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Lisbon versus Malta

I'm torn between visiting Lisbon and Malta perhaps this fall, if Covid-19 permits. I don't know a whole lot about either, and the guidebooks all sound like promotional "literature" coming from tourist agencies.

Is Lisbon really interesting, beautiful, "do-able"? I never was interested in the other part of the Iberian peninsula.

I like things off the beaten track, so Malta appeals to me. Plus, it's small and "small is beautiful" to me (don't really like Paris, do not like New York at all...). But again, I only have a general idea and am not sure whether I would really like spending a couple of weeks there. I'm wondering, too, whether one can take cruises out to parts of Sicily, other parts of the Mediterranean.

I do know that English is the second language...

From the pictures, I love Malta, because the architecture is fascinating and beautiful and strange. I hear other parts of the island are modern and ugly; or quite rural.

Posted by
6696 posts

If you have "a couple of weeks", I would suggest combining Malta with Sicily. You'll get a 2-for-1 bang for the buck. Malta (and even with Gozo combined) is too small for a few weeks unless you are in a rural farm stay and just want to take things leisurely and go swimming all the time, etc. Both places will be blazing hot in early fall, so take that into account. Malta is really neat - it feels like you're in a movie set or a fortress due to the geography in Valetta. But the architecture and the colors are not as varied as in Italy/ Sicily. I'm really glad I visited though, I would have liked to see more of Gozo which is quite rural but more green.

I don't know how to contrast Malta with Lisbon - it's like comparing apples and oranges. Different cultures, food, much more to do in Lisbon because it's a lot larger. You'll have no reason to learn Maltese, it's easy to get around with English. The bus system was great and it's all very compact and super dense (traffic is insane in some spots).

Posted by
4679 posts

Valletta in Malta has some fine old architecture. I was amazed how much high rise development there has been on the coast since my first trip 20 years ago. It’s certainly not off the beaten track. Everybody speaks English. The hinterland is dry.

It’s easy to get round Malta by bus but I found the food to be disappointing and far too geared up for the tourists. There’s enough to do if you want to explore some of the smaller villages and do some walking. The adjacent island Gozo could be visited.

If there are any Covid issues, it would be less risky to just visit one country so I wouldn’t combine Malta with Sicily or anywhere else. Cruises haven’t been running due to Covid.

Malta is one of the few places that Brits can visit without having to quarantine upon returning home, so bookings here have rocketed.

Lisbon has far better food and wine and there are more day/side trip options including Sintra, Cascais, Evora, Obidos and the Silver Coast. The trams are good fun. As with any major city, there are plenty of museums and galleries etc. The inland countryside from Lisbon is more interesting than Malta. With a 2 week trip, you could also have a few nights in Porto.

My vote would go to Lisbon as there is more variety and although it has tourists, it feels more like a proper place. Malta feels like the whole island is geared up to tourism and has lost some of its culture.

Posted by
306 posts

My vote would go to Lisbon as there is more variety and although it has tourists, it feels more like a proper place. Malta feels like the whole island is geared up to tourism and has lost some of its culture.

Thank you for sharing your experience and overall impression of Malta, which my heart said to go to, rather than to Lisbon. That, however, wasn't based on much more than looking at some Kindle tourist books on Malta (didn't do it for Lisbon).

This means I will try to shoot for a cruise from Nice to Lisbon passing through SE Spain/Gibraltar/Tanger. Have no idea what Ibiza and Malaga are like (except that Georges Sand stayed in Majorca), never having been interested in Spain a whole lot.

So I'll have several days to spend in Lisbon at the end of my cruise. I wonder how many days to spend there...I tend to get lost in big cities (over 500,000). It will be nice to kick-back and not run around until I get on the plane back to Seattle...

Posted by
41 posts

Lisbon is one of my very favorite cities in Europe -- beautiful, fascinating, walkable, incredible views, wonderful food, friendly people. I would go back in a heartbeat. I haven't been to Valletta but have heard very mixed things -- mostly along lines of beautiful but sterile.

Posted by
6696 posts

Valetta is a cruise port. Outside of Valetta, I didn't feel like the whole island catered to tourists (most tourists you'll see are Brits vacationing there). It felt pretty local to me, especailly Gozo. As for the food, it's not as good as Italy but you can certainly find great food if you look online a bit. I really enjoyed the smaller villages like Naxxar and Mdina/ Rabat.

Posted by
243 posts

This contribution is with the disclaimer that we haven’t actually been to Malta yet; our trip is planned for May, 2022. That said, I think Malta offers more than your average Caribbean ‘cruise port’. Aruba is a cruise port; Georgetown is a cruise port. There’s not much there other than beaches and a casino. On Malta, yes, there are plenty of resorts filled with happy Brit vacationers, but there’s also quite a bit of history—from the temples of 3800 BC and subsequent archeological finds through to WW II. (Malta took some of the heaviest bombing during the war and made significant contributions to the Allied effort in terms of supporting naval vessels, caring for the wounded and housing secret Allied war rooms HQ from where the Mediterranean fleet and the invasion of Sicily were controlled.) Underground shelters and the War Museum seem worthwhile stops. At 98% Roman Catholic, there are tons of churches and cathedrals to visit, as well as religious history in the form of St. Paul’s shipwreck on Malta. (Paul was a prisoner on a ship en route to Rome for judgement by Caesar.) His travelling companion St. Luke provides accounts in Acts. There’s plenty more to see and do. If you haven’t come across it, search out Juliet Rix’s Bradt guide to Malta and Gozo. We're really looking forward to our week there. I've been told, however, you can easily fill 2 weeks.

PS I just read an article today in The Guardian called "A Local's Guide to Malta: 10 Top Tips". It's available online for no charge.