Valletta
A whistle stop tour of Strait Street today: the heart, soul and gut of Valletta
Here's what you'll find along Malta’s most notorious (and yummiest!) street

Jillian Mallia

Strait Street is known to be the most notorious street in all of the capital. Full of bars, brothels and shady characters, it was the place to be in the early part of the 20th century! Strait Street was then known as “The Gut” by the British, though it was anything but straight! The street is 665 metres in length but only 4 metres wide, and is referred to as Triq id-Dejqa (the narrow street) in Maltese.

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From the 1920s, until the end of the British rule, Strait Street was the pinnacle of nightlife, popular amongst American and British military men. Malta’s former red-light district was lined with music halls, bars and guest houses which were locked, barred and bolted in the '70s. Thankfully, recent restorations have given the street a much-needed facelift, and the lively feel of Valletta’s most popular street has returned.

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Nowadays, many locals and tourists alike head over to Strait Street to grab a bite to eat at one of the many pubs, bars and restos that Strait Street has to offer.

A secluded beginning

The top of Strait Street is mostly houses and offices. Some buildings are nicely done up, while others are in a dilapidated state, having been abandoned for years. Starting from one end of Strait Street is Trabuxu Wine Bar. This fantastic location can be found within a 400-year-old vaulted wine cellar. How cool is that?

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Further on is Ortygia, probably Valletta’s best Sicilian resto. Dining at Ortygia is a true foodie experience where you can indulge in the best Sicilian delicacies accompanied by the perfect bottle of wine.

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If you keep walking past many houses, you’ll come across a little snackbar called Frascati Caffe on the right-hand side, just opposite the Laferla offices. This is the perfect place for a quick bite, serving up the most delicious sandwiches you’ve ever tasted. This sweet café even greets its guests in the 5 different languages that are posted on the sign just outside!

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Did someone say gin and tapas? Yard 32 Gin and Tapas bar is a little further on from the crossroads - between Strait Street and St John’s Street. Just chill in with your glass of fancy gin while having a chat. What more could you want in life?

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As you continue the very long walk down this prominent street, you’ll come across the family law courts. Just on the corner, on the left, at the crossroads between Strait Street and St Lucia Street, you'll find The Corner (no pun intended). If you’re in a rush to catch a tour, or more likely, the next bus, stop here for a really quick bite that will leave you nothing short of satisfied.

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Just a few doors down from The Corner is the unmissable, luxurious and high-end Palazzo Preca on the left. Pop in for an unforgettable, five-star meal prepared by Chef Ramona Preca that will certainly have you coming back for more!

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A renovated heart

Further on from the prestigious Palazzo Preca is the Marks and Spencer Café. The café not only gives you the option to sit and sip on a warm cup of joe, but also doubles up as an M&S Foodstore, with shelves lined with the yummiest of treats.

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Just next door to M&S is the Italian bistro, Pappanis that serves up genuine and authentic Italian food that definitely won’t disappoint. Pappanis exudes a homey feeling thanks to the homemade fare that will trigger memories of your grandma’s cooking!

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Right opposite Pappanis is probably one of the best restobars in Strait Street. StrEat Whisky Bar & Bistro makes a mean cheese and cold cuts platter that is absolutely to die for! And not to mention the killer 1920s vibe decor. I absolutely love the concept.

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Next up, crossing through Old Theatre Street, there’s The Loop Bar on the left. You’ll literally stumble upon it. With super tasty food, this eatery serves up the best local wine for you to enjoy with your scrumptious meal.

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Futher down there’s the legendary Tico Tico bar. This backstreet boozer is the perfect place to kick back those drinks with your best mates. The relaxed atmosphere is perfect for you to wind down on any given day of the week, because hey, we don’t judge.

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Right next door there’s Larry’s Bistro. The top-notch place serves up the best dishes which will have your taste buds tickling for sure. The fantastic ambience and incredible hospitality at Larry’s will have you feeling like royalty!

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Rocks wine bar, further down the street, is a charming and quaint bar smack in the middle of Strait Street. You’ll be well looked after and your every wish will be catered for at Rocks. The rest of the block consists of barred up doors of former bars, restaurants and houses.

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At the end of the block there’s Splendid, and while it’s not a current bar or resto, it has a pretty spooky past which is worth mentioning. Back in the 19th century, Strait Street heaved with prostitution and crime. The Splendid was once a luxurious hotel, until it closed its doors in the late '60s, after a prostitute was found stabbed to death in one of the rooms’ bathrooms. Hold up, there’s more. The victim’s spirit is said to walk the empty hallways of the hotel, haunting curious explorers. Nowadays, the building has been turned into an art exhibition space.

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On the corner of Strait Street and Archbishop Street there’s a “fabulous little find” - Aaron’s Kitchen. This gem of a place has outstanding dishes that will definitely fill your bellies, and is the perfect spot to grab a pure Maltese dinner.

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A thirsty end

As you make your way towards the end of Strait Street, you’ll come across N Japanese Bistrot. The small but beautiful restaurant is “deliciously authentic” as described by its patrons and is probably one of the best Japanese restaurants on the island. I love me some sushi!

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Further down, there’s the notorious bar called The Thirsty Lawyer, which is Malta’s first concept eatery. The establishment is evocative of the street’s heyday and its colourful past, echoing the totally vibrant vibe of the 1920s. Dinner, or even just drinks, at The Thirsty Lawyer promises a unique experience with food and cocktails of the highest quality.

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Taking a few steps down the street, you’ll stumble across Alchemy Cocktail Bar and, by Jove, this cocktails bar is top-notch! Featuring an exclusive and cosy ambience, Alchemy presents naughty cocktails all done by mixologist Attila Felhősi and his fantastic team.  This one’s worth the walk down!

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And finally, towards the end of the 665m street, you can find the notorious Kennedy Bar and Bistro . The casual diner allows you to walk back through time reliving the days of Strait Street as a nightlife hub. With vintage decor - from the furnishings to the paintings - the bar looks exactly as it would have in its heyday. Not to mention it has the naughtiest of cocktail concoctions.

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Have you ever visited one of Strait Street’s bars and restos? Let us know what you think!

22nd February 2019


Jillian Mallia
Written by
Jillian Mallia
A book lover, writer and globetrotter who loves exploring new places and the local gems that the Maltese Islands have to offer. An avid foodie and arts fanatic, Jillian searches the island and beyond for the perfect settings to write about.

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