and alternative creative scene is taking hold. Valletta is growing up yet nurturing a stylish and youthful creative edge. The cuisine is excellent. Local wines are delicious. Service is friendly. An Italian dolce vita lifestyle permeates throughout Valletta but without the crowds or local attitude that often plagues the more popular Mediterranean waterside city destinations.

Valletta has also become something of a favourite location for festivals. The International Baroque Festival in January, Carnival in February, the Valletta Film Festival in June and the Malta Jazz Festival in July are just some of the annual events that raise its profile and attract international visitors. Since the main island of Malta is so small, extending to a mere 45 kilometers at its longest point and 13 at its widest, any visit to Valletta can easily be combined with a tour of some of the island’s unique treasures.

On the outskirts of Valletta is the recently reopened Hypogeum, one of Europe’s best-preserved and most important prehistoric sites. Dating back to the Saflieni period (3300–3000BC) and older than Stonehenge, this underground series of burial and ritual complexes is eerily spectacular.

Less than half an hour away from Valletta is Mdina, Malta’s original capital. Whereas Valletta dates back to the late 1500s, Mdina is much more ancient, with settlement history dating back four thousand years, encompassing the Bronze Age, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, a period of Arab conquest and then the Knights of Malta. Also known as the Silent City and important for its many historical buildings and fortifications, Mdina is the historical home of Malta’s most noble families and is an extraordinary example of an ancient walled city. Filled with palaces, churches and a warren of narrow and winding cobble-stoned streets, Mdina exudes an air of importance and mystery.

The entire city is made out of honey-coloured stone. The views from its walls take in almost the entire island with Valletta is visible in the far distance. Mdina is literally out of this world. It’s little surprise then that it, too, is often used as a movie location.

Despite being in Europe, Malta and its stunningly beautiful Baroque capital feel a world away. A visit to Valletta is akin to an exotic adventure with elements of Middle Ages Europe, the 1940s and a James Bond movie all thrown in for good measure.

Long popular with those in the know, Valletta’s charms are becoming increasingly appreciated by a widening base of cultured globetrotters. Today’s visitors to Malta are younger, travel savvy and more sophisticated. While Valletta is gradually changing for the better, it is what Valletta already has in spades that makes it a truly superb city break destination. 

THE PHOENICIA

Stay - THE PHOENICIA

The Phoenicia has been Malta’s most exclusive hospitality address since it first opened in 1947. Built by the British in the 1930s and originally conceived as a place for visiting naval officers and their families to rest their heads, the Phoenicia gained a reputation early on as the place for foreign dignitaries to stay and soon became a social hub for the Maltese elite and noble.

Occupying a privileged position just outside the city’s dramatic 16th century bastion walls and City Gate, this Valletta architectural icon’s excellent location commands unrivalled views across the harbour and, whilst within easy walking distance of all the city’s main attractions, is contained within its own secluded botanical oasis of calm and tranquillity.

Recently reopened after a EUR15 million overhaul, the Phoenicia is now more luxe than ever. Now a Campbell Gray managed property and under the watchful eye of charismatic award-winning London-based hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray, the Phoenicia has firmly entered the 21st century with a stylish new look and skilfully updated five-star facilities whilst respecting its reputation for classic and understated elegance.

While the art deco bones of the property and its handsome sandstone exterior remain unchanged, the bright new interiors design aesthetic, employing generous use of whites offset by blue patterned accents, is essentially contemporary resort chic. The focal point of the hotel is its cavernous and airy Palm Court Lounge where breakfast and afternoon tea are served. The interior extends out to an oversized terrace boasting views over the harbour. Next to the Palm Court Lounge, the Club Bar evokes a glamorous bygone era with nods to British colonialism and various periods of Maltese history. The Phoenicia’s 7.5 acres of mature, beautifully landscaped gardens are immaculate and an utter delight to stroll around.

