Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Make the Most of Malta in Three Days

Although only a tiny island, Malta is teeming with culture, history and hundreds of places to visit. An eventful past has left the islands with an exciting story to tell and a trail of history to follow.
 
If you’d really like to immerse yourself in the Maltese culture and experience the traditions and heritage of the Maltese, then Easter is a perfect time to visit. This three-day plan gives you the chance to make the most of your short break in Malta during Easter, a significantly important religious celebration on the Maltese calendar.

Day One – Explore the Capital City, Valletta 

Having Valletta right at your doorstep, what better place to start your holiday than visiting the beautiful and busy capital of Malta? The hustle and bustle, historic churches, museums and pretty cafés are the perfect ingredients for a genuine Maltese experience.

The newly developed modern city gate welcomes you on entrance whilst the house of Parliament on your right, is still under construction. The royal opera house, bombed in World War II and left in ruins for many years has recently been transformed into an open air theatre, opening its doors to creativity and culture.

A few minutes’ walk away from the theatre will bring you to the pretty Upper Barakka Gardens, secluded away from the busy main streets. Overlooking a beautiful panoramic view of the Grand Harbour, the gardens serve as a perfect escape from the city.




As you exit the garden, walk through the little square where the statue of La Vallette proudly stands and make your way to the magnificent St.John’s Co- Cathedral. In spite of its plane mannerist façade, the Baroque interior overwhelms you. One must not miss a visit to the oratory where the most famous ‘Beheading of Saint John the Baptist’ by Caravaggio hangs.

Over and above, a visit to Valletta can be highlighted by visits to the various parish churches in the city. During Easter time, many exhibitions in church halls display scenes from the passion of Christ as well as the last supper table. On Maundy Thursday, the faithful visit seven churches and pay respect to the altars of repose, an ancient tradition in Malta.

If you’re here on Good Friday, you will feel the stillness and quietness in the air as Catholics commemorate the passion of Christ. At 3 o’clock services are held in churches followed by a solemn procession through the streets of Valletta where bearers carry statues depicting the different episodes of Christ’s passion.



Saturday is the time for Easter shopping and many renowned confectioneries and cafés in Valletta beautifully display colourful Easter eggs and the traditional Maltese Easter sweet known as ‘Figolli’.

On Easter Sunday, Valletta comes back to life and festivity fills the streets as bells ring to announce the Resurrection of Christ. Bearers run through the streets of Valletta with the statue of the Risen Christ accompanied by a band and festive cheer.

To get into the Easter spirit make sure to visit Phoenicia’s Malta Artisan Easter Fair  on the 12th and 13th April and get the chance to buy the best artisan ware from Malta’s finest crafts people.



Day 2 - Mdina, the Silent City

There’s nothing that can quite compare to the charming and quaint city of Mdina. Its cobbled narrow streets and untouched old architecture, make this medieval city a special place to visit. Like entering a time capsule, Mdina takes you into the past as its streets unravel a historical story. Coined the Silent City, Mdina is truly timeless.

Enter the elaborate city gates and pass by De Vilhena Palace, a 1700’s Magisterial Palace which has been converted into a Natural History Museum. Whether you choose to visit the museum or simply walk round the charming courtyard, de Vilhena Palace is a must see.

The beauty and charm of Mdina can be experienced by simply ambling through the narrow streets. The large limestone buildings offer shade to the weary traveler and a cool breeze is always welcome in the city. Take a stroll to St. Paul’s square and spare some moments to admire the grand St.Paul’s Cathedral. On Maundy Thursday evening, solemn functions in the Cathedral commemorate Christ’s last supper and a Holy vigil takes place on Easter night.

Turn left from the church and walk towards breathtaking views from the Bastion Square. Of course, there’s no better way to take in such spectacular panorama than stopping by the popular Fontanella , for a cup of tea and slice of chocolate cake.

Having reenergized yourself, turn into Villegaignon Street and head towards the fine 17th century Carmelite Priory, home to the Carmelite friars. Join a guided tour by a resident friar and watch an innovative Easter passion play called ‘Is it Me?’, directed by the manager of the Priory.




Day 3 – Birgu, the fortified maritime city

What better way to spend the last day of your vacation than visiting a pretty town with winding streets that lead to the most beautiful view of the Grand Harbour?

