Valetta, the beautiful capital of Malta, is where the island’s historical buildings are at their best. Narrow streets lead from one sight to another while cars struggle to navigate through the alleys without scraping against the corner buildings when they turn. Valetta is one of those places that take you back in time.
Once you turn away from Malta’s tourism hot spots towards where the locals live, you really notice that it’s one of Europe’s poorest countries judged by the average income. Most buildings are quite old and shabby, and the narrow streets, dirty cars and sunbleached balconies do the rest. One of these areas is Gzira.
St. Julians is Malta’s social centre, the “town” with the most bars and restaurants in Malta. If you walk along the promenade towards Paceville, everywhere you look it’s buzzing with life. But like I did with Sliema, I took a look (it’s a rhyme!) at its side streets and quiet back alleys.
If you visit Malta as a tourist, you’ll probably take pictures of the beautiful old buildings of Valetta or of the typical Maltese balkonies coloured in the brightest blue, red or yellow. While those parts of Malta are undeniably striking, I believe that you have to explore side streets, hidden passages and places where the Maltese live to fully understand this country’s culture. There’s a certain scruffiness that adds to Malta’s distinctive character.