Valletta has been built on a peninsula in the central eastern part of Malta and has a population of just over 6000 people. Valletta is named after the French Grandmaster Jean Parisot De La Valette who headed the defence of Malta from the Ottoman invasion in 1565. The entire city of Valletta has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Valletta boasts many buildings from the 16th century, mostly baroque architecture that was built by the Knights of St. John. Amongst them is the majestic St. John’s Cathedral, several auberges that hosted the Knights in their times, the bastions surrounding the city, and several gardens. In fact, one could say that Valletta is actually a monument donated by the Knights.
Nowadays, Valletta hosts the National Parliament, the Law Courts, many Government Ministries and Departments, Administrative Offices, museums and plenty of shopping opportunities. The streets have a grid-like shape, so one could never really get lost while navigating through this open air museum. The city is busy by day, but the Upper & Lower Barrakka Gardens offer a calm spot with incredible views of the Grand Harbour. Then as the sun sets, Valletta calms down and turns into a magic fortified city where the architecture stands out under the gentle lighting. Yet, with plenty of cafes, wine bars, theatres, exhibitions and other cultural events from time to time, Valletta is a living city all year long.
Things to see and do:
Malta National Museum of Archaeology: This museum displays magnificent items from Malta's prehistory - including ornaments, pottery and tools.
Malta National War Museum: This museum represents the role that Malta had in the World Wars, presenting a collection of memorabilia from the war period.
Malta National Museum of Fine Arts: This museum has a sizeable collection of paintings and valuable local silverware, statues made of marble, bronze and wood, fine furniture objects and fine majolica pieces.
Lascaris War Rooms: Visit Malta's most well-kept secret from World War Two.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral: St. John’s Cathedral is a precious jewel from the 16th century located in the heart of Valletta. It was the religious seat for the Knights of St. John, who enriched this place with the finest artefacts.
Anglican Cathedral of St. Paul: This Cathedral is one of the few Anglican sites present in Malta. Located in Independence Square, it rises above the skyline with a steeple 65 metres high.
Church of Our Lady of Victory: This small church was the first building to be constructed in Valletta after the Great Siege. It was the religious seat of the Knights until St. John’s Cathedral was built.
Collegiate Parish Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck: This church is amongst the oldest and the most important churches in Malta, since it holds precious works of art as well as a relic from the spiritual father of the Maltese people, St. Paul.
The Grandmaster’s Palace & The State Rooms: This palace is located in the heart of Valletta and holds the President’s Office and the Parliament. It has splendid rooms and a fine armoury section.
The Palace Armoury: The Palace Armoury presents an impressive collection of armoury dating back to times of the Knights of St. John.
Casa Rocca Piccola: A privately owned home that offers an insight about the Maltese nobility over the last 400 years. It has over 50 rooms and a collection of furniture, silver artefacts and paintings.
St. James Cavalier: St. James Cavalier is a 16th century fort, which nowadays hosts a small theatre, a cinema, a cafe, music room and galleries.
Fort St. Elmo: Fort Saint Elmo is an important fortification that stands at the edge of Valletta; overseeing the entrances of both Marsamxett Harbour and the Grand Harbour.
Manoel Theatre: The Manoel Theatre was constructed in 1731, but it's still in use today, holding a range of performances by various artists. The Manoel Theatre Museum portrays a powerful background of the fascinating history of the Manoel Theatre and the Royal Opera House that was destroyed during the Second World War.
National Library of Malta: Almost hidden by the cafes in Republic Square, the National Library of Malta (also known as Bibliotheca) is currently the legal deposit and copyright for Malta. The collection spans the personal libraries, the archives and treasury manuscripts of the Knights of St. John, including archives from the medieval Università dei Giurati of Mdina and Valletta.
Hastings Gardens: Located on top of the bastions on the West side of the entrance to Valletta, the recently-embellished Hastings Gardens offer a magnificent view of the Marsamxett Harbour.
Victoria Gate: Victoria Gate is the main gate that leads from Valletta to the Grand Harbour. It substituted the quaint ‘Porta del Monte’ and was planned during the times of Sir Arthur Borton, who laid the foundation stone in 1884. Victoria gate was opened to the public in 1885. The wider arched entrances provided access to carriages, riders and vehicles, while pedestrians walked through the smaller doors on the sides. The arched entrances are decorated by Malta and Valletta’s coats of arms while the top part is greatly decorated in the British style.
The Siege Bell Memorial: Overlooking the Great Harbour of Valletta, is the 10-ton bronze Siege Bell memorial that was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth and the President of Malta at the time, Dr. Censu Tabone, on the 29th May 1992, coinciding with the 50th anniversary from the award of the George Cross in 1942. The bell is mounted in a limestone tower, at the foot of which is a bronze figure representing the 7000 civilians and armed forces that died in Malta during the World War II between 1940 and 1943. The bell is rung daily, at noon.
The Law Courts: The Maltese Law Courts replace the Knights’ Auberge d’Auvergne, built in 1570 and completely destroyed by a German parachute mine during World War II. The current building was built in the late sixties in a classical design. The Law Courts were inaugurated on the 9th of January, 1971 by the Prime Minister of the time Dr. George Borg Olivier and other distinguished guests. The first case to be heard at these Law Courts was scheduled for the 11th January, 1971 and was an appeal placed by two Sicilians in opposition to their extradition.
The Mediterranean Conference Centre: Adjacent to Fort St. Elmo and overlooking the Grand Harbour is one of the most impressive buildings of Valletta. The Mediterranean Conference Centre, which was used as a hospital for many years, is now used as a conference and exhibition space.
The Malta Experience: The Malta Experience is an audio-visual show covering 7,000 years of Malta’s history. In 45 minutes, you will be taken on a journey to discover what happened since the early settlers first landed on the island, up until the recent history of the Second World War.
The Valletta Waterfront: The Valletta Waterfront is the gateway to Valletta if one is arriving by sea. More than half-a-million cruise passengers arrive annually in this attraction; that has impressive backdrop of the Grand harbour on one side and the elegant front and Valletta fortifications on the other side. The front has been recently renovated and now it offers an impressive number of facilities for cruise passengers and locals alike. There are a number of cafes, wine bars, alfresco dining, clubs, shopping possibilities, cultural and entertaining facilities, all set in colourful ancient warehouses that date back to the times of the Knights. From the Waterfront, you can take a bus, a taxi or a horse-drawn carriage to reach the centre of Valletta, and visit the rest of the city built by the Knights. Read more about getting to Valletta Waterfront!
Most bus numbers in Malta end their journey at Valletta