Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is an island country about 100 km south off the coast of Sicily. Part of the European Union, is has a fascinating and storied history that dates back as far as 5200 BC.
I spent a month in this amazingly sunny place and throughout I did a lot of walking. There are so many streets to wander down which are snuggled into one another, filled with interesting shops, sculptures, and cafes. Many neighborhoods are crammed with rows of flats lining the streets with colorful balconies perched overhead.
Valletta, the capital, has many streets just like this, as well as being studded with an array of museums and art galleries housed in grand palaces dating back to The Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Because Malta was won and lost by many a ruler - Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, and English among them - the layers of culture permeate everything from the architecture to the food. If you are looking for a cultural experience for your first time traveling solo, you will certainly find it here.
Although the city of Valletta is a popular place to stay while in Malta, I'd actually recommend the district of Sliema as your home base. It has great views of the Valletta skyline, lots of shops and restaurants, a three story grocery store, and some great graffiti art.
Another must-see in Malta is Mdina. Pronounced "Em-deena," this magical fortified city sits at the highest center point on the mainland of Malta. It's known as the "Silent City" because it is insulated by bastions and is a largely pedestrian-only area inhabited by less than 300 residents. Its long history suggests that through the centuries it has been anything but silent given the number of battles won and lost for its possession. Throughout its colorful and noisy past, Mdina has been a crucial part of Malta's heritage and a true symbol of the strength and resilience of the Maltese people.
Mdina is easily toured in less than a day, but with its winding narrow streets, ancient courtyards, and hidden gardens, it is worth taking the time to savor it all. There are a few cafes serving food and beverages, and the Mdina Experience audio and visual show does a great job of highlighting the many layers of this fort city's history.
In all the areas I visited in Malta, I felt safe and well-oriented. The people are gracious and the streets are clean and well-lit in the evening. There are always lots of people around, including groups of tourists from all over the world, as well as a few fellow solo travelers. As with anywhere though, always be mindful of your safety and take precautions to avoid any unwanted attention. I felt very comfortable in Malta and fit in with the crowd.