JC Stays: Corinthia St George’s Bay, Malta

Exploring local culture in Malta from five-star hotel luxury


There are few downsides to staying in a luxury hotel, assuming that it does what it says on the tin. But, being picky, you can sometimes feel detached from the world around it, particularly in coastal resorts.

With this in mind, the Corinthia St George’s Bay in Malta has partnered with tourism and educational groups to introduce a “Meet the Locals” programme based in three traditional villages.

Hence on a swelteringly hot summer’s day, we are below ground in Mqabba (population 3,000), on a tour of the Mintna catacombs, which date back to the late third century, according to our expert guide David Cardona, curator of historic sites.

Rarely has diminutive stature proved so beneficial as we venture cautiously around the cramped and darkened subterranean burial area, illuminated by our guide’s explanations of the tombs, etchings and a table where mourners sat down to a funeral meal.

Cardona also reveals that early Jewish burials took place at another site, with the graves identified not by a Star of David but a menorah carving.

Subsequent elements of the tour could benefit from some judicial trimming — the hotel is currently getting feedback on the new programme — but the final stop richly compensates.

Mqabba is home to two bands which compete to stage the most impressive parades and firework displays. The rivalry extends to how grandiosely they can furnish and decorate their respective premises — quite spectacularly in the case of one room we are shown.

The clubhouse is also the venue for welcome if rather belated refreshments in the form of a selection of Maltese delicacies.

Other versions of the tour show guests stone sculpting, as well as goat cheese production, in Kirkop and the blacksmith’s art in Safi, where the itinerary also includes some live music.

And for those happy to do little more than soak up the sun, the hotel won’t disappoint. There is a choice of pools in the elegantly appointed grounds and more restaurants — covering all price points — than you’ll have time to visit in a week.

For nocturnal dining, our favourite was the al fresco Broadside Terrace, overlooking the sea and serving fabulous fish and Japanese-themed cocktails (Maltese wine, we come to find, is also eminently quaffable).

A generous meze starter is included in the price of a main course.

We also enjoyed Instagrammable panoramas from our room balcony — most have sea views. Wander out and you’re five minutes from a sandy beach with a popular cocktail bar and plenty more nightlife nearby.

Or if you’re looking to explore further afield — and nothing is very far in Malta — the concierge services had information on what to do and reliable taxis.

There’s also a complimentary daily bus shuttle to Valletta, from where you also can connect to other centres by inexpensive ferry — worth it for the ride alone.

And for one final unexpected local touch: a selection of Waitrose Essentials in a local supermarket — in the unlikely event of homesickness.

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