Valletta
Best of Valletta: 7 essential things to do in a day in the capital
With so much to do, here's how to make the best of your day in Valletta, so you can tick all the boxes!

Melanie Drury

A day in Valletta

Spending a day in the capital city of Malta and not sure how to squeeze the best out of it? Here's an itinerary that's got a little bit of everything for a varied day that includes history, art, gardens, views, shopping, relaxation and more, all rolled into one. Have a great time!

1. Visit St John's Co-Cathedral

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The jewel of Valletta, St John’s Co-Cathedral certainly looks like one. The Knights of Malta built the city and, being a religious military order and known to somewhat overlook their vow of poverty, the luxury- and art-loving Knights did not hold back on the embellishment of their church. Prepare yourself to be awe-struck by the gilded golden walls, mosaic marble tomb floor and numerous paintings, including Caravaggio’s only signed piece: The Beheading of St John. Valletta's most iconic masterpiece - check!

2. Watch a movie

That’s right, we're sending you to the cinema -but this is a special film! The Valletta Living History show will give you the low-down on what Valletta is about, how it came to exist and what it’s been through, in just 35 minutes. It certainly adds to your appreciation of where you are once you actually know.

Alternatively, check out the Malta Experience at Fort St Elmo. The combined ticket also allows admission to the fort and the National War Museum as well as the Sacra Infermeria, the old hospital of the Knights Hospitallers, plus a cafeteria and a souvenir shop.

3. Pick a museum and check it out

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How about the National Museum of Archaeology housed inside an Auberge of the Knights? Or Casa Rocca Piccola, an ex-residence of an important Knight? Or even the Grand Master’s Palace itself. Perhaps you prefer the National War Museum housed within Fort St Elmo itself. Or why not learn all there is to know about Malta’s fortifications at the interactive Fortifications Interpretation Centre? Perhaps more interesting to you is living history such as the Lascaris War Rooms, original war headquarters from World War II. Or are you a pacifist that would prefer the MUZA museum of fine arts over all that war-talk? If history and art don’t tickle your fancy, why not head to the Toy Museum or the much loved Postal Museum? Whichever one you go for, it promises to be good.

And if none of that really inspires you, spend time wandering Valletta’s streets - described as “one of the world’s densest historic areas” by UNESCO, the city is verily an open-air museum anyway!

4. Go to the Upper Barrakka Gardens for a compulsory photo of Grand Harbour

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Head there before noon so that you can also witness the saluting battery firing canon shots at midday. There is much to impress you here, with or without canon fires - apart from the beautiful architecture and garden at the Upper Barrakka, the view here is just jaw dropping. The Grand Harbour is a wonderful sight to behold and this vantage point overlooks the Three Cities and their impressive forts and fortifications, acting as a backdrop to massive cruise liners. If you fancy, take the glass lift down to the Valletta Waterfront to have lunch at one of the restaurants at the refurbished historic Pinto Wharf.

5. Do a spot of shopping

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The capital city of Valletta is, as one might assume, a flourishing business centre. The main Republic Street is always busy during business hours, with suited businessmen and lawyers rubbing shoulders with locals going about their errands as well as hundreds of shoppers. Valletta is, indeed, the best place to shop in Malta. Practically all the top brands have an outlet in Valletta, not to speak of several other shops you’ll be glad to discover.

6. Relax with a coffee in Pjazza Regina

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How about experiencing authentic pjazza culture for a little while (you may need a rest after trundling bags of shopping around the city)? Sunshine, the coo of pigeons and watching the world go by while you sit outside Caffe Cordina (established 1837), for example. You'll be sitting in the company of Queen Victoria, commanding the square which is named after her.

7. Head across the harbour on a boat

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Just to put a cherry on the cake, add a little something different to your Valletta visit by experiencing it from the water. Whether you take the ferry to Sliema across Marsamxett Harbour or to Birgu across the Grand Harbour, those bastioned city walls look even more impressive from the water. Some excellent photo opportunities also here!

We trust you'll have a great day. And if there's something about Valletta that you feel really should be on this list, please let us know!


Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.

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