Valletta or Il-Belt is the capital of Malta. It is both the southernmost and the least populated national capital in the European Union and one of only two without rail based public transit (the other being Nicosia).
A harbour city, Valletta preserves much of its 16th-century architectural heritage built under the Hospitallers. Valletta was one of the earliest sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Referred to colloquially as Il-Belt ("The City"), it takes its name from its founder, Grandmaster Jean Parisot de Valette.
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The southernmost national capital in Europe, and sitting next to the Mediterranean, Valletta is one of the few places in Europe that has mild and warm weather around the year. Nighttime lows are around +10°C in the winter, however at that time of the year it's comparatively rainy. During the summer, expect sunny and hot weather.
Most bus routes and many arterial roads converge on Valletta. However, inside the city there are many one-way streets and some pedestrian zones. Parking can be difficult. There is a large multi-storey car park in Floriana, about half a kilometre from the City Gate entrance to Valletta.
A much shorter journey can be done by Valletta Ferry Services across beautiful Marsamxett harbour from Sliema and past Manoel Island, for just €1.50. Considerably cheaper then paying for an harbour cruise.
Another little-known way is to visit Vittoriosa by bus and then have the Maltese version of the gondola, the so called Dghajsa bring you back in style across the spectacular Grand Harbour to Valletta, and drop you off just by Victoria gate for €3.50.
The island's sole airport is 2 Malta International Airport (MLA IATA) (located in Luqa). The airport is the main hub for flag carrier Air Malta and a base for Ryanair with numerous flights all around Europe and the Mediterranean countries. The airport is also served seasonally by numerous European airlines from their respective hubs, but increasingly flights are available year-round
- The X4 bus runs from the airport to Valletta, with generally two buses per hour taking about 20 minutes, costing €2.00 in summer.
The Valletta peninsula is only a couple of kilometres in length and so the ideal way is to do everything on foot, which enables you to take many shortcuts via stairs. However, the city is built on a ridge, and is steep in parts (requiring walking up and down stairs in some places), which can be tiring. The alternative would be doing it by car which is not ideal for visitors due to lack of parking space, direction signs and the fact that the streets are very narrow, often one way and confusing if unfamiliar. Most of the main tourist attractions are along the main street (Triq ir-Republika) which does not involve steep hills.
Another possibility is to rent one of the horsecarts (Karozzin), but be sure to haggle over the price.
- A fleet of electric min-cabs operate during the daytime in Valletta, with a maximum fare of €5.00.
Bus route 133 operates a circular path around Valletta, departing from the bus terminus going round the peninsula including the Valletta Waterfront, Fort St. Elmo and many other locations. However, since most of Valletta is better accessible on foot, it may be advised to use this bus only to visit a particular location rather than for general sightseeing.
- 1 Barrakka Lift (near the Saluting Battery). Nov-May: 07:00 - 21:00, Jun-Oct: 07:00 to 24:00. A two-cabin lift between the waterfront and the main city level, taking 23 seconds to cover 58 m. €1.00.
In debatable order of importance:
- 1 St. John's Co Cathedral. Unremarkable from the outside, but incredibly ornate on the inside. Each of the different 'langues' (knights of a particular nationality had their own langue) has a their own chapel lined along the side of the nave in which they try and outdo each other in splendor. The barrel shaped ceiling is a single huge fresco, the lifework of famed artist Mattia Preti. And last but not least the floor is entirely taken by knight's graves all intricately inlaid marble in different colours, a recent book on the subject describes it as the 'most beautiful floor in the world.' This relatively unknown cathedral can count itself one of the most impressive in Europe. Open 9:30AM and 4:30PM on weekdays and 9:30AM and 12:30PM on Saturdays. Entrance is through the Carappechia Annex on Republic Street in between St John's Street and St Lucy Street, directly opposite the Law Courts. As soon as you enter you will be provided with an audio guide included in the entrance fee which leads you through the cathedral in 24 stops enabling you to get further historical information about the paintings and special parts of St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
- The Cathedral Museum. Holds two works by Caravaggio who was briefly himself a Knight, one of them being his masterpiece the famous huge "Beheading of St. John the Baptist."
