Welcome to my place . . . Malta

Conor Neeson recommends the sights to see, the places to visit and where to eat on the Mediterranean island that is steeped in history

Conor Neeson and his wife Natasha have made their home in Malta. They married on the island in June 2018.

Conor Neeson and his wife Natasha have made their home in Malta. They married on the island in June 2018.

 

Conor Neeson is from Dublin and works in financial services. He moved to Malta in March 2017 with his then-fiancée Natasha from Brazil, for a change of scenery and weather. They married in Malta in June 2018.

Where is the first place you always bring people to when they visit Malta?

To enjoy the sun and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, a boat trip to the Blue Lagoon and its incredibly turquoise waters on the island of Comino between Malta and Gozo is usually the first port of call. We even brought our guests here the day after our wedding to help revive everyone!

The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are . . .

Valletta, built after the Great Siege of 1565 and dominating a peninsula between two huge natural harbours, is the European Capital of Culture for 2018, with extra attractions running all year long.

Mdina, a hilltop fortified city also known as The Silent City, will be recognisable to any Game of Thrones fan as the initial filming location for King’s Landing.

Dingli Cliffs – only a 25-minute drive from the Valletta urban area, but a great place to escape for a walk along Malta’s answer to the Cliffs of Moher.

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Malta?

Due to its location, Maltese cuisine is a mixture of Italian and North African influences. Maltese portion sizes mean you rarely need to order a starter or dessert. Caffe Cordina is the grand dame of Valletta eateries. Situated in an old palazzo, it’s a great place to people-watch in the square, though the service can be a bit too Mediterranean pace-wise. Widely available ricotta-filled pastizzi’s or sandwiches made with the local ftira bread will keep you going if needed.

Where is the best place to get a sense of Malta’s place in history?

With three Unesco World Heritage sites packed into a country less than half the size of Dublin, the history of Malta is everywhere you turn. From Megalithic temples older than Newgrange, through the fortified cities built by the crusader Knights of St John, and up to WWII command centres, Malta has plenty to offer. The museum in Fort St Elmo at the tip of Valletta gives a good chronological overview.

What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Malta?

Apart from aftersun? Bajtra, the local liqueur made from the fruits of the prickly pear cactus found on the islands seems to be made solely for the tourist market. For a more enjoyable sundowner drink, ask for a connie (CC whiskey mixed with lemon/lime soft drink and a squeeze of lime) instead. Alcohol prices are half those at home, so stock up on Cisk lagers, or very reasonable wines made from the indigenous girgentina and gellewza grape varieties.

If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live overseas, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We would love to hear from you.

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