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PRESENTED BY VISIT MALTA

This European island has ‘the best climate in the world’

Malta’s up-and-coming capital took centre stage when it was crowned 2018’s Capital of Culture, but there’s much more to the enigmatic island than Valletta. The Local’s Commercial Editor took a whirlwind tour of the Mediterranean’s best-kept secret.

This European island has 'the best climate in the world'
Photo: Rabat, Malta

Certain countries have a habit of stealing the limelight when it comes to culture. Tourists seeking their fix of classical and renaissance history typically flock to Greece or Italy, piling into packed attractions that have been snapped more times than Kim Kardashian’s backside.

Rome and Athens might be home to some of Europe’s most famous historical sights, but one nearby island offers all that and then some.

Photo: Rabat, Malta

Megalithic temples, turquoise lagoons, stretching beaches and a spattering of historic cities, Malta is a bitesize country packing an ancient punch. The little anomaly in the Mediterranean is a veritable sponge, soaking up 7000 years of history, remnants of which are still peppered across the island today.

Click here to start planning your trip to Malta

Best of all, you can explore Malta’s finest in just a couple of days at any time of year (it’s acknowledged to have the best climate in the world with over 300 days of sunshine a year). Around every twist and turn on the rugged landscape is a characterful little time capsule – many of which pre-date the most ancient of ancient cities.

Photo: Mdina, Malta

Once Malta’s capital, the fortified city of Mdina was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC (that’s nearly 3,000 years ago) and reduced to its present size following the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Sitting atop a hill in the southwest of Malta with sprawling views as far as the eye can see, Mdina still positively brims with history and tradition.

READ MORE: Make this small Mediterranean capital your next city break

History buffs should make sure to check out some of the finest mosaic pavements preserved from the Roman era at the Domvs Romana, a ruined Roman era house that’s been open to the public since 1882.  More ‘recent’ residents included the noble families of Maltese middle ages who occupied the impressive palaces that still line the pristine streets.

Just a short walk from Mdina, neighbouring Rabat offers a picture-perfect look into Maltese island life. The word itself means ‘suburb’ and today it’s still home to 11,000 inhabitants who must thank their lucky stars they wake up there every morning.

If I had to put a label on Rabat, I’d describe it as a sort of Moorish Provence. Vines and fuchsia flowers creep up the limestone buildings, bow windows are adorned with colourful wooden shutters and, much like the streets of Valletta, everything seems to gleam. The residents take meticulous care of each nook and cranny, conscious that every passerby will share their little corner of the world on Instagram.

READ MORE: Make this small Mediterranean capital your next city break

Stop off for lunch at Da Luigi restaurant while you’re in the area. The family-owned restaurant serves lovingly prepared local and fusion dishes like champagne-battered tempura and Cassata Siciliana, a sweet ricotta tart wrapped in green marzipan. Wash it all down with a glass of local wine as you look out onto a idyllic view of the Maltese countryside.

Photo: View from Da Luigi

Make your way from Rabat over to Marsaxlokk (about a thirty minute drive), a traditional fishing village in Malta’s south eastern region. Still in use by Maltese fishermen, colourful Luzzu fishing boats bop around on teal waters along the horizon. Every Sunday there’s an open market where you can buy the catch of the day or other locally-produced items like honey, jams, sweets and wine.

Photo: Marsaxlokk

From modern-day fishing villages way back to the megalithic period, Malta is home to three of the world’s oldest freestanding structures: Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Tarxien. The prehistoric temples sit on a hillside bordering the ocean and date back to between 3600 BC and 700 BC. Stroll through the stones and mill around in the museum where you can learn more about these ancient marvels which predate Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.

Photo: Malta's megalithic temples predate Stonehenge and the pyramids

Less than two kilometres away, you’ll find yet more rare wonders (I told you the island was compact!). Malta’s famous Azure Window may sadly have collapsed in 2017, but its Blue Grotto is fortunately still standing. Even on a grey day you can see the bioluminescent water lapping around the ancient rock formation. Explore the seven caves by that make up the grotto by licensed boat departing from the tiny harbour set amid an inlet of the cliffs in the seaside village Wied iż-Żurrieq.

