Discover The Netherlands

Think that the Netherlands is all about Amsterdam!? Think again.

 Amsterdam is amazing and well worth a visit… but there are so many other places to discover! Marco Polo’s guide to the top places to visit in The Netherlands (other than Amsterdam):

Rotterdam Cube Houses

Rotterdam

The famous Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses) in Rotterdam are located on Overblaak Street, right above the Blaak Subway Station. They consist of 40 conventional houses, tilted 45 degrees to become the first cube-shaped houses in Holland and were designed by Piet Blom.

One of the houses has been converted into a “museum” so you can see inside for yourself! (The others are residential houses!) Opening times: 11am – 5pm, 7 days a week. Admission 2.50 EUR. For more information visit: Kubuswoning.nl

Markthal“Good food, every day”. The first indoor market in the Netherlands opened its doors in Rotterdam in October 2014.  With 100 fresh produce units, 15 food shops, 8 restaurants and 228 stalls, there really is something for every taste and budget. Opening times: 10am – 8pm Monday – Saturday, 12 – 6pm Sunday. For more information visit: Markthalrotterdam.nl

Rotterdam Cube Houses

Utrecht

The Dom (de Dom) Tower of Utrecht was part of the Cathedral of Saint Martin. It was never fully completed due to lack of funds. Since the unfinished nave collapsed in 1674, the Dom has remained a free standing tower. It is, in fact, the tallest church tower in the Netherlands.

It’s possible to climb the 465 steps (there is no lift) and view the beautiful city of Utrecht from the tower galleries at 70 and 95 metres. For more information visit: Domtoren.nl

Canals – The Oudegracht, or “old canal”, runs through the center of Utrecht. Take time to walk along it an explore the wonderful views! Better still – you can take a canal cruise. Further information via visit-utrecht.com

Naarden Vesting

Naarden-Vesting

Naarden, located in the province of North Holland, is an example of a star fort, complete with fortified walls and a moat. The moat and walls have been restored and are currently in excellent condition. It is the home of the Netherlands Fortress Museum (Nederlands Vestingmuseum).

Naarden is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon, exploring the fort, visiting St. Vitus Church (pictured), soaking up the local culture and dining at one of the town’s excellent cafes or restaurants.

Maastricht

Photo credit: CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported © Michielverbeek

Maastricht

Maastricht, situated in the Southeast of the Netherlands is the capital city in the province of Limburg. Known for its lively squares, narrow streets, and historical buildings – the city has 1,677 (national heritage sites), more than any Dutch city outside Amsterdam!

Highlights include the Meuse river, Basilica of Our Lady, Caves of St. Pieter, Het Vrijthof (beautiful square in the center of old town Maastricht) and Basilica of St. Servatius. For more information visit: Holland.com/Maastricht

Essentials for your visit: Netherlands Marco Polo Map

Netherlands Marco Polo Map

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Top 5 Highlights: Malta

Malta moves with the times and follows current trends, yet still manages to retain it’s own unique identity. In essence, this is Malta’s charm. 

Naturally, the good weather, fascinating historic sites and beautiful coastline add to the appeal along with the wide range of hotel choices, packed programme of events, the party scene and fashionable wine bars and restaurants. 

On Malta there really is something to suit every taste and budget.

Discover Malta with Marco Polo! 

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

1. Grand Harbour, Valletta

A trip to Malta wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Grand Harbour, Valletta. It is the biggest and probably the most dramatic harbour in the Mediterranean. Unmissable!

Grand Harbour, Malta

Grand Harbour, Malta. Photo credit: Tim Kelly.

Grand Harbour, Malta. Photo credit: Tim Kelly

Grand Harbour, Malta. Photo credit: Tim Kelly

The best way to experience Grand Harbour’s splendour is by boat. There are several boat operators offering Grand Harbour tours from the waterside area marked Sliema Ferries.

Grand Harbour, Malta. Photo credit: Tim Kelly

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

Insider tip: Trattoria da Pippo, Valletta. Small family business with checked tablecloths and local paintings for sale on the walls. Simple, rustic and authentic Italian and Maltese specialties. Booking essential. (136 Melita St, Valletta. Tel: +356 2124 8029.)

Trattoria da Pippo, Valletta

Trattoria da Pippo, Valletta

2. Marsaxlokk Bay

The picturesque setting and pretty fishing-village atmosphere make Marsaxlokk (pronounced “marsa-shlokk”) a very popular destination for day trippers not least because of its attractive Sunday market.

Marsaxlokk

Boats in Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk

Fisherman statue in Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk

The Horus eye painted on boats is to protect fisherman from evil.

Marsaxlokk

A Horus eye on a boat at Marsaxlokk

Insider tip: attention seafood lovers! Be sure to check out Tartarun Fish Restaurant. We recommend you book in advance as it can be extremely busy – especially at weekends. (29 Xatt is-Sajjieda, Marsaxlokk, Tel: +356 21658089.)

Mixed seafood main course at Tartarun Fish Restaurant, Marsaxlokk

Mixed seafood main course at Tartarun Fish Restaurant, Marsaxlokk

Insider tip: St Peter’s Pool can be reached by car or taxi in about 10-15 mins from Marsaxlokk. It’s not that easy to find and involves a walk down a cliff to arrive there… but it certainly is worth the trip! Visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds! (Location on Google Maps.)

