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 Nikosia).
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.
|Daily highs (°C)||15.2||15.5||16.7||19.1||23.3||27.5||30.7||30.7||28.0||24.2||20.1||16.7|
|Nightly lows (°C)||9.2||9.3||10.1||11.9||14.9||18.4||21.0||21.8||20.1||17.1||13.9||11.0|
Source: Wikipedia. Visit AccuWeather for a five-day forecast.
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.
In front of the main gate of Valletta is the main bus station for the entire island, rather than buslines covering the island in a grid, most of them spread out from here and return to here.
A much shorter journey can be done 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 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.
To get further historical information about the numerous places of interest through Valletta it can be useful to hire an audio guide. It is available in different languages (Maltese, English, Italian, French, Dutch, German and Spanish) 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.
Another possibility is to rent one of the horsecarts (Karozzin), but be sure to haggle over the price.
Bus routes 98 (clockwise) and 198 (counterclockwise) run around Valletta. They depart from Valletta Terminus at the following times:
Route 98: 6:30AM-7AM - every 15 minutes - 8AM-8:20AM - 8:30AM - 8:50AM - 9:40AM - every 30 minutes - 5:40PM
Route 198: M-Sa 9:30AM / Su 8:30AM - every 30 minutes - 6PM
In debatable order of importance:
- 1 St. John's Co Cathedral. Is 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, ☎ . Now 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 9AM–5PM. (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.
- The Malta Experience, St Elmo Bastions, Mediterranean St, ☎ , . Despite not being entirely cheap (3.5 Liri) 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.
- 3 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!
- 4 The National Museum of Archaeology, Auberge de Provence, Republic St, ☎ . 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 currently partially being renovated hopefully bringing something more worthy of its name.
- 5 Fort St. Elmo. 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 Police Academy and is only partially open on the weekend.
- 6 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.
- The imposing defence walls and ramparts at the entrance to Valletta built by the Knights in the late 16th century are interesting to explore.
- 7 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.
- 8 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.
- 9 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.
- 10 National Museum of Fine Art. The biggest collection of paintings by Mattia Preti. Also found here are paintings by Ribera, Erardi and many well known Caravaggisti. Permanently closed.
- 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 currently 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, Located on 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 9AM till 4PM (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, Located on Triq It Tempji Neolitici, Tarxien. 9AM-5PM daily, last admission 4:30PM. This site, dating from 3600 to 2500 BC, is the most complex of all temple sites in Malta and consists of four megalithic structures. €6.00.
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.
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.
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.
The best bookshop of Malta is definitely the one formerly known as Sapienzas (known as the Agenda Bookshop as of 2008) 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.
Valletta has a collection of decent restaurants, due to most of the tourists residing either in Sliema or on the north coast of the island there are fewer of the trashy variety, although it does have the ubiquitous fast-food places (Burger King, McDonald's, Pizza Hut). The Valletta waterfront is absolutely amazing especially at night, it contains different types of restaurants, from Chinese to the Hard Rock cafe, there is also a book shop and jewelry shop in the same waterfront.
If you keep your eyes open you may run into one of the charming traditional bakeries tucked away here and there where the tourist economy hasn't forced prices up yet and one can get lovely steaming fresh bread for mere cents.
- 1 La Mère Restaurant, Merchant Street (a few metres down from the old market and very close to The Place), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon-Sat: noon-2:30pm then 7:00pm-10:30pm, Sun: Closed. La Mère Restaurant offers a fusion of Mediterranean, Maltese, Indian and Arabian cuisine in a cosy and homey atmosphere. Open for both lunch and dinner.
- Luciano, 21/22 Merchant Street (Adjacent to St. John’s Cathedral), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Good food for very reasonable prices in a charming location near the St. Johns Cathedral. It has a bar and an outdoor terrace.
- De Robertis (Roof Top Restaurant), Castille Square c/w St. Paul's St, ☎ . The view is incredible and the food is very tasty. 12 - 18.
- 2 Trattoria da Pippo, 136 Melita St, ☎ . A place where locals go for lunch. They have an excellent selection of seafood dishes.
