Valletta
Discovering Valletta! There's no place like Malta's magical capital city
Home to countless historical treasures, its grid-like streets feature an impressive array of cultural attractions, exceptional eateries, trendy watering holes and stylish places to sleep.

GMM Team

Likened to one big, open-air museum, the capital city of Valletta is an attraction in its own right. Brimming with architectural wonders, historical marvels and trendy hotspots, the capital city has something in store for everyone, no matter what you’re after.

Taking its name from Jean de la Valette, the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of St John who founded it in 1566, Valletta is a city steeped in history – a history that’s written in its very walls. The capital’s grid-like streets – which are protected by impenetrably thick walls that were built to defend it from an impending Ottoman invasion at the time – house several architectural gems, from niches carved into street corners to palazzos that are hundreds of years old. So, it’s just as well that car access here is limited – there really is no better way to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site than on foot.

Discovering Valletta

Start your tour through the Renzo Piano-designed City Gate, which will lead you to the main thoroughfares – the pedestrianised Republic Street and Merchants Street. From there, head to de Valette Square, a stone’s throw away from the majestic Auberge de Castille. Today, this auberge houses the office of the Prime Minister, and while it’s not open to visitors, it’s worth admiring from the outside. Back to de Valette Square, you can see the first church to be built in Valletta, dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, erected in thanksgiving for the Knights’ Great Siege victory over the Ottomans.

Then, stroll along the city’s main street, Republic Street. It’s lined with several shops, cafés and restaurants which make it a great spot for some retail therapy or to cool off with a refreshing drink, but there are some incredible sightseeing stops along the way you won’t want to miss, too! First is the world-famous St John’s Co-Cathedral, a veritable treasure trove of Baroque art and architecture. Inside, you’ll find countless, invaluable works of art, including Caravaggio’s ‘The Beheading of St John the Baptist’, as well as priceless tapestries, tombstones, monuments, and artefacts. From here, walk over to nearby Merchants Street for a visit to Is-Suq tal-Belt, a lively food hall and market.

Further down from the Co-Cathedral is the largest square in Valletta, St George’s Square. Here, you’ll see the beautiful Grand Master’s Palace, itself the seat of authority from 1571 until 2015, when Parliament moved to Piano’s new building in City Gate.

Further still, in the lower boroughs of the capital, a visit to Fort St Elmo (pictured above) is another must for history buffs. The star-shaped fort played a pivotal role in the Great Siege of 1565 and is also a perfect spot to take in some stunning, panoramic views of the city’s harbours.

If you’re looking for some respite amid natural surroundings, Valletta is also home to several beautiful gardens. One of the largest, and most scenic, is the Upper Barakka Gardens, which provides one of the best views of Grand Harbour, with the majestic Three Cities as its backdrop. Nearby, Hastings Garden is another stunning spot, affording lovely views of Marsamxett Harbour.

A top tip: if you can, time your visit to the Upper Barrakka Gardens to experience the gun salute that goes off at noon every day from the Saluting Battery below. It’s quite the spectacle! From here, you can also take the Barrakka lift down to the Valletta Waterfront, a promenade lined with 18th-century warehouses that have been restored to house trendy bars and restaurants, for a meal with a gorgeous view of Fort St Angelo across the water. Still, there’s no shortage of places to wine and dine wherever you are in the capital – from quaint snack bars to casual eateries and Michelin-star restaurants, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

This feature was first carried out in the Malta Insider International Visitors' Guide 2023/2024.

12th August 2023


gmm team
Written by
GuideMeMalta.com
This article was written by a GuideMeMalta team member.

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