Looking for a girlfriend getaway in Europe? The island country of Malta is small enough to explore over a weekend and offers up oodles of shopping, sumptuous seafood, and gorgeous architecture along with history lessons aplenty. My fellow expat friend, Ace, and I had the extreme good fortune to escape our adopted homes in the Netherlands for a few days to explore this beautiful island nation. Here are my tips for a Malta girlfriend getaway.
Why a girlfriend getaway in Malta?
Ace and I bonded quickly as friends after my family’s move to the Netherlands last year. We love spending time together with our families but we wanted to plan a trip for just us girls without the kids or husbands. We wanted to visit someplace small and a little off the radar, but where English is widely spoken and the Euro is accepted. Malta fit that bill perfectly! Just a couple hundred miles off the tip of Italy’s boot, Malta has a history that includes a golden Neolithic period, and periods ruled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and the Byzantine Empire. We were excited to delve into all of this history and architecture in a picturesque setting in the middle of a sparkling sea.
Gozo Island & Ta’ Pinu
For an affordable €2.50 all day bus ticket, you can take the ferry to the nearby island of Gozo. Over the course of several hours, Ace and I took full advantage of a hop on/hop off sightseeing tour and explored as much as of the isle as we could. Since Gozo is only about 26 square miles big, the determined adventurers in both of us wanted to see it all. We couldn’t wait to experience some really show stopping sights like the Azure Window and Ta’Pinu National Shrine.
At the coast we came to the Azure Window, also known as Dwejra. It is said that this incredible natural formation of rock and water will not last much longer. Time is eroding away at the top stone bridge and it will probably will fall into the sea within the next 10 years. For now, you can still climb over to the edge, which Ace did…I was not that brave. Pictured in many movies including Clash of the Titans and the recent HBO series Game of Thrones, it’s something you really have to see in order to believe. So hurry!
We were impressed and humbled at the Ta’ Pinu National Shrine, which is lined with walls and walls of thankful tributes from the many thousands of visitors who have come over the years asking for good health or blessings. This is a magnificent historical place to reflect, appreciate and learn. In the heart of Għarb on Gozo, just a quick ferry ride from Malta, this should be on your must-see list.
Shopping in Valetta
What’s a girlfriend getaway without a little shopping? You will see some typical European chain stores, like Marks & Spencer’s, but Valetta also boasts some unique high fashion boutiques. Window shopping is fun if the price tags are too steep but we did find some things to bring back as souvenirs for our family members.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Located in the heart of Valletta, St. John’s Co-Cathedral bursts with fanciful Baroque art and architecture. The interior ornamentation of this church is stunning.
With so much to see, here we split up and each listened to the audio tour. The highlight is Caravaggio’s masterpiece: The Beheading of St. John the Baptist. This giant-sized mural fills a wall and has its own private room for viewing. The painting is dark and raw, depiction of such a murderous act, yet somehow beautiful at the same time. We were in art-appreciation heaven.
Where to stay in Malta
Malta’s five-star Hotel Phoenicia will make you and your best gal pal feel like royalty. With a hair salon, full restaurant and fantastic location, what could be better? Ace said she felt transported into an old-time Hollywood movie the minute we stepped into Hotel Phoenicia’s glamorous lobby.
Our art deco room was clean and comfortable with a large fluffy bed that promised to offer up a refreshing night of sleep after major exploring during the day. Our window looked out onto the city of Valletta, but we didn’t hear a peep at night outside our room. The large bathroom was a nice surprise to find in Europe, and stocked with soft robes and big towels.
The Hotel Phoenicia is centrally located; with just a quick walk down the street to the busy bus terminal to whisk you off to explore Malta’s offerings. Each morning we had lots on the agenda, and this proved to be very convenient.
Malta, a must see!
The history, beauty and astounding views of Malta exceeded my expectations. Ace and I shared a getaway through time and culture. For us, it was a welcome break from the normal day-to-day of school and errands. Malta helped us discover we’re a great traveling team…we’re already planning our next girlfriend getaway!
A Note from The Nomadic Travel Mama: Thank you to Hotel Phoenicia for providing our accommodations on our magnificent Malta girlfriend getaway! All opinions are mine, as always.