- Caffe Cordina, 244/5 Republic St, ☎ . This place has a venerable history behind it, and has a reputation to match. This is the place to be seen having lunch, but the food isn't as good as one may expect. The coffee bar inside is the best place for a quick espresso whilst admiring the ceiling.
- Malata Restaurant, Palace Sq, ☎ . If one is 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. There is Live Jazz on Tuesday nights.
- Pintonino Restaurant. Tucked a few meters away from the Valletta waterfront, a fine restaurant that offers great food and a selection of more than 150 wines.
- Trabuxu, No. 1d, Strada Stretta, ☎ . 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.
- Rampila Restaurant and Wine bar (Rampila), St John's Cavalier (Opposite St. John's Cavalier on a back street corner. Turning first left after passing into to the city through City Gate and then left again you find an olive tree, an antique stone bench and the railings around the entrance to Rampila.), ☎ . A Fine Maltese/Mediterranean fusion restaurant and wine bar in the impressive bastions. One 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.
- Asti Guesthouse, St Ursula St. Charming Guesthouse with the warmest possible welcome. In a great location just around the corner from the Upper Barakka Gardens and a five minute walk from Bus Station. Non en-suit, 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. In high demand so be sure to book ahead. Lm7 (€16) pp/pn.
Now 20 Euro per night per person (Feb 2012). But still the best value in Valletta. Annie, the owner is a sweet little lady who will treat you like you are staying at your grannies.
- Osborne Hotel, 50 South St. Located in a converted palace. $50.
Mid-range to High
- 1 British Hotel, 40 Battery St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Friendly two-star. Has fantastic staff and a really cool bar with one of the best views in Valletta. $75.
- The Phoenicia, The Mall, Floriana, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Located just outside of the main gate, this 5 star luxury hotel, with the possible exception of Xara palace in Mdina, is the most exclusive place to stay in the country. This is where Queen Elizabeth II (who was Queen of Malta from 1952-1974) recently chose for her reception when visiting Malta. The place has a definite old colonial style about it.
Boutique & Self-Catering
- Maison La Vallette, Marsamxett Harbour, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A discreet self catering luxury town house, situated in the old part of Valletta - dating back to the Knights of Malta. The house has a large bedroom with ensuite facilities, bathroom with tub, living room and separate kitchen. The decor is a mix of Maltese style baroque and bespoke designer furniture. An ideal setting for a romantic stay, with easy access to the rest of the island. €81.
- Valletta G-House, near Fort St Elmo, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Artist's private townhouse featured for its beauty in magazines and voted travel writer's choice by both Britain's Guardian and by the Lonely Planet Guide. Large bedroom with striking floor tiles and traditional 'galleria', rustic kitchen with all mod-cons and lounge. From €595 per week.
- Valletta Nobile, Close to St John's Co-Cathedral, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Valletta Nobile is a 400 year old Maltese townhouse full of character and charm. This self catering accommodation in Valletta is a discreet hide-away tailored for the discerning traveller. A unique house which expresses the joy of the noble life of knighthood mingled with the playful colours of Maltese baroque. It offers an intimate experience of living in a world heritage site, nestled between opulent baroque churches and the Grand Master’s palace, just minutes away. €85.
- Casa Ellul, 81, Old Theatre Street, Valletta VLT 1429, Malta, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Casa Ellul is a luxury boutique hotel located on a quiet street in central Valletta, a corner away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Each one of the eight suites were uniquely design to express a contemporary luxury finish, whilst retaining their classical baroque style. If you are looking for luxury, a personalized discreet service and the ultimate experience of living in an authentic Victorian-period Palazzo – Casa Ellul is your home away from home.
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.
Opposite to the Trabuxu wine bar at the beginning of 'Strait Street' there is Ziffa Internet Center which offers a wide selection of services including internet browsing and low cost international calls.
- 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, ☎ (for regular and emergency service), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com; ConsularMalta@state.gov firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; ConsularMalta@state.gov. M, F 8AM-11AM, W 1PM-4PM.
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 for €0.93.
Valletta is itself 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