Valletta travel guide
Valletta, Malta’s capital city, offers a captivating journey through time with its stunning architecture and ancient fortifications. The UNESCO-listed city boasts historical grandeur and a vibrant culture, making it a must-visit destination for travellers seeking a rich cultural experience in Malta. The city’s opulent halls and cobblestone streets tell the story of its illustrious past, while its lively cafes and thriving art scene add to its allure. Valletta is a place where past and present seamlessly blend, creating a unique and enchanting atmosphere that leaves a lasting impression on every visitor.
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Visiting Valletta offers a unique experience unlike any other in the world. As you wander through the historic streets and marvel at the impressive architecture, you’ll feel transported back in time to a bygone era.
An Overview of Valletta
Valletta is a renowned cultural city in Europe. Although Malta might not be very noticeable among Asian tourists, it is a hidden gem for European travelers, often referred to as “Europe’s countryside.” As the capital city, Valletta features Malta’s largest harbour, with the city built on the foothills of Mount Sciberras.
The city’s layout is meticulously planned with a fortified city wall centered around natural landmarks, and it boasts grand buildings constructed in carefully chosen locations. The streets have a grid-like pattern, and the buildings on both sides are made of the characteristic Maltese limestone, giving the city its distinctive gray-white hue, representing Malta’s original colour palette.
Valletta is not only the capital but also the political, commercial, and cultural centre of the country, which has contributed to its significant role on the international stage. The city was named after the 49th Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, Jean Parisot de Valette, who was responsible for its construction and ruled from 1557 to 1568, hence the name Valletta has been used ever since.
How to get to Valletta
Malta has only one airport, Ajruport Internazzjonali ta’ Malta (MLA). The airport is functional and straightforward and it serves as the main hub for international arrivals to Malta. As Valletta is the capital of Malta, reaching it from the airport is not too difficult.
- Taking the airport bus: The airport bus has four routes: X1, X2, X3, and X4. To reach Valletta, you can take the X4 route: Airport – Birzebbuga. This route is suitable for tourists heading to Valletta and Birzebbuga. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines or directly from the bus driver.
- Airport taxis: Pre-paid taxi tickets can be purchased at the Welcomers’ Hall in the airport. The price of the pre-paid ticket is fixed based on the distance to the destination (ranging from €15-50).
- Self-driving: Many tourists in Malta prefer to rent a car for self-driving. We have compiled an article about driving in Malta, including all the tips for self-driving on the island. Visitors generally cannot drive their cars into the old city area of Valletta. There are large parking lots outside the Valletta city walls, which are not too expensive (maximum €8 per day) and are safe and convenient to use.
Tourists can also take a ferry from Pozzallo in southern Sicily, Italy, to Valletta Ferry Terminal, with a travel time of 1 hour and 45 minutes for two daily trips.Alternatively, there is a ferry from Catania in Sicily to Valletta, but the entire journey takes 4 hours and 45 minutes.
› To check the ticket prices for the ferry from Sicily, Italy, to Valletta, you can visit Direct Ferries.
How to Plan a Trip in Valletta
Valletta is a small city, and you can easily explore it on foot within 1-2 days. If you have a longer stay in Malta, consider combining it with other attractions or island-hopping. Here’s a suggested 5-day itinerary:
|Arrive in Valletta ⟶ Wander around Valletta, visit popular attractions in Valletta.
|Breakfast in Valletta ⟶ Witness the Saluting Battery at Upper Barrakka Gardens ⟶ Take a boat to the Three Cities on the other side
|Take a boat to Gozo and Comino Islands ⟶ Visit Popeye Village (if time allows)
|Visit the charming fishing village of Marsaxlokk in the south ⟶ St Peter’s Pool ⟶ Blue Grotto ⟶ Mdina.
|Take a stroll along the Sliema promenade ⟶ St Julian’s ⟶ Get ready for departure
› Planning to spend more time in Malta? Check this out :- How to Spend A Week in Malta
What to See in Valletta: Top Attractions
Triton Fountain in Valletta is a prominent landmark located near the entrance of the city. It is an iconic water feature that consists of three bronze Triton statues holding up large basins, from which water flows. The fountain’s striking design adds to the charm and beauty of Valletta, making it a popular spot for both locals and tourists to admire and capture photos.
Valletta City Gate
Valletta City Gate is the main entrance to Valletta. It serves as a significant architectural landmark and was recently redesigned with a modern and innovative approach. The gate features a bridge that spans across the city’s moat, leading visitors into the heart of Valletta’s historical and cultural marvels.
The Parliament of Malta
The Parliament House in Valletta is a modern and architecturally impressive building designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano. On the left side of the Parliament House is the Royal Opera House, which used to be Valletta’s opera house and performance venue. Unfortunately, the Royal Opera House was damaged during World War II due to bombing. After years of neglect, the theatre’s original site was rebuilt and is now reopened as a performance venue: Pjazza Teatru Rjal.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
St. John’s Co-Cathedral is a magnificent religious landmark located in Valletta. Built by the Knights of St. John between 1573 and 1578, the cathedral is an outstanding example of Baroque architecture. Its unassuming exterior hides a stunning interior adorned with intricate artwork, gilded decor, and elaborate marble tombstones. The cathedral is famous for housing Caravaggio’s masterpiece paintings, including “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” and “St. Jerome Writing.” It is not only a place of worship but also a treasure trove of art and history, making it a must-visit attraction for anyone exploring Valletta’s cultural heritage.
