Valletta is Malta’s capital city. This city dates back to the 1500s when Grandmaster La Vallette laid the first stone. Discover what Valletta has to offer from history, views and delicious food!
PS: This post is the first of my Malta mini-series! Check out the other two: Mdina & Blue Grotto.
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Somethings you should know:
- Valletta is a pedestrian city. Cars are only allowed in certain roads and the parking spaces are only for residents. I highly recommend you going to Valletta by bus.
- You can find the main bus terminus in Valletta. From there, you can pretty much go anywhere!
- Valletta is busy all the time during the day.
- However, at night, you will not see a soul. Except for maybe some people drinking in Strait Street (more on that below)
Unfortunately, unlike any other major European city, you will not find hotels around every corner. The main streets in Valletta, such as Republic Street, are only reserved for shops and pedestrian zones. There are a couple of hotels outside of the city though. The ones I recommend are The Excelsior and Phoenicia Hotel.
As for AirBnBs, they are more common than hotels. These are usually located away from the heart of the city but it is an easy walk to the main part of Valletta.
Furthermore, there are a number of boutique hotels. Click here for more information.
Where to eat in Valletta:
- Luciano Restaurant: This is my favourite restaurant in Valletta. I used to work full time in Valletta for about 1.5 years and I bought lunch from Luciano’s almost every day! It is in Merchant’s Street (on the way to the Upper Barraka Gardens) and I highly recommend you visit!
- Is-Suq Tal-Belt: The Valletta Food Market is a recent addition to the city. Prior to the market being built, every day in Merchant’s street vendors would set up their stands and sell their products. Now, they moved to the opposite where the new Parliament is in Republic Street and the food market was built there instead! I highly recommend checking it out and grabbing a bite to eat. You can find all kinds of cuisine.
- Camilleri & Sons: A few meters away from the food market, you can find Camilleri & Sons. This store is a landmark in Valletta. They sell all kinds of candy, ice-cream and Maltese treats! As a kid and even a fully grown adult, I love going in that store even though my wallet and waistline protest every time I do it.click on the arrows to see the pictures.
- Piadina Caffe: Another favourite of mine is this cute, very small cafeteria owned by the loveliest Italian lady. I used to go buy lunch for my boss every day until one day I decided to try one of their famous quinoa salads for only €5.50. Ever since then, I have been going every time I am in Valletta. You can sit outside in the street on a cushion and eat your delicious food. They also serve some mean coffees!
- Amorino’s Ice Cream: Another recent addition to our city is Amorino’s and it is located in Republic Street. They have ques of people outside the door every day! That’s how good it is. I tried it when I took Luis to Valletta for the first time and loved it. Highly recommend it!
- Cafe Cordina: Grab traditional pastizzi (Maltese cheesecake) from Cordina. Cordina is a very popular spot and they are always full of people. However, I do recommend checking it out for a quick snack break! It is right next to St George’s Square and Grandmaster’s Palace. It is also a few meters away from the Cathedral. More on that below!
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What to do & see in Valletta:
▷ Go to the Upper Barraka Gardens to get a view of the three cities
This is my favourite spot in Valletta. Upper Barraka Gardens are very easy to get to from anywhere in Valletta. You can either turn the corner where there is the theatre or else walk all of Merchant’s Street and turn left. You can’t miss it as 1) you will see a huge entrance usually with horse carriages waiting outside and 2) you will see a flock of people exiting and entering.
Fun fact: yours truly lives 5 minutes away from the three cities! I can actually see my house from the gardens. Not only you get a pretty amazing view, but the gardens are pretty to walk around in or simply sit down to relax a bit after a day of sightseeing.
Not far from the Upper Barraka Gardens, you can also find the Lower Barraka Gardens! They are not to miss either.
Click here to watch a video of the gardens.
▷ Walk around the winding narrow roads:
The way the city was built was in the shape of a grid. I am not sure why, but I do vaguely remember my history teacher saying that it was built this way as a defence mechanism.
Almost all of the buildings are old and haven’t been altered from a hundred years ago! The only exceptions are firstly the new Parliament building. This is the first major building you’ll see on your left as soon as stepping foot into Valletta. Furthermore, there are some new office buildings as well. However, the majority of the buildings in Valletta are old, which in my opinion, adds to the overall charm of the city.
Perhaps the most well-known street in Valletta in Strait Street, or Strada Stretta in Maltese. Malta was once conquered by the British. Strait Street was filled with bars next to each other when British Navy soldiers would visit in the evening. Some shady events also happened in that street. It is always fascinating walking down Strait Street and looking at the old bars that once played 50s music and were filled with young people dancing. I always get that mysterious feeling and wonder what secrets does every building hold in this street.
Nowadays, a number of the bars were refurbished and open for business once again. In fact, Strait Street is still bustling and busy every night after all these years! Scroll up to the section ‘Where to eat in Valletta’ for my favourite bar in Strada Stretta.
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▷ People watch by the Triton Fountain:
The Triton Fountain is the first thing you’ll see when you get off the bus in Valletta. It has recently undergone restoration. I remember the fountain and the surrounding area being completely different. However, I do think it looks better now!
A favourite past time of locals, especially teenagers, is to sit by the fountain and talk with each other. In fact, you will see a lot of people doing just that all day. It’s fun!
Another cool initiative is these figures that are placed around the fountain. Each of them represents a Maltese saying and there’s a plaque next to them explaining what is the saying and what it means. You can see them all over.
▷ Visit St John’s Co-Cathedral:
Exactly opposite the courthouse, you can find St John’s Cathedral. It is hidden amongst trees but it is pretty easy to spot because there is always a line of people waiting to go in. The Cathedral was built between 1573 and 1578 when Malta was under the rule of the Knights of St John. It is a must-see for any Valletta tourist! This Cathedral achieved equal status to the St Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina. Hence why it is known as ‘Co-Cathedral’.
For more information regarding the Cathedral, opening hours and admission costs, click here.
▷ Learn more about Malta’s history in 5D:
The Malta Experience offers a 5D film about Malta’s history starting from the origins of the island up to recent times. I highly recommend you going there. It is a fun and informative experience! Click here for more information.
▷ Siege Bell Tower Memorial:
The Siege Bell Tower Memorial is a solemn reminder of World War 2. Malta suffered terribly in the war and this monument is a reminder of that. “Every day at noon, the largest bell in Malta rings gravely, its boom resonating over the peaceful waters of Grand Harbour. Once a theatre of war, the harbour’s tranquillity today belies its turbulent past.”
The Grand Harbour was hit very hard during the war. It was the only port where food and amenities could reach the Maltese citizens and it was also a repair facility for allied ships.
For more information about this monument, check out this amazing article here.
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- Visit the Grandmaster’s Palace and take a picture with the men in uniform standing outside!
- Go to the National Museum of Archeology
- Visit the National War Museum in Fort Elmo (I remember going there as a kid when I was in primary school and loved it!)
- Shop till you drop in Republic Street
- Have a delicious lunch or dinner at the Valletta Waterfront (there are inner city buses that take you from Valletta to the Waterfront)
- Visit the Inquisitor Palace (there is another one in Birgu. Once every year, it is open for free for the public. This is a must to see!)
And that brings an end to this post! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Valletta is my hometown and one of my favourite places in Malta. Have you been to Valletta? What was your favourite part?
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Until the next one.
Yours Truly, Rebecca.