Valletta, the capital of Malta is the southernmost and the smallest European capital. It stretches just 1 km by 600 meters and is surrounded by water on three sides but has so much historic architecture that UNESCO designated the whole city a World Heritage Site. This small capital does not lack any charm with amazing history and beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea. It is all built in the baroque style with golden stone buildings, ornate churches, colourful balconies and narrow streets. In this blog, we are bringing you some interesting details about Valletta – the tiny but mighty capital of Malta.
Keep reading to find out what to explore in this charming little capital.
Enter the City Gate
Valletta is a city that is constantly going through some changes, even though it is an old city built within the fortification there is a lot of contemporary moments and places. That is the case with the City Gate. The first one was built in the 16th century and the one we are seeing today is built in 2014, so it is no longer exactly a historical monument. The Valletta residents are not so happy this gate and they weren’t happy about the one before – it just doesn’t show the baroque style of the city enough. But it is still a very important spot in this tiny city – it is the entrance to Republic Street, Valletta’s main boulevard.
© Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/ CC BY-SA 2.0
Walk to Pjazza Teatru Real
Pjazza Teatru Real is an interesting spot to see in Valletta, it is the former site of the Royal Opera House, one of the most elegant and imposing buildings in its time. The Royal Opera House was destroyed in WWII and for many decades there were only ruins on that spot. Not that many years ago that spot came to life when this modern open-air theatre was built and now the city has this amazing spot for concerts and other events. What makes the place more interesting are columns that are build and left in a half-ruined condition to remind us of the magnificent Royal Opera House.
© Enrique Iniguez Rodriguez/ CC BY-SA 4.0
Get inside St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Looking from outside you would never guess what a gem this cathedral is, it looks kind of plain. But when you get inside you will be amazed, really amazed. There is gold, gold everywhere! You just have to see the baroque style, its giant ceiling fresco and the luxurious marble floor. It is one of the most important spots in the city. When you get inside you can use the audio guide that you got when you paid the entrance fee. And don’t wear heels, it is forbidden so you don’t damage the marble floor.
© Pedro J Pacheco/ CC BY-SA 4.0
Explore the History of Malta
Malta is a small country but has a really interesting and eventful history. It was ruled by everyone from Greeks and Arabs to Turks and British. At the Museum of Archaeology, you will find out everything about Malta, starting from the first settlers documented more than 7.000 years ago. The museum is set in the baroque Auberge de Castille, that was a multi-purpose venue for the Knights. The star of this museum is the Sleeping Lady found at Hypogeum, 5.000 years old sculpture that you just have to see.
© Jvdc/ CC BY-SA 3.0
Check out the Views of Valletta From the Upper Barrakka Gardens
Everybody loves a nice panoramic view of the city they are visiting. So, to view the Valletta from the bird’s perspective go visit the Upper Barrakka Gardens and enjoy. The Gardens are set on the highest spot of the city and dominated by stone, pavers, and arches they are pretty amazing looking spots themselves, but the views are magnificent. If you want to escape the city rush this is the perfect place. And if you feel kind of lazy to get there by foot you can always do it by lift and that is the fastest way to do it.
© Oren Rozen/ CC BY-SA 4.0
Learn About Malta’s Best Kept Secret
Just below the Upper Barrakka Gardens, underground, there is a hidden place, the best-kept secret of Malta during WWII – The Lascaris War Rooms. It’s the place where leaders like General Eisenhower were directing battles in the Mediterranean. The Rooms are a great attraction just a few minutes walk from the center of Valletta and you can get there via the Upper Barrakka Gardens lift with glorious views of the Grand Harbour. If you get the guided tour you will find out some really interesting facts about the WWII battles and explore this ultra-secret network of underground tunnels and chambers.
© Frank Vincentz/ CC BY-SA 3.0
Admire the Palace of Grand Masters
The Palace of Grand Masters has been the administrative center of Malta for centuries, even today it is the President’s office. Set in the heart of Valletta it really deserves its place, it is seriously a landmark to admire. It is amazing outside and inside, blends perfectly in the surroundings but still stands out very much. When you get inside you will step back in time admiring beautiful portraits and frescoes and some rare collections of tapestries. The palace was also used as an armory from the 17th century, so you can see a pretty exciting collection of arms and armor.
Feeling Classy? Check out Casa Rocca Piccola
If you are wondering what life of the noblemen once looked like visit this amazing mansion Casa Rocca Piccola built by the Knights to show aesthetic and prestige. Not only that you will see what it looked like before but how are they living today, too. The mansion is still inhabited by a noble family de Piro and they are the ones who decided to open the doors of their 50 classy rooms to the public. You will love all the decorations, amazing collection of antiques, furniture, and other cool objects.
Discover St. James Cavalier Center for Creativity
Even though St. James Cavalier is a part of the fortification built in the 16th century, as a part of the defense system, what is inside it is not medieval at all. In this interesting space there is something for everyone: a cinema, a theatre, music rooms, and exhibition halls and café, it is a true cultural hotspot or Spazju Kreattiv which is Maltese for “creative space”.
© Frank Vincentz/ CC BY-SA 3.0
Enjoy the Valletta Waterfront
If you are interested in people watching step outside the walls and take a walk on the Valletta Waterfront. Buildings that you will see there were built to serve as warehouses in the 18th century but they were destroyed in WWII. You will notice that doors if the buildings are in different colors that symbolize different goods that were sold here: blue for fish, green for agricultural products, yellow for wheat, and red for wine. This gorgeous area is recently restored and reinvented as a center for leisure, shopping, and dining and where you will see the majority of departing ships and yachts. Sit in one of the restaurants, grab a glass on fine wine and enjoy the sunset and amazing yachts lined up in the harbor or even better – get on a boat and enjoy an amazing view of the city from another perspective, and don’t forget your glass of wine.
Do you now realize why we loved Valletta – the tiny but mighty capital of Malta? It is a city that you can explore on foot, where you will see some really amazing baroque buildings, cool gardens with even cooler views over the city. The combo of blue skies and sea and golden buildings makes really beautiful pictures. It is a city with an interesting history, so you will learn a lot of facts that you had no idea about. And you will relax and enjoy nights in this charming city. It is really worth visiting and we must say, it is budget friendly.
Need help exploring Valletta? Download our Cultural Places App and find our media guide through Malta’s capital and enjoy your stay.