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In the beginning…


In the beginning…

Get to know Valletta like a local. The whole city is a rich resource for anyone looking for the perfect courtyard cocktail, Tuesday night brass band, sequined short-shorts, or antique absinthe spoons. Our front desk agents also love to share their favorites, so don’t hesitate to inquire.

Europe’s smallest capital, tucked behind towering bastion walls on a rocky peninsula flanked by sparkling Mediterranean waters, is a joy to visit. Wander its honey-glow, limestone streets beneath painted wooden balconies and baroque columns and curlicues. Discover panoramic views of the Grand Harbour, historic sights, trendy bars and a mouth-watering array of cafés and restaurants.

Built by the Knights of St John after they had nearly lost Malta to the Ottoman Turks in the Great Siege of 1565, Valletta started as an impregnable state-of-the-art citadel capital. As the knights’ tastes became more courtly, however, the austere elegance of this city — “built by gentlemen for gentlemen” — was richly embellished, becoming the charming baroque bauble it is today.

“Wander its honey-glow, limestone streets beneath painted wooden balconies”

In the lead up to Valletta’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2018, extensive restoration and renovation secured the knights’ legacy — their fortifications, homes, workplaces and churches. And there was renewal too. Malta’s first purpose-built parliament, designed by Renzo Piano, the architect of the Shard in London, now dominates the entrance to the city, and modern fountains dance beneath the façade of the Grand Master’s Palace.

What to do

Entering Valletta at City Gate, pass the new parliament and the modern open-air theatre inside the Second World War ruins of Valletta’s Neoclassical Opera House to reach the top of Republic Street, Valletta’s spine. Turn right past the city’s oldest church, Our Lady of Victory, and the Auberge of Castille, fanciest of the knights’ headquarters (now the office of the prime minister). Your target is the arcaded Upper Barrakka Gardens. Perched 50m above the sea, this little park affords spectacular views of the expansive Grand Harbour and the Three Cities beyond. Hear the noon-day salute from the battery of cannons and maybe dip down into the tunnels below — the secret Second World War HQ of the Allies in the Med.

Make time to visit the state rooms of the Grand Master’s Palace and St John’s Co-Cathedral*, arguably Europe’s most dazzling baroque interior (don’t miss the two Caravaggio paintings in its oratory). Stop by MUZA, the national art museum (in the home of the Italian Knights) and the Archaeological Museum (previously the Provencal Knights’ base). Here you’ll meet Malta’s five-millennia-old “Fat Ladies” and find other treasures from this nation’s unique Neolithic temples, which are older than Stonehenge. At the tip of the Valletta peninsula, visit the Knights Hospitallers* (an architectural wonder in the 16th century). Fort St Elmo is a great spot for harbour panoramas, and you’ll also find the fascinating National War Museum here, spanning Malta’s 7,000-year history.

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