Where to get married abroad – Malta

Find out why Malta makes an unusual wedding destination, despite being in the centre of Europe.
Malta manages to be both English and exotic.
Malta was the base of the Knights of St John; when they were expelled from Rhodes, they set up camp here, bullying the native islanders into submission. As it became clear that they were never going to be able to return to northern Italy, their original home, they became grandiose, building a vast citadel with huge bastions and ramparts on this scrubby scrap of the Mediterranean.
Malta still has some of the old glory, including a Caravaggio in the baroque, over-the-top St John’s Co-Cathedral and the breathtaking hush of Mdina, Malta’s old capital, at night.
Malta attracts people who want mild weather and waiters speaking good English,ans there are now splashes of glamour to make it a stylish destination. Try the comfortable San Gorg Hotel in St George’s Bay and The Xara Palace in Mdina is a 17th-century residence that has been converted into a Relais & Châteaux hotel, with gourmet food and stunning views.
Then there is the neighbouring island of Gozo, a short ferry hop away. Calypso is said to have seduced Ulysses and kept him on this island for seven years. It is also where the Maltese go to on holiday; the whole place feels calmer, smaller and more civilised. It also feels older.
In contrast to Malta’s bombastic churches, Gozo has the Ggantija temples – two Neolithic structures dating from the third millennium BC, and a lovely quiet harbour with restaurants serving marrows stuffed with pork and cheese, plates of fresh calamari and swordfish, and cinnamon ice cream.
Malta and Gozo are so easy to fly to from London that it makes as much sense to get a group of friends together in a Gozo farmhouse as it does to find a place in the increasingly overcrowded Cotswolds for the weekend.
Gozo is scattered with honeyed stone cottages with private swimming pools and oversized heavy wooden dining tables that almost order you to sit down, drink wine and talk. If you can face doing little else beyond that, call the Il-Kartell Restaurant; its head chef, George Borg, can be persuaded to come out and cook for a private dinner party.
There is a new generation of chefs in Malta and Gozo that eschew the tedious fish and chips that have dominated the cafés in recent years in favour of the island’s Phoenician roots. Malta’s various invaders have, over the centuries, planted vines, almonds, olives, dates, sugar cane and carob trees, and the best chefs on the islands are once again including these ingredients.
Maltese food is semi-Mediterranean, but reflects the fact that the land, unlike Italy’s, say, is not good for yielding tomatoes and herbs. Nor does it provide enough grass for grazing cows. So instead of fresh pasta al Arrabiata followed by bifstek, a Maltese feast starts off with fresh sheep’s cheese ravioli, followed by dorado pie and saffat al-fenek – rabbit casserole with fried potatoes.
The main island is not known for its beaches, but the surrounding seas still provide enough beauty to soothe a hydrophile soul. Indeed, Malta is the perfect base from which to hire a sailboat and potter about the Mediterranean.
The beautiful yacht marina off the Birgu waterfront is on the edge of a labyrinth of winding streets filled with beautiful buildings, including the sinister Inquisitor’s Palace, . From the harbour, you can head easily to Gozo, Comino and Cominotto and anchor off one of the private beaches.
The place is also perfect for diving; water temperature from June to October is around 23 degrees, making it possible to dive without a wetsuit most of the year.
The Blue Hole at Dwera in Gozo, in particular, is one of the best diving spots in the world. You start at the Azure Window, a giant rock formation framing the clear blue sea, and head for the Inland Sea, a tiny lake in the hollow of the cliff wall. Plunge into the water and follow a reef teeming with fish, including tuna. There are caves and crevices to swim through before you reach a heart-stopping underwater canyon.
Malta came close to destroying its heritage and reputation through the breeze-block years of the 1970s and 1980s. But the rot has since been stopped and islands are increasingly able to offer up some real treats for visitors. It is so close, and so easy to get to, that there is no reason not to enjoy Malta’s lesser-known treasures.
If this inspires you to exchange your vows in Malta then visit our Malta weddings page for local wedding planners and hotels in which to get married.
By Meera Selva


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