It’s little wonder that Malta has long beguiled both conquerors and restless travellers alike. Pale gold in its silhouette and rimmed by the Strait of Sicily to the north and the Mediterranean to the south, the island literally shimmers in the light, leading one to wonder why it’s taken so long for a hotel like the Cugó Gran to come along. 

Carved in the mid-16th-century out of the same soft sandstone that makes Malta’s architecture so pleasingly unified, the handsome rectilinear bulk in Senglea, the island’s southeastern port city, takes its name from the massive steel crane that was once attached to it. 

Inside, architect Edwin Mintoff and interior designer Daaa Haus have created 21 suites, each with front-row views of the harbour. Judicious lashings of up-lights accent the high vaulted ceilings, whilst a mix of low-slung Scandinavian furniture, lacquered steel, slate floors, oak panels and Carrara marble bathroom tops create the impression of a cocooned cloister. 

On a clear day, which, in Malta, is practically year-round, Valletta is visible from the rooftop pool deck, which also serves as the venue for morning yoga and pilates. 

At night, the Birgu waterfront hums with seafood restaurants and lively bistros, though more sedentary types may prefer to stay put at the in-house restaurant headed by executive chef Chris Hammett.