› Address: Triq San Gwann, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta（Location）
› Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 9:30AM-4:30PM / Sat 9:30AM-12:30PM (Closed on Sundays and public holidays)
› Admission: Adults €15/ Students €12/ Free for children below 12
› Official Website: Click here. For a more insightful tour, check this Guided Walking Tour out.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
The Upper Barrakka Gardens is a beautiful public garden. Situated on the highest point of the city’s fortifications, it offers stunning panoramic views of the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities across the water. The garden is adorned with lush greenery, charming sculptures, and relaxing benches, providing a peaceful oasis for both locals and visitors to enjoy. The daily firing of the Saluting Battery at noon is a popular attraction in the gardens, adding to its unique charm and historical significance.
Lower Barrakka Gardens
The Lower Barrakka Gardens is another delightful public garden situated below the Upper Barrakka Gardens. It provides equally captivating views of the Grand Harbour and the historic waterfront. The garden’s well-maintained pathways, vibrant flora, and elegant monuments make it a pleasant spot for leisurely walks and relaxation. Visitors can enjoy the picturesque scenery and watch the comings and goings of boats and ships in the bustling harbour below.
Siege Bell War Memorial
The Siege Bell War Memorial is a significant monument dedicated to honouring the lives lost during the Siege of Malta during World War II. The memorial consists of a large bronze bell suspended from an arch, which was originally used to signal the end of the daily curfew during the siege. Today, it serves as a symbol of resilience and remembrance for the people of Malta. The location of the Siege Bell War Memorial offers panoramic views of the Grand Harbour, making it not only a place of reflection but also a popular spot for tourists to admire the city’s stunning vistas.
Victoria Gate is one of the city gates of Valletta. It is named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and serves as an entrance to the city from the area of Floriana. The gate features a grand arch with a large coat of arms, adding to the architectural beauty and historical significance of Valletta.
Old Mint Street
Old Mint Street is a historic street located in the heart of Valletta. It is a charming and narrow cobblestone street that is lined with traditional Maltese townhouses, some of which date back several centuries. The street gets its name from the fact that the mint of the Order of St. John was once located here during the 16th century. Today, Old Mint Street is a vibrant and bustling area with shops, cafes, and restaurants, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists to explore and enjoy.
Republic Square, also known as Piazza Regina, is a prominent public square. It is one of the main squares in the city and serves as a hub for various events and activities. The square features a central monument dedicated to Queen Victoria, surrounded by beautiful Baroque-style buildings and historical landmarks. It is a popular gathering place for both locals and tourists, offering a vibrant atmosphere and a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Valletta.
How to Get Around Valletta
Getting around Valletta is relatively easy and convenient, as the city is compact and pedestrian-friendly.
Walking is the best way to explore Valletta, with its compact and pedestrian-friendly layout offering a delightful and immersive experience. It allows visitors to discover the city’s architectural splendour, historical charm, and hidden gems while engaging with friendly locals and uncovering fascinating stories from its rich history. Walking in Valletta promises an authentic and unforgettable journey.
If you wish to see Valletta from the water, harbour cruises offer a unique and captivating experience, providing stunning views of the city’s fortifications and coastline from the water. Sailing along the Grand Harbour allows visitors to appreciate Valletta’s architectural grandeur and learn about its maritime history.
Where to Stay in Valletta
Staying in the heart of Valletta puts you within walking distance of its main attractions, historic sites, restaurants, and shops. You’ll be immersed in the city’s vibrant atmosphere and can easily explore its charming streets and landmarks.
The Embassy Valletta Hotel
$ $ $
The Capital Boutique Hotel
What to take note of when visiting Valletta
- Valletta is a historic city with many religious sites, so it’s essential to dress modestly, especially when visiting churches and other religious places. Avoid wearing revealing clothing and opt for attire that covers shoulders and knees.
- Malta has a sunny climate, especially during the summer months. Be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s rays, as you’ll likely be walking around the city and spending time outdoors.
- Stay hydrated, especially in the warmer months, by carrying a water bottle with you. There are public water fountains around the city where you can refill your bottle for free.
- Keep in mind that some shops, restaurants, and attractions in Valletta might have different opening hours than what you are used to, particularly during the afternoon when some places close for a siesta.
Visiting Valletta as a Muslim
Visiting Valletta as a Muslim can be a rewarding experience, as Malta is generally known for its religious tolerance and friendly atmosphere. However, there are a few things to consider to ensure a comfortable trip:
- While Malta does offer some halal food options, they might be limited compared to countries with larger Muslim populations. Look for restaurants serving halal food or vegetarian options, and consider checking in advance or asking locals for recommendations.
- There are a few mosques and Islamic centers in Malta, including the Mariam Al-Batool Mosque (Paola Mosque). Check their prayer timings and locations to plan your prayers accordingly.
- If you plan to attend Friday prayers, consider finding a mosque or Islamic center where congregational prayers are held, and be aware of the prayer times.
- As a predominantly Catholic country, Malta has a modest dress code, especially when visiting religious sites. Dressing modestly is respectful, and it is advisable to cover shoulders and knees, especially when entering places of worship.
- Respect local customs and traditions, even if they differ from your own. Understanding and adapting to the local culture will help you have a more enjoyable experience.
You can also read more tips about travelling in Malta as a Muslim here.
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Ensure a seamless travel experience by booking these tour services ahead of time.
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