Category Archives: Things to do in Malta

Explore Valletta: The Palace Armoury

Palace_Armoury__Valletta_9The Palace Armoury in Valletta is one of the world’s largest collections of arms and armour that is still housed in its original building. The Knights of St John were a unique brotherhood of resolute warrior monks. From Malta, their island stronghold, these combatant aristocrats from the noblest houses of Europe, carried out their relentless crusade against the Ottoman Turks in defence of the Catholic faith.

The Palace Armoury is certainly one of the most visible and tangible symbols of the past glories of the Sovereign Hospitaller Military Order of Malta. Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt transferred the Order’s arsenal to the Magisterial Palace in 1604 where it was the pride of the Order. Apart from being lavishly adorned with elaborate trophies of arms, it held enough arms and armour to equip thousands of soldiers. It was housed in the magnificent hall at the rear of the building, right above its present location.

At present, it is displayed inside two halls that were originally the stables of the palace. Following the forced departure of the Order of St. John from Malta, the armoury somehow lost much of its original grandeur. However, it was restored and was officially opened as Malta’s first public museum in 1860. Although only a fraction of its original splendour remains, the Armoury still contains abundant material of Italian, German, French and Spanish origin from principal production centres. Also displayed is an exotic selection of Islamic and Ottoman arms and armour. Apart from the massed arms of the common soldiers in the collection, the enriched personal armours of the nobility still manage to make a statement. Various areas of the Palace State Rooms and Armoury are currently undergoing restoration. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

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Reasons to Visit:
1. Unique display of suits of armour owned by Grand Masters Alof de Wignacourt and Jean de La Valette.
2. Arms and armour used by the Knights of St. John between 1530 -1798 and by the Ottoman Empire during the Great Siege of 1565.
3. A varied selection of firearms used for both military and sporting purposes.
4. A chance to see a selection of artillery pieces originally used for battle on the fortifications.

Valletta will have the honour of holding the esteemed title of European Capital of Culture in 2018. If you plan to visit Malta be sure to visit interesting places around the capital, Valletta. Contact the Concierge Desk at this luxury 5 star hotel on the doorstep of Valletta for some great tips on places worth visiting during your next holiday to Malta.

Photo credit: Aaron Briffa & Viewing Malta

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Malta: the Land of Honey

Malta is well renowned for its pure honey. In fact beekeeping in Malta has a long history. Proof of this is the name the Greeks gave Malta. They called the island ‘Melite’ (Μελίτη) which derives from the Greek word ‘meli’ (μέλι) that means honey.

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Photo credits: Times of Malta

A sub species of the honey bee (Apis Mellifera Ruttneri) is endemic to the Maltese Islands. This type of bee used to live in the wild. Nowadays you can still find some but they have become very rare due to diseases.

In the past Maltese honey was considered a delicacy and it also used to be exported from the island. It is believed that the Phoenicians introduced the domestication of beekeeping in apiaries and earthenware jars. In fact some Punic apiaries remain. In the Maltese countryside one can still find apiaries called ‘Miġbħa’ that date back to Punic times. One of them is the Xemxija apiary that is one of the oldest in the world. In theory this apiary is still in a state of use, however nowadays the beekeeping technique is different with movable frame hives.

Apiary - Honey making in Malta

Photo credits: Cordyline on Panoramio.

In Malta, until the 1950’s bees were kept in earthenware jars. These type of jars were made of clay and without a bottom. At the top they had a closure with small holes. These jars were kept under carob trees in order to get a good shading from the sun. Sometimes they were also placed in niches in rubble walls made especially for these jars. But those who had the means used to build apiaries in their fields. These apiaries were specially built rooms or caves which had their opening closed by a wall. An opening in the wall would allow the bees to enter the cave.

Honey was gathered once a year after the wild thyme honey season, usually around the Feast of St. Anne which falls on the 26th July. The honey making process is quite a busy one for the beekeeper. He needs to observe the bees at work in order to add extensions to the jar. The gathering of the honey was a little messy too. A long knife was used in order to cut off the combs with honey. The liquid was then placed in a pail or a pot and covered. Before bee smokers were available, the beekeepers used to burn some grass in old cooking pans and extinguish it to make some smoke in order to enter near the bees and not be stung.

These techniques started to change in the 50’s as the first movable frame hives and other tools began to appear. These were generally imported from Britain. The hives were then copied from them and crafted locally. Till today the British Standard hive is common in Malta.

Maltese Honey

Photo credits: Viewing Malta & Mario Galea

In old times honey was a commodity for the general household. Before the invention of sugar refining, honey was the only means of sweetener. It was also cheaper than cane sugar. Although nowadays the whole process has changed, one cannot forget our fathers that without any modern knowledge and tools managed to place Malta in the world map of honey. In fact Maltese honey is still regarded as one of the best around the world.

If you would like to witness some local traditions during your holidays in Malta be sure to speak to our Transport desk during your stay and they will guide you through our list of self guided tours and excursions.

Photo credits: Times of Malta, Viewing Malta & Mario Galea and on Panoramio.

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Holy Week and Easter in Malta

Easter is a festive, religious and emotional time for both locals and tourists. It is thus no surprise that one find tourists wondering around the towns and villages during the various processions and pageants that take place during the weeks preceding Easter. They try to capture everything that’s happening around them on cameras.

Within the churches, celebrations become truly alive with colours, ornaments, flowers and a great number of devotees. One of the processions that is a crowd puller is the ‘Addolorata, mainly because people identify their own miseries, pain and suffering with those of Holy Mary’s. On Maundy Thursday several local devotees visit the ‘seven churches’ where they kneel, reflect and pray beside the tomb of Christ.

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Good Friday gives a sombre outlook where churches are deprived from the traditional ornamental style for a single day. The red colour, resembling the Blood of Christ, is splashed all over the churches. On Good Friday Malta is turned into Roman and Jewish pageantry. In the inner core of villages one comes across Pontius Pilate, Barabbas and other biblical characters during the renowned processions. People do some odd penitence such as carrying heavy weights or walking barefoot! Some even cover up their faces as they pay the price for a special grace they received.

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The atmosphere changes completely the following day in the evening. Celebrations start in pitch darkness. They are then illuminated by flickering candle lights. Finally there is an ‘explosion’ of light, where churches are suddenly illuminated with candles, chandeliers, bulbs and floodlights. Bells toll happily as they break the night’s silence in order to announce Christ’s resurrection, exactly when the singing of the ‘Glorja’ commences.

During these festivities there are some very special and unique Maltese delicacies. The ‘kwarezimal’ and the ‘figolli’ top the list. There are other food items such as the Lent’s ftajjar; Karamelli and hot cross buns. Although in Lent the traditional Maltese fast, yet the street vendors are as busy as bees in keeping up with the heavy demand!

Spend your Easter Holidays in Malta. Contact Our Concierge Desk during your stay and they will advise you on Where to Go and What to Do in Malta during your holidays.

Photo Credits: Viewing Malta & Mario Galea

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