You can’t help feeling awed and even a little intimidated by Malta’s Grand Harbor—as various invaders must have felt over the centuries. Strung along its waterfront, the three fortified cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea, Cospicua are considered the cradle of Maltese history and have the maze-like streets and picturesque buildings and promenades to prove it. They’re less visited than Valletta, Malta’s capital, yet well worth the ferry ride across the harbor.
The knights of St John, who settled in Malta back in the 16th century, can be thanked for creating the baroque gem of Valletta, one of the best preserved European cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Keep an eye out for colorful wooden balconies that stretch around corners of buildings; wander the cobblestone streets; and take in the golden grandeur of St. John’s Baroque Cathedral.
To really get beyond the tourist path, venture into the countryside to the medieval town and fortress of Mdina. Here, the rolling hills are lined with stacked stone walls—works of art standing alone in the countryside. A short boat ride to the island of Gozo grants access to 650-foot limestone cliffs and the Azure Window as well as welcoming villages full of artist studios and farmhouses.