Birgu is an old fortified maritime city which was the old capital of Malta prior to Valletta in 1530. Start off by visiting the church of St.Lawrence, one of the oldest parishes on the island, and see the Last Supper Table which is displayed annually during Easter time. Weave your way through Birgu’s charming streets with pretty houses decorated with potted plants and wine bars tucked away in the winding roads. Make your way to the Holy Crucifix oratory where the nine statues which are carried in the Good Friday procession are kept. Each one is of Spanish origin and has a historical story to tell. The statues are unique to Malta because of the real material used to clothe the figures.



Stroll along the Birgu waterfront for a view of the harbour, and the panoramic creek of L-Isla, before stopping for lunch or coffee at one of the popular restaurants which line the promenade. After this, be sure to visit the Maritime Museum, a former old naval bakery which exhibits many artefacts and information which illustrate Malta’s maritime history.

Finally, take a water taxi across the Grand Harbour to admire the splendor of Birgu’s fortifications and find yourself back at the capital city. Make your way to the hotel and enjoy a nice dinner at the Phoenix Restaurant .



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hotel Phoenicia in Malta’s top five with TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2014.

The HotelPhoenicia has once again been awarded the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice by the world’s largest review site, which has previously awarded the hotel its prestigious “Excellence Award”. 

The new ‘Traveler’s Choice’ Award is proudly displayed at the main reception desk amongst a raft of other recent awards. In the 12th year of the awards, the world’s most outstanding properties were identified in a variety of categories with Hotel Phoenicia being awarded the certificate of Excellence once again while ranking within Malta’s top 5 properties. Travelers’ Choice award winners were determined based on the reviews and opinions of millions of TripAdvisor travelers around the globe.




“We’re excited to recognize the world’s best properties, based on the opinions of those who know them best – the millions of travelers around the globe who come to TripAdvisor to share their experiences,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “For those seeking inspiration for their 2014 travel planning, this list of spectacular accommodations that received 2014 Travelers’ Choice awards is a perfect place to start.”

Built in 1939, The Hotel Phoenicia was Malta’s first luxury hotel, giving it a wealth of history and a unique charm standing proudly on the doorstep to Valletta. The recently refurbished interior harbours an imposing Art Deco influence sustaining 128 bedrooms and 8 suites, affording some truly majestic views from most rooms and terraces. The stunning 7.5 acre garden allows guests to stroll through ornamental as well as working gardens, including a dedicated kitchen garden on over 5 tumoli that supplies the Pegasus restaurant exclusively with fresh produce, along with enjoying lush plants, flowers and trees on the way to the hotel’s magnificent pool shaded by the Valletta bastions that frames a panorama to breathtaking harbour views below.



Charles Azzopardi, General Manager is delighted with this latest award, and said, “The outstanding results we have enjoyed recently at the Phoenicia are the direct result of the dedication portrayed by our staff members who aim at making customer service their top priority. Everyone is focused on enhancing the guest experience during the guests’ visit to the hotel, whilst enjoying the Maltese archipelago. These latest TripAdvisor awards are a clear indication that the experiences are all fondly remembered well after the guests’ departure.”

Click here for further information about the Phoenicia Hotel and accommodation in Valletta.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Isle of MTV Special 2014

Isle of MTV has been running for 8 years. Malta has seen epic performances from some of the world's greatest talent over the years including names such as Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, N*E*R*D, One Republic, Maroon 5, Akon, Enrique Iglesias, Kid Rock, David Guetta, Metro Station, Snoop Dogg, LMFAO, Jesse J, Will.I.Am and Rita Ora amongst others.

Isle of MTV

Malta's biggest free open-air party, the Isle of MTV will return to Malta's shores on the 25th June 2014 with what promises to be anther fantastic concert with world class music talent,

50,000 music fans are expected to attend the Floriana Granaries to catch the show. MTV will capture the entire event on film and will then be broadcast in an hour-long special airing across MTV's pan-European network later in the year.

The Hotel Phoenicia is located just meters away from the Granaries in Floriana and makes it ideal for a short city break in Malta during the Isle of MTV special.

Contact us today for more information on the Isle of MTV and to arrange your accommodation in Valletta

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Għanafest 2014

Għanafest is a wonderful three day festival of Maltese folk music.



