Valletta, Malta’s Capital city, has many titles, all recalling its rich historical past: The Fortress City, Città Umilissima, A city built by Gentlemen for Gentlemen.
In fact, Valletta Valletta is named after its founder, the respected Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette (you can see his statue holding the map of the town).
Where is it located?
Geographically, it is located in the South Eastern Region, in the central-eastern portion of the main island of Malta.
Valletta is not only the capital of Malta but also the southernmost capital of Europe and the second southernmost capital of the European Union after Nicosia.
The Knights of St John after the successful outcome of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, decided to move the capital city that was Mdina, on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply from two deep harbours, Marsamxett (facing Sliema) and Grand Harbour (overlooking on the Three Cities).
The construction of the magnificent fortress city of Valletta started in 1566. It took 15 years to complete Valletta’s impressive bastions, forts and the famous Co-Cathedral of St John, a remarkable work considering the fact that mechanical tools did not exist at the time and the whole city was built entirely by hand. The Order of St. John’s rule in Malta was brought to an end by arrival of the French in Malta led by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. The rule of the French did not last long however. Just three months after their arrival the Maltese rebelled and with the assistance of the British, Malta got rid of the French invaders. The British took over Malta and transformed it into one of their many colonies.
Malta had an important role in WW I as well as in the Second World War. Though the Second World War left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of the Royal Opera House, reopened as open-air theatre in 2013.
The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.
Valletta will be hosting the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018 with a partner Dutch city, Leeuwarden.
What to see and what to do in Valletta
Valletta is a masterpiece of the Baroque; a European Art City and a World Heritage City. Today, it is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.
Therefore, you will surely have lots to visit and experience in Valletta during your holiday!
The city is busy by day, with Valletta’s main streets (Republic Street) inviting you for a shopping time in the larger international branded shops while the narrow side streets are full of tiny quaint shops and cafés. Every corner of the city is rich in history and beauty: votive statues, niches, fountains and coats of arms high up on parapets.
In the evening is charming and quite but yet lively for the lovers of music and after dinner socialize especially the lively Strait Street area or so called “Strada Stretta” popular for its pubs and restaurants offering entertainment all year around.
Valletta can be easily explored on foot or on the little train tour.
To not miss
Valletta’s Beautiful Gardens
- Hastings Gardens at the entrance of the city.
- The Upper Barrakka Gardens and the Lower Barrakka Gardens. From the Upper Barrakka Gardens it is also possible to see the Saluting Battery as well as take the lift down the bastions to sea level and at the Waterfront take a ferry for the Three Cities.
- St John’s co-Cathedral and museum are definitely not to be missed, this elaborately adorned church is home to world famous artistic masterpieces by Caravaggio and Mattia Preti.
- The Palace State Rooms are the show piece of the Presidential Palace sited at the heart of Malta’s World Heritage capital city of Valletta. The Palace itself was one of the first buildings in the new city of Valletta founded by Grand Master Jean de Valette in 1566.
- The Palace Armoury is certainly one of the most visible and tangible symbols of the past glories of the Sovereign Hospitaller Military Order of Malta. The Palace is one of the world’s largest collections of arms and armour that is still housed in its original building.
- National Museum of Archaeology exhibits a spectacular range of artefacts dating back to Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). Highlights of the Museum are the ‘Sleeping Lady’ (from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum), the ‘Venus of Malta’ (from Ħaġar Qim), click here to explore the site with Flora the Explorer.
- Fort St Elmo – National War Museum Hosted by Fort St Elmo, houses a superb collection of items which takes us back to prehistoric times. click here to explore the site with Flora the Explorer, click here.
- The National Museum of Fine Arts is a Rococo palace dating back to the late 1570s, which served as the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet during the British era from the 1820s onwards.
- The Manoel Theatre was constructed in just ten months in 1731, by order of Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena, and is one of the oldest working theatres in Europe.
For more information about museums and tickets, please click Heritage Malta.
Valletta’s Palaces or Aubergie
Apart from beautiful Baroque churches and museums other places of interest include the various Grandmaster auberges, as:
- The Auberge de Castille et Leon, formerly the official seat of the Knights of Malta of the Langue of Castille, Léon and Portugal, is now the office of the Prime Minister of Malta.
- The Mediterranean Conference Centre was formerly the Sacra Infermeria. Built in 1574, it was one of Europe’s most renowned hospitals during the Renaissance.
The Valletta Waterfront
From the Barrakka Garden you can take the lift and then walk towards the Valletta Waterfront that is actually a promenade in Floriana, mainly featuring three prominent buildings:
- a church in the middle,
- the Pinto Stores or the Pinto Wharf on the left,
- and the Forni Stores or the Forni Shopping Complex on the right.
The buildings were originally stores and warehouses, built in the 18th century, and the design is attributed to Andrea Belli. The area is now a hub in Malta’s cruise liner business as the Forni Cruise Passenger Terminal, and hosts a concentration of bars, retail outlets and restaurants. The area was and remains a venue for several concerts and events.
Culture and Feasts
- Saint James Cavalier, originally a raised gun platform, was converted into a Centre of Creativity in the year 2000 as part of Malta’s Millennium Project. It now houses a small theatre, a cinema, music rooms and art galleries. Various exhibitions are regularly held there. Since it was opened it has welcomed over a million visitors.
- The Valletta International Baroque Festival is held every year in January. Jazz music in Malta was introduced in the Strait Street area, frequented by Allied sailors during both world wars. Malta’s Jazz Festival took place here.
- Valletta is the scene of the Maltese Carnival, held in February leading up to Lent.
- Don’t miss out the Saint Patron Feast or Saint Paul’s Feast that is celebrated on 10 February and assist at the colourful Band and procession.
- Valletta is also beautiful two experience during the Notte Bianca (usually held on the first days of October) or during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve Season.
Flora the Explorer will accompany you in her explorations
around Valletta and Malta 😉
Find out more in her Blog exploring-malta.com
Explore, Experience and Enjoy Malta with Flora the Explorer