Craving for Old Europe? Here are Top 7 Cities to Visit !!!

It’s not just the European food or people or cultures that attracts millions of people to visit the continent each year. Yes, those are appealing, but for the most part, it’s the unique medieval charms of Europe that people can’t get enough of when they are getting lost in the narrow alleys of small towns in Europe, looking at centuries old cathedrals or  ruins of ancient fortresses,  or walking on cobbled stoned squares from the middle ages.

Every time I’ve visited the big or tiny towns in Europe, I was taken back in time. I could feel and see the life that existed hundreds of years ago. It was like an open museum that has surprises in every corner of it. From big cities like Rome to one of the smallest ones, like Cyprus have medieval elements scattered though the cities.

After visiting more than 130 cities in Europe (it’s not enough for any continent, let alone for Europe), I had hard time hand-picking cities that will give the tourists most medieval experience of Europe. Oh yes, there are plenty of these towns where you can go and feel like you traveled to the past thru a time machine in this continent. But here are 7 not-so-common places that you should visit to experience some enticing old European charms. They are not in any particular order…enjoy

  1. Toledo (Spain): Once the capital of Spain, Toledo, is a must-see city when you are in Madrid. The history of this town dates back to 192 B.C. which became a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich cultural and historical monuments. Some spots to hit in Toledo are Cathedral of Toledo, Monuments of Greco, Old city wall, the synagogue, San Martin Bridge, and finally the magnificent Alcazar.
An overview of Toledo with River Tagus and Puente de St. Martin

An overview of Toledo with River Tagus and Puente de St. Martin

2. Volterra (Italy): This is a perfect day-trip if you are in Florence or Sienna in Italy. Volterra is one of many walled cities of Toscana and it attracts thousands of tourists every month. Other than its sweeping beauty of its countryside and other small hill-towns, it has those cozy piazzas, like Piazza dei Priori, a roman theater, couple good museums like Alabaster Museum and Pinacoteca Museum, and finally an old baptistery…Santa Maria Assunta Church. To finish off the day, have some gelato from a local store.

Old Town of Volterra, Italy

Old Town of Volterra, Italy

3. Plovdiv (Bulgaria): Dating back to more than 4000 B.C, Plovdiv is one of the oldest towns in whole Europe. The town is very well-preserved and many old buildings, paved streets, fortifications, walls, water-supply, and sewerage survived from its early period. Visit the Virgin Mary Church, St. Dimitar Church, Roman Theater, ancient Stadium of Philippopolis, and Djoumaya Mosque from the 14th century. Plovdiv would make a perfect trip if you are in Sophia and have an extra day to taste the old Bulgaria.

Roman amphitheater from the 1st century in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Roman amphitheater from the 1st century in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

4. San Marino (San Marino): This is one of the littlest countries in Europe yet it claims to be the world’s oldest republic. San Marino not only  offers impressive views of the surrounding hills, countryside, Adriatic Sea, and Italy, but it also has spectacular historic landmarks for its visitors. If you are in the Tuscany region in Italy, San Marino would be a perfect day-trip from there. Visit the Old Town, 1st Tower – Guaita, Basilica di San Marino, Piazza Publica, and enjoy its great Italian cuisine in any restaurants.

Walking thru the old cobble-stoned alleys of San Marino

Walking thru the old cobble-stoned alleys of San Marino

5. Luxembourg City (Luxembourg): This is probably one of my most favorite capitals to visit in Europe. The history and the beauty of Luxembourg City will truly make your trip a memorable one. Here are some places to see here: Gella Fra Monument, Notre Dame Cathedral, Grand Ducal Palace, Bock Casamates, and finally the whole town. This should be on your top list if you are visiting Belgium…too good to miss.

Walking around the old ruins of Luxemburg (Casamates)

Walking around the old ruins of Luxemburg (Casamates)

6. Valletta (Malta): This is a unique place where rich history, good Mediterranean food, scenic beauty, and colorful atmosphere come together in harmony. Malta’s capital, Valletta, was one of the earliest sites that got listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site for its old world splendor and magnificent Baroque architectures. While in Valletta, make sure to take a boat ride to the unforgettable Islands of Gozo and Comino. But in the city, roam around its old part and enjoy places like, St. John’s Cathedral (and many other old churches), Upper Barracca Garden, National Library of Malta, St. Fort Elmo, and Great Siege Square.

