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My favourite place: Malta

In the April 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine, James Holland selects Malta as his favourite historical destination. History Extra caught up with him to find out more...

The Valletta skyline – in the centre is St Paul's Anglican Cathedral and Carmelite Church. (Photo by Getty Images)
Published: April 24, 2016 at 11:03 am
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This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 


Q: When did you last travel to Malta and why were you there?

A: Actually, it was a few years ago when I was making a film about the siege of Malta in the Second World War for the BBC, although I had been there on holiday a month or so earlier with my family. Both the holiday and shoot were brilliant fun.

Q: Why do you love the location?

A: It’s an eccentric, slightly mad place – teeming with cars and people one minute but then quiet a tranquil the next. But it’s got it all: beautiful sea, amazing beaches, incredible history, and lots to see and do.

Q: What top three sights would you recommend and why?

A: A trip around Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour by Dghaisa, because it's a brilliant way to see Valletta and the Three Cities and soak up the history of the place; a visit to the city of Mdina, because it’s stunningly beautiful and because from the bastions one gets great views of the entire island; and Ghajn Tuffieha, because it’s a fabulous beach.

Q: During what period of history would you have most wanted to visit Malta and why?

A: The 1930s. It was home for the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet and it would have been amazing to see all those great warships in harbour, such as HMS Warspite and HMS Hood. On the island itself, there were bars, restaurants and clubs galore. It was a piece of the British Empire that I would have loved to have witnessed.

Q: Where else in the world would you most like to visit and why?

A: Burma. I’m fascinated by the Second World War there and the subsequent independence movement. It’s clearly an absolutely beautiful place and I’d like to see it now, as it begins to emerge from the long and painful years of military dictatorship.


James Holland is a historian and broadcaster. He is author of Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege 1940–43 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2009).


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