Even though I’ve been living in the maltese archipelago for almost six years, I don’t go to Valletta very often. The maltese capital is situated on the main island, and getting there from Gozo is a real hassle – those who know, know.
The good thing about this is that I can see Valletta with new eyes each time I visit. So every time I go there, I try to do something new. In May 2018, I showed the city to my friend Corentin, who was visiting.
Valletta is the smallest capital city in Europe. It has only 5 680 unhabitants (for real). This is quite pleasant, because the city is pretty quiet, and it’s a nice place for a stroll.
After Rome, I believe that Valletta is my second favourite city, full of history. There are many charming and picturesque streets, there. And what can I say about the beautiful architecture ? The city is so small, but has a good energy. You can feel the “dolce vita”…
In 2018, Valletta has been named “European Capital of Culture”. For the occasion, one can discover artistic installations or special events that don’t take place usually.
If you have chosen to visit the Maltese capital this year or in the future, you are probably wondering what to do in Valletta. In this post, I give you a (non exhaustive) list of activities that you don’t want to miss.
Admire the Triton Fountain in Valletta
After four years in Malta, I saw this fountain functionning properly for the first time last month ! After being “forgotten” for years, it has been specially renovated for “Valletta European Capital of Culture 2018”. And it is very beautiful ! You cannot miss the Triton Fountain if you arrive to Valletta by bus, as it is located just opposite the bus station.
Stroll the Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens
If you’ve done some research on Valletta, you’ve read about the Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens. These two gardens are not very large, but they offer a magnificent panorama over the Three Cities (Sanglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa).
I have a small preference for the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which are magnificent, with an unforgettable view. Every day, at noon, you can attend the firing of the guns of the Saluting Battery, located just under the garden. It is also very pleasant to go there for a drink at sunset, enjoying the view.
Have lunch in a typical maltese restaurant
Valletta is full of small restaurants, each more attractive than the last. This is the perfect opportunity to taste the maltese cuisine – which is similar to the italian cuisine. The last time, I had lunch at La Pira, which I highly recommend ! Otherwise, don’t hesitate to read restaurant reviews online, to avoid unpleasant surprises. Finally, I advise you to book in advance, as Valletta’s restaurants are small and quickly crowded.
Lose yourself in Valletta’s narrow streets
What I love most in Valletta ? Strolling through its pretty streets ! There is always a building to admire, a church to enter, a new ice cream parlor to try or a shop to explore. Taking the time to wander around the city, with no specific purpose, is really something I advise you to do. The Maltese capital is very small, so there is no risk of getting lost !
Visit the Grand Master’s Palace
Last month, I visited the Grand Master’s Palace, and I really liked it ! Built in 1572, this palace served as the home of the Grand Masters of the Order of Malta, and still serves as the seat of government for Malta.
Unfortunately, some parts of the Magistral Palace were closed to the public during my visit, but I appreciated it still. Entrance is 12€, and an audio guide is included in the price. I don’t really like audio guides usually, but this time I found it to be really interesting. This is essential if you don’t want to find the visit poor and boring.
I also advise you to visit the armory of the palace, quite interesting. Admission is included in the price of 12€, but you can also visit it individually for 6€ if the palace itself does not interest you. The two outer courtyards of the palace are free of charge. It’s open every day from, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Discover Valletta’s churches
Ah, the churches… It’s impossible to visit Malta without seeing at least one ! And Valletta has some remarkable ones. The most famous is the Saint John cocathedral, with its spectacular ceiling. The Grand Masters of the Order of Malta, including Jean de La Valette, the founder of the city, rest under its flagstone. However, the entrance fee – a dozen euros if I’m not mistaken – may discourage some visitors.
Recently, I visited the Anglican pro-cathedral of Saint Paul. Very interesting if you are fond of the history of England and the monarchy !
I would also have liked to visit the church of Saint-François-d’Assise, but it was unfortunately closed that day.
However, if you plan to visit churches in Malta and Gozo, here is a small clarification : a fairly strict dress code is required to enter religious buildings. Men must be in pants. Women must have covered shoulders and shouldn’t wear clothes that are too short or too revealing. But don’t worry if you have bare shoulders, you can usually find shawls at the entrance of the church, to cover yourself during the visit.
If you’re still wondering what to do in Valletta after reading this post, be aware that you are spoiled for choice. You can visit the national archeology museum or the national war museum, walk around the harbour, admire the Manoel theater, take a water taxi to go to the Three Cities… Valletta is a city where you can never get bored !