Valletta, Malta -the whole city is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Valletta, Malta -the whole city is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

7. Dinant (Belgium): Situated by River Meuse, Dinant is a French-speaking (Wallonia) part of Belgium. This is the hometown of Adolphe Sax…the inventor of saxophone that dates back to 800 B.C. Visit the Dinant Citadel (and enjoy stunning view from there), Collegiate Cathedral of Dinant, Saxophone Bridge and River Meuse, and get lost in the old alleys that are packed with local goods and cafes. Another sweet trip if you are ever in Brussels.

Breathtaking view of the city and river from Dinant Citadel in Belgium

Breathtaking view of the city and river from Dinant Citadel in Belgium

 

 

Just finished making this video on our trip to the Islands of Malta & Gozo few years ago, hope it will inspire you to visit these islands by the Central Mediterranean.

Islands of Malta and Gozo – Thru My Lens

If you are planning to visit Malta, Gozo, & Comino, please check out these 2 following links for tips and suggestions.

Valletta and Gozo and Comino

 

Link

Maltese Islands – Gozo and Comino

ISLANDS of GOZO and COMINO, MALTA: Islands of Gozo and Comino are two sister islands of Malta. Both of their culture and history go back hand in hand with Malta. Both of these islands are famous for their unspoiled beaches, diving sites, pre-historic landmarks, and shimmering scenic beauty. No one should leave Malta without taking trip to Gozo and Comino…this is where the adventure lies of this island nation.

We took this trip on our second day in Malta. It was 30 euros per adult and 20 euros for kids over 5. We met up near Sliema Ferry Service (it’s not the same service) in one of Luzzu Cruises’ kiosks and set off at 10 am. Our first destination was hour and half journey to the north to Island of Gozo. After reaching Gozo’s main harbor, Mgarr Harbor, they took all the tourists (except us, since we were all feeling sick from the bumpy ride on the sea) in small vans for a 3 hours sightseeing tour. Then came back to the dockyard and went for another 5 minutes cruise to Blue Lagoon in Comino. We had about little more than hour to swim or hang out in Comino. At 4 pm we started cruising back to Sliema stopping by the Caves of St. Mary’s for few minutes. It was around 5:30 pm when we arrived back to where we started from in Sliema. This boat only departs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from June to October. Good part of this deal was that you can take a free hour and half harbor boat tour the following day with the same ticket. We had to pass that trip, we wanted to go back to Valletta for our last couple hours in Malta.

Our boat "Luzzu Cruise" standing on the azure water of Blue Lagoon in Comino, Malta
Our boat “Luzzu Cruise” standing on the azure water of Blue Lagoon in Comino, Malta
               

There are also some night harbor cruises or fishing trips. Travelers can email leo_kir@hotmail.com for any service with Luzzu Cruises.

TIME of TRAVEL: It was beginning of June 2013 when we flew to Malta. It was a lovely day to take such tours, but our captain warned my husband that the sea was going to be rough that day and since we were traveling with kids, we should be careful. I was scared at first, but he explained there is no danger going to the sea, but the ride will be VERY bumpy. We decided to go anyway thinking “how bad can it be”. Oh man, after 10 minutes of that up and down ride my 7-year-old literally threw up on my pants. It felt like someone was shaking that whole vessel and was throwing it into the sea without any mercy. Then I started puking, my little one started crying, and my husband feeling helpless. I don’t remember how many times my eldest daughter and I threw up (sorry if I am making you disgusted)…but after a while we both were tired and fell asleep. Then as soon as we got off shore, we decided not to go with the sightseeing van in Gozo. We freshened up, washed our clothes, hired a taxi, and went around Gozo with my wet pants on. It was one hell of a ride…phew, if we only knew what the captain was talking about.

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Hotel Plevna in Sliema, another city in Malta. The best part of this hotel were the location and its view. We could the Mediterranean Sea from our balcony both on the right and left side. I actually managed to get up one morning during sunrise at 5:30 am and walk to Sliema promenade to take some shots and enjoy the morning sun. The hotel itself was pretty awesome too, had free breakfast included in the price. The only thing we wished was Wi-Fi in our room, lobby had free connection. The hotel also had free beach club for its guests by Sliema Promenade. We used to walk only 5 minutes to the ferry terminal to go to Valletta. All the nice restaurants (along with McDonald’s and Burger King) are also very close-by with a nice sea-view. If I ever go back to Malta, I will stay in Hotel Plevna again for its nice staffs and great location.

