A stunning luxury hotel in Malta's Grand Harbour that's the perfect blend of history and modernity
Reclining in solitude by the hotel’s rooftop pool while London crumpled under its latest downfall of snow, it was clear to see why Malta is such a popular year-round destination for British sunseekers. A fleeting two-day visit in March saw the mercury topping 25 degrees, a far cry from the chilly streets I left behind and a more than welcome respite given our particularly long and drawn out winter.
With its capital Valletta named the European Capital of Culture for 2018, Malta’s popularity certainly won’t be waning any time soon and with an incredible schedule of music, art, festivals and exhibitions planned for the year, there’s something to see and do all year long. While Valletta may have a wealth of accommodation amongst her hilly cobbled streets, it’s the newly-opened Cugó Gran Maċina Grand Harbour that should be first on your list when you’re booking a trip to Malta.
Located in Senglea, a 10-minute ferry ride across the Grand Harbour from Valletta, the Cugó Gran Maċina has recently undergone an 18-month renovation, which has restored one of the Grand Harbour’s most famous landmarks - Sheer Bastion. The Sheer Bastion and Maċina below form part of the fortifications of Senglea, which were built by The Knights of St. John in 1554 before the Great Siege of Malta.
The building is a stunning structure, juxtaposing original features and stonework with new design details from Maltese architect Edwin Mintoff and Milanese Interior Design firm Daaa Haus. High vaulted ceilings are accentuated with an abundance of glass and natural light, and limestone, slate, limed oak, Carrara marble and Maltese hard stone are just some of the traditional materials used to complement the existing historical structure while incorporating elegant contemporary design, resulting in a flawless finish.
With 21 suites offering unobstructed views across the harbour, it’s a stunning feat of design. Arriving on a Sunday afternoon in the blazing sunshine, we were shown through the hotel’s silent corridors to our split-level suite, encapsulating a downstairs living quarters complete with a dining table and a huge corner sofa, drowning in light from the floor- to -ceiling windows, which gave a perfect view of the Grand Harbour’s twinkling blue waters. A mezzanine bedroom and a custom-designed bathroom with a walk-in rain shower and underfloor heating completed the room, which was decorated minimally yet oh so chicly with a few interesting little touches, a mere nod to the area’s maritime heritage.
The rooftop pool is undoubtedly a selling point; the views across Vittoriosa and Cospicua are exceptional and it would be all too easy to succumb to the sun-drenched solitude and never leave its side. One would, however, question whether a whole day could be spent up there given its current lack of a rooftop bar, which would be an amazing bonus during the summer months.
Breakfast is served in the Hammett’s Macina Restaurant on the ground floor with options including a continental spread and a capsule menu. Confusing as it was that one could order Eggs Florentine but not Eggs Benedict or Royale, the kitchen was nevertheless accommodating of our off-grid requests for amendments, which arrived perfectly cooked and delicious.
Unfortunately, while we were in residence the restaurant was closed both evenings, leaving us to scout out local dinner options for ourselves, though with a plethora of restaurants not only within a few minute’s walk of the hotel in Senglea, but also across the harbour in Vittoriosa, there were more than enough options to choose from if you’re a fan of freshly-caught seafood, Italian-influenced flavours and crisp Mediterranean wines. And let’s be honest, who isn’t?!
With wonderful staff more than willing to arrange transfers, book restaurants and recommend the best of the local area to explore, the Cugó Gran Maċina may be a grand addition to the Grand Harbour but it certainly doesn’t share the pretense of similar hotels. Its spacious rooms, open atmosphere and historical features mean it feels altogether more casual and homely than its pedigree would imply, giving the best of both worlds and the perfect escape from the bustle of Valletta’s busy streets. For a sunshine escape without the hectic city centre feel, this is one hotel worth booking.
Rooms from €215 per night.
Cugó Gran Maċina
Triq Il-31 Ta'Marzu
L-Isla ISL 1040
A summary of our stay at Cugó Gran Maċina
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