When it comes to choosing travel destinations, Malta is usually a place that is often overlooked, if considered at all. Located south of Sicily and a little above North Africa, the small archipelago nonetheless contains a robust cultural history – from its neolithic feats of architecture to its Golden Age in the 17th and 18th century. And while Malta as a country is a beauty in itself, it is its capital, Valletta, that takes center stage.
Surrounded by the splendor of the Mediterranean sea and breathtaking architectural marvels, Valletta is a city that is scenic all around, bringing in a sense of history and wonder. If you’re looking to explore this beautiful city, here are a few things that can get you off your feet:
Learn more about its history
As a UNESCO Heritage site, Valletta is a living artifact, with structures and walls that date as far back as the 16th century. Created as a fortified city after the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, Valletta played muse to many an artist and engineer in its conception. This interest has led it to become a bastion of late Renaissance influences and spirit.
That said, one could say that Valletta is a museum in itself, with each step an excursion into the years that have past. For a more in-depth exploration of this history, here are a few choice spots to head to:
- St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Formerly part of the convent of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the cathedral gets its name from its unique relationship with the St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, where it functioned as an alternate see for the Bishop of Malta. While St. John’s edifice was created in the same militaristic style of the rest of Valletta’s fortifications, its interiors host some of the most exquisite Baroque flourishes the world has to offer. Notably, you’ll find paintings by acclaimed Italian painter Caravaggio, such as The Beheading of St. John the Baptist. Malta Culture Guide also notes that the chapel of the Virgin of Philermos is one area worth looking into a little further. Visiting the co-cathedral is perfect for those sojourns into the history of the order that has helped make Malta what it is today.
- Grand Master’s Palace. The two-floored building plays a vital role in Malta’s administrative history. Initially, it housed the Grand Master of the order as well as the armory, where the weapons and armor of the deceased knights are kept. It also used to house Malta’s parliament until the construction of Renzo Piano’s Parliament Building in 2014. Currently, it houses the Office of the President, as well as the magnificent State Apartments. Drop by if you want a glimpse of Malta’s political life, as well as one of the best arms collections in the world.
- War Museum. Malta’s history has seen its share of unrest and wars, such as the disintegration of the Roman Empire, the battle between the Arabs and Byzantines, and the Siege of Malta. However, Malta’s military history may extend even further than that. The National War Museum, located at Fort St. Elmo, looks into this intensive narrative with items from the various eras, dating back from the Bronze Age.
- Casa Rocco Piccola. Finally, for a look into the lives of the affluent in 16th century Malta and how it has changed over the years, head to the Casa Rocco Piccola. At once picturesque and stately, the palace boasts of many architectural influences and artworks. Owned by the de Piro family for over 200 years, tours are also conducted within the area; and if one is lucky enough, by one of the family’s current descendants, Nicholas de Piro.
Take a walk
Beyond the fortress of its appearance, Valletta hosts a variety of beautiful sights to bask in, especially during the summertime. Stroll down the following for an added immersive experience:
- Upper Barrakka Gardens. Once exclusively made for the Knights from the Auberge d’Italie, the gardens have since been opened to the public, and to a warm reception. Boasting of a breathtaking view of the Grand Harbour and creations by the Maltese sculptor Antonio Sciortino, the Upper Barrakka Gardens continue to be a go-to spot for those looking to revel in Valletta’s beauty.
- Valletta Waterfront. A city’s waterfront area often hosts the liveliest parts of the area, and Valletta’s is no exception. Situated at the Grand Harbour, the Valletta Waterfront had previously been a row of warehouses constructed to make it easier to bring in goods from the wharf into the city. Now, it houses various shops and restaurants for tourists and locals alike to enjoy and visit. From the morning ‘til the late afternoon, relish in the pier’s azure waters and the bright colors of the renovated buildings. And at night, the waterfront’s lights turn the whole area golden, making it the perfect place for a quick evening walk.
Travel to Valletta now
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