EATING and SHOPPING: We really didn’t have lunch that day since we were all feeling yucky and sick and wasn’t in the mood for heavy lunch. The girls and we had some Snicker bars and Pringles with some juices. But I think the others in the group who went on the jeep tour were given time for lunch/snacks.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: In total, we had about 4 hours for Gozo and Comino (not counting the ride). Gozo definitely has more things to do and see than Comino. We couldn’t see the Azure Window of Gozo, a beautiful rock on the Mediterranean, along with some other beaches and ancient landmarks here.

1) ISLAND of GOZO: Gozo, one of the three islands of Malta, is a popular destination for diving and other beach/water activities. It’s smaller than Malta and less modern and more remote. There are many scenic fishing villages, green landscape, and fine beaches in this island. Azure Window is one of the most popular sites of Gozo. We haven’t been to any of these spots, because of our sickness from the sea. Other than natural beauty, Gozo is officially home of the oldest structure on the planet…Ggantija Temples. Gozitans (they get annoyed if you call them Maltese) speak similar language like Maltese but in different dialect and speak very good English.

Rabat or Victoria, the capita of Gozo Island in Malta, you can see Gozo Citadel in the distance
Rabat or Victoria, the capital of Gozo Island in Malta, you can see Gozo Citadel in the distance
            

We had about 2 hours in Gozo after freshening up. Since we didn’t go with our sightseeing bus, we hired a taxi for 40 euros to takes us around the island. We managed to visit the following four spots. The taxi was supposed to take us to a nearby fishing village too, but we had to get back to the dock to catch our boat to Comino.

a) CHURCH of OUR LADY in LORETO: It’s a very beautiful big white church in the village of Ghajnsielem. It was our first stop and a quick one. There is no fee to enter.

Church of Our Lady in Loreto, Gozo, Malta
Church of Our Lady in Loreto, Gozo, Malta
        

b) THE GGANTIJA TEMPLES: The Ggantija Temples, “Place of giants”, are thought to be the oldest free-standing structures in the world. The temples were the first of the Maltese prehistoric monuments to be cleared of the accumulation of earth and debris. The megalithic complex of Ggantija was erected in three stages over a period of several hundred years (3600 – 3000 BC) by farmers and herders of Gozo at the center of the Mediterranean. This complex stayed in used for some 1000 years until Maltese Temple Culture disappeared abruptly and mysteriously. Later around 2500 – 1500 BC the site was adopted by the inhabitants as a cremation cemetery. They say, these temples are 1000 years older than the pyramids in Egypt, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Presently it’s only the ruins we saw but definitely are among the best-preserved temples on the Maltese islands.

Ggantija Temples in Gozo, Malta - the oldest standing free-structure in the world
Ggantija Temples in Gozo, Malta – the oldest free-standing structure in the world
          

Visiting the temple didn’t take us more than half an hour. Entry fee is 5 euros per adults and 2.50 euros for children 6 -11 years of age. The temple is open Monday thru Sunday from 9 to 5 pm (last admission at 4:30) and closed on public holidays. Ticket to Ggantija Temples also allows visitors to see Ta’Kola Windmill.

c) GOZO CATHEDRAL: Also known as Citadel Cathedral, this is a beautiful Baroque cathedral from the early 17th century. It’s small but very graceful. Check out its mosaic marble floor with tombstones and painted ceiling…they are remarkable. There is no fee to enter, but definitely worth a visit. It’s located at the same site as Gozo Citadel.

Inside Gozo Cathedral or Citadel Cathedral in Gozo, Malta
Inside Gozo Cathedral or Citadel Cathedral in Gozo, Malta
            

d) GOZO CITADEL: Located in Rabat (also known as Victoria), capital of Gozo. The setting had very middle-age touch and looked like it was built with sandstones. This island’s fortress was built somewhere around the 15th century and was never conquered by anyone. It rises steeply above the surrounding countryside offering a superb view of the island.

Walking by the old walls of Gozo Citadel in Gozo, Malta
Walking by the old walls of Gozo Citadel in Gozo, Malta
                   

It’s free to enter the citadel’s courtyard. But the museums and exhibitions have entry fees. We just walked along the old walls of citadel and then top of the hill for a nice view over the village. We only had about half an hour or so to just get a glimpse of the citadel before catching our taxi to the boat terminal.

2) ISLAND of COMINO: Island of Comino is the least developed among all the three Maltese islands. The island is known for its tranquility and remoteness. The lagoon with its shimmering aquamarine water, this makes an ideal choice for most kind of water sports, especially snorkeling and diving. There are no roads or streets in this small place. Our taxi driver in Gozo was saying only 6 people live here now and there is only one hotel, a 5-star, and a police station in Comino. It’s all natural beauty everywhere we looked. Gozo can be seen from here, as it’s only 5 minutes boat ride between these two islands.

