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10 reasons you should visit Malta in 2019

Whether you’re interested in history, sports, food, art, doing business or learning something new, the Maltese Islands should be your next port of call – and this is why.

10 reasons you should visit Malta in 2019
View of Gozo. Photo: Visit Malta

1. Connectivity

If you don’t already know, Malta is quite literally in the centre of the Mediterranean. The islands’ connectivity and accessibility is facilitated through numerous new flight routes across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Since it’s an island, Malta is also easy to reach by boat, and the number of cruise ships entering the magnificent Grand Harbour in Valletta is increasing every year.

2. Ease of communication

Apart from Maltese, English is an official language in Malta, so you won’t have any problem communicating with the locals during your stay. In fact, the vast majority of Maltese nationals are fluent in Maltese and English, which are taught simultaneously at local schools.

3. Mediterranean sun and sea

The Maltese Islands benefit from an average of 300 days of sun every year. This means you can take advantage of the island’s 12 Blue Flag certified beaches all year round. Each of the beaches are internationally guaranteed to have good water quality, accessibility and excellent facilities.

Maltese beaches cater for every type of swimmer. Some beaches and rocky shores are off the beaten track, but worth seeking out for their seclusion. A boat trip to Comino's Blue Lagoon – with its beautiful azure water – is not to be missed. Larger beaches have cafes or snack bars open during the summer season so you can stay well fed and watered during  the day. With Malta's climate, beach life lasts well into October!

Enjoy water sports and activities like windsurfing, jet and water skiing, and para-kiting. Equipment is available to hire from beach cafes or shops nearby.

4. History and culture

Discovering Maltese culture doesn’t require much effort. No two streets are alike and there is always something going on, whether it is a spontaneous community celebration or a pre-planned event.

Culture has been at the forefront, particularly since Malta’s capital city Valletta became European Capital of Culture, recognised by the European Commission, during 2018. Valletta boasts many titles, all recalling its rich historical past. It is often declared a masterpiece of the Baroque; a European Art City and a World Heritage City. Today, it is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.

5. A holiday within a holiday (within a holiday)

The Maltese Islands’ archipelago is made up of seven islands; however, only three are inhabited: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta, being the largest of all the islands, is where the Malta International Airport is situated.

For a change in tempo and scenery, hop to Malta’s sister islands of Gozo and Comino.

Travelling between Malta and Gozo is done by means of a fast and efficient ferry service. The Gozo Channel ferry service departs from Malta every 45 minutes (transporting both vehicles and passengers), with the journey taking approximately 25 minutes.

To reach Comino, one must catch a boat from either Marfa in Malta or Mġarr in Gozo. These journeys are very regular too so you can easily hop between islands.

6. The local cuisine

Maltese food is full of flavour and colour, typical of a central Mediterranean Island, influenced by its closeness to Sicily and North Africa, but with a special twist.

Be it a glass of smooth local wine accompanied by a platter of olives, some ġbejniet (local sheep's cheeses), zalzett (coriander flavoured Maltese sausage) with galletti (Maltese water crackers) and some bigilla (broad bean pate) served with Maltese bread and olive oil, there are so many local dishes to try you won’t know where to start. Make sure to try a hot pastizzi (savoury ricotta filled pastries) on a cold day, washed down with coffee or tea.

Summer days at the beach means ħobs biż-żejt, a popular snack made from a thick slice of crusty Maltese bread, rubbed with juicy, red tomatoes and topped with mint, a little onion, sheep's cheese and anchovies, all soaked in delicious green olive oil.

7. Scuba Diving

Diving in Malta. Photo: Guillaume Ruoppolo

All of the three main islands have an abundance of reefs, caves and wrecks that make diving here some of the most interesting in the Mediterranean.

The calmness and clarity of the sea makes for excellent visibility creating the perfect conditions for first time divers and beginners. For the more experienced divers, there are plenty of challenging dives to choose from – including a number of shipwrecks.

Moreover, there are several types of diving courses and activities offered by locally licensed diving schools.

8. Sports and outdoor activities

Aside from diving, horseback riding is a popular activity with locals and visitors alike. Horse racing is one of Malta's prime spectator sports, with races held every Sunday, between October and May.

There are also plenty of sports-related events, such as the Rolex Middle Sea Race, a highly-rated offshore classic race, often mentioned as a ‘must-do’ race among yachting enthusiasts. Those who are into athletics will enjoy the Malta Marathon or the international Super League Triathlon.

Whilst those who would much rather find their zen will enjoy the many idyllic locations for their yoga session.

9. Business Travel

The Maltese Islands are not just a place to meet, but also an ideal location in which to do business. Whatever the size, formality or informality of your corporate event, Malta has the expertise and venues to suit. The Maltese Islands offer a variety of magnificent castles, palazzos and forts as function venues.

State-of-the-art conference hotels or venues are available for any size of event, and include the 16th century Mediterranean Conference Centre, once a hospital of the Order of the Knights of Saint John, and considered the most advanced hospital in Europe at the time.

10. Film Tourism

The Maltese Islands have been home to Hollywood blockbusters such as Gladiator, U-571, The Count of Monte Cristo, Troy, Munich as well as prestigious dramas and sitcoms such as the BBC's Byron and ITV's Coronation Street. In recent years, Malta has become one of Europe's most popular film and television locations – dubbed “the Mediterranean's mini-Hollywood” by the London Times. Malta has also teamed up with Bollywood and the first blockbuster was shot here last year.

The islands' beautiful, unspoiled coastlines and breathtaking architecture have ‘doubled' for an amazing variety of locations, both on the big and small screen. Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Petersen, Guy Ritchie and other renowned directors, as well as a host of A-list celebrities such as Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt, Sharon Stone, Madonna and Sean Connery, all experienced Malta's movie-making facilities and its many charms.

This article is 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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