A Guide to Malta’s Capital City: Valletta

valletta malta

What to do when in Valletta

This is the city you cannot miss. It’s full to the brim with culture and history and all that you could want to really fill your day with fun and diverse activities.

This is the Fortress City, that was named after its founder the Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, of the Order of St. John. The building of the city commenced in 1566 and was completed within the span of 15 years. The gateway was eventually widened more than the original, and now the original gateway has been completely replaced and the Parliament placed at the entrance to the city.

the railway from valletta to mdina

Interestingly a railway used to run from Valletta all the way up to Mdina; it was officially opened in 1883. Unfortunately it was closed down by 1931 when buses were introduced.

The architecture ranges from mid-16th century Baroque to Post-Modernism. Valletta is because of this, and other reasons, Malta’s cultural centre. There are a great collection of churches, palaces and a couple museums; the streets are arranged in a grid system but it is still quite easy to get your bearings.

Being a Tourist

Tourists have such an admiration for foreign countries – it’s amazing. Sometimes, it’s good for locals to be tourists of our their country once in a while. You can really take the time to appreciate what you have as a country, your history and what you’ve inherited.

So whether you’re a tourist, or a local, Valletta is the place to undertake such an exercise with ease. If you want to be a tourist in the proper sense of the word, these might be a few places you want to check out.

SITES

Parliament Buildings – Republic Street

There isn’t a lot to see, yet it is worth going through the building and checking out the entrance to the city. It’s pretty modern and very different to anything you will see in the city. The same goes for the open theatre right next to Parliament.

Royal Opera House – Republic Street

This used to be a gorgeous theatre, yet it was damaged during the war and was never repaired to its former glory. It has now been restored and is used as a concert space. There are also various exhibits at times so it’s worth going in to have a look and possibly enjoy a recital under the stars.

opera house valletta malta

St. John’s Co-Cathedral – St. John’s Street

This is quite a landmark, if you do not go into the museum you should simply walk in and admire the designs and architecture. Without a doubt it has become the most popular place to go to.

In the museum is housed the famous beheading of St. John by Caravaggio.

Grandmasters Palace (Palace State Rooms & Armoury) – St. George’s Square

This was the main building occupied by the Order of the Knights of St. John in 1566 and served as the Governor’s Palace during British rule. It was also used for a time as the office of the President.

This Palace was the first thing the Knights erected once they were on the island. The Palace State Rooms and its halls have been expanded and worked upon throughout the years. They hold a collection of art works and heritage that have been purposely produced or presented at different times to the Maltese government.

The Palace Armoury houses the largest original collection of arms and armour that have stayed in the same location.

Tickets for the Palace and Armoury can be bought together, and they are open from 10-4:30p.m.

Upper & Lower Barrakka Gardens – east of Castille & Triq Lvant

The Gardens are the best spot if you want to get some tranquil time. It boasts a great view over the Grand Harbour and also overlooks the Saluting Battery. So grab a drink and a snack, and take in the view!

The Upper Barrakka also offers access to the harbour quay below, and the lift can be used to get to the Valletta Waterfront.

The Lower Barrakka Gardens are situated on the opposite end of the same street. It is located opposite the Siege Bell War Memorial, and can be easily recognised by the arches lining the harbour. These Gardens are not as popular as the Upper one, and so can be more of an escape.

CULTURE

Manoel Theatre – 115, Old Theatre Street

This is the national theatre space. It was built in 1731 and is the third-oldest active theatre in Europe. You can book to see a performance which aren’t quite frequent, or you can go in for a tour of the place, which will not take too long.

jazz festival valletta

Caffe Cordina – Republic Street

This is probably the longest standing and most popular cafe in the city. It’s been around for so long and they still make delicious traditional Maltese sweets and savouries.

St. James Cavalier – Castille Palace  

This building is situated just behind the Church of Our Lady of Victories. It was originally one of the fortifications and functioned as a gun platform. The Cavalier is now used as the Centre for Creativity.

It offers an exhibition and performance space.

valletta by night

National Library – 36, Old Treasury Street

This was one of the last buildings erected in Valletta, in 1776. It was built in a neoclassical design. It holds an extensive library, most of the books having been donated to the order by the deceased Knights, and there are also a few temporary exhibitions on display.

The National Library are always looking for assistance and volunteer so that they can work to maintain their collection.

National Museum of Archeology – Auberge de Provence, Republic Street

This museum houses artefacts that date back to 5200 BC, and tell a story of Malta’s earliest inhabitants. There are also quite a lot of highly artistic figurines and rock carvings, recovered from the sites of the Neolithic Temples on the island, such as the sleeping lady, the Venus of Malta and the Horus and Anubis pendant.

The museum is open from 9-5/6p.m. and there is a fee to get in.

Fort St. Elmo and National War Museum

The museum houses a collection of items that date back to prehistoric times.

You do need to buy a ticket to enter, and the museum is open from 9-5/6p.m.

LEISURE

Shopping

There are so many outlets you can shop at, Valletta has become a mini version of Sliema. With the main street – Republic Street – and it’s adjacent streets hosting most of them. There are two small complexes as well, Old Theatre and Merchant Street having the other main shops in the city.

Bars and restaurants

Such leisure areas seem to be cropping up everywhere in Valletta. You’ll find many restaurants are very casual and relaxed, with a few of them being very exclusive.

Sit down under an umbrella and take in the view.

Boutique hotels

If you’re looking to stay in the city for your stay, or you simply love the energy Valletta has then you might want to stay at one of the palazzo’s being converted into hotels. Some even have pools on their rooftops so that you can truly enjoy a panoramic view of the island.

Thanks for reading our blog, we hope that it has been helpful and informative. Have a look at our previous blogs:

A Guide to Rabat & Mdina 

Shopping in Malta like a Pro

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See you next week!