There are many reasons to visit the wonderful city of Valletta: stunning architecture, unique restaurants, quirky bars, wonderfully friendly people, and a friendly atmosphere to name just a few.
It has always been a valuable inclusion in the must-see list of things to do in Malta In 2018 and offers some wonderful sightseeing opportunities all year round.
This year, however, there is an additional, special reason to visit this exciting city: it’s recognition as the European Capital of Culture 2018.
What is the European Capital of Culture?
You may be reading and thinking…so what? Is that a big deal? Why does that matter?
The answers to which are: a) So quite a lot, b) Yes and c) For a huge number of reasons!
Originally known as the European City of Culture, the European Capital of Culture is an initiative set up in 1983 by Melina Mercouri, then the minister for culture in Greece.
It was developed with the intention of bringing Europe and Europeans closer together, by raising awareness of the common values and history shared by the people and to demonstrate and highlight the rich diversity of different European countries.
The programme also offers cities a chance for regeneration and growth, often funding new building projects and community initiatives, urban regeneration, and can boost the image of a previously little-known city to encourage and drive tourism.
Each year, a city is designated the European Capital of Culture by the Council of Ministers for the European Union, and so far over 40 countries have proudly held the title, with Valletta being the latest given the opportunity to show itself off to the world.
What is happening in Valletta?
The designation of Capital of Culture gives Valletta a chance to showcase and highlight Malta’s rich history, vibrant arts scene, and a vast range of cultural treasures.
In addition, the Valletta 2018 Foundation is using the opportunity to work on a series of Infrastructure Projects for the city, including the conservation and regeneration of a number of Valletta’s forgotten architectural gems.
These include the covered market (Is-Suq l-Antik Tal-Belt), and the old civil abattoir (il-Biccerija), where the Valletta Design Cluster will be established.
The aim is to create a city which stands as a centre of excellence and match the European standards which are enjoyed in other cities.
The Covered Market – Is-Suq Tal-Belt
This indoor market, dating back to the 1860’s, has long fallen into disuse and neglect.
The Foundation has given it a long overdue regeneration, remaining faithful to Valletta’s rich heritage and history.
It will provide jobs, and boots the social, cultural and economic activities of Valletta.
The Valletta Design Cluster
Launched as a Valetta 2018 flagship project in 2015, the abandoned Old Abbatoir site was formally designated as the base for the new Cluster, focusing on urban regeneration and development.
The Valetta Design Cluster aims to link education, industry support, awareness building, research and policy initiatives times at strengthening the contribution design can make to social and economic well-being.
As a direct result of this, the Cluster has worked with the government on policy and design activity in Malta, as well as working on educational initiatives and training, offering a wealth of new opportunities for Maltese citizens.
Another project is Muza: the idea of making art accessible to all by creating a new flagship art museum, housed at the Auberge d’Italie a sixteenth-century building used as the seat and residence of the Italian Knights of the Order of St John.
The museum will tell stories about the geographical, historical and cultural past of Malta using displays, exhibitions and objects, and will serve to make art accessible to everyone, spreading knowledge, understanding and enjoyment.
In addition to the incredible projects being supported and driven by the Foundation, Valletta’s title as Capital of Culture is also a chance for celebration and exhibition of the cultural treasures of Malta.
The celebrations started with a bold, bright opening ceremony and event in January, and the range of art, music, carnival, theatre, education and more will continue throughout 2018.
Here are the top three must-see highlights coming up this year:
Spazji Teatrali: A Catalogue of Theatres in Malta and Gozo
This is an exploration of the 78 theatres all across Malta and Gozo, examining each theatre’s technical, artistic and general physical qualities. It works as part of the ‘Culture Map Valletta’, an online resource which maps over 4000 cultural spaces across the Maltese Islands.
The Other Europeans
A unique, immersive cultural experience which allows 14 leading klezmer (Yiddish) and lautari (Roma) musicals to lead a multicultural musical experience, intending to build and develop cultural relationships through the power of music.
3. The Valetta International Baroque Festival
An annual festival which celebrated the quintessential ‘Baroque-ness’ of Valletta.
This event always features a range high profile artists, performers and exhibitions, and will be elevated further this year due to the new status of the city, allowing the Baroque to be spread even further.
2018 is truly Valletta’s year. A chance for change, improvement, regeneration. An opportunity to celebrate, to learn and to discover.
With so many incredible events and projects going on, there is truly something for everyone to learn and enjoy in 2018’s Capital of Culture!