Towards the harbour – down a garden path lined with palm trees and Mediterranean landscaping – is the Phoenicia’s brand-new pool and sun decks. The infinity pool looking out across the harbour is truly impressive, bordered on one side by Valletta’s fortified walls and on another by the Bastion Pool Bar & Restaurant. Towards the end of 2017 an extensive spa and fitness facility are expected to open, completing the Phoenicia’s status as a full-service luxury destination resort. All of the hotel’s 136 rooms and suites retain authentic tiled floors and, in collaboration with Peter Young Design, also feature many original details coupled with a clean and modern resort chic décor theme.

Families have been coming to the Phoenicia for generations. There is an intense loyalty amongst islanders and guests towards the property. Many of the employees have similarly been at the Phoenicia for decades. Now, following the refurbishment, the Phoenicia is ready to open its doors to a new clientele, more accustomed to high global hospitality standards and deluxe world-class amenities. The Phoenicia will undoubtedly make new friends but keep the old. Following its reopening the Phoenicia immediately became a Leading Hotel of the World, validating its place amongst the top properties on the planet.

PALAZZO CONSIGLIA

Stay - PALAZZO CONSIGLIA

Set on a typical residential Valletta street of limestone buildings laden with picture postcard painted wooden balconies, Palazzo Consiglia is a smart and elegant boutique hotel housed in a meticulously restored 400-year-old townhouse. Opened in 2016, the 13-room property is emblematic of a new crop of smaller, design-oriented independent hotels that are helping to make Valletta more appealing to more discerning travellers.

Located on the quieter side of Valletta but a stone’s throw away from the waterfront and the Grand Harbour, Palazzo Consiglia is just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre yet feels more like a private residence than a hotel. At one end of the street is the Knights-period Fort Saint Elmo, whilst at the other end are Lower Barrakka Gardens.

The predominantly baroque design is blended with Arabic and Roman features which is typical of high-end Maltese style. Marble floors, panelled walls and an open-air courtyard – where an original stone well has been lovingly converted into an open fire – greet guests upon arrival. Bedrooms are individually decorated, each unique in one way or another, and are an eclectic mix of Baroque, Art Nouveau, classic and contemporary finishes. Lavish fabrics, period furniture and soaring ceilings are juxtaposed with modern design accents. Hard wood floors and custom wallpapers add additional luxurious touches. Rooms either face the interior courtyard or have small terraces facing out to quiet St. Ursula Street. All are well soundproofed with double glazed glass. Bathrooms are large and modern with a choice of bath or shower and some are lined with marble. Oversized king-sized beds add a romantic touch and USB charging ports on either side are rather handy. At its heart Palazzo Consiglia maybe an ancient 18th century building, but it now has all the creature comforts and luxe trimmings one would expect from a modern boutique hotel, including a state of the air control system, capsule coffee machines and Bluetooth speakers connected through to guest bathrooms. Tablets in each room – brimming with detailed information about the hotel and Valletta’s bars, restaurants and attractions – are particularly helpful for the virgin Valletta visitor.

A smart and peaceful roof top terrace, complete with decking, sunbeds and an inviting plunge pool, looks out across Valletta’s rooftops, the beautiful dome of the neighbouring chapel and has a side view of the Grand Harbour. A small spa situated on the lower ground floor – converted from the original vaulted stone cellar – is the perfect place to relax after a busy day of sightseeing. A discreet street level bar adds an understated touch of sophisticated hustle and bustle. A delicious buffet is served every morning in the delightful breakfast room, once upon a time a chapel, evident by the original holy water basin on the wall.

Palazzo Consiglia is the perfect choice for discerning travellers who enjoy personal service and attention to detail but prefer to stay in a boutique hotel without compromising on comfort or service.