- 2 Palace of the Grand Masters, ☎ . Daily 09:00-17:00 (armoury sometimes closed for functions). Now it is the President's office and the Maltese parliament. The staterooms, when accessible are quite impressive. It also houses the Knights' armoury which is open to visitors daily from 09:00-17:00. (However, all other parts of the palace are closed to visitors, so what they can see is limited.) At the entrance you can receive an audio guide which is included in the entrance fee. It provides you with further historical information about the various armoury of different eras beginning from the medieval chain mail up to the 17th-century armour. €10.
- 3 The Malta Experience, St Elmo Bastions, Mediterranean St, ☎ , . Despite not being cheap visitors who have any interest in culture or history and who haven't exhaustively read up on the country before coming here would do well by starting their visit to Malta by going here as it is an excellent introduction to the country. It gives an impression of major events that shaped the country, but as it's only half an hour long and meant for first-time visitors one shouldn't expect an in-depth dry scholarly treatment of the subject. €16.
- 4 The Upper Barrakka Gardens (at the upper south side of the peninsula). The gardens offer a jaw-dropping view of the Grand Harbour. Go on a sunny day and bring champagne!
- 5 The National Museum of Archaeology, Auberge de Provence, Republic St, ☎ . Daily 09:00-18:00 (17:00 in Jan, Feb). Even though Malta has an impressive and unique ancient history, this museum housed in the former Auberge de Provence in Republic street can be rather a disappointment. The museum is partially being renovated hopefully bringing something more worthy of its name. €5.00.
- 6 Fort St. Elmo (National War Museum). Apr-Sep: daily 09:00-18:00; Oct-Mar: daily 09:00-17:00. Built at the tip of the peninsula by the knights after the Dragut Raid of 1551. During the Great Siege of 1565 the Turks made the mistake of choosing to first take this fort, for which they had planned a week. Instead the knights and soldiers present fought desperately for a month, buying essential time. The knights in the fort knew they were fighting to the death, and so rather than being taken off the ramparts when wounded, knights would fight on seated in chairs until they couldn't even lift their arms anymore. Today the fort houses the National War Museum and the Police Academy. The National War Museum is mainly focussed on World Wars 1 and 2, but covers the period from the Bronze age onwards. €10.
- 7 Fortifications of Valletta. The imposing defence walls and ramparts at the entrance to Valletta built by the Knights in the late 16th century are interesting to explore.
- 8 The National Library (Bibliotheca), 36 Old Treasury Street, ☎ . An evocative old library on Republic Square, next to the Grandmaster's Palace. Only part of it is open to the public: you will need to take a passport or other photo ID to get in. The entire archives of the Knights of St. John from the Crusades in the 11th century until 1798 when Napoleon took Malta, are kept here, in true Maltese style in rickety wooden filing cabinets. They were proud to mention that recently a sprinkler system had been installed to protect this priceless collection.
- 9 The Sacra Infermeria (Mediterranean Conference Centre). The great hospital built by the knights in the 16th century, open to everyone, it had the highest level of healthcare available in Europe at the time. It was mostly destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt and now functions as a conference centre. It is rarely open to the public.
- 10 The Casa Rocca Piccola, 74 Republic St., ☎ . A Maltese Noble Family House on Triq ir-Republika, a few hundred yards past the Grand Master's Palace on the right hand side. Very enjoyable.
- 11 St. James Cavalier. A fortress opposite the Auberge of Castille (today the Prime Minister's office) which was built as part of the elaborate defence systems of Valletta. Today it houses a 'Centre for Creativity', with its own theatre, cinema, music room and exhibition halls. Its twin, St. John Cavalier, is the embassy of the Knights of St. John who are, like the Vatican, recognised by several countries as a sovereign entity.
- 12 Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Triq Ic Cimiterju, Paola (Reachable by any bus route to Paola (e.g. Route 1,2,3) and a short walk from the bus stops.), ☎ , fax: . Eight tours are conducted daily, starting on the hour from 09:00 till 16:00 (last tour). The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a subterranean structure excavated c. 2500 B.C. Thought to be originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times. It is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world. To ensure its conservation, the site’s microclimate is strictly regulated. For this reason, the site is open to a maximum of 80 visitors each day. Each tour is limited to ten visitors. A tour of the site starts with a brief introductory exhibition and multilingual audio-visual film focusing on the temple building peoples and the Hypogeum’s relationship to Malta’s temple sites. Booking in advance on the Heritage Malta website is highly advised. If unable to book in advance, tickets for tours the next day at 12:00pm and 4:00pm are sold at the Valletta Museum of Fine Arts the day prior. They are sold at a first come, first serve basis. Depending on the season, lining up prior to the opening of the museum is a necessity for purchasing tickets. Plan on lining up anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half in advance to ensure ticket purchases. €30.00 available from website, €35.00 from the museum.