St Peters Paul

St Peter’s Pool

3. Mdina

Mdina (pronounced “im-deenah”) enclosed within its high fortress walls is Malta’s “Silent City”. A must see! Mdina has preserved its baroque character and the small medieval town can be explored in just a few hours.

View from over the fortress walls, Mdina

View from over the fortress walls, Mdina

Mdina Cathedral

Mdina Cathedral

Many Maltese churches have two clocks, showing different times… it is said that one shows the correct time for the religious locals, while the one on the left shows the wrong time to confuse Satan.

Narrow car-free streets of Mdina in Malta

Narrow car-free streets of Mdina

Insider Tip: Fontanella Tea Gardens has one of the best views in Mdina and offers excellent cakes and pastizzi (a Maltese specialty – savoury pastries with ricotta or mushy pea filling.)

Fontanella Tea Gardens, Mdina

Fontanella Tea Gardens, Mdina

4. Sliema and St Julian’s 

Malta’s modern heart beats along the promenade of Sliema and its neighbouring town St Julian’s with its buzzing nightlife and colourful restaurant district.

St Julian’s Bay

View from Fresco’s Cafe & Restaurant , St Julian’s Bay

Insider tip:  Visit Fresco’s Cafe & Restaurant for fresh fish, friendly service and great cocktails. For the best view, ask for table 7 when booking. (Tower Road, Sliema. Tel: +356 2734 4763.)

Sliema, looking out onto St Julian’s Bay

Looking out onto St Julian’s Bay from Sliema – a great place to take a dip!

Sunset in St Julian’s

Sunset in St Julian’s

Insider tip: Paradise Exiles Bar in Sliema, is a great place for a cheap drink with fantastic views. Popular with divers. Listen to whatever music you like by selecting your favourite tunes from the jukebox. (Tower Road, Sliema. Tel: +356 2134 4771.)

Paradise Exiles, Sliema

Paradise Exiles, Sliema

5. Gozo & Comino

Malta’s sister islands Gozo and Comino are also well worth a visit if you have time! The cheapest way to get to Gozo or Comino is to take a bus to Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal and then catch a ferry. (For more information on ferries see the Visit Malta website.)

Gozo: Anyone who is looking for a relaxed atmosphere in a rural idyll and who ranks swimming, water sports and nature more highly than roaring nightlife may want to consider spending his or her holiday on Gozo. (And then explore the tourist highlights of Malta on a couple of excursion trips.) When on Gozo, be sure to visit the beautiful Azure Window:

Azure Window, Gozo

Azure Window, Gozo

Comino: Every day, tiny Comino lures fleets of boats full of tourists to its Blue Lagoon – and with good reason! The crystal-clear water has a beautiful turquoise shimmer. To avoid the crowds, visit on a week day and try to arrive as early as possible.

Blue Lagoon, Comino

Blue Lagoon, Comino

Content taken from the Malta Marco Polo Spiral Guide

Malta Marco Polo Spiral Guide

Buy the Malta Marco Polo Spiral Guide

Have you been to Malta? What was the highlight of your trip? Comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Malta & Gozo Insider Tips

Malta

Photo credit: Tim Kelly.

 

Our top insider tips for Malta & Gozo:

Meet the divers

If you want to know the best places to go diving, it’s a good idea to meet other divers. The ideal place to do this on Gozo is Nemo, a bar in Xlendi. In this little ‘bistrorant’ on the harbour square, a Belgian couple serve fresh fish and reasonably priced international dishes as well as great wine. Open Daily (evening only) | St Andrew Street | Xlendi | Tel. 21 56 26 18 | Budget

Malta Film Tours

A lot of famous films were shot on Malta. The Malta Film Tour takes you to the original locations and shows you the video clips to match from films like Troy, Gladiator and The Count of Monte Cristo. Cost: €59 for adults and €29.50 for children aged 5 – 12 years | www.maltafilmtours.com

Swim in peace

In the Ghasri Valley on Gozo you can swim in a secluded fjord where it’s easy to get into the water over low rocks. Very quiet, secluded even, and a divers’ haunt. 3.5 km west of Marsalforn.

Romantic boat tour

For a special occasion, why not hire a traditional dghajsa? The skippers will take you round every nook of the Grand Harbour or along the coast. Tel. 21 80 69 21 | www.maltesewatertaxis.com

Meal with a sea view

The beach of Ghar Lapsi is small and stony, but to make up for that it has one of the finest and best-located restaurants on the island. Blue Creek dishes up superb Maltese and international cuisine, and has one of the loveliest terraces that you will find, built directly above the water. 6 miles from Rabat. Closed Tuesdays | Tel. 21 46 28 00 | Moderate | www.bluecreekmalta.com

How the other half lived

Casa Rocca Piccola, a 16th-century palace in Valletta, conveys a lively impression of how the Maltese nobility lived. This fine little 16th-century townhouse is still occupied by a Maltese noble family, but can be visited as part of a guided tour, which also leads to the underground bunkers where the family took shelter from German bombing raids. Mon–Sat, 10am–4pm hourly | Admission €9 | Republic Street 74, Valletta | www.casaroccapiccola.com

» Read more about Malta & Gozo

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