ST. JOHN’S CO-CATHEDRAL

See - ST. JOHN’S CO-CATHEDRAL

This Baroque gem was built between 1572 and 1577 on the site of the first stone laid which founded Valletta. The austere exterior stands in direct contrast to the ornate and opulent interior which many regard as one of the most important examples of Baroque design in Europe. Generous use of gold leaf, marble, and panelled wood combine to deliver a truly incredible spectacle. Caravaggio’s famous masterpiece, The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, is hung here. Don’t miss seeing it!

THE GRANDMASTER’S PALACE

See - THE GRANDMASTER’S PALACE

Dominating Palace Square, just off of Republic Street, the Grandmaster’s Palace is Valletta’s second most important site after the cathedral. Built in 1571, originally as the seat of government for the Knights Hospitallers of St. John, it later served as the British colonial headquarters and today is the Office of the President of the Republic of Malta. The frescoes depicting the Great Siege of Valletta of 1565 in the Supreme Council Hall are not to be missed, nor the extraordinary Gobelin tapestries in the Council Chamber. The palace’s armoury also has a particularly well-regarded collection of suits of armour and period weaponry.

UPPER BARRAKKA GARDENS

See - UPPER BARRAKKA GARDENS

Occupying a prime spot high above the waterfront, built on to the fortified walls close to Valletta’s City Gate, Upper Barrakka Gardens is a compact area of landscaped green spaces offering incredible views over the Grand Harbour, the Three Cities and the lower lying parts of Valletta. Sitting on one of the many benches that ring the gardens and simply taking in the view is deeply entrancing.

THE NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM

See - THE NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM

Since the city was born out of the Great Siege and so much of Malta’s history and identity was forged by centuries of conflict, the National War Museum makes for an interesting and eye-opening means to learn about Valetta’s and the nation’s past. Located in a series of rooms built into Fort St. Elmo at the tip of Valletta, facing the open seas, this museum spans the Bronze Age through to the Romans and beyond. Exhibits focusing on the Great Siege, the Napoleonic era, WWI and WWII are of particular interest. Wandering around the fortifications of Fort St. Elmo and taking in the sea views are alone worthy of a visit.

CASA ROCCA PICCOLA

See - CASA ROCCA PICCOLA

This 16th-century palace has been home to the noble de Piro family for centuries. Although still their private home there are daily tours of its main rooms, the courtyard garden and the underground bunker which served as a rainwater storage area and later a bomb shelter. The tour gives an insider glimpse of how the Maltese nobility once lived. Visiting Casa Rocca Piccola is a veritable peek into an illustrious aristocrat’s family residence, which is beautifully decorated with scores of antiques and lavish furnishings.

ĦAL-SAFLIENI HYPOGEUM

See - ĦAL-SAFLIENI HYPOGEUM

On the outskirts of greater Valletta, Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum is one of Europe’s most important prehistoric sites. Discovered in 1902, Malta’s Hypogeum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is believed to be the oldest prehistoric underground temple in the world. Dating back approximately 5,000 years, it is the only known example of a subterranean structure of the Bronze Age, and is a complex of interconnecting rock-cut chambers on three distinct levels. Recently reopened after an extensive preservation effort, visits are limited to only a few dozen daily at set times. The carved rock and cave drawings are unique. The introductory sound and light presentation and the accompanying audio tour are top notch. Reservations are essential.

MDINA

See - MDINA

Malta’s original capital and as splendid an example of a medieval fortified city as there possibly is, Mdina is a mere twenty minutes from Valletta and is easily accessible by taxi or bus. The narrow and winding streets stand in stark contrast to Valletta’s more open grid system. Mdina is breathtakingly beautiful, uniformly built out of honey and sand coloured stone, which catches the light in different ways throughout the day. A number of churches, palaces and small museums are well worth visiting. The spectacular views from the city’s fortified walls, across all of Malta towards Valletta and the Mediterranean, are the icing on the cake.

