As self-proclaimed history buffs and culture vultures, my partner and I are always on the lookout for destinations that promise a good dose of both. So, when our friends suggested we check out Malta, we jumped at the opportunity and booked a stay at the luxurious 5-star Radisson Blu Resort in St. Julian’s. And boy, did we get more than what we bargained for!
Our days were filled with endless exploration of this beautiful island, with the sun and sea as our constant companions. But perhaps our most-treasured highlight from our trip was a visit to the ancient walled city of Mdina and the quaint crafts village of Ta’ Qali nestled just beneath it. Anticipating a day filled with adventure and plenty of steps to be taken, we equipped ourselves with our most comfortable shoes and set off.
Our day began with a visit to the renowned Mdina Glass workshop in Ta’ Qali, and as someone who adores handmade goods, this was truly a dream come true. Since its founding in 1968, Mdina Glass has been celebrated for their exquisite glassware products, which seamlessly blend traditional glassblowing techniques with modern studio glass movements. As we watched from the sidelines, skilled artisans transformed molten glass into stunning, colourful works of art, using only the most rudimentary tools. It was truly fascinating to watch them twist and turn the molten glass with ease, shaping it into intricate vases, delicate bowls, vibrant lanterns, and other beautiful creations. The way they handled the glass with such grace and confidence was a sight to behold. The on-site store was a treasure trove of finished products, each one more awe-inspiring than the last.
Next, we headed to the Ta’ Qali Aviation Museum, a must-visit spot for any aviation enthusiast. Set against the backdrop of the former Royal Air Force airfield, the charming little aircraft hangar housed an impressive collection of post-war aircrafts, engines, and ground equipment. My WWII-buff boyfriend was thrilled to see everything from Spitfires and Hurricanes to a restored de Havilland Tiger Moth. The knowledgeable and friendly museum staff were also happy to share fascinating insights about Malta’s pivotal role in WWII.
Our next stop was the Ta’ Qali Crafts Village, a little haven for lovers of artisanal wares. Rows of charming little shops lined the streets, selling everything from intricate goldsmith filigree to delicate lace, precious stones, sculptures, and jewellery. We spent a delightful hour or so wandering around the shops, marvelling at the intricate designs, and picking up a few pocket-sized souvenirs that wouldn’t weigh us down for the rest of the day.
After thoroughly exploring the Crafts Village, our sights were set on the ancient walled city of Mdina. While we could have easily caught a bus, the weather was so beautiful that we decided to stick with our original plan and hike the 40 minutes up to Mdina. As we strolled steadily up the incline, a breathtaking azure sky stretched out above us, we watched the honey-hued bastions of the citadel getting closer and closer. Finally, we arrived at the iconic moat gate of Mdina and stopped for a few photos with the grand statues of lions that sit on either side of the bridge. Once inside, we were immediately greeted with the stunning baroque architecture of Palazzo Vilhena, which houses Malta’s National Museum of Natural History, while the eerie Mdina Dungeons await below.
As we strolled around the serene streets of Mdina, admiring the charming townhouses, chapels, and palazzos, our stomachs began to rumble. We had heard whispers of a popular gem that offered the perfect blend of scrumptious food and breathtaking views, so we headed on over to Fontanella Tea Garden. After a short walk, we arrived at this quaint café and were delighted to secure a table on the bastion walls. As we indulged in a delicious lunch, followed by heavenly cake and coffee, we couldn’t help but marvel at the panoramic vistas of Malta sprawled out before us. It was a moment we’ll cherish forever.
With our bellies full and our hearts content, it was time to do some serious souvenir shopping. We made our way to the Mdina Glass store, in St. Publius Square located within the citadel walls, and picked up some stunning pieces to take back home with us and to gift to our friends who recommended Malta to us in the first place. Finally, all shopped and strolled out, we called a cab to take us back to our hotel. As we drove back to St. Julian’s under the setting sun, we knew that this day would be a memory that would stay with us for a lifetime.