That's Gozo from our boat, heading towards Comino in Malta
That’s Gozo from our boat, heading towards Comino in Malta
            

a) BLUE LAGOON: This is the main attraction of tiny island of Comino and popular for day trips. Blue Lagoon is famous for its stunning azure-blue water. Tourists come here for swimming, sunbathing, or snorkeling. The scenic beauty is beyond words can explain. Small but picturesque white sandy beach surrounded by turquoise blue water and big rocks in the distance can make everlasting impression on everyone’s mind.

Blue Lagoon of Comino in Malta
Blue Lagoon of Comino in Malta
               

We stayed here about an hour. While some of our group members took a dip in the water, our daughters and I soaked our feet in the transparent water, took some pictures, and went on exploring Comino on foot. There is a tower, Santa Maria’s Tower, which we couldn’t find…other than that there isn’t much to do if you are not into water sports.

Blue Lagoon in Comino, Malta
Blue Lagoon in Comino, Malta
         

b) CRYSTAL CAVES of COMINO: Crystal Caves are located at the north coast of Comino and only few minutes boat ride from Blue Lagoon. The boat took us near a large cliff and beneath are these caves. Caves were dark, couldn’t really see anything inside…gives you a creepy feeling.  Don’t forget to look for a rock formation that looks like elephant’s trunk near Crystal Cave.

Elephant's trunk rock near Crystal Cave of Comino in Malta
Elephant’s trunk rock near Crystal Cave of Comino in Malta
               

After the caves, it was end of our Gozo & Comino trip. It wasn’t that bad on our way back to Sliema because the wind was going on our direction. All four of us took a nice nap in the boat and before we knew we were back to our familiar spot. If I knew the ride was going to that crazy, I probably would have canceled the trip; but at the same time, that god we actually went on, otherwise would have missed the real beauty of Mediterranean and real pearls of Malta.

Crystal Caves of Comino in Malta
Crystal Caves of Comino in Malta
        

Valletta – the Maltese capital on the Mediterranean

VALLETTA, MALTA: How often do you come across thousands of years’ worth of history, blue waters, and good Mediterranean food over 316 sq. kilometers of land mass? This can only happen when you come to Malta. Being by the Mediterranean Sea, Malta’s capital Valletta is more than just a beautiful old town of this island nation. But what makes this harbor city prettier is that the city kept its 16th century look at almost every corner. It was one of the earliest sites that got listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site for its old world splendor and magnificent Baroque architectures. Valletta was one of the first cities in Europe to use a grid street system. I used to look for colorful doors, windows, and typical wooden window-like concealed balconies while walking in the old town…these are everywhere and add more beauty to this place.

Valletta, Malta -the whole city is A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Valletta, Malta – the whole city is A UNESCO World Heritage Site
              

Malta is a small island and inhabit a tiny spot in the universe but it has a culture that spans about 7000 years. Valletta was built as a fortified city – intended to keep the enemy out. Historically, Knights of St. John built Malta in 1565 AD to protect the land from the Turks. From the earliest days of the Knights of St. John on Malta, they kept a guard ship and troops near the entrance of Grand Harbor looking for Ottoman spies. Later the country was attacked and conquered by many civilizations over and over, finally getting its freedom from the British in 1964.

Valletta, Malta
Valletta, Malta
                   

Maltese speak very good English and are very welcoming. Local language here is a very unique language that combines different languages like Arabic, French, Italian, and Spanish.

Republic Street and Merchant Street are the main and parallel streets of Valletta. Marsamxetto Ferry Service is the best way to go back and forth from Sliema to Valletta. There are also public buses from Sliema, but ferry is the best way. They run every half an hour from 7 am – 6 pm and 10 – 4 on Sundays and public holidays. It is 2.80 euros for round trip per person over 5 years of age and it takes less than 15 minutes to cross the water-body. There are many companies who offer boat tours of various kinds to various parts of Malta, like the islands of Gozo and Comino (see my post on Gozo & Comino). They come in many services, prices, and timetables.

The blue ferry that connects Sliema and Valletta in Malta
The blue ferry that connects Sliema and Valletta in Malta
                 

If you are planning to drive in Malta, just keep in mind that they drive on the left side of the road like the Brits. We also rode on a horse-wagon after the ferry ride to Valletta to go to St. John’s Cathedral for 20 euros for all of us with an extra visitor, Charlie. We met Charlie, originally a Maltese but lived all over in the USA for 61 years, at Marsamxetto Ferry terminal on our way to Valletta. He came back to his own land recently to spend rest of his life by the sea. He got on the horse-ride with us and was very energetic giving us some general insides on this island.

