Historic hideaway Casa Ellul in Valletta – tucked away behind an elegant facade, opposite the impressively domed Carmelite Church – has been in the Ellul family for generations. They’ve lovingly restored it, original tile by original tile, and created a fascinating boutique stay in the heart of a thoroughly charming city.
Double rooms from £126.29 (€140), including tax at 7 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €0.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include Continental breakfast.
In-room spa and beauty treatments can be arranged on request.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: free bottled water, international adaptor, hairdryer.
Our favourite rooms
They’re all a bit wondrous (Suites 1–5 classically so, while 6–8 lean more towards modernism), but the 360-degree views from Suite 7, the penthouse, are extra magnificent, and you can lounge in the hot tub while you enjoy them. Suite 5 has the winning combination of high ceilings and a piano. If you have your heart set on a roll-top bath, opt for 2, 3 or 5.
Leave the Louboutins at home: pack for pounding the cobbled mediaeval streets of endlessly explorable Valletta. If you’re anything of a linguist, throw a Maltese phrase book in your carry-on: it’s a particularly intriguing tongue.
The breakfast room and reception are all wheelchair accessible, as is the specially adapted Suite 1, which has a wet room.
Over-12s are accepted, but the hotel’s designed much more with adults in mind.
It’s breakfast – roll out of bed and throw on whatever you fancy. Perhaps go a bit grecian if you want to fit in with the statue of Heracles looming in the lobby.
Risette is an laidback, fine dining restaurant led by Chef Andrew Borg. Having worked his way around Europe’s top kitchens, he’s got a broad knowledge of different flavours and delicacies, and is a dab hand at fine fare. With an emphasis on fresh produce, Risette’s European menu changes weekly; our former favourites include tuna tartar with a seaweed butter, and entrecôte of New Zealand beef with white onions and trompet de mort.
There’s no bar… but there is an array of drinks available in the breakfast room, and the night porter or receptionist will be happy to whip up whatever you request.
Breakfast is served 7am–10.30am (although if you have a special request for later or earlier dining staff will do their best to make it happen). Lunch is served Tuesday to Sunday, and dinner is offered Monday to Saturday.
Sandwiches, salads and so on can be delivered to your room from 7am to 7pm (and the minibar’s stocked with water, wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks and snacks).
Casa Ellul has an enviably central location within Valletta, on the east coast of the island of Malta.
You’ll land at Malta International Airport, about 20 minutes from Casa Ellul by car.
The hotel doesn’t have its own car park, but there’s a public one nearby (€8 a day). You’ll probably walk more than drive in the historic city itself (driving there isn’t fun), but a car could come in handy if you’re planning on exploring further afield.
There are ferries from Sicily, if you’re adventuring around the Med.
Worth getting out of bed for
Valletta's the archetypal World Heritage City, a pleasing mix of Rococo opulence, romantic balconettes and striking church domes on the horizon. You can easily spend your days just wandering, taking in the details or admiring sweeping vistas from the city wall. The public Upper Barrakka Gardens are the place to take your impress-your-friends Instagrams. The Grand Harbour views are incredibly, well, grand. The park, which was built in 1775, is packed with statues, too (from street urchins to Winston Churchill).
Ten minutes’ walk from Casa Ellul, the National Museum of Fine Arts has an impressive collection, all housed within a fine building dating back to the 1760s (it boasts the finest High Baroque staircase on the island, if you’re into that sort of thing). The Pjazza Teatru Rjalopen-air theatre plaza (its name means Royal Theatre Square) is set in the empty space left by the destruction of the Royal Opera House in 1942. Today, it hosts art installations, dance events, comedy performances, plays and all sorts of concerts.
A bit of an institution, waterfront Scoglittion Triq il-Lanċa is the place to go for harbour views, fresh seafood and first-class service. Chefs (and sisters) Ramona and Roberta run Palazzo Preca on Strait Street, a top choice for romantic dinners, candles and all.