- 13 Tarxien Temples, Triq It Tempji Neolitici, Tarxien. Daily 09:00-17:00, last admission 16:30. This site, dating from 3600 to 2500 BC, is the most complex of all temple sites in Malta and consists of four megalithic structures. €6.
- 14 Lascaris War Rooms. Daily 10:00 - 17:00. Underground complex which was used as the British HQ during the defence of Malta in World War II. €10.
- 15 St Paul's Pro-Cathedral, Independence Square. Daily 10:00 - 15:00. Anglican cathedral built in 1844, with memorials to the World War 2 defence of Malta.
- 16 Malta Postal Museum, 135 Archbishop Street. M-F10:00 - 16:00, Sat 10:00 - 14:00. Museum run by Maltapost, including a working post office. €5.
- 17 City Gate (Porta di terra). The fifth incarnation of the main entrance to the city was built between 2011 and 2014 to design of the Italian architect Renzo Piano. The first gate on this site was built in 1569.
- 18 Parliament House. Malta Parliament building built between 2011 and 2015 at a cost of €90 million to a design by Renzo Piano. The building's design of two large stone blocks on stilts is controversial, but it has low emissions with solar panels on the roof. Public access to the building is restricted.
- 1 Coastal Walk. You can take a spectacular walk along the sea around the outside of the city walls. If you go to the mooring place where the ferry for Sliema leaves, there is the possibility to walk over the rocks towards the tip of the peninsula and then around it coming back up into the city just next to the Malta Experience. This walk takes about 30 minutes and is done by virtually no-one.
- 2 St George's Square. At night in St George's Square, there is a lovely water fountain, with coloured spouts of water which pop up and down - a fantastic play opportunity for children. They will get wet, so don't let them go near if they are wearing their best clothing. Great fun for kids.
- Audio Guide. To get further historical information about the numerous places of interest through Valletta it can be useful to get an audio guide. It is available in different languages from the Archeology Museum in Republic Street. You can choose independently from the 24 stops and it is not necessary to follow the given order. Stops can easily be skipped or visited in another sequence when tired or full of the new information.
- 3 Saluting Battery, Battery Street. A gun is fired twice a day, at 12:00 and 16:00.
- 4 Manoel Theatre (Maltese: It-Teatru Manoel), ☎ . Is 'La Scala' in miniature, a very beautiful 17th-century theatre in original state. One of the oldest active theaters in Europe, it is the place for many classical music performances but also for instance the hilarious Christmas Panto. Old Theatre St, Tel: 356/22-26-18.
- 5 Pjazza Teatru Rjal (Open Air Theatre), Casa Cassar, Triq il-Vittorja, ☎ . Open theatre on the site of the former Royal Opera House which was destroyed by a bomb in 1942. The outdoor theatre was designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 2013.
- Valletta International Baroque Festival. Annually in January. Festival of baroque music concerts and operas.
Several of the Maltese English language institutes are in Valletta.
The main street of Valletta is Republic street, a busy pedestrian zone leading down the middle of the Peninsula from the main gate down to Republic square, this is where many of the better shops are located, although it cannot quite compete with Sliema for clothing.
The best souvenir shop (the least worthless trinkets etc.) can be found at the Malta experience, but there are many other reasonable souvenir shops in Valletta. At the beginning of the Republic street there are several reasonable souvenir shops but prices are far cheaper if you walk 20 meters down South street (turn left if you have the bus station behind you) which crosses Republic street very soon after you have entered through the city gates.
- 1 Agenda Bookshop, 26 Republic St, ☎ . The best bookshop of Malta is definitely the one formerly known as Sapienzas on Republic street but can be a bit more expensive.
There is a daily market selling cheap clothing in the parallel street to Republic street called Triq il-Merkanti, or Merchants street.
- 2 Farmers Market. Every Sunday there's a market in front of St. James Cavalier, with local food products and textiles.
- 3 Fish Market. Every morning you can buy fresh fish next to the the Castillan Curtains.
- 4 Malta Government's Crafts Centre. M–F 09:00–12:30, 13:00–17:00. At Malta Government's Crafts Centre local handicrafts are presented, and while you can't buy them there, at the centre they will inform you where the individual objects can be bought.