Loved these colorful doors of Malta
Loved these colorful doors of Malta
              

TIME of TRAVEL: We flew to Valletta in the first week of June 2013. We were expecting some hot-summer days there. It was above 75 degrees but little bit windy every now and then. Overall, the weather was pleasant. June is in fact a great time to visit Malta. The weather is warm yet the beaches and bays aren’t taken over by the tourists. As it gets deep into summer, the weather can get really crazy hot and places become more crowded with hundreds and thousands of tourists. Maltese population triples to nearly 1 million tourists from all over the world during this time.

Old town of Valletta in June...not too crowded yet
Old town of Valletta in June…not too crowded yet
             

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Hotel Plevna in Sliema, another city in Malta. The best parts of this hotel were the location and view. We could see the Mediterranean Sea from our balcony both on the right and left sides. I actually managed to get up one morning around sunrise at 5:30 am and walk to Sliema promenade to take some shots and enjoy the morning sun. The hotel itself was pretty awesome too, had breakfast included in the price. The only thing we wished was Wi-Fi in our room, lobby had free connection though. The hotel also had free beach club for its guests by Sliema Promenade. We used to walk only 5 minutes to the ferry terminal to go to Valletta. All the nice restaurants (along with McDonald’s and Burger King) are also very close-by with a nice sea-view and skyline of Valletta on the other side. If I ever go back to Malta, I will stay in Hotel Plevna again for its nice staffs and great location.

Looking over Valletta from Sliema Harbor in Malta
Looking over Valletta from Sliema Harbor in Malta
                           

Sliema is one of Malta’s most modern areas and this is where most of the tourists stay. The promenade offers great view of the blue sea. The main harbor of Sliema also is a great place to hang out, enjoying nightlife, eating, and shopping. You can get a jaw-dropping view of Valletta standing in Sliema harbor.

Sliema Promenade by the Mediterranean
Sliema Promenade by the Mediterranean
                 

EATING and SHOPPING: Maltese love their rabbits and it’s their national dish. First lunch in Malta, we sat down in a nice restaurant, San Giovanni, in St. John’s Square right in front of the cathedral. And I had to try a Maltese rabbit, of course. There were many dishes here that serve rabbit in different forms. I tried rabbit ravioli with herb sauce and olive oil (or something similar)…it was beyond my expectations, so good. Most of the cafes with tables and big umbrellas in the sunny piazzas are full of people throughout the whole day…drinking, chatting, eating, or just enjoying, loved it.

My lunch in Valletta - rabbit ravioli
My lunch in Valletta – rabbit ravioli
        

Hand-made glass arts from Mdina (a small town of Malta which once used to be the island’s capital) are very famous here and something exquisite to take back home. We didn’t go to Mdina but there were few shops in Valletta where we bought our set of hand-blown glasses…6 pieces for 76 euros, couldn’t beat that. Other than that many souvenir shops in old town Valletta sell usual gifts items like t-shirts, bags, key-rings, and etc.

Handmade Mdina glasses in a shop in Valletta, Malta
Handmade Mdina glasses in a shop in Valletta, Malta
             

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We spent about a day and half in Valletta. 1st day in Valletta we couldn’t see the main spot of this island, St. John’s Cathedral, since it closes at noon on Saturdays. So we had to come back on Monday for that. Just to keep something in mind that every cathedral or church in Valletta is either closed completely or for half a day in weekends. There are few museums in Valletta for archeology, fine arts, and wars, if you are into those. And if time allowed us, I would have visited some gardens, and Palace of the Grand Masters, now Presidential Palace. Mdina is another city of Malta which is worth visiting for a day too, but didn’t get a chance.

Looking over Grand Harbor from Upper Barracca Garden in Valletta, Malta
Looking over Grand Harbor from Upper Barracca Garden in Valletta, Malta
                  

1) ST. JOHN’S CO-CATHEDRAL: The simple façade of St. John’s flanked by two large bell towers has more of characteristics of a fortress than a cathedral reflecting the sober mood after the historic episode of Great Siege of Malta. But no one can imagine its lavish interior by looking at its plain face.