Photo: Caves at the Blue Grotto

It might sound like a lot, but the determined traveller can cover much of Malta in a couple of days. Of course, if you really want to take it in everything this little island has to offer, then it deserves a longer stay. Perhaps Malta’s most appealing quality is that whether you’re there for a day or a week, there’s plenty to discover and more than enough left over for next time.

Click here to start planning your trip to Malta

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Visit Malta.

TRAVEL

Explore Austria: Mauer, a charming wine-hiking spot on Vienna’s outskirts

Catch the very tail-end of the wine season and autumn foliage in one of the lesser-explored corners of the Austrian capital: Mauer.

Explore Austria: Mauer, a charming wine-hiking spot on Vienna’s outskirts
Beautiful views and cosy taverns await you on the edge of Vienna. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Wine-hiking is an autumn must-do in Austria, and although the official Wine Hiking Day (Weinwandertag) that usually draws crowds has been cancelled two years in a row during the pandemic, it’s possible to follow the routes through beautiful scenery and wine taverns on your own.

Mauer in the southwest of Vienna is one of the routes that is mostly frequented by locals.


The footpath takes you through scenic vineyards. Photo: Catherine Edwards

You can reach this part of the 23rd district using Vienna’s public transport, and you have a few options. From the Hietzing station on the U4 line, you can take the tramline 60 or bus 56A. The former will take you either to Mauer’s central square or you can get off earlier at Franz-Asenbauer-Gasse to start the hike. If it’s too early in the day for wine just yet, you could start your day at the small and charming Designo cafe (Geßlgasse 6).

Otherwise, the residential area itself doesn’t have much to see, but keep an eye out as you wander between the taverns later — there are some beautiful buildings.

To start the hike, head west along Franz-Asenbauer Gasse, which will take you up into the vineyards, growing some red wine and Vienna’s specialty Gemischter Satz or ‘field blend’, which as the name suggests is a mixture of different types of grapes.

Photo: Catherine Edwards

The paved road takes a left turn, but the hiking route follows a smaller path further upwards. Here you’ll have magnificent views over the whole of Vienna.

If you stick to the official hiking route (see a map from Weinwandern here) you can keep the whole route under 5 kilometres. But more adventurous types don’t need to feel limited.

You can also follow the Stadtwanderweg 6 route (see a map here) either in full, which will add on a hefty 13 kilometres, or just in part, and venture further into the Mauerwald. If you do this, one spot to aim for is the Schießstätte, a former hunting lodge offering hearty Austrian meals.

EXPLORE AUSTRIA

In any case, you should definitely take a small detour to see the Wotrubakirche, an example of brutalist architecture from the mid-1970s built on a site that was used as a barracks during the Second World War.

Not far from the church is the Pappelteich, a small pond that is not only an important habitat for local flora and fauna, but a popular picnic spot for hikers. Its only water supply is from the rain, and due to climate change the pond has almost dried out in recent years, prompting the city to take action to boost its water supply by adding a permanent pipe.


The church is made up of over 150 concrete blocks. Photo: Catherine Edwards

What you really come to Mauer for, though, are the Heuriger or Viennese wine taverns. 

The most well-known is Edlmoser (Maurer Lange Gasse 123) which has previously been named as the best in Vienna. Note that it’s not open all year so check the website, but in 2021 it should be open between November 5th and 21st, and is also serving the goose that is a popular feature on Viennese menus this time of year.

Tip for translating Heuriger opening times: look for the word ausg’steckt, which is used by those taverns which aren’t open year round. They will also often show that they’re open by attaching a bunch of green twigs to the sign or front door.


Buschenschank Grausenburger. Photo: Catherine Edwards

Also worth visiting are cosy Buschenschank Grausenburger (Maurer Lange Gasse 101a), Heuriger Wiltschko (Wittgensteinstrasse 143 — located near the start of the hiking route, this is a good place to begin your tour) and Heuriger Fuchs-Steinklammer (Jesuitensteig 28).

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