Fancy red flags are being unfurled on every other street corner as we enter the ancient walls of Malta’s capital. The air of anticipation is palpable and it’s all rather intoxicating. Only we have no idea what’s going on. A somewhat stilted conversation with our cab driver reveals that we’ve picked quite the day to arrive in Valletta – the biggest day of the year, no less. In honour of being named European Capital of Culture for the year, all four of the city’s annual feast days have been rolled into one landmark event, set to fill the streets with music and revelry until the wee hours. Pulling up in front of boutique stay Casa Ellul we quickly realise any plans for an early night are out the window, we are staying in the beating heart of the historic old town and the epicentre of the celebrations. Less a case of looking for the party, more a case of the party finding us.
Old Theatre Street, where the hotel sits, is narrow and there's some considerable neck-craning required to get a full view of the three-storey Victorian palazzo. Behind an unassuming entrance lies five floors’ worth of original features and craftsmanship, tempered with one-off contemporary furnishings. An ungodly alarm and 6am flight mean we’ve arrived too early to check in, but too late for breakfast – yet we’re offered some anyway. It’s our first experience of the warm and genuine service that makes the hotel feel like an exceptionally comfortable home. Watched over by a statue of Heracles, standing proud in the courtyard, we guzzle down fresh pastries and strong coffees as we hatch a vague plan for the day. Leaving our London layers behind, we head out into the sunshine to explore this Unesco-protected city.
The best way to get a sense of the place is to wander along the historic ramparts until you reach the colonnaded Upper Barrakka Gardens, a relaxing hilltop haven created for the Order of Malta Knights who built the city in the 16th century. The daily midday gun salute has all the pomp and circumstance of the Changing of the Guard but with louder bangs and a better backdrop. We watch from the upper terrace and crane our necks for a good view of the cannons before heading down the hill. At the bottom, we find ourselves in the throng of more festival-related action, thousands of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua locals cheers on their respective teams in the annual regatta. We adopt our favourite boats at random and get stuck into the local Cisk beer and pastizzi: insanely moreish pea-filled pastry snacks. Regatta cheerleading proves exhausting, as does people-watching and pistachio-ice-cream eating and so we wander back to the comfort of Casa Ellul to refresh and recharge ahead of the evening’s festivities.
Having been in the Ellul family of wine merchants for five generations, brothers Andrew and Matthew converted the family home in 2014, creating Valletta’s first boutique hotel in the process – and paving the way for plenty more to follow suit. The townhouse is made up of nine suites, each one different from the next. Suite Three is our home for the weekend, an elegant room with bold accents of blue, sleek geometric tiles and a traditional balcony proffering close-up views of the majestic Carmelite Church mere feet away on the opposite side of the street. The centrepiece, however, is the freestanding, powder-blue bath tub flanked by giant palms. Mr Smith orders us Aperol Spritzes to the room while I run the deepest of baths. The tasteful blend of traditional features, contemporary design details and luxurious linens in our suite is so calm and inviting that we’re seriously tempted to stay put.
But we’re better than that, and so we break out of our new sanctuary and into the chaos of the festa. Catholic relics, food stalls, brass bands, confetti and flowers are everywhere. We lose hours navigating the winding cobbled streets, trying and failing to keep up with the processions and instead stopping off for frequent Cisk fixes. A spectacular firework display over Fort St Elmo is harder to miss, a magnificent ending to a pretty special day.
An overly-indulgent breakfast in the elegant Risette restaurant features show-stopping eggs Benedict and a smorgasbord of fruit, yoghurts and sweet treats. All set, we escape the confetti-lined streets – still recovering from the night before – and head for the north coast. We’re in a trusty island runabout that’s ours for the day, the hire of which was all sorted by our friends at the hotel reception.
An hour after leaving Valletta we’re disembarking a ferry on Gozo and soon zooming through the island’s countryside, stopping at towers and temples and turquoise blue lagoons. A hairy descent down a perpendicular hill leads us to the most secluded of bays, Mgarr ix-Xini, an idyllic spot that stole the hearts of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt who chose it as the location for their film By the Sea. Sharing platters of freshly-caught shellfish at Rew Rew, a ramshackle cabin tucked among the pines, is a lunch to remember.
Whether you want a city break brimming with history, art and culture, or time out exploring hidden beaches, it’s not a choice you’ll have to make here in Malta if you arrive during a festa – and Casa Ellul puts you front and centre for celebrations.