- 5 Wembley Store, Triq Ir-Repubblika 305. The only large supermarket in town, with a great wine selection on the basement floor.
Valletta has a good selection of decent restaurants, especially along the waterfront. Since most tourists stay in Sliema or on the north coast of the island there are fewer of the trashy variety, although it does have the usual fast-food chains. Look out for traditional bakeries, with steaming fresh bread for mere cents.
At almost every corner you can find pastizzerie selling pies stuffed with cheese or peas, for just 30-50 cents each and are a popular late-night snack.
- 1 La Mère Restaurant, 174 Merchant Street (very close to old market), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Sa 12:00-14:30 and 19:00-22:30. Indian restaurant with a dash of Maltese, Med and Arabian in a cosy and homey atmosphere.
- 2 Luciano, 21/22 Merchant Street (Adjacent to St. John’s Cathedral), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Good food for reasonable prices in a charming location near cathedral - big portions. On 3rd floor of Luciano Hotel.
- 3 No.43, 43, Triq Il-Merkanti, ☎ . M-Sa 08:00-17:00. Café with fresh sandwiches, soups, salads and home made cakes. At the counter you can choose salads to eat in or take out.
- 4 De Robertis (Castille Hotel Roof Top Restaurant), Castille Square (corner of St Paul's St), ☎ . Daily 12:00-14:30, 19:00-22:00. Great view and tasty food.
- 5 Da' Pippo Trattoria, 136 Melita St, ☎ . Daily 11:30-15:30. A place where locals go for lunch. Good seafood.
- 6 Caffe Cordina, 244/5 Republic St, ☎ . M-Sa 08:00-19:00, Su 08:00-16:00. Venerable cafe, popular for lunch or for pastries & coffee in the coffee bar. Mixed reviews of the food.
- 7 Malata Restaurant, St Georges Palace Sq, ☎ . If you are looking for a place in Valletta to have dinner on a terrace, then this is a nice place to go slightly later in the evening when the square in front of the Grand Master's palace is almost emptied of parked cars.
- 8 Rubino, 53 Old Bakery Street. M 12:30 - 14:30, Tu-F 12:30 - 14:30 and 19:30 - 22:30, Sa 19:30 - 22:30. Maltese traditional cuisine is served in this restaurant which was opened in 1906. Prior reservation recommended.
- 9 Scoglitti, 8' Triq il-Lanca Marsamxett, ☎ . daily 12:00 - 15:00, 19:00 - 23:00. Fish restaurant right next to the sea. They serve freshly caught fish, lobsters and oysters.
- 10 Nenu the Artisan Baker, Triq St Dominic, 143, ☎ . Tu-Sa 11:45-15:30 and 18-23:30, Su 11:45-16:00. Bakery famous for its ftira (traditional Maltese ring-formed bread). Also serves Maltese dishes and desserts. ftira €12, mains €14-18.
Often upscale Asian restaurants don't live up to the expectations, at least when it comes to the food. Many such disappointing restaurants are in big upscale hotels.
- 11 Pintonino Restaurant, Waterfront, Floriana, ☎ . Tucked a few meters away from the Valletta waterfront, a fine restaurant that offers great food and a selection of more than 150 wines.
- 12 Legligin, 117/119, Santa Lucia Street, ☎ . Tu-Sa 13:00 - 01:00, Su M 18:00 - 01:00. The menu varies daily with 5-8 dishes available every day. mains €30.
- 13 Café Deux Baronnes, Triq Sant’ Orsla. Expensive even by local standards, but the cafe has a relaxed atmosphere and a good view of Grand Harbour and Fort Sant'Angelo.
- 1 Trabuxu Wine Bar, 2 Strait Street, ☎ . Tu-Sa 19:00-23:00. A charming wine bar in an ancient cellar serving light meals. It's at the beginning of a small alley parallel to Republic street, look for the wooden sign with the corkscrew. The bistro is opposite, on South Street.
- 2 Rampila Restaurant and Wine bar (Rampila), St John's Cavalier (Enter city via City Gate, first left then left again, you'll see an olive tree, an old stone bench and the railings around the entrance to Rampila.), ☎ . Daily 12:00-22:30. Maltese-Mediterranean fusion restaurant and wine bar in the impressive bastions. You can enjoy a fine plate of fresh seafood, meat, game, pasta or risotto there or enjoy a platter and/or dips accompanied by wine from an extensive selection.
