About Valletta

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Valletta

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 palaces.

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

Important Churches

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 Oratory.

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 beheaded.


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 shelters.

National Library
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.

Sacra Infermeria
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 fired.

Hastings Gardens
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.


Museums

Armoury
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.

Toy Museum
Showcased on three floors are toys from the 1950’s onward. Of particular interest is a fine collection of Corgy, Dinky and Matchbox cars.

War Museum
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.


Shopping
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 to Sat.

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.

 

Information
About Malta
Getting Around

Places to Visit
Valletta
The Three Cities
Mdina & Rabat
Gozo & Comino