Valletta, the capital of Malta, the city of the Knights of St John, and the European Capital of Culture 2018, is a larger than life attraction despite its meagre area of 55 ha. UNESCO describes Valletta as "one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world" featuring impressive forts and fortifications, wonderful palaces and Auberges of the Knights of Malta, and several more places of interest. Add to that the captivating cultural events in the city and you may become quite overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to do in Valletta. Allow us to guide you if you're visiting this October.
1. Explore the historic elements of the city
The absolute must-sees that highlight Baroque beauty include St John's Co-Cathedral with its gilded gold walls, mosaic tomb floors and Caravaggio painting of the Beheading of St John; the Grand Master’s Palace, today the office of the President; Auberge de Castille, now the office of the Prime Minister; the National Museum of Archaeology housed in the Auberge de Provence; the Muza museum of art housed within the Auberge d'Italie (opening later this month!); and Casa Rocca Piccola, a historic noble residence that's now an open museum. And that's not to mention the wonderful squares, picturesque streets and gardens, oh and the stunning views, especially the one of the Grand Harbour from the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
2. Relish some extraordinary plays & performances
Entertain yourself with some intriguing performances coming to Valletta this month. A strange amalgam of tragedy and fiercely black comedy arrives in The Jew of Malta, 5-14 October, a fast-moving play by Christopher Marlow that will remind you of a Quentin Tarantino script. On 19-20 October, in Orfeo & Majnun, we can expect a theatre of emotions of love, loss and longing in the cultural overlap of the Middle Eastern legend of Layla and Majnun and the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; to this effect, the narration interweaves Maltese, English and Arabic and the score combines oriental and occidental styles. The music-theatre performance of Orfeo & Majnun will further include a parade whereby participants will meet surprises in the form of song, dance, short performances, storytelling, music-making, bands and many other forms of artistic expression on every street corner. And let's not forget the regular live events happening at the Beer Cave and other locations across Valletta throughout 2018.
3. Enjoy some thought-provoking visual arts
October in Valletta brings us food for thought. See how the film 18 Comidas/18 Meals on 3rd October highlights the human journey related to the most universal of struggles: the search for happiness. In various scenarios set around a table, we gain insight into various relationships in all their fascinating diversity and field of emotions. Thereafter, during the Rima Film Festival on 12-14 October, we embark on a journey of exile and migration told through the diverse and subjective experiences of those who have experienced exile.
Were this not enough, we go a step further in a visual art exhibition that elimintes the 'visual' aspect replacing it for 'tactile'. Tactile takes us into the world of the visually impaired in an exhibition of 12 concealed sculptures which leaves its audience to experience them only through the sense of touch. Now that's different!
4. Indulge in wining & dining
Remember we said Valletta has a total area of just 55 ha? Within that space, amid all the extraordinary history and culture are also many culinary delights. Here's our list of almost 150 delightful restaurants in Valletta to choose from, ranging from small hole-in-the-wall establishments that are big in character to fine dining establishments with vast sea views. Don't miss out on the variety of wine bars that are one of Valletta's iconic features; you'll find these hidden in the city's cellars.
Another 'must do' is a visit to the Valletta Waterfront, with its historical 250-year-old warehouses - built by Grand Master Pinto at the height of the baroque period in Malta - converted to chic food and beverage establishments overlooking the picturesque Grand Harbour.
5. Check out these huge special events
On 6th October, the entire city of Valletta comes alive through the night! During the Notte Bianca event, the Auberges, palaces, museums, churches and chapels welcome visitors, while street performers, live music of all kinds and art installations bring spirit to the streets, and retail shops, cafes, restaurants and wine bars are open for business.
For something truly spectacular and photo-worthy, see the start of one of the biggest sailing races in the Mediterranean departing from the seas around Valletta. The Rolex Middle Sea Race follows a course that's a clockwise circumnavigation of Sicily, including Lampedusa, Pantelleria and the Egadian and Aeolian islands, back to Malta. The starting gun of the 50th anniversary edition of this prestigious race goes off on 20th October.
Now you know where to go and when to go to enjoy the best Valletta has to offer, it's a whole lot easier, isn't it?