TV presenter Laura Hamilton takes her children to Malta and discovers why the island is a great choice for families in the shoulder peak months
As a TV Presenter, best known as one of the faces of Channel 4’s A Place in The Sun. I travel frequently with my young children Rocco (5) and Tahlia (3). I have done since they were both 3 weeks old. One of my favourite quotes is ‘the world is a book, and those who do not travel do not read’. I love how adventurous my children are and how much they have learnt and seen in the first few years of their life – I’m a huge advocate of family travel. Now that Rocco has started school, our travelling is limited to the school holidays so we have to make the most of it and with a three-week holiday over Easter, I decided to book a trip to Malta for one of them. As a former kid’s TV presenter at Nickelodeon, I was intrigued to find more out about the jam-packed week of activities they were going to be offering at Malta’s top family friendly attractions, giving children the opportunity to learn more about their favourite Nickelodeon characters, and the island of Malta at the same time.
After our three-hour flight from London’s Heathrow, we touched down in Malta. The country is said to be one of the Queen’s favourite places to visit. It is steeped in history with some stunning architecture. Rocco and Tahlia were each given their Nickelodeon Treasure Hunt Play Pack activity books which included colouring activities, facts about the country, and a blank treasure hunt page. Their task over the next few days was to fill this page with stamps that they would collect at different attractions we would be visiting. At the end of the treasure hunt, the completed page could be redeemed for Nickelodeon prizes. They were extremely excited.
At this time of year, the climate in Malta is usually between 17-21 degrees so it’s ideal if you have young children and are conscious of whether it might be too hot for them. We checked in to the Intercontinental in St Georges Bay, St Julian’s. The hotel is well located opposite Bay Street shopping mall and around a fifteen-minute taxi ride in to the capital Valletta. They offer two types of rooms suitable for families; the family suites have two large double beds and a small lounge area, or if your budget stretches, the highline suites are extremely spacious, with separate bedrooms and a lounge area. They have a small kitchenette, offer luxury linen and feature floor to ceiling windows offering dramatic views over the Maltese islands. On this occasion stayed in the family suite and it was fine.
After dropping our bags off in the room, I downloaded the taxi app ‘Bolt’ (the equivalent to Uber), and headed to Pjazza Teatru Rjal to watch the Nickelodeon stage show. Rocco and Tahlia were in their element, clapping along, dancing and responding to the show host who introduced us to some of Nickelodeon’s well known characters on stage. The show was good fun, and an exciting experience for the children kick starting the event and the setting was beautiful as the sun started to set.
Day two was going to be action packed so I was hoping for a bit more of a lie in, but Rocco and Tahlia woke up at 6am (which is usually the case when are back at home in the UK). We enjoyed a buffet breakfast at the hotel and a quick swim before we headed back in to Valletta. Our first stop was to meet Nella the Princess Knight at Spazju Kreativ where Rocco and Tahlia would get the first stamp for their books. The exhibition space at Spazju Kreativ is beautiful, and there were some really nice workshops for children to take part in including getting to record a voiceover for the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon as well as drawing session. My Two have only just started learning to read so they struggled trying to read a script to record a voiceover, but the drawing workshop was perfect for them. As soon as we left, I managed to capture one of my favourite photos of our trip of Rocco and Tahlia on the steps of Spazju Kreativ which I think highlights how happy they were to be there.
Malta has very few beaches. Most of them are pebbles with beautiful crystal, clear turquoise waters. However, Golden Bay Beach is a broad, golden sandy beach on the edge of Mellieħa that seemed to be the nicest that we came across, with a wide stretch of golden sand ideal for young children and it should most definitely be on your list of places to visit. Although it wasn’t part of the Nickelodeon treasure hunt itinerary, I also wanted to take the children to the Popeye Village, the film set with higildy-pigildy houses, that was built for the Walt Disney movie ‘Popeye’ featuring the late Robin Williams. It’s a colourful, village-like film set and there are various little shows throughout the day that the children enjoyed. If you have older children, who are confident in the water (and the climate is hot enough), the inflatable water park looks like a lot of fun. Rocco, being the little dare devil he is was desperate to have a go and he wasn’t happy when I told him he was too young. Thankfully he changed his tune when I told him we would be going to watch the Nickelodeon parade through the streets of Valetta where he would get to see some of his favourite Nickelodeon characters up close and I would treat him to an ice cream. The inflatable waterpark was a distant memory!
On day three our first stop was a 25 minute taxi ride away to the National Aquarium. It’s not huge aquarium but it’s ideal for children between the ages for 3 and 8. One of my favourite features was the small glass tunnel through the aquarium, I realised after I bashed by head (even though I am only 5’2”) that it was supposed to be for the children not grown-ups! They have another tunnel through the shark infested waters that it full height and there was no danger of me hitting my head in there. We said hi to SpongeBob Square Pants, played some fun beach-type games that had been set up for the children, and then collected their stamp.
A visit to Malta must also include a horse and carriage ride around the city of Valetta and Rocco and Tahlia were keen. It’s a great way of seeing some of the beautiful buildings and there are plenty of possibilities of jumping on a horse and carriage ride around several parts of the city. We decided on a 30 minute tour which was long enough and we timed it perfectly with a Fiat 500 rally drive who were following the same route as us which added to the excitement.
There is plenty of choice food wise in Malta, and final afternoon was spent at the Food Market which is the perfect example of this. Il-Suq Tal Belt has a variety of eateries to suit all palettes, but best of all Rocco and Tahlia got to meet the Ninja Turtles there and collect their third stamp. I was literally the coolest Mum ever and they were happy to eat whatever I suggested after that.
During our final morning, we had one final stamp to collect and one final place to visit. Nickelodeon had set up a PAW Patrol fun inflatable park at the Esplora Science Centre, and Rocco reminded me that since he hadn’t been able to try the inflatable water park at Popeye Village, he wanted to go on the one here. Of course I had to say yes and I’m glad we went because it was the perfect ending for our 4 day trip to Malta. Rocco and Tahlia’s treasure hunt books were complete, and just as they had been promised, they received their bag of prizes from Nickelodeon. They were thrilled. We all thoroughly enjoyed our experience in Malta. It is a fascinating place for both young and old and I think Nickelodeon’s annual Treasure Hunt event during the shoulder peak months is the perfect way of making sure all ages get the most out of a visit there when the climate is ideal.
Return flights for a family of 4 from London Heathrow to Malta with Air Malta cost approx. £900
For a family for 4, the Aquarium costs £30.50
For a family ticket, the Science Museum costs £17.50
A family ticket to Popeye’s Village costs £34.50
A 30 -minute horse and carriage ride around the city of Valletta costs £34.50
Nickelodeon’s Treasure Hunt is set to become an annual event every Easter