CAFFÉ CORDINA

Taste - CAFFÉ CORDINA

A Valletta institution, Caffé Cordina has been Malta’s premier patisserie since 1837. Housed in an old palazzo on Republic Street close to St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the Grandmaster’s Palace, whilst Caffé Cordina boasts a lovely shaded outside seating area, its interior, crowned with stunning painted vaulted ceiling panels, is not to be missed. The stars of the show are the pastries and delicacies like Pastizzi, a traditional savoury pastry native to Malta and usually filled with ricotta. Popular with locals and tourists all day everyday, Caffé Cordina is deserving of its excellent reputation.

GUZE BISTRO

Taste - GUZE BISTRO

Specialising in upscale Maltese home cooking, like many venues in Valletta Guze is located in a series of ground floor level rooms set within a historic 16th century building. Stone walls and a beamed ceiling contribute to the low key and intimate setting. The menu focuses on seafood, shellfish, pasta and game. Guze takes traditional Mediterranean fare and elevates it to fine dining with unique preparation techniques and seasonal ingredients. Rabbit is a favoured dish amongst the Maltese and Guze prepares it very well indeed. There is usually a fresh catch of the day and other daily specials.

MICHAELS

Taste - MICHAELS

A relative newcomer to the Valletta dining scene, Michaels is more a fine dining establishment which is relaxed and unfussy. Romantic and calm, the dining room is located within the covered courtyard of a former palace lending the space a regal and airy feel. An open kitchen is located behind a glass wall at one end. Michaels excels at classic dishes infused with modern interpretations. Fresh ingredients on a Mediterranean bias but adored with exotic elements come together beautifully at Michaels. The seafood selection is excellent and the wine list very well curated.

SCOGLITTI

Taste - SCOGLITTI

Positioned directly on the waterfront overlooking Marsamxett Harbour and on to Sliema, Scoglitti is an exceptional seafood and shellfish restaurant with an excellent reputation. For many it is amongst Malta’s top venues to dine on fresh fish, with the focus on Mediterranean and Sicilian preparations. The wine list and desserts are equally good. The charming location, delicious cuisine and excellent service assure Scoglitti’s continued popularity. Reservations are highly recommended.

ANGELICA

Taste - ANGELICA

Located on Archbishop Street, a cross street in the heart of Valletta with a number of popular restaurants and cafés, Angelica serves up tasty home cooking in a funky, colourful setting. The outdoor seating area is particularly inviting. The interior is cosy, warm and quirky. Rabbit joins seafood and elaborate salads on the menu together with a variety of daily specials. There are also tapas sized dishes for a more informal experience. Truly flavourful food in bohemian surroundings.

BACCHUS

Taste - BACCHUS

Near the entrance to Mdina, tucked away down a long narrow path, Bacchus is housed in two double vaulted chambers built by Grand Master Fra Martino De Red in between 1657 and 1660 as gunpowder magazines for the main fortified bastion built to reinforce the Old City. Serving fine Maltese-inspired French cuisine, Bacchus’s exquisite gardens offer a shady oasis in which to pit stop during a day trip to enchanting Mdina.

TRABUXU WINE BAR

Sip - TRABUXU WINE BAR

Another Valletta institution, Trabuxu has been the city’s premier wine bar for over fifteen years. Particularly popular with the pre and post theatre and concert crowd, Trabuxu is a more bohemian alternative to Charles Grech but no less classy. Located below street level in a 400-year-old vaulted cellar, in addition to countless vintages divine cheeses and cured meats are also served in a lively and colourful atmosphere. Reservations are recommended, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

CHARLES GRECH

Sip - CHARLES GRECH

Right on Republic Street, just after the City Gates, Charles Grech is an elegant café, cocktail and wine bar. Founded in March 1881 as a tobacconist and bottle shop by Charles Grech, who after a distinguished career in Britain’s Royal Navy decided to settle in his homeland, this is a Maltese institution synonymous with timeless elegance and class. The belle époque interiors contribute to the general air of sophistication.

