Malta cruises

Cruising in Malta

The Maltese capital of Valetta has one of the most impressive natural harbours in the Mediterranean, where cruise ships dock right in the heart of the city. The golden skyline of soaring fortifications and exquisite Baroque architecture encircling the port, climaxing in the dome of St John’s Co-Cathedral, tempts you to explore this most perfect of capitals. There are few cities in the world with such a concentration of fine architecture and unified sense of style. Begun in 1566 by the Order of St John, it was completed in just fifteen years and contains some of Europe’s finest palaces, churches and religious art.

The city has a timeless, enchanting atmosphere. History is visible around every corner. Spend the day strolling the streets and squares, exploring its fine palaces and churches, its quaint little shops and cafés, and dine alfresco in one of its many excellent restaurants. Across the Grand Harbour, the three cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua, which pre-date the building of Valetta, allow a glimpse of the Malta’s maritime past.

For centuries, the paths of travellers from North Africa and Europe have crossed here, and the island’s history and culture reveal these varied influences. Malta today shows its Moorish, French, British and Italian roots. British rule lasted for 164 years, leaving the English language as its most permanent legacy, which is commonly spoken and is one of the island’s official languages alongside the native Maltese.

If you have time for only one trip out of the capital, head for the medieval walled town of Mdina in the centre of the island. Also known as the Silent City, it occupies a commanding position on a rocky promontory overlooking the surrounding flat countryside, giving views of almost the entire island. Within its walls, the stone-flagged streets, narrow alleys, churches and inscrutably silent buildings, with their ornate doorways and shuttered windows, exude an air of mystery, which transports you back to an earlier age.

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