Sunny skies, historic buildings, dramatic scenery and the cleanest seas in the Mediterranean (as well as favourable tax rates – the Malta Film Commission offer various incentives to attract overseas film-makers) have seen Malta play host to film makers from all countries and genres over the years. Check out some pretty spots on this tiny island to inspire your next holiday.
The island’s capital, UNESCO World Heritage City Valletta is steeped in history. The sun baked walls and steep streets are home to a cosmopolitan vibe and thriving cafe culture. Whether strolling along the waterfront and enjoy views of the Grand Harbour, relaxing in the Upper Barrakka Gardens, avoiding pigeons in Republic Square whilst you refresh with a Kinnie and a pastizz, visiting baroque masterpiece St John’s Co-Cathedral with its ornate frescoes by Caravaggio, exploring Forts St Elmo and St Angelo, or touring the Grandmaster’s Palace, now home to the President’s office and the Houses of Parliament, there is tons to see. You can visit the secret bunker Lascaris War Rooms, used in the Malta Story (1953), where the Second World War defence of Malta and invasion of Silicy were managed. As one of the most strategically important locations in WWII, the citizens of Malta thoroughly deserved their Victoria Cross, as this location will show. Located near the gates is the historic Phoenicia Hotel, which will also appeal to film-lovers, having hosted everyone from Charlton Heston and Oliver Reed to Joaquin Phoenix, Pierce Brosnan and Rachel Weisz.
Filmed here: Captain Phillips, World War Z, Alexander, The Saint, Midnight Express and Malta Story
Midina was once the capital of Malta and a settlement of Imperial Rome, taken over by the Turks, Knights of St John, and even the British, This tiny walled city is known as the Silent City and is made up of winding cobbled streets and mesmerizing views thanks to its strategic position on the high ground of the steep Sciberras peninsula. A mix of medieval and baroque architecture, historic buildings include the 18th century Vilhena Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral & Museum, Palazzo de Piri and the Mdina Dungeons are just some of the places to investigate in this captivating setting. Outside the old gates, horse pulled carriage rides in a traditional karrozzin are on offer. If you want to see more of the ‘real’ Maltese, explore Rabat (which means ‘suburb’ and is a strong indication of the Arabic influences upon language and culture), just outside Mdina.
Filmed here: Gladiator, Game of Thrones and The Count of Monte Cristo
Known as one of the Three Cities, together with Cospicua and Senglea, Vittoriosa is steeped in history, dating back to prehistoric times. A fortified city on the south, harbour inlets have been in use since Phoenician times, and a home to local people and industry. Redevelopment in recent years has seen the docks and waterfront become filled with culture and cafes, and some of the country’s best local fiestas take place down here. For a dose of prehistoric history (did you know Malta was once wandered by native pygmy elephants and hippos), visit Hagar Qim – an imposing temple built around 3600 BC. Of course, history and religion abounds, and the Church of St Lawrence and Inquisitor’s Palace reveal plenty about this city. If you want to travel scenically, consider a boat trip from Valletta to Vittoriosa in a traditional fishing boat, a dghajsa.
Filmed here: The Da Vinci Code, Swept Away and Gladiator.
Situated in the north west of the island, Mellieha’s sandy long beaches with shallow water make it popular with families, and it’s a more touristy area than some others. However, being less densely populated, it’s also home to many rare and protected species of wildlife, incuding as Malta’s only natural national park, Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park. Again the Order of St John had a significant influence here, and St Agatha’s Tower, built in 1647, can still be seen, as can the Mellieha Air Raid Shelter. Malta has 365 religious places of worship, and the pretty little Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha is another top place to visit. An those with families will love the Popeye Village, which was built as the set of the 1980 film starring Robin Williams. Today the climb over the wooden buildings allows for beautiful views.
Filmed here: Troy and Popeye Village