Every time I go to Malta, I get captivated by the beautiful Maltese balconies that dot the cities and villages of the country. But I didn’t know that much about them until I started digging into their history. Now I’m more obsessed than ever! Here are ten amazing facts you should know about Malta’s balconies before your trip!
10 Facts about Maltese Balconies
In no particular order…
In Maltese, these balconies are called gallarija.
We refer to them as Maltese balconies in English, but in Maltese, they are called gallarija, which translates as ‘gallery.’
The origins of the design are most likely from North Africa
The Muxarabiji is a feature of some Arabic houses in North Africa, essentially it is a window that allows the person inside the house to look out onto the street without being seen.
Exactly when Maltese balconies appeared is still unknown.
The houses of Malta have had balconies for hundreds of years, but the concept of the covered wooden enclosed balcony that became the tradition was created later. No one knows exactly when, but there’s evidence that these became popular in the late seventeenth century.
Many believe that the first enclosed balconies were at the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta.
Though it’s not a certainty. You can see these beautiful enclosed balconies in of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta’s St. John’s Square. This set off a trend of people enclosing their balconies for aestetic reasons.
Many of the existing balconies which were enclosed actually destroyed the historic facades of the existing buildings.
As you walk around the different cities in Malta, see if you can tell which windows were built as enclosed balconies and which ones were shuttered after being built. I’ll bet you can tell the difference more than you might expect!
Some of the balconies were shut for practical reasons, not just aesthetic ones.
As Malta’s population grew, especially in Valletta, people found they were running out of space. Enclosing the balconies and darkening the windows meant this room could be used as part of the house. In many of these places, this meant it became a bathroom (though not usually with running water or plumbing).
The decoration of the balconies extends beyond the wooden colored boxes.
Look at the stone supports of the balconies, called saljaturi. These can have many different designs, some of which can get to be quite elaborate.
In Valletta, the corners of builders were required to be decorated by law.
This means that buildings are either decorated with statues or have windows that wrap around the corners of the buildings.
Maltese Balconies were originally priced by how many panels they are across.
Each panel is called a purtella. The wider the balcony, the more purtellas are needed, thus increasing the price for having the balcony made.
The color of the balcony is typically matched to the door of the house.
Traditionally colors could vary from red to navy to bright purple, expressing the individuality of the homeowners. However, the green that you see in many places of Valletta is considered a “status” color brought to the island by the British.
I personally prefer when the balconies on a street have different colors, instead of all the same. Which color of Maltese balcony is your favorite?
5 Things to Pack for Malta
- Beach Bag: You can throw everything in a canvas tote bag or a multi-purpose day bag like this large Longchamp that I use as a purse on the road and a beach bag when needed.
- Go Pro: If you have one, bring it here. You’re going to want to get underwater photography at most of the beaches.
- Full Sized Travel Towel: This towel is the perfect travel towel to have for both using at your hotel/hostel but also taking to the beach since it’s so big and beautiful. Rolls up small and comes with its own pouch so it takes up almost no room in your beach bag. Seriously, I’m obsessed with my travel towel.
- Water shoes or sandals that can handle rocks, since many of the beaches here have underwater rocks. I use these Travel Jellies.
- Universal Outlet Adapters if your appliances are from North America or Continental Europe or any part of the world that uses outlets different than the UK, Ireland, and Malta.
Don’t Forget to Get Travel Insurance
Never travel without a valid travel insurance policy, because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance when you’ll be doing any outdoor activities or hanging out in traditional tourists spots (since tourists are easy targets, unfortunately).
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance when participating in outdoor activities or driving in foreign countries. Even in the cities, though, you’ll be happy when you’re able to replace your stuff if it’s lost or stolen.
Malta Travel Resources
Headed to Malta? Here are some resources to help you plan your trip!
You can read about some of the country’s most beautiful places in my post 27 of the Most Instagrammable Places in Malta. If you’re interested in Malta’s beaches, check out my guide to spending a day at the Blue Lagoon.
Finally, if you’re headed to Gozo, here is my list of the best things to do on the island.
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