Malta’s best and most luxurious hotels are not international chains, but rather a more obscure (outside of Malta) local brand known as AX Hotels. You won’t find any of their exquisite properties if you limit your hotel search in Malta to your favorite points or rewards program, and these properties are boutique and book up weeks and sometimes in advance. But if you’re smart enough and lucky enough to plan ahead and snag a room at one of the seven unique AX hotels in Malta, you’ll be in for a truly incredible visit.
On a recent trip to this enchanting Mediterranean island nation, I knew I wanted to stay in the heart of the action for first-time visitors, so that meant finding a hotel in the capital city of Valletta. But Valletta one of the world’s smallest capital cities, and while it has quite a few options for accommodations to chose from, the top two by far are the two AX Hotels properties that are almost side-by-side in the heart of the city – the Rosselli AX Privilege and the AX Saint John.
The Rosselli is quite new and is the only five-star hotel in Valletta, but unfortunately it was completely booked up for the dates I was in Malta, so I’ll have to post a full review of that property at a later date. As I said, AX Hotels properties are THE #1 choice for those “in the know,” so book them sooner rather than later if you’re planning a trip there. But lucky for me, there was still a room available at the AX Saint John, so this original AX property in Valletta kindly welcomed me with open arms during my visit.
Like many buildings in historic Valletta, the property that now houses the AX Saint John has had several incarnations over the centuries, including previously as a wealthy merchant’s residence, a shop, and now an upscale boutique hotel. The AX Saint John considers itself to be a four-star property, but I would have no hesitations about awarding it a fifth star in recognition of its high level of luxury, chic modern design, and top-notch service.
On arrival, you can almost miss the AX Saint John because the entrance blends in so well with the surrounding neighborhood buildings. You won’t find a sweeping facade or excessive branding out front, but rather a discrete entrance which, to the hotel’s great credit, helps preserve the authenticity and character of both the building itself as well as the historic area in which it is situated.
Once inside of the hotel, the first thing that strikes you is its classic boutique feel. The narrow hallway in front of you leading directly to a single elevator at the end even gives you a feeling of exclusivity, as if you’ve just entered a private villa in the heart of Valletta. At the end of that hallway in the heart of the building just shy of the elevator doors, you realize you’re actually standing in a sun-filled interior courtyard when you look up and see several floors of bright whitewashed walls, baby blue shutters, and vine-draped open windows above you.
Taking that elevator up to your room leads to an even more impressive experience. A charming but small hotel often comes with charmingly small rooms, but the rooms of the AX Saint John are quote sizable, not to mention beautifully adorned with a combination of stylishly modern and stylishly antique furniture and decorative elements. AX hotels is clearly a company that values attention to detail, which was evident everywhere from the choice of phones in the room to custom branded accents on the plush bedding.
But it’s not just the smaller things that impress when it comes to the AX Saint John’s rooms; the beds were so comfortable that I didn’t want to get back up after I laid down to rest upon arrival, causing me to miss nearly an hour of city exploration time, though with no regrets. I also had a bit of writing to get done while I was staying there, and I especially found the sleek desk and workstation to be quite productivity-inspiring. And although the quick flight over from Spain didn’t leave me particularly disheveled, I couldn’t help but want to take a nice hot shower just to get some use out of at least one of the room’s two bathrooms after I got a look at them.
My only regret about my stay at the AX Saint John in Valletta was that my visit was too brief. After a quick rest on arrival, I really felt obligated to go out and explore the city, leaving this magnificent oasis of a room and hotel behind in favor of getting in as much sightseeing as I could on my short stay. Now that I know how incredible Malta is, I’m definitely going to schedule more time to be there and soak in more of the experience, which will include not only more of the great sightseeing and bustling nightlife, but a longer stay at another fabulous AX Hotels property.