The Fortress City, "a city built by gentlemen for
gentlemen". Valletta has many titles, all recalling its rich
historical past. It is the "modern" city built by the Knights of St
John; a masterpiece of the baroque; a European Art City; and a World
Heritage City. But these are just some of its faces and fortunes.
Valletta is also Malta's capital city: a living, working city, the
administrative and commercial heart of the Islands. Nowhere in Malta
is the life of the Islands reflected more than here. The city is
busy by day, yet retains a timeless atmosphere. The grid of narrow
streets house some of Europe's finest art works, churches and
Valletta hosts a vast cultural programme. Street events are staged
against the city's magnificent baroque architecture and floodlit
bastions. There is theatre and music and all manner of things to see
and join in, from avant garde art to traditional church festas. The
city is a delight to shop in: narrow side streets are full of tiny
shops selling antiques, maps, books, prints and jewellery. For top
quality fashion, music and much more try Valletta's main streets -
Republic Street and Merchants Street.
Walking around Valletta, you'll come across an intriguing historical
site around every corner: votive statues, niches, fountains and
coats of arms high up on parapets. And when you need to stop and
take it all in, the city yields up squares, courtyards, gardens and
any number of cafés, right on cue.
Places to visit in Valletta
St. John’s Co. Cathedral
Formerly the Conventual Church of the Order of St. John is
historically and artistically one of the most historical monuments
on the island. It was built between 1573 and 1577 to the design of
Girolamo Cassar (1520-1586), chief engineer of the Order. The
“Beheading of St. John”, Caravaggio’s masterpiece, hangs on the
St. Paul Shipwreck Church
Built to commemorate St. Paul’s Shipwreck on the island, the church
contains impressive vault paintings by Attilio Palombi which portray
episodes in the life of St. Paul. There is also a magnificent wooden
statue of the apostle and two very important relireligiousics – a
wrist bone of St. Paul and a piece of the column on which he was
Historical Buildings, Monuments and Gardens
Grand Master’s Palace
The Magesterial Palace, built between 1571 and 1574, is today the
president’s office and seat to Malta’s parliament. The palace is a
treasure trove of art. The Tapestry Chamber hangs a unique
collection of Gobelin tapestries. Frescoes depicting the Great Seige
of 1565 adorn the Hall of St. Micheal and St. George – formerly the
Order’s Supreme Council Hall. And, the beautiful ceiling decorations
are by Nicolo Nasini. You will also find works by Ribera, Vanloo and
Batoni in the State Apartments.
Casa Rocca Piccola
This small palazzo, built in 1580, is a window to Maltese domestic
culture of yesteryear. You will find an excellent costume collection
on display, important period furniture and pictures. All the rooms
are featured on the guided tour including the recently opened war
This grand 18th century, Venetian style building was the last public
building commissioned by the Knights. It houses some 400,000 works,
many rare or priceless. All archival material covering the history
of the Knights from 1113 to 1798 is lodged in the library.
The hospital of the Order of St. John was built in 1574, one of the
earlier buildings in Valletta. It was famous for its high standards,
as well as its grand interior. The Great Ward, 153 metres long has
one of the longest roof expanses in Europe. During World War II it
was seriously damaged through bombing and after extensive renovation
it re-opened as the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
Seige Bell Memorial
The Seige Bell Memorial was inaugurated in 1992 by Queen Elizabeth.
It is monument for those that died during World War II.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
These 18th century gardens offer excellent views overlooking the
Grand Harbour across to the Three Cities. The gardens are dotted
with statues and have been totally refurbished. Below these gardens
lie the lower Barrakka and every Saturday at noon, the 'noon gun' is
A small garden set on the bastions with splendid views of Manoel
Island and Msida Creek. The gardens also houses a monument built by
the Hasting’s family to the governor of Malta who died in 1826.
Forts & Fortifications
Fort St. Elmo
Fort St. Elmo guard’s the approach to the Grand Harbour and
Marsamxett Harbour. It was built in 1488 and was the scene of a
heroic defence during the Great Seige of 1565. The British added gun
emplacements in the 19th century. In front of the fort are the St.
Elmo Granaries, storage silos with stone lids.
The Armoury contains some fine examples of mediaeval armour and
weapons used by the Knights. Among the thousands of exhibits are
Grand Master La Vallette’s suit of armour and a magnificent
ceremonial suit worn by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt.
Manoel Theatre and Museum
In 1731, Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena commissioned the
construction of the Manoel Theatre. It is one of the oldest theatres
in Europe and is still used. Adjacent to the theatre is the Theatre
Museum housed in Palazzo Bonici.
National Museum of Archaeology
Displays items of pottery, sculptures, statuettes, stone implements
and personal ornaments. Typical examples of Punic and Roman Tomb
furniture along with the museum’s most prized exhibits – The Maltese
Venus and The Sleeping Lady.
National Museum of Fine Arts
On display are works by local and internationally renowned artists
such as, Ribera, Mattia Preti, Mathias Stomer and many others. Also
included in the Museum’s collection and on show are sculpture,
furniture and other works of art connected with the Order of St.
John, notably the ‘monetarium’ – a unique collection of coins.
St. John’s Museum
The Oratory and Museum contain two masterpieces by Caravaggio,
including the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. Also on display are
the surviving Cathedral silver, a unique collection of clerical
vestments and the Flemish tapestries depicting religious stories
made in the late 17th century.
Showcased on three floors are toys from the 1950’s onward. Of
particular interest is a fine collection of Corgy, Dinky and
The War Museum is packed with hardware, photographs and memorabilia
from World War II, ranging from the heroic Gloster Gladiator –
christened Faith, part of the trio of planes known as Faith, Hope
and Charity, to the George Cross, awarded to the Maltese people for
their bravery by King George VI in 1942.
A good selection of local and international brand shops can be
found on Republic Street and Merchants Street. There are also 4
shopping complexes: City Gate, located in Freedom Square. Two
shopping complexes can be found on Santa Lucia Street, Embassy 3 and
Brittania. The Savoy Complex is located on Republic Street. Most of
the outlets in Valletta open from 0900 to 1230 and 1600 to 1900 Mon
Open Air Market
Mostly clothes and accessories, cheap souvenirs, religious icons,
music cassettes, CDs, DVDs and videos.
Sunday Flea Market
This is a very busy market, and although it gets frenzied at times,
it is worth a visit. Besides the usual market stuff there is an
interesting collection of bric-a-brac.
Places to Visit
The Three Cities
Mdina & Rabat
Gozo & Comino