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Malta, the Place to Visit a History and Pleasure Malta has an incredible number of historical places...

The article was prepared by Travel Dream Club UK www.traveldreamclub.uk

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Tucked between Sicily and the coast of North Africa, Malta is a small archipelago that boasts plenty of big reasons to visit.

Not only do the islands get more than 300 days of sunshine per year, but the clear blue waters here are some of the cleanest in the Mediterranean.

Malta has an incredible number of historical sites, the oldest of which date back to the neolithic period.

The most famous artist who worked in Malta has to be Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610), known as Caravaggio. His 'Beheading of St. John the Baptist', a work once described as 'the painting of the 17th century' was commissioned for, and is still on display in, the Oratory of the Co-Cathedral of St. John, Valletta.

You won't have any problem filling your days up, but here are some places to visit:

Attard

The largest of the "Three Villages" in central Malta, Attard is a charming town that has historically been well known for its many fragrant citrus orchards. Today, many of these orchards are on private property, but visitors still flock here to see the beautiful San Anton Gardens.

There are plenty of picturesque spots in the gardens to enjoy a walk or a picnic, but visitors also come for occasional floral competitions

Birgu

Also known by the name Città Vittoriosa, Birgu is the oldest of Eastern Malta's three fortified cities. It's located right in the Grand Harbor, and because of this has a rich maritime and military history. The city is surrounded by fortified walls, but can be entered through three different gates.

Historical attractions here include the Notre Dame Gate, Fort St. Angelo, and the Inquisitor's Palace, which was the seat of the Inquisition on the island for more than 200 years.

Birzebbuga

Only 8 miles away from the Maltese capital, Birzebbuga is a popular seaside resort town. Many visitors come here for the sandy beach of Pretty Bay, which offers plenty of restaurants, shops, and other tourist amenities, but the rocky beach of St. George’s Bay is popular with snorkelers, sailors, and fishermen.

However, there's more to the town than the beaches; Birzebbuga has a long and colorful history, and visitors can explore pieces of history such as the Farretti Coastal Battery, entrenchments from the 1500s, and archaeological sites that date back to the neolithic period and the Bronze Age.

Bugibba

Located on the northern coast of the island, Bugibba is a well-developed resort town that has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The town doesn't have as much history as some other places on the island, but there are plenty of restaurants and hotels as well as a bustling nightlife scene, a casino, and companies offering SCUBA diving trips.

Another popular activity in the town is visiting the promenade, which goes all the way from Salina Bay to St Paul’s Bay and offers beautiful views, excellent swimming, and entertainment options for all ages.

Cospicua

Another of the three fortified cities in Eastern Malta, Cospicua is located on the east side of the Grand Harbor and sometimes goes by the name of Bormla.

Although now filled with excellent examples of traditional Maltese architecture, the city has been inhabited since neolithic times, and visitors can learn about its history in the Bir Mula Heritage Museum.

For visitors interested in the city's more recent history, attractions include the fortifications that surround the city, known as the Cottonera Lines and a 17th-century church.

Marsaxlokk

Home to Malta's largest fishing harbor, Marsaxlokk is a small yet picturesque fishing village with just over 3,200 inhabitants. An open-air market can be found in the harbor, where the water is usually dotted with plenty of colorful boats known as luzzus. There are also four beautiful coves in the village, which offer excellent snorkeling and swimming.

However, it's worth coming here for the food alone; the town boasts some of the best seafood restaurants in all of Malta. Freshly caught fish is also sold directly to the public at the Marsaxlokk Market, which takes place every Sunday morning.

Mdina

The Maltese capital until the 16th century, Mdina is a walled medieval town with a population of less than 300 people. Set on top of a plateau, the town offers incredible views of the island and the Mediterranean.

The streets are extremely pedestrian-friendly and very few cars are permitted to pass through the gates, which has led to the town sometimes being referred to as the "Silent City."

Visitors can also admire the well-preserved Norman and baroque architecture, wander through the town's charming lamp-lit streets after dark, or visit the Cathedral Museum, one of the best religious museums in Europe.

Mellieha

Perched on a ridge overlooking both St Paul's Bay and Mellieha Bay, Mellieha is a resort town that has managed to retain an authentic, local feel.

Many people are drawn here by the white sandy beaches, which are widely acknowledged as some of the best on the island, but there are more things to do here than swim and sunbathe.

Plenty of walking trails wind through the surrounding countryside, leading to beautiful viewpoints...

Mosta

One of the most populated Maltese cities, Mosta is conveniently located near the center of the island. The primary attraction in the town is the Mosta Dome, also known as the Rotunda, which is one of the largest church domes in the entire world.

The church is also notable for having had a bomb pierce the roof during World War II; the bomb landed in the middle of a congregation of people, but did not explode.

Other tourist attractions include the lush San Anton Gardens, the Malta Aviation Museum, and a network of catacombs that date back to the 4th century AD.