YARD 32 GIN AND TAPAS BAR

Sip - YARD 32 GIN & TAPAS BAR

Strait Street, Valletta’s narrowest road, used to be the city’s red-light district. Today it is bursting with new bars and is the hub of a vibrant and developing social scene. As the name suggests, Yard 32 is focused on gin, 182 different types to be exact, with Spain being the main inspiration behind the venue. Drinks are poured generously and more than 50 kinds of Iberian tapas are offered to accompany the huge selection of gins. Yard 32 is a fun, friendly and youthful venue that literally attracts all types.

STREAT WHISKY & BISTRO

Sip - STREAT WHISKY & BISTRO

Also on Strait Street, StrEat is the whisky equivalent of Yard 32. A little more upmarket than its gin-focused neighbour, StrEat also serves tasty, well considered Maltese and Mediterranean food. Whilst there is a vast selection of whiskeys hailing from around the world to choose from, StrEat’s non-whisky based cocktails are also excellent.

LEGLIGIN

Sip - LEGLIGIN

Legligin is another top-rated wine bar that serves delicious fare which ranges from Maltese meze to a tasting menu, and is run by chef/owner Chris who does the wine selection and much of the cooking himself. Situated in the cellar of a historic house on a quiet cross street in the heart of Valletta, don’t let Legligin’s unassuming entrance put you off. The wine and food offerings are superb.

119 St. Lucy Street, Valletta. 00356 79932985

THE CLUB BAR

Sip - THE CLUB BAR

For a step back in time and a taste of relaxed glamour head to The Club Bar at the recently renovated Phoenicia hotel. Originally opened in 1952 and the favoured watering hole for foreign dignitaries, the Maltese elite and anyone in search of old world service and excellent drinks, the warm décor of this charismatic cocktail bar is inspired by the country’s colonial past, with Maltese history adorning the walls.

CAMILLERI & SONS

Spend - CAMILLERI & SONS

A high-end sweet shop, chocolatier and café that also sells wines, complete with a charming vintage style storefront and signage, Camilleri & Sons has been trading since the 1840s and makes for a highly inviting retail pit stop. A veritable Maltese icon for good taste and a magnet for those with a sweet tooth, Camilleri is located on Merchant Street, in the heart of Valetta’s historic shopping hub.

BORTEX

Spend - BORTEX

Also on Merchant Street, at nos. 54-55, Bortex is an old school men’s outfitters that offers a vast range of formal tailoring, outerwear, casual clothing, footwear and accessories. Whilst Bortex sells its own line, the store also showcases a small range of carefully selected brands. Known for its fine tailoring and quality garments, Bortex has been Malta’s haberdashery of choice since the 1960s.

MARQUIS DE VISSAC

Spend - MARQUIS DE VISSAC

Olivia and Charles, Parisian transplants to Malta, operate a small French concept store largely dedicated to 100% hand-made and 100% eco-friendly espadrilles and trendy wedge-heels. Located in between St. John’s Co-Cathedral and St. Paul’s Shipwreck Church, Marquis de Vissac is a vision in colour, fun and bright, summery vibes. Do check-out Vissac’s year-round collaborations with different talented designers.

MDINA GLASS

Spend - MDINA GLASS

Although all production takes place outside the capital in the Crafts Village in Ta’Qali, Mdina Glass has a number of retail outlets in central Valletta. Founded in 1968 by Michael Harris, a lecturer in industrial glass design at London’s Royal College of Art, Malta’s leading glassmaker produces a beautiful selection of blown glassware, vases and other decorative and collectible pieces.

CEKCIK

Spend - CEKCIK

Cekcik is a bohemian emporium showcasing an eclectic assortment of exotic and Fairtrade clothing, home accessories and design items. In Maltese “cekcik” means knick-knacks or random craft items. In their own words, Cekcik is “a collection of colours, patterns and positive energies from around the world for you and your home”.

Next in Issue 18