An independent republic, Malta’s strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean has seen waves of traders and conquerors pass through and settle down: Phoenicians, Romans, Carthaginians, Greeks, Spanish, French, and British. Three inhabited islands, Malta, Gozo, and tiny Camino make up the country. Most large ships dock at Valletta on the island of Malta — the capital city that dates back to the 1500s.
What We Love
Easy Communication: Malta was under British rule until the 1960s, and the country’s two official languages are Maltese and English. Signs and notices are also posted in English.
Valletta’s Plan: Most ancient cities grew haphazardly, but Malta’s capital grew on top of a street grid. Streets do rise and fall according to the geography, though. When a lane becomes steep, steps are added.
Best Known For
Rich History: Valletta’s city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its relatively small size makes it easy to navigate. Look up at the medieval bay windows overhanging the streets and head to the ramparts for a view of the Grand Harbour.
Fish Soup: The main ingredient for this stew depends on what’s fresh off the boat: bass, bream, grouper, stonefish, swordfish, and dolphinfish. The displays at the fish market will give you a clue.
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Who It's Best For
Architecture Buffs: You can witness a span of almost 6,000 years here, so you can have a field day in Valletta and then locate major ruins in the countryside, with some the oldest freestanding buildings in the world.
Beachgoers: Few ports on Mediterranean itineraries have as many choices for swimming beaches and in so many different types of settings, from full-service destinations to the totally secluded.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Up Hill and Down Dale: While you can walk into Valletta from your ship, be aware that the city is above the harbor, and once in the center, streets slope down and rise up.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.