Hilton Malta review – a great hotel for families in Matla
It’s said to be the Mediterranean’s best kept secret. True, the magic of Malta has long been understood by the steady stream of tourists who visit the country each year.
Yet, when looking for sunshine during the Easter break, we found it offered good availability and prices.
Surprising when temperatures were comfortably in the high teens and especially when sunshine hotspots at this time of year, such as Dubai, are ruinously expensive and busy.
But Malta’s popularity is growing.
There are cheap and accessible flights there from more than 70 countries, including a short hop of around three hours from the UK.
And visitor numbers are expected to boom when its historic captial, Valletta, carries the European Capital of Culture title in 2018.
So it’s going to get busy but be assured, this tiny nation can cope.
Because packed within its islands, which include Gozo and Comino, are riches of history, activity and beauty.
We began our five-day trip with a tour of some of the highlights with guide Clive Cortis.
He warmly ushered my husband, our five-year-old son and me to our chauffeur driven car for the quick drive from our luxurious base at the Hilton Malta on the beautiful Portomaso waterfront in fashionable St Julian’s – more of which later – to Valletta.
Clive, like the island that is his home, was completely charming.
Entertaining and informative, he walked us through the city’s streets, effortlessly explaining thousands of years of fascinating history at various key points during our stroll.
Modern day Malta was a topic of conversation too, especially when we stopped outside the new parliament building, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, who also created The Shard in London.
Its austere farcade is pockmarked in a way designed to represent the way Malta’s key natural resource, stone, weathers over time and its style has attracted controversy.
But I am inclined to agree with Clive, who declared it “genius” and another great addition to the mix of genres Valletta and Malta more widely boasts, such as the Grand Master’s Palace from where parliament will move, which is also open to visitors.
A futuristic tour of the country was the next stop at interactive and informative cinema experience Malta 5D.
From there, we managed to make it to the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which date back to 1661, in time for the daily noon blasting of a cannon. The tradition started to help sailors set the correct time as they entered the Grand Harbour, which the gardens overlook.
We got to enjoy more fantastic views of this stretch of water, and the “Three Cities” of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua opposite, over lunch at the pretty Harbour Club restaurant.
To book a break at Hilton Malta, visit www.hiltonmaltahotel.com
Book flights with Air Malta, visit www.airmalta.comFor more information on visiting Malta, see www.visitmalta.comTo arrange a tour with Clive Cortis, visit www.maltaprivateguide.com
After a relaxing two hours of delicious food and a bottle of crisp Maltese white wine, it was difficult to stir ourselves for our afternoon in Mdina.
Fortunately, our first glimpse of what is known as the Silent City, was by gentle karrozzin, or horse and cart, ride.
A mix of medieval and baroque architecture, it was Malta’s first capital city during the time of the famous Knights of St John, who gave Malta its eight-pointed cross.
With few inhabitants – only a couple of hundred people live there – and little traffic except for the karozzins – Mdina lives up to its “silent city” name and is an enchanting place.
The gates leading inside its fortified walls will be familiar to fans of the TV series Games Of Thrones, which was filmed there, and there is plenty to see inside too.
We visited Palazzo Falson, the former home of a the son of a prosperous shipping merchant who bequeathed his eclectic collection of artefacts to the people on his death and the Museum of Natural History, set in an 18th-century palace.
After seeing so much, we were grateful to return to our hotel where there was still time for a swim before dinner.
As you would expect from an international brand like Hilton, this five-star property is run to a very high-standard, but its palm- tree-lined coastal position and facilities including indoor and outdoor pools, top-rated restaurants and spacious rooms must make it one of the best in the company’s considerable portfolio.
Our room benefited from a balcony overlooking the sea and had recently been updated in soothing blue, green and stone tones, reflecting Malta’s natural palette.
We fell into a relaxing routine of lazy breakfasts in the vast main dining area, which was bathed in light each morning thanks to the panoramic windows, and days out exploring, followed by evenings with a drink or a meal back at the hotel.
Its Thai-themed Blue Elephant is excellent and authentic while the Quarterdeck bar is a must for cocktails or after and pre-dinner drinks.
There are also plenty of other places to eat within a few minutes’ walk but it’s worth hiring a car as we did to travel further afield or using the frequent and cheap island-wide bus service.
Like the UK, driving is on the left, and as the main island is only about 25km by 14km, you are never far from anywhere.
We took a trip to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, where the traditional brightly painted boats with eyes on the bows said to protect them bobbed in crystal clear water, wandered atop the breathtaking Dingli Cliffs and watched the waves break on the beach at Golden Bay all in one day.
And on another, we took the short ferry ride to neighbouring Gozo for lunch in the sun at gorgeous Xlendi before ice creams overlooking the Azure Window, a rock formation jutting out into the sea, and the much nicer than it sounds, Fungus Rock.
Before we knew it, our short trip was over, leaving us with a long list of reasons to return.