Valletta has been called a Mediterranean gem and, quite frankly, it’s not very hard to see why. The historical city has been ruled by many cultures, each leaving incredible secrets which are being discovered to this very day. And the backstreets of Malta’s capital have more than their fair share!
1. Triq il-Ganċ
Actually an extension of St John’s Street, this street has a pretty hilarious story behind its name. On one side, at the top of the street, there’s a hook in the wall. Just passing by it, you’d think it was probably used to tie ropes or something. At least that’s what I thought! However, it is said that Knights were asked to climb through the hook to test their soberness, especially if they were caught drunk on duty! The Knights knew how to have fun in a serious situation, I guess!
2. St John’s Street
St John’s Street is naturally named after the grand Co-Cathedral of St John, built by the Knights in the late 16th century in a bold Baroque style. Recently renovated, the church has now been restored to its former glory, and the changes have included the refurbishment of the three clocks on the facade. Why three clocks, you ask? The three clocks show the time, the date and the day respectively. So, if by any chance a wave of amnesia hits and you forget what day it is, just look up!
3. Old Theatre Street
Old Theatre Street is known to be the home of the prestigious Manoel Theatre. Further on, in the same road, there is a sort of bridge connecting the Grand Master’s Palace to the National Library. During the time of the Knights’, the bridge was probably used to transfer money from the library to the palace since the Conservatoria, where gold and silver were kept, were once housed in the library. Not the safest of places, but it worked! The bridge is similar to Italian courthouses, where prisoners would take their final look at the outside world before serving time in prison. The similarities are uncanny, but there is no evidence that there was a prison on site.
4. Merchants Street
This street was the jack of all trades, and quite literally. It hosts various palazzos, casas, and auberges, such as the 16th century Auberge d’Italie. A yummy hub that’s an absolute must-try is Is-Suq tal-Belt, meaning Valletta’s market. The 19th century covered market was the first building to be constructed mostly out of iron and stands on the 16th century square formerly known as Piazza del Malcantone. Unfortunately it suffered extensive damage during World War II and was left in a derelict state. In January 2018, it was reopened as the food market that we know (and love!) today.
5. Archbishop Street
Archbishop Street is off the beaten path but worth the visit nonetheless. Like most backstreets in the capital, Archbishop street is a connector, but one of the more popular ones. This street has a statue of saints, angels, and holy figures on practically every corner. It is said that the statues watch over people wandering the streets.
6. St Ursula Street
St Ursula’s Street is one of those streets in Valletta that is used to cross from one main artery to another. But it also is where Valletta's citizens get on with their day-to-day. Traditional Maltese balconies line the street in every colour, giving it a vibrant look.
7. St Christopher Street
Boy, do we love our saints! Just like Archbishop Street and St Ursula Street, St Christopher Street is another connector. Like in many streets of the capital, various housings have been abandoned and are in dire need of restoration. Unfortunately, many houses with traditional features like the balconies in St Ursula Street are left to the test of time.
Which Valletta street is your favourite?