Valletta, Malta

Valletta has always been on one of my holiday destinations for years and and it did not disappoint. Valletta was announced as a city of culture in 2012 and 2018. There is so much history to this small walled city that is the capital of Malta. It is the commercial and political heart of the islands. Named after the Grand Master of the Order of St John who was called Jean Parisot de Valett. The city built on rock is surrounded by two harbours which are called The Grand Harbour and Marsamxett.

The Knights of St John were noblemen from Europe. The order was a Roman Catholic order military order that had headquarters in Jerusalem and flourished in Malta. In 1530, Pope Clement VII had an agreement with Charles V of Spain to hand over Gozo, Malta and Tripoli for the sum of a Maltese Falcon. The Knights fought a war with the Ottoman Empire in 1565 over the Mediterranean.

The city goes back to 1566, where there are forts, bastions and the impressive St John’s Cathedral to name a few were built. The city was fortified with watchtowers. The Knights had a big influence of the city and this is seen with the beautiful Baroque architecture throughout the city.

There is the Grandmaster Palace which you visit. It is the office of the President and has armoury. This building was built in the reign of Jean De la Cassiere 1572-1591 and has been enlarged over the centuries until the mid 18th century. In 1798 the French took over occupation followed by the British. You’ll notice there is a large green balconies and there is the George’s Cross which was given to the Maltese people by the British King George VI for their bravery in WW2 on the side of the building. The George Cross is woven into the Malta’s flag which is on the upper left corner and is clearly seen when the flag is flown. You can visit the War museum in Fort Saint Elmo, Valletta where you can see King George’s VI letter and cross on display.

You must visit St John’s Cathedral, you can see it for free by attending Mass but we went with a walking tour and bought the ticket at the Cathedral. The interior is bedecked with gold and statues in the chapels and you must visit it. Our guide was so interesting and I learnt alot. We saw one of the six paintings by Caravaggio located inside the Cathedral . The painting by Caravaggio was the Beheading of St John The Baptist. You must go the winding stairs and see the view from the balcony looking over the Cathedral.

There is a rich history in Valletta that has a melting pot of culture, including the vast baroque Churches with awe inspiring frescos and interesting art galleries and outstanding architecture including palazzos, museums and the Grandmasters Palace which has the longest balcony in Malta.

The streets are narrow, you never know what you are going to find and then you come across a lovely square where you can order a coffee or lunch and watch the world go by.

I’d thoroughly recommend going on a walking tour when you arrive in the city. Walking tours as you know are one of my favourite things to do when travelling to different places. You can find out more about the city and get some tips.

The tour we went on was booked through Viator, and it was fabulous. We were met by a Maltese guide who was wonderful. She laughed at me as I was wearing a summery dress and she was dressed for Winter. I said, the Northern Europeans need to take advantage of the sun as much as you can! We had a wonderful tour and took in many of the sights and vistas from the Hastings Garden and we walked down narrow streets with Church domes being dominant in the skyline.

The Maltese love a balcony and this is seen in every street in Valletta, the balconies go back in history when rich people living in the houses and palazzo would show off their wealth in their balconies to their neighbours and would people watch and pose and show off. The climate is very hot in the summer so people would sit out on the balconies and use bamboo screens to keep them cool. The larger the balcony, the richer you were. The majority of balconies are green, but there are some that are red and blue.

We walked through the city and learnt about the history of Malta especially when it came to it’s location in Europe which was used in WW2 by the British. The Grand Harbour has many forts. The Grand Harbour can be accessed by visiting the Upper Barakka Gardens which is a public garden with beautiful views over the harbour. Here at midday and at 4pm the cannons are let off by the military. There are museums about WW2 if you are interested about the history.

In the Upper Barakka Gardens you can access a lift that costs a euro to use then you walk across the street and follow the signs for the Harbour Cruises. The cost is so reasonable, we got a return ticket, you can use your student ID and can use the concession as a senior too. The cruise doesn’t take long to get over to Vittoria but the view is mesmerising and there are ample photography opportunities. The marina is interesting to walk around and there are cafes and restaurants too.

Maltese as a language is a combination of Arabic and Venetian language, the Venetians originally came from Lebanon. I speak a few languages and found the Maltese language an unusual one. Everyone speaks English in Malta so you shouldn’t have a problem. The food was lovely, mainly pasta, seafood and Mediterranean influences. There is also rabbit.

We had some wonderful pizzas too in one of the side streets located near our hotel. You must go, it’s near St Pauls and the side street has industrial lightbulbs and a chandeliers across the street. There are different restaurants with seating outside. We had a wonderful vegiteranean pizza and a few glasses of wine for 30 euro, the staff were so fun, welcoming and thanked us for coming. I loved sitting there watching the world go by and it was lovely that lots of people were on holiday post covid and enjoying the atmosphere.

You must try the gelato in Valletta, it is so lovely.

One place I would recommend to goto is the Opera House, it is a ruin after the bombing in WW2 but is still in use for outdoor performances. There is a cafe you can order coffee, lunch and wine and people watch. We had some lovely Maltese cheese and olives. Make sure you use the facilities there as you can see the architectural ruins.

Valletta is easily walkable, it is hilly so be mindful of that. The city has a train that can take you around the city and good for children. The bus station is great and is well signposted for exploring the island and there is a ticket office there and tourist office there.

You must definitely go. I visited in April and it was great, sunny and warm but a bit cool in the evenings and you need layers. The summer is very hot so be warned if you chose to go then. There are lots of hotels to stay in and airbnbs as well which the locals aren’t so keen about.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Valletta, so much history, it was safe, there’s lots to see and do and there is yummy food!

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