St. John's Cathedral in Valletta, Malta...served as the headquarter of Knights of St. John in 1577
St. John’s Cathedral in Valletta, Malta…served as the headquarter of the Knights of St. John in 1577 
             

It was built in 1577 in the very heart of newly founded city of Valletta to serve as the headquarters for the Knights of St. John. The cathedral’s glorious Baroque interior reveals a spectacle of rich marbles, precious metals, paintings, and decorative ensembles that overwhelm the spectator with an impressive first vision. Elaborate motifs on the side walls and gilded foliage, flowers, and angels are some characteristic of Baroque ornamentation of this monument. The splendid inlaid marble memorial slabs on the floor are a collection of tombstones of important knights and noblemen make this floor a unique treasure of St. John’s. Some of these tombstones reveal individual stories, their acts of chivalry, and religious ardor. A huge, vigorous work of art dominates the oratory. Overall, every inch of St. John’s Cathedral is an incredibly ornate place and by far one of the grandest cathedrals I’ve ever seen so far.

Inlaid marble memorial slabs on the floor in St. John's Cathedral of Valletta, Malta
Inlaid marble memorial slabs on the floor in St. John’s Cathedral of Valletta, Malta
               

FYI, There are 365 churches in Malta…one for every day of the year to worship!! We couldn’t go to the museum or the crypt where many tombs of Knights of St. John are kept. Visitors should dress properly covering their shoulders, chest, and legs upon entering the cathedral. Opening hours for the cathedral is Mon-Fri from 9:30 to 4:30 pm (last admission at 4 pm) and Saturday from 9:30 to 12:30 pm (last admission at 12 pm). It’s closed on Sundays and public holidays. Entrance fee is 6 euros for adults and children under 12 years are free. The fee includes visit to oratory and museum in addition to an audio tour guide.

2) ST. PAUL’S PRO-CATHEDRAL: This is an Anglican church (Church of England) of Malta and Gozo. It was built in 1844 in neo-classic style with simple and spacious feel. Maltese limestone was used to build this cathedral. Its 60 meters spire can be seen from Sliema across the sea. The cathedral is a noted Valletta landmark. It was free to enter but if you take pictures you are supposed to pay 1 euro.

3) TEL-MADONNA TEL-KARMNU: The dome of this Catholic Church dominates the view of Valletta as seen from Sliema. It has a gorgeous and spacious interior with high copula. It’s located right next to St. Paul’s Cathedral and there is no fee to enter.

Tel Madonna Tel Karmnu Church in Valletta, Malta
Tel Madonna Tel Karmnu Church in Valletta, Malta
                  

4) ST. DOMINIC: We walked inside this church while walking back to our ferry terminal. Exterior of this church had old façade. But inside was very decorative with beautiful ceiling and a gorgeous altar.

St. Dominic Church in Valletta, Malta
St. Dominic Church in Valletta, Malta
                    

5) UPPER BARRACCA GARDENS: This garden is located on the upper part of the town offering visitors unrivalled views across one of the world’s largest and deepest natural harbors, Grand Harbor, and over to the Three Cities. The garden itself is small but pretty nice place for strolling. There are some fountains, statues, and arches that make this place really charming. There was a wedding going on when we went there. The old Saluting Battery provides artillery salutes to visiting dignitaries and shipping. A noon-day gun is still fired daily, recreating the age-old tradition. It’s free to enter.

Looking over Grand Harbor from Upper Barracca Garden in Valletta, Malta
Looking over Grand Harbor from Upper Barracca Garden in Valletta, Malta
               

6) NATIONAL LIBRARY of MALTA: The origin of this building dates back to 1555. We didn’t go in, but as I’ve heard, a huge archive of the Knights of St. John from the Crusades in the 11th century until the late 18th century are kept in this library. It’s located in Republic Square next to Grandmaster’s Palace.

National Libray of Malta...from 1555 AD
National Library of Malta…from 1555 AD
                

7) FORT ST. ELMO: This is an old fort at the tip of the peninsula. It was also built by the knights in 1551 guarding the entrance to both Grand and Marsamxett Harbors. Turks tried to invade it in 1565 but overall, this fort was never invaded by anybody in the history. We couldn’t go there since it was under renovation that time.

St. Fort Elmo by the Mediterranean Sea in Malta
St. Fort Elmo by the Mediterranean Sea in Malta
                 

8) GREAT SIEGE SQUARE: This is a nice big square which has the entrance to go to St. John’s Cathedral. Opposite of the cathedral is the Justice Department of Malta. The square has lots going on with many shops and clothing stores in one side. That’s where our daughters got henna tattoos on their hands. There were many street vendors with trinkets all over the square.

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