The festival presents a selection of local folk musicians from various Mediterranean countries and hosts a series of workshops on traditional local instruments and special programmes tailored just for children.

Għanafest is a fabulous three event ideal for the whole family and is complimented by traditional Maltese food and stunning surroundings of the Argotti botanical gardens in Floriana, just a short walking distance from the capital city, Valletta.

Għanafest will take place on the 30th May until the 1st June 2014. For further information visit the Malta Folk Music Festival website.

Contact Hotel Phoenicia today to arrange your accommodation in Valletta for this wonderful festival.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Easter and Holy Week in Malta 2014

Holy Week and Easter is an important time in the Maltese calendar and is primarily celebrated in churches where the faithful gather on mass to commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.



Holy week begins on the Friday before Good Friday and  starts when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried in a procession through the Streets of the capital city, Valletta, as well as many other towns and villages in Malta. This is followed by Maundy Thursday, on the eve of Good Friday, where seven different churches are visited in order to pay homage to the Altars of Repose.

The next day, Good Friday, sees a solemn procession of statues that represent episodes in the Passion of Christ and are carried by bearers in various towns and cities. There are typically ten statues used during each procession and in between the statues many participants dress as biblical characters and take part in the procession in a dignified manner. Examples include men bearing a cross or dragging chains tied to their bare feet as an act of penance or faith.

Easter Sunday is a much more lively affair as it renounces the Resurrection of Christ and is celebrated with a statue of the risen Christ moving along the streets, typically accompanied by a band playing festive songs. The end is always at the entrance of the church, the way is cleared and the statue bearers carry the Risen Christ triumphantly back into the church.

Local tradition is represented by exchanging chocolate covered Easter eggs and 'figolla', an almond filled pastry found in various shapes like a rabbit, fish, lamb or heart and covered in icing sugar with most families meeting for a special family lunch.

Events organised exclusively for guests staying at the Hotel Phoenicia during this period:

  • Wednesday 16th April 2014: “Easter traditions” lecture by Mr. Vince Zammit in the Green Lounge C between 6pm and 7pm
  • Thursday 17th April 2014: “Settimana Santa” - Tour of the 3 cities visiting statues, salt displays and more
  • Saturday 19th April 2014: “The Great Siege of 1565 – A Maritime Perspective” excursion by Dr. Timmy Gambin

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Malta International Firework Festival

A spectacular event, known as The Malta International Fireworks Festival takes place annually in 3 well known Maltese locations. Valletta, Bugibba and Marsaxlokk.



The Grand Harbour in Valletta is ideal for this spectacular event, held in April, this years dates have been confirmed for the 25th- 30th April 2014. The festival includes fireworks displays designed by both local and foreign pyrotechnic companies as well as some of the best local fireworks factories.
                 
The event is free of charge and is open to all ages.  To get the best view for the Grand Finale displays on the 30th head to Ta' Liesse / Barriera Wharf, Valletta.

The festival also serves to remember and acknowledge Malta's accession into the European Union on the 1st May 2004.

Fireworks in Malta have a long tradition which goes back as far as the Order of the Knights of St. John. The feu de joie using gun salutes, the musketterija firing of muskets, the solfarelli d'aria, St. Catherine's wheels (irdieden) and other forms of fireworks originated from explosives that were lit off from mortars (maskli) as an expression of rejoicing.

Contact us for any queries about the Fireworks Festival or about your hotel accommodation in Valletta.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Carnival in Valletta, Malta

Whether you’re visiting Malta for Carnival or you happen to be coming over in February, you would not want to miss the Carnival celebrations in Valletta.

This year’s (2014) Carnival will be taking place in St. George’s Square Valletta – the original place where celebrations used to be organised around 40 years ago. Depictions of earlier Carnival celebrations at St. George’s Square can be seen on Caruana Dingli’s painting at the Phoenicia Hotel, also in Valletta.

Carnival in Malta - Caruana Dingli

Carnival in Malta has always been known for the colourful costumes and delightful food. Moreover, this year will also see the introduction of political satire in the floats and grotesque masks used.

Carnival celebrations in Valletta will take place between the 28th of February and the 3rd of March.

Contact us for any queries about Carnival festivities or about your hotel accommodation.