No visit to Malta can be complete without exploring Valletta. Europe’s smallest capital city is a World Heritage site and a true open-air museum. There’s plenty of history going around yet it remains a trendy and dynamic city. The city is small – only 600 to 1000 meters – so you can easily visit everything by foot. Here are 5 top things not to be missed.
1. Enjoy the view over Malta’s Grand Harbour
Malta’s Grand Harbour is often described as the most beautiful in the Mediterranean and it’s hard not to see why: the water separates Valletta from the three cities Senglea, Vittoriosa and Kalkara, making the view absolutely stunning.
For the best view over the harbour, head to the Upper Barrakka gardens, situated on the highest point of Valletta. They used to be the private garden of the Knights of Malta.
On the terrace below you will find the Saluting Battery. Every day at noon a salute is fired.
2. Visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral
This splendid Baroque church was built between 1573 an 1577 and is an architectural jewel. The Knights of St. John would gather here for communal worship and donated a fortune worth of artwork to the church. Admire the paintings, sculptures and marble flour (a patchwork of tombstones) and of-course the true treasure of the church: Caravaggio’s painting: the Beheading of St. John the Baptist.
3. Meet the Knights in the Grand Master’s Palace
The Grand Master’s Palace was once the home of the Grand Masters of the Knights of St John and is now the official residence of the Maltese president. You can visit the State Apartments and the Armoury, packed with medieval amours (more than 6000!) and weapons belonging to the Knights. With a bit of imagination, it looks like the knights are still alive.
4. Go shopping
There’s a large variety of shops (both international brands and little boutiques) spread out on Republic Street and Merchants Street. If you’re looking for local products and authentic handmade craft, explore the smaller back streets of Valletta. For duty-free shopping head to the Forni Shopping Complex at the Valletta Waterfront, located on the Grand Harbour. Once a series of 19 Baroque warehouses, today a leisure complex with shops, wine bars and restaurants both for locals and tourists.
5. Eat and drink
Personally I find the Maltese cuisine one of the most tasteful in the world, with strong Mediterranean, English and Arabian influences. The national dish is fenkatu (stewed rabbit) and of course there’s always a lot of fish on the menu. And if it’s wine you’re into, check out the wine bars. These are booming all over Malta and are very popular.
And here’s an extra tip:
6. Go now and go back in 2018
There’s always something interesting going on in Valletta, whether is the Malta International Fireworks Festival, the Malta Jazz Festival or Notte Bianca. Have a look at the event calendar and make sure you don’t miss a thing.