Sitting in an ideal central Mediterranean Sea locale between Sicily and the North African coast, Malta’s archipelago is a confluence of Italian, Spanish, British, and North African influences.
This heady mix makes for a rich hospitality landscape; one that’s about to be elevated by a regenerative project that sees the most iconic building in the old harbour of Senglea reborn as the high-luxury 21-suite hotel Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour.
Here, against the backdrop of historical fortress walls belonging to the fortified city, a new darling opens its doors and remains at once a stunning testament to the past yet one that is awash in bespoke Scandic design. Expect the uncompromising luxury of a fine dining restaurant, a casual-cool lounge, and an unbeatable rooftop terrace and pool. And with Malta named as the European Capital of Culture 2018, there’s no better time to visit.
Part of the Three Cities in the Grand Harbour area, which also includes Birgu and Cospicua, Senglea is a fortified city in the Southeastern Region of Malta, and is much the cradle of Maltese history. Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour is part of the Cottonera Regeneration Project which has seen numerous developments that are changing the face of the historical harbourfront of Senglea.
As the first bastion of Malta, the iconic black crane—or Maċina—that was once housed here, used to welcome seafarers from near and far, hoisting ships for repair and mast changes. It’s from this piece of history that the locally treasured building bears its names, and for which now stands to represent the definition of modern Maltese hospitality.
Originally built in 1554, the landmark structure that now houses the hotel’s expansive 21 suites—all with unobstructed views of a magnificent harbor and surrounding marina—is home to high-vaulted ceilings, abundant glass, meter-thick limestone walls in parts, and a neutral palette of slate greys and earthy marble.
Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour’s suites are a glorious achievement in high-end luxury but it’s the five-meter-high vaulted ceilings and poured concrete floors that root the structural design concept by Maltese architect Edwin Mintoff. Opting to leave ample historical elements exposed, Mintoff preserved much of the charm of the old building, with oddities such as a 3.48m-meter walk to some of the windows of the suites, displaying the full depth of the impenetrable limestone walls.
Complementing Mintoff’s design prowess, creative director Keith Pillow also brought architects Barbara Cizler and Lisa Carson Work on board to realize the overall vision. Milanese design team Daaa Haus also contributed, bringing sleek Scandic aesthetics to the project with the use of lacquered raw steel, limed oak, Carrara marble, slate, lava stone, Maltese hardstone, and custom-tinted glass and mirrors.
All 21 suites are luxurious in size and appearance, ranging from 40 to 70 square meters. Elegant and comfortable, the suites are equipped with Milano sofa beds, large living rooms and bedrooms, and impressive mezzanines that float above custom-crafted bathrooms. Finishing touches by Tom Dixon and Flos & Louis Paulson sit with hand-tufted wool rugs, and Scandinavian and Italian furniture resides alongside locally-build custom pieces.
Two signature suite categories come in the form of the Macina Suite and the Presidential Suite, the former characterized by 130 square meters of living space and a prime bathtub located window-side. Both suite types boast full kitchenettes, while the Presidential Suite has an unbeatable harbour terrace.
all images © Elsa Allen