Many visitors are drawn to the islands of the Mediterranean by the promise of blue skies, beautiful beaches and benign seas. But islands such as Malta and Mallorca have much more to offer than simple beach holidays. Sitting pretty in the Bay of Palma, Mallorca's capital with its graceful architecture, medieval old town, smart shops and cosmopolitan atmosphere, makes a great place to base a holiday. Similarly, the enchanting fortified city of Valletta makes an ideal location for Malta holidays. Around 320 historic monuments are packaged into this small but perfectly-formed city, which probably explains why it has World Heritage Site status.
Nestling on a high peninsula, flanked by natural harbors on both sides, Valletta was founded in the 16th century by the Knights of St John. From the moment you set foot in the city, it's obvious from the baroque architecture, crumbling bastions, and fortress that this is a place steeped in history. Stone steps and narrow cobbled streets link the city's gardens and squares where cafe culture thrills and modern shops hide in beautifully preserved buildings. Ride a horse-drawn carriage to experience Valletta's timeless romantic ambience. Take in the panoramic views from the lofty Hastings Garden or the Upper Barrakka Gardens filled with fountains and statues, and shaded by tall trees. And do not miss a visit to Fort St Elmo with its masterful position on the tip of the headland, which also houses the National War Museum.
The magnificent St John's Co-Cathedral with its elaborate baroque architecture and intense signed Caravaggio painting is a must-see during any trip to Valletta. Another highlight is the rococo palace in South Street, now home to the National Museum of Fine Art, where you can see Turner's artistic take on Valletta's Grand Harbor. The city also hosts cultural events, such as the Malta Arts Festival in the summer, and open-air concerts are held in an atmospheric setting down by the waterfront.
The Balearic Island's answer to Barcelona, Palma is a delightful mix of old and new. Mallorca holidays in this vibrant city offer something for everyone from culture and history to beaches and bars. Stroll the wide waterfront promenades and visit the 14th century palace. Marvel at the impressive gothic cathedral, the restoration of which was overseen by Gaudi. Explore the narrow cobbled streets, nooks and crannies of the old town. Almost every corner seems to house an understated but delicious Tapas restaurant – Bardia is a favorite with the locals. The city also has an impressive array of shops and boutiques to satisfy even the most discerning consumer.
Once home to renowned artist Joan Miro, Palma has more than its fair share of modern art sculptures and paintings. Its impressive collection is scattered across the city and housed in Es Baluard – an art museum built inside the fortress overlooking the port. Es Baluard is well worth a visit during Palma holidays even if it's just to enjoy the views from the smart cafe terrace on the ramparts.