On Sunday afternoons, you can easily find me in Valletta or Mdina, camera in hand. Last Sunday was no exception, and thus I was off to Valletta.
My visit for the day had a double reason – I’m currently training myself in Macrophotography, and I wanted to get out to somewhere quiet and peaceful but easy to reach by public transport. Hence my trip to the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens – if not for the umpteenth time 🙂
There are more gardens in Malta that I love, and I’d like to share my favourite ones with you:
Lower Barrakka Gardens, Valletta – I’m starting with this lesser known of the Barrakka Gardens. Why you ask? The Lower Barrakka Gardens has a beautiful view over the Grand Harbour and the Siege Bell Monument. It is also smaller than the Upper Barrakka Gardens, and more frequented by locals than by tourist. In fact, on a Sunday in the heart of the tourist season, it had a fraction of the tourist that the rest of Valletta has. It’s well maintained, just like the Upper Barrakka ones, but more quiet and peaceful.
Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta – The better known Barrakka Gardens, showing the full frontal view over the Grand Harbour with the Three Cities. Every day at noon, the Gun Salute will be fired from the Saluting Battery, which you can also visit if you’d like to know more. A splendid photo opportunity, but if you’d like to take a shot of the firing canon in action, make sure you are there on time, as the noon salute tends to be quite popular. No fear for canon balls flying around though 🙂 Both Gardens offer a plant enthusiast plenty to see, both in flowers and insects.
San Anton Gardens, Attard – These gardens have been open to the public since 1882, and are laid out in a formal way, with walkways, ornamental fountains and sculptures. They are home to a community of cats, ducks and swans, and are therefore quite the attraction. If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to see one of the peacocks open it’s tail for you. This patch of green in the middle of busy Attard contains a large number of palm trees, cypresses and other exotic plants and trees, some of which are over 300 years old.
I cannot mention the San Anton Gardens without also mentioning the President’s Kitchen Garden, which located just across the road from San Anton. The beautiful garden belongs to the San Anton Palace,although it’s physically not part of it and has been providing the palace with vegetables since the time of the knights.
The Kitchen Garden is also perfect for families as the garden is the home to several animals such as donkeys, ponies, cranes, goats, emus and other smaller animals, thus a lot of mums can be found there having coffee, watching their kids play.
The Sa Maison Garden is a small, pretty garden mostly known for its military heritage. It is not accessible from main Valletta, but from one of the side roads leading up to Malta’s capital city, leading up to the Police headquarters in Floriana.The garden is also known as ‘Il-Gnien tal-Milorda’ (Her Ladyship’s Garden) in memory of Lady Julia Lockwood. The garden itself is on several levels, accessible via walkways and stairs, so wear comfy shoes, should you decide to go to the upper level, to access the Gardjola or watch tower, which provides spectacular views of the Ta’ Xbiex Yacht Marina.
Perched on top of the bastion in the Three Cities, you shouldn’t miss the Gardjola Gardens in Single. It offers amazing views on Valletta, the Grand Harbour and Fort St. Angelo. this small but charming garden is well maintained and watches over it’s inhabitants through a watch tower (or Gardjola), which has several sculptures on it’s sides – an eye, an ear and a crane bird, symbolising guardianship and observance.
Back across the mediterranean, I also recommend you shouldn’t miss the Argotti Botanical Gardens in Floriana. These gardens were originally laid out as a private garden in the 18th century, but were later transformed into a botanical garden. When taking a walk in these gardens, you’ll be welcomed by the well known Maltese stray cats, lazying away in the sun. When coming closer to them, you may not be surprised if one opens one eye and wonders why you’re walking around in the afternoon sun.
Another of my favourite gardens are the Independence Gardens in Sliema. These are located just under the promenade in Sliema, starting just under the Exiles watch tower and run along the coast line to Balluta Bay. Often frequented by families and locals, there are plenty of plants, trees, water features and a play ground. A coffee shop in the gardens themselves is a quite popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike. A few years ago, the Malta Street Arts Festival (Add More Colours) and if you look around carefully you can still see the artistic marks that it’s left there.
Last mention is for a garden I’ve only managed to visit once, as part of an open day of the Malta Railway. Yes, Malta used to have a train service, running between Valletta and Mdina. It only operated between 1883 and 1931, and demand for it’s services went sadly in decline with the introduction of buses on the islands. This garden is called the St. Philip’s Garden, or Gnien tal-General, and is located right underneath the Argot Gardens in Floriana, tucked away on St. Philip’s Bastion. The ramp that leads to the garden was built for a proposed external Floriana Railway station, that was never built. Halfway down the ramp you will need to pass from an arched gate, which if you follow the ramp down, leads to where the train platform used to be. if you take the ramp up to the upper levels, you end up in the gardens.
St. Philip’s Garden is paved with wide passages and rich in citrus trees, Cypress and a myriad of plants. Rose bushes bloom below leaving a pleasant view. In the centre of the garden you can find a tall fountain, which is in need of restoration, but despite this, is still beautiful.
There are also 3 gardens which I have not visited yet, but that are definitely on the list:
First is the Msida Bastion Historic Garden. This is in fact not just a garden, but also the first Protestant Cemetery in Malta. It is part of Din l-Art Helwa, which is Malta’s National Trust. The garden is right across from the Grand Excelsior Hotel in Valletta, but seems to be a bit tricky to find, due to lack of proper sign posting. I’ll let you know how my adventure turns out!
Second garden is the Chinese Garden of Serenity in Sta. Lucia. It was opened in 1997 only and is thus a fairly recent addition. I came across this via TripAdvisor, else I wouldn’t have known about it. It is said to symbolise the path of life, from birth to death, and from the photos i can find, sports a large pond (with ducks of course), bamboo and other oriental shrubs. Definitely sounds worth a visit.
Last but not least, I’d also like to visit the gardens of Villa Bologna, in Mdina/Rabat area. Although privately owned, you can visit these gardens and the Villa itself, on the estate. The gardens are said to be split in two gardens; an old Baroque garden dating back to the building time of the Villa (18th Century), and a newer part cultivated by Lady Strickland in the 1920s.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and hope to bump into you soon, somewhere around the island, camera in hand and shooting away!