If you haven’t yet been to Valletta, Malta’s capital, then you have a great treat in store.
The peninsula-perched city will be the European Capital of Culture next year and it is a treasure trove of historic delights. Ancient cathedrals, buzzing bars, impressive modern architecture, street art, the list goes on.
And there has recently been a spate of gorgeous boutique hotels opening in converted mansions in Malta’s capital. So of course, we couldn’t resist sending our writer, Rachael Lindsay, to try one out:
Whilst St Julien’s in Malta has clubs a-plenty for those who want to party, I had heard that the nearby capital of Valletta was the place to go for those in the know.
During our stay, we were lucky enough to be based at the arty former townhouse, Ursulino Valletta, which is one of a number of chic boutique hotels that have popped up along the narrow streets of the old city.
Unassuming from the outside, the Ursulino brims with baroque style inside. And with a sense of fun and staff who are more like friends than employees, this place ticks all the #TeamCoco boxes.
We are treated to a cosy twin room decorated with pretty paintings of the Maltese landscapes by Winston Attard. These contrast with the dictator-inspired artwork in the hallway, appropriately entitled ‘Monsters’.
This contrast between tradition and innovation is everywhere in Valletta. You find yourself walking through medieval back alleys, admiring tiny coffee shops squeezed into basements and spilling out onto the street, then walk out to the City Gate and Parliament Building with their ultra-modern design by the architect behind the Shard.
For history buffs, the National War Museum at Fort St Elmo gives the lowdown on Malta’s surprisingly pivotal role in the last two World Wars, and the nearby Siege Bell Memorial is worth a look at midday when it rings across the city. One of the most famous sites in Valletta is St John’s Co-Cathedral, famous for its stunning baroque architecture, sumptuously decorated chapels and huge painting of St John the Baptist by Caravaggio. But the smaller Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck in Valletta also makes an interesting visit. St Paul was said to be shipwrecked on Malta and brought Christianity to the population. You can find some of St Pauls’ bones in a relic here and part of the column where he was supposedly beheaded.
The lovely thing about Valletta is that it is small enough to wander around in a day, taking in the sites at your own pace, especially when it is a little hot and humid, as it tends to be in the Maltese summer. All of these fascinating historic sites, and much more besides, are only a few minutes’ walk from each other.
After a hot day sightseeing, there really is nothing quite as good as supping chilled prosecco, nibbling on Maltese snacks and admiring a pink-tinged sky from one of the best rooftops in the city. Luckily this is exactly what the Ursulino Valletta offers…
The absolute highlight of staying here has to be the complimentary sunset drinks and aperitivo on the rooftop. The hotel has some of the BEST views in the city, over a neighbouring church and across to the harbour and the Three Cities. All guests can access this stunning view 24 hours a day so you watch the sunlit as well as moonlit views.
We even have the chance to try the Maltese soft drink, Kinnie, on the terrace – an unusual mix of bitter oranges and extracts of wormwood, full of local flavour, and the perfect way to continue our discovery of Maltese culture, history and taste.
Back in our room, we make the most of the divine Molton Brown toiletries. And I get very distracted by taking pictures of my own feet on the snazzy floor tiles in delicate grey, black and white. This is just one of a multitude of Instagram-worthy features of the Ursulino.
For foodies, there are feasts a-plenty to enjoy in Malta’s capital. Having sampled a number of restaurants in the city, our favourites are Scoglitti for fresh fish and seafood with views across the harbour, and the tiny, family-run Rubino’s. Once a confectionary, Rubino’s has mouthwatering risottos, the local speciality of rabbit, pan-fried, and dessert to die for.
Breakfast at the Ursulino Valletta is also a delight – an extensive buffet of fresh melon, berries, homemade granola, salamis and cheese to be enjoyed on the rooftop, as well as eggs made any way.
Food, art, culture, history…Malta’s capital has all of the essential elements for a long Mediterranean weekend away. And to make the most of Valletta’s stunning sunsets, stay at the Ursulino…I dare you to drag yourself away from those rooftop views.
For more information about the Ursulino Valletta, visit ursulinovalletta.com or call +356 2122 7860.