In Valletta proper, accommodation is rather expensive with nights at midrange hotels often costing €150-200 even in the low season. If you don't want to spend too much of your travel budget on the place to sleep, consider staying in one of the surrounding towns where rates are much lower.
- 1 Asti Guesthouse (Casa Asti), 18 St Ursula St, ☎ . Small guesthouse. Rooms not en-suite, but three double bathrooms between nine rooms means there is no problem with accessing facilities. Price includes breakfast in a lovely room with a huge chandelier. €20.
- 2 Grand Harbour Hotel, Battery Street, 47, ☎ . Rooms equipped with tv, hair dryer, laptop safe, coffeemaker,ironing equipment for clothes. The terrace overlooks the Grand Harbour, but most of the rooms overlook the courtyard. standard double rooms from €100 (from €80 in low season), including breakfast.
- 3 British Hotel, 40 Battery St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Friendly two-star. Has fantastic staff and a really cool bar with one of the best views in Valletta. rates from about €120.
- 4 Valletta G-House, 60 North St (near Fort Elmo), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Artist's private townhouse, sleeps two. Large bedroom with striking floor tiles and traditional 'galleria', rustic kitchen with all mod-cons and lounge. €150/night.
- 5 Valletta Suites, St Lucia St, ☎ . Boutique hotel with 3 self-contained suites within a 17th-century townhouseː Maison La Vallette, Valletta Nobile and Lucia Nova. €140 per suite per night.
- 6 De Vilhena, Old Theatre Street 55, ☎ . Right in the heart of Valletta, with 22 upscale rooms. Visitors complain about noise, and the fact that breakfast isn't served at the hotel itself. rates from €140.
- 7 Casa Ellul, 81 Old Theatre Street, Valletta VLT 1429, Malta (central, on block between West St & Old Mint St), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 4-star boutique hotel on a quiet street in central Valletta. Has eight suites (most with balconies) ranged around a central courtyard, with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and minibars, as well as tea and coffee-making facilities.
- 8 Grand Hotel Excelsior, Great Siege Rd, Floriana, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 5-star hotel set in 16th-century ramparts
- 9 The Phoenicia, The Mall, Floriana, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 5-star luxury Art-Deco hotel just outside of the main gate. €250 per room per night.
- 10 Palazzo Consiglia, Saint Ursula Street 102, ☎ . Boutique hotel with 13 rooms, each room individually designed. Rooms have the amenities one can expect at an upscale hotel including tv, bathroom, minibar, hairdryer, coffeemaker, free wi-fi. The hotel also has a wellness area and swimmingpool. rates from about €200 upwards.
- 11 Osborne Hotel, 50 South St, ☎ . 3-star hotel in a converted palace. €200.
- 12 The Saint John - AX Hotels, Merchant Street, 176, ☎ . Chain hotel in a historic building. Rooms have the amenities one can expect at a 'splurge' hotel. rates from €200.
Apart from some restaurants and bars open in the evening Valletta still has next to nothing happening in terms of nightlife, so apart from Republic street the streets are quite empty late at night. Most of the usual petty crime that travelers are confronted with happens in Sliema and St Julians, but it's something to keep in mind.
Many businesses (restaurants, hotels etc.) offer free Wi-Fi, in addition to the "Free Wi-Fi" zones that exist around Malta. The country has several mobile carriers and your phone will work just like elsewhere in Europe.
- Germany, Whitehall Mansions, 3rd floor, ix-Xatt Ta'xbiex XBX 1035, ☎ . M-W F 09ː00-12:00 and W 13ː15-16ː15; closed Th Sa Su.
- Greece, Villino Fond Galland No 6 IR' Rampa, Ta'xbiex XBX 1035, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 08:30-16:00.
- United States, Ta' Qali National Park, Attard (10 km west of centre), ☎ (for regular and emergency service), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. M W 14:00-16:00, Tu Th 09:00-11:00.
Almost all of Malta's bus routes start from the large roundabout just outside the main gate, making everywhere in the country accessible.
There is also the ferry which goes to Sliema, across the bay to the northwest. Sliema and St. Julian's further northwest are more modern towns and unlike Valletta more geared towards nightlife and partying.
Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but two more can be found in the suburb of Tarxien, in the form of the Megalithic Temples and the Hypogeum