The part of Malta holding most interest for tourists is the Valletta area with its historical associations and its many remains of the past.
From here, however, it is easy to visit the rest of the archipelago, which also offers many sights of first-rate importance which no visitor to Malta should miss, especially the former Maltese capital of Mdina (pop. 930), picturesquely situated on a hill in the southwest of the island a place which the modern age seems to have passed by.On the main island, Malta, the land rises in stages from northeast to southwest. In the east is a region of gently rolling hills never rising above 330 ft/100 m, which in the west, along a clearly marked fault line, gives place to a plateau of Tertiary limestones, much broken up by karstic action and reaching its highest points along the west coast.On the east side of the island there are a number of excellent natural harbors and drowned river valleys - while the west coast, edged by sheer cliffs, offers little shelter to shipping. The cultivable land is mostly in the larger basins in the eastern half of the island, and it is in these areas that the main concentrations of population and economic activity have developed.Malta has an excellent network of roads, radiating from the Valletta area and from the town of Victoria on Gozo. There are no railroads on the islands. There are, however, bus services from these two central points to almost every village in the country. Further away from the centers, it is true, connections between the radial roads are sometimes lacking, so that to get from one peripheral village to another may involve a rather roundabout journey.The thinly populated areas in the west and southwest are poorly served by roads. Between Malta and Gozo there are two good and rapid ferry services, from Marfa to Mgarr from Valletta to Mgarr (hydrofoil).
Ta'Qali, in a disused World War II airfield in the center of Malta, is the biggest crafts village in Malta. Here, in the original RAF nissen huts, there is an exhaustive array of local handicrafts and craftsmen displaying their skills. There are potters, lacemakers, wrought-iron forgers and Mdina glass-blowers who will make you a vase or a doorstop while you watch. Chunky knitwear, jewelry and even full suits of armor are also for sale.Entrance is free and the quality and prices are generally acceptable.
Entrance fee: FREE
Ta' Qali - International Trade Fair
The International Trade Fair is held in July in a town called Ta' Qali.
The old fishing village of St Julian's immediately north of Sliema, made up of the districts of Paceville and St George's Bay, has made great efforts in recent years to develop its tourist facilities, and now competes with Sliema as a holiday center. It has long sandy beaches, first-class hotels and several nightclubs. The modern parts of the town form an attractive contrast to the picturesque old fishermen's quarter.
Across the Grand Harbor from the Valletta promontory is the area known as the Three cities: Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa. This was the original home of the Order until they built Valletta. This is a tightly knit working-class community with narrow streets and traditional houses. There are very few tourist attractions here, but the area is worth visiting to get a glimpse of Malta's past. The one attraction worth visiting is the new Maritime Museum.
Two mi/3 km north of Tarxien are two promontories reaching out into Grand Harbor, with the port towns of Senglea and Vittoriosa and the extensive docks and shipyards.Senglea (pop.5,000) has a notable church, Our Lady of Victories. On the tip of the promontory is an old watch-tower, a relic of Fort St Michael. From here there are fine views of the Grand Harbor and the town of Valletta beyond It.
On the mainland between Senglea and Vittoriosa is the town of Cospicua (pop. 9,000), with the Church of the Immaculate Conception, one of the most richly furnished churches on the island.
The best beaches for tourists on the main island of Malta are in the northern part of the Valletta area, in St Paul's Bay, scene of the Apostle's shipwreck, and in Mellieha Bay and the neighboring Slug Bay. Less well known are the beaches in Anchor Bay on the northwest coast, Golden Bay and around Marfa at the northwest tip of the island.
Gharida & Mellieha Bay
This is the sandiest beach in Malta and it lies on the north shore.
Of great interest on Malta's main island are the enigmatic "cart-ruts" which crisscross the higherparts of the western plateau like railroad lines. Particularly striking examples are to be seen near the Dingli Cliffs. It is now known that these tracks were worn in the soft limestone by the runners of sleds used by the Bronze Age inhabitants of Malta and Gozo as a means of transport.
The town of Mosta (pop. 8,500), northeast of Mdina, is worth seeing for the sake of its Neo-Classical Cathedral (by Grognet, 1833-63), with a dome which is one of the largest in the world.
Parish Church of St Mary
St Mary's was begun in 1833, long before immigration had enriched its then tiny population. The church took 27 years to build and the entire dome was constructed without the use of scaffolding, based on a design by architect George Grognet de Vasse.The whole has been likened to the Pantheon, but with intricately decorated belfries.Under the towering simple dome and its 16 windows spiraling up to the lantern are six side chapels. The floor is an intricate geometry of two different marble inlays that weave an interplay of patterns with the ceiling. The murals were painted by Guiseppe Cali early in this century. Before the main altar and to the left is the sacristy. Displayed among the usual souvenirs is a replica of a large Luftwaffe bomb that pierced the dome in April, 1942, as more than 300 people milled around waiting for evening mass. It was one of three to hit the dome (the other two bounced off) but miraculously it did not explode.