Naxxar

Encompassing 11 square kilometers in Northern Malta, Naxxar is a charming village whose inhabitants have retained much of their traditional culture and customs. An enjoyable day can be spent simply wandering through the town's narrow streets, visiting the town chapels, or relaxing in the public gardens.

But anyone interested in art or architecture should make time to stop by the elaborate 19th-century Palazzo Parisio & Gardens.

The town has plenty of restaurants and cafes as well as several pleasant wine bars, but the true culinary highlight here is the village feast held every year on September 8th

Qormi

Like many other towns in Malta, Qormi has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. However, the city really sprang to life during the Middle Ages; the main attractions today are from the 1400s, including the beautiful Church of St. George.

Qormi also used to be the biggest bread production center in the country, and it is still widely acknowledged as the producer of the best bread in Malta and a great place to try traditional bread-based dishes.

The town is also notable for hosting many festivals throughout the year, including a wine festival, a bread festival, and the Malta Spring Fest.

Rabat

Rabat was a suburb of Mdina when it was the capital city, but it is now a separate village located only a few minutes away from the old capital on foot. One of the most interesting things to see here is St. Paul's Grotto, a cave in the moat around the city where the saint allegedly lived after being shipwrecked.

From here, an underground tunnel leads to the Wignacourt Museum, which houses various pieces of artwork and antique furniture. Also worth a visit are the catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha, which were used as a cemetery during Roman times.

Senglea

Sitting on a peninsula in the Grand Harbor, Senglea is the smallest Maltese town by land area and the third of the Three Cities. The local church is one of the biggest sights; dedicated to "Our Lady of Victories," it was destroyed completely during the Second World War but later rebuilt.

Anyone looking for a bit of relaxation or for excellent views of the Grand Harbor can visit the beautiful Gardjola Gardens.

There are also several interesting statues to see in the town, including the famed statue of Jesus Christ the Redeemer and the Madonna tan-Nofs statue.

Siggiewi

Located in the south of Malta, Siggiewi is a charming village with narrow streets, beautiful architecture, and an authentic atmosphere. The bay of Ghar Lapsi is one of the biggest attractions in the area; it offers an interesting cave, sparkling blue-green waters, and excellent views from the cliffs.

Another interesting sight is the prime minister's official residence, which was built in 1625 and was formerly the summer home of the Maltese Inquisitor.

The village is a pleasant destination all year round, but it's especially lively in June, when a week-long feast is held in honor of St. Nicholas, the town's patron saint.

Valletta

Famous for having been built by the Knights of St John, Valletta is the capital city of Malta and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city sits on a tiny peninsula, but it has plenty of tourist attractions despite its small size.

The oldest buildings here date from the 16th century; visitors should try to see the Grandmaster's Palace, St. John’s Cathedral, and the Casa Rocca Piccola.

Other popular activities include relaxing in the beautiful Barrakka Gardens, strolling along the waterfront, catching a performance at the 18th-century Manoel Theatre, and visiting the city's many fascinating museums.

The most famous artist who worked in Malta has to be Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610), known as Caravaggio. His 'Beheading of St. John the Baptist', a work once described as 'the painting of the 17th century' was commissioned for, and is still on display in, the Oratory of the Co-Cathedral of St. John, Valletta.

Zabbar

Sometimes called Città Hompesch, Zabbar is a relatively large city in the southeastern part of Malta. There are several beautiful churches for visitors to admire, including the Church of Our Lady of Graces and the Annunciation Church.

The Hompesch Gate is another popular spot with tourists; it was erected in honor of Malta's last Grandmaster, who granted Zabbar city status in 1797.

The city is also an excellent place to base yourself for day trips of the surrounding area, as it offers a wide range of accommodation and is located within easy driving distance of many attractions.

Zebbug

As one of the oldest towns in the country, Zebbug has a rich history that goes all the way back to prehistoric times. A number of Phoenician tombs have been found in the area, and the town was one of the most important in Malta when the country was under the rule of the knights.

Nowhere is this importance more visible than in the parish church, which is dedicated to St. Philip and lavishly decorated with beautiful paintings and sculptures.

A feast is held every June in honor of St. Philip; it's worth attending to marvel at the fireworks and the parade.

Zejtun and Zurrieq

Zejtun was named after the many olive trees found in the area; the city used to be one of Malta's top producers of olive oil, and it still hosts the popular Olive Festival at the end of every September to celebrate the olive harvest. Another important event is the Feast of St. Catherine, which takes place every summer.

Zurrieq offers visitors plenty to see and do. Because of the city's long history, visitors can ogle at ruins and relics that date back to the Bronze Age, the time of the Romans, and the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

There are a number of different chapels scattered throughout the city, but one of the best is the Parish Church of St. Catherine, which is arguably one of the most beautiful churches in Malta.

Other significant attractions include the Xarolla Windmill, the Nigret Palace, and the Wardija Tower.

The best churches to visit are the stunning Parish Church of St Catherine, designed by the famous architect Lorenzo Gafa, and the Church of St Gregory, which was formerly used as a watch tower and contains several secret passages.

The article was prepared by Travel Dream Club UK www.traveldreamclub.uk

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