We planned to be on deck early while cruising in to the harbour but we must have arrived in the middle of the night. When we awoke we were already in port. We treated ourselves to a leisurely breakfast because it was raining. It looked like it would let up and thankfully it did. This was the only rain we encountered on our entire two week cruise.
Since the weather was a tad unpredictable, we decided to try the hop on hop off bus. We headed to Malta’s old capital – Mdina. It’s a fortified city that sits on one of the highest points on the island. Mdina dates back 4,000 years and was built by the Phoenicians, and later run by the Knights of Malta. It’s believed that St. Paul the Apostle lived here at one time. Mdina is also known as the ‘Silent City’ – it became somewhat of a ghost town when the capital was moved. We loved exploring the narrow limestone streets and imagined what life would have been like during the time of the Knights.
We continued our journey on the bus and passed through a few different towns. Surprisingly there were a few people enjoying a swim. Malta is quite densely populated and new buildings are popping up everywhere.
When we arrived back in Valletta, we walked everywhere to see the main sights. Valletta was founded in 1566 and is Malta’s capital. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s easily walkable and it’s one of Europe’s smallest capital cities. We definitely did not want to miss seeing St. John’s Co-Cathedral so we went there first. It was built in the 16th century by the Order of St. John and designed by the famous architect Girolamo Cassar. The marble floor is an arrangement of 375 tombs of Knights and Officers. It’s absolutely incredible inside!
After spending a considerable amount of time in the Cathedral, we walked over to the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens. The views of the ‘Great Harbour’ are beautiful from both areas. The gardens are a great place to take a rest and admire the scenery.
We spent the rest of our time meandering up and down the limestone streets and admiring the historical buildings.
One thing that really stood out for me were the coloured maltese balconies. I thought they were beautiful and unlike other balconies I had seen before. After doing some reading I found out that in Maltese they are called ‘gallarija’ which means ‘gallery’ in english. Some say the designs originated from North Africa.
It was fun exploring Mdina and Valletta. Both cities are historical treasures and we would like to see more of Malta in the future. Since we missed cruising in to the ‘Great Harbour’ we made sure we didn’t miss cruising out.
Where we stayed: Holland America-MS Koningsdam-Mozart Deck 👍