Valletta © iStock/DonaldMorgan
The piercing turquoise sea and the rich golden sands might be the first colours that spring to mind when you find yourself daydreaming about Malta. But, look a little closer and you will unearth vivid swathes of green, in the form of immaculately tended gardens. For a break from the beach, take an easy stroll through Malta’s beautiful green spaces. Here is some inspiration to help formulate your garden-spotting list.
Valletta’s gold-stone architecture houses a bustling hub of history and culture – stunning cathedrals, broad café-lined piazzas and glorious gastronomy awaits. Step away from the buzz for a moment’s respite in the cool shade of Upper Barrakka. Once you’ve soaked up the sprawling views across the Grand Harbour, Fort St. Angelo and beyond, explore the gardens themselves. Plaques and memorials honour some of history’s heavyweights, including Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Thomas Maitland.
San Anton Gardens
In the central location of Attard, in the heart of Malta, you’ll find the quiet and tranquil surroundings of the San Anton Gardens. These luscious gardens, which have been open to the public since 1882, surround the San Anton Palace, the official residence of the President of Malta. Take a stroll around the many walkways to discover ornate fountains and beautiful flowerbeds – and it won’t be long before you come across one of the garden’s ponds, where you’ll find a congregation of birds, ducks and even swans.
Flanking Verdala Palace, a hunting lodge that was built by Grand Master La Vallette in the mid-1500s, Buskett Gardens is one of the only wooded areas on the island. Especially popular at festival times, when locals and visitors congregate beneath its dappled canopy for picnics and parties, the real spectacle is the lofty perch of the palace itself. The president of Malta’s summer retreat, it’s not open to the public but it makes for an atmospheric backdrop.
Ta’ Qali National Park
By the start of summer, the pretty pine groves and lawns of Ta’ Qali National Park play host to an eclectic carnival of festival-goers attracted by the hip world beats of Earth Garden. Aside from this annual spike, Ta’ Qali’s pulse is a tranquil one. Take a saunter through to admire its ornamental plants and brilliant blooms, keeping an eye out for the birds. Year round, it’s a bird-spotting paradise.
No guide to gardens in Malta could count itself complete without including the Palazzo Parisio. These immaculately tended walled gardens are the handiwork of the Baroness of Tabria, Christiane Ramsay Scicluna. They’re awash with explosions of colour, with more than 65 hybrids of hibiscus rubbing shoulders with vibrant bougainvillea and vivid geraniums. Elsewhere, discover Baroque water fountains, ornamental vases and vine-covered archways – this place has romance written all over it.
Msida Bastion Historic Garden
Although it’s a cemetery that dates back to 1806, there’s nothing macabre about Msida Bastion Historic Garden. Nudged up against the dilapidated ruins of St Philip’s Bastion, the garden is shaded by some lovely old trees and generously punctuated with bright shocks of oleander. Deciphering the epitaphs on the marble tombstones is a fruitless task, as most have faded over the centuries. However, we can tell you that one of them is dedicated to Mikiel Anton Vassalli, the father of the Maltese language, who died in 1829.
Part of Salina Parks, the Melita gardens bristle with pine trees, picnic benches, and picturesque bridges over waterways. One of its most popular features is a water fountain, which provides welcome relief for kids in the peak of summer, as parents look on from the shade of its nearby restaurant.