What to do in Valletta
Malta is a little island, well more like a group of islands, an archipelago if you want to get technical in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. For such a small place it has a huge amount of history and being in the Mediterranean it has great weather. Back in the day if you didn’t invade Malta you were a nobody. Everybody had a go. Firstly Phoenicians, then the Carthaginians, the Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Spanish, French and finally the English. Now only tourists invade the island for all the history that the conquerors and defenders brought and for sun worshipping of course.
Time to Do: Valletta is small can be done in 1 day quickly or 2 if you spend some time in the museums.
From my time there I will let you know what to do in Valletta and any places to avoid and head to.
This wonderful ancient town is like stepping back in history. Huge walls, great palaces, ornate cathedrals, it really shows off how good the knights had it. And churches, how could I forget churches, lots of them. The town was built by the Knights of Malta and named after their most famous son Valetta. Their most memorable moment was victory in the siege of Malta from the Turks in 1565 which they still talk about today and is mentioned in lots of places. The British were the last to leave and left red phone boxes and red post boxes as well as the language. The food in most restaurants and café’s I found to be poor for what you paid for. The prices are expensive but the standard was not.
The main street is Republic Street (Triq Republikka) which is flanked by a mixture of cafes, shops and historic buildings. The whole of Valletta is a beautiful brown beige local stone colour which sucks you in. Valletta is small enough to walk around without any problem but for some novelty there are electric cars (near St. John’s Cathedral) and horse and carriage rides to choose from.
What to do in Valletta (see map at bottom for locations)
What to do in Valletta – St. John’s Cathedral: One of the main tourist attractions in Valletta, right in the centre and by God (sorry) is it ornate. The cathedral from 1578 is covered from head to toe in decoration and paintings. The knights really thought a lot of themselves. The floor is the tombs of knights that are each inlaid marble. St. John’s Cathedral even has paintings by the famous Caravaggio (Beheading of John the Baptist and St. Jerome writing) who himself was a knight for a brief time.
For your €6 entrance fee you receive a free audio handset that you can play as you go around. I would advise to go in the morning or evenings when the tours groups aren’t there because the walkways in the cathedral are narrow and the tours can be a pain in the ass.
What to do in Valletta – Grand Masters Palace: Home of the supreme master of the Knights of Malta and he really did splash out on himself. The Palace is still where the president of Malta has his office and where the Maltese Parliament sits. This is where you pass a 400year old full armoured suit first and then a door with ‘opposition leader’ written on it. The ceilings, floors and hundreds of armoured suits are impressive but I am not sure if it is all worth the €10 entrance fee as you can walk around it in 1hr. The entrance fee also gives you access to the armoury which gives plenty of examples of armour, pikes and guns through the ages. You also get a free audio handset with this and is included in the original entrance fee.
What to do in Valletta – Walking Around: I think one of the most impressive parts of Valletta is to spend a few hours walking around the city to soak up the atmosphere. The high walls, the superb views, the narrow streets leading to the sea, the surprises around every corner are well worth a wander to discover something for yourself. There are so many churches you can spot them on every street camouflaged into the surrounding houses.
What to do in Valletta – Lower Barrakka Gardens: Located in a great location high up on the walls, the gardens give great views of the bay and of the fortifications across the harbour. They are located on the south side of the peninsula and if you are at sea level and too lazy or tired to walk up by road you can pay €1 for a lift that brings you straight to the gardens.
What to do in Valletta – Carmelite Church: A huge church that can be seen from most other peninsulas around (unlike St. John’s Cathedral) and has a very impressive dome. It did strangely though have grey covers over all the chandeliers which made them look a little like bat hideouts! They weren’t though so don’t panic!
What to do in Valletta – Cavalier of Fort St. Elmo: A large fort at the very east of the peninsula which has great views of the surrounding cities and coastline and gives a great insight into the fortifications needed 300 years ago. A very impressive sight today never mind when built in 1554 and even repelled a Nazi attack during WWII! Currently undergoing restoration but will be back open at the end of April 2014.
What to do in Valletta – The Granaries and St. Publius Church: Just outside the city walls lies this very impressive church and some mysterious stones on the ground. In front of St. Publius Church are what looks like the buts of Roman columns which were actually caps in the ground for an underground granary to store wheat. Very clever! The church is best seen during dusk or at night as the lights and silhouette are impressive.
What to do in Valletta – Porte des Bombes: A 10minute walk from the bus station is this impressive archway. This gate which cars still drive under today was built in 1721 and was part of the outer wall. The second archway was actually installed later by the British due to increasing traffic. The arch was one of several world structures that was lit green for St. Patricks day along with more prestigious icons such as the Great Wall of China and the Sydney Opera House.
What to do in Valletta – National Museum of Archaeology: A museum in a beautiful building that contains artefacts from ancient Malta up to 400BC. Anything you want to know about Malta before the ‘newer’ big guns of the Romans, Spanish etc came calling.
Practicalities – About Valletta
€1 = 1 euro, US$1 = €0.73
- Language – Maltese. English is widely spoken by everybody and they even mix the two when you listen to locals talk.
- Bus – Valletta and Malta has a good service with the main bus station just outside the city walls at the western end of Republic Street. Bus tickets are very good value with a 1 day ticket costing only €1.50 and 7 day tickets costing only €6.50. The buses may take longer than a taxi but you can’t argue with them for value.
- Train- No train in Malta (except the fun train, on wheels, around Valletta)
- Flights- Malta International Airport (MLA) is located approximately 6km south west of Valletta. There are shuttle companies such as Maltatransfer that will drop you and pick you up from your hotel for approx. €5 per person each way. Buses to the airport are the X1, X2, X3 and X4 and are good value.
- Accommodation – €80 per night for an average double room.
- Beer – A pint of beer cost approximately €3.50 but prices can vary a lot
- Visa: Malta is part of the EU and any EU citizen does not require a visa. If you are from a country that does require a visa from any EU country then one will be required for Malta. Check on the link if you are one of these citizens http://www.foreign.gov.mt/Default.aspx?MDIS=534
- Population of Valletta: Only 6, 500 people!
Map of Valletta
|St. John's Cathedral|
St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta
|Grand Masters Palace|
St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta
|Lower Barrakka Gardens|
Lower Barrakka Gardens, Quarry Wharf, Valletta, Malta
Carmelite Church, Valletta, Malta
|Cavalier of Fort St. Elmo|
Carmelite Church, Valletta, Malta
|St. Publius Church|
St. Publius, Triq Il-Miratur, Floriana, Malta
|Porte des Bombes|
Porte des Bombes, Triq Indipendenza, Floriana, Malta
|National Museum of Archaeology |
National Museum of Archaeology, Republic Street, Valletta, Malta
Valletta 15, Valletta, Malta
My Photo Gallery of What to do in Valletta, Malta