This tiny capital city was ruled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and British. Valletta’s architecture was influenced by all of these civilisations and as you wander the streets you’ll see their presence within the narrow streets and building facades.
As you make your way into the oldest part of the city, the Renaissance-style streets start to come into full view. Walking through Valletta and looking up at the jaw dropping details will leaving you feeling as though you’ve stepped back in time and into the pages of a history book.
Valletta is built on a grid system, so it is exceptionally easy to navigate, especially since the entire city is only about one square kilometre in size. It is also known as the smallest capital city in Europe, so as you walk the streets in the early morning, you’ll feel as though you have the entire city all to yourself. Today, it’s hard to believe that it suffered extensive bombing during World War II.
The Upper Barrakka Gardens, are small and perfectly manicured, situated on the highest point of Valletta and overlooking the Grand Harbour. The gardens date back to 1661 and used to be a private garden for knights at that time. Every day at noon, members of the Malta Heritage Society (dressed in British Artillery uniforms) fire off a military salute using the cannons.
Valletta is built on a peninsula between two beautiful natural harbours (Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour). The city sits perched high above the water, which made it a perfect watching ground for keeping an eye on potential intruders.
The streets of Valletta have many different personalities to them. Brightly painted doors are juxtaposed with equally old and colourful wooden Maltese balconies that jut out from the buildings, high above the streets below. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear elderly women shouting to each other from each others’ balconies, probably passing around the daily gossip.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral is a unique structure in itself and a must-visit for architecture lovers. The exterior doesn’t look all that special, but once you set foot inside, you’re greeted with the most glorious and magnificent art of the High Baroque era. The cathedral was completed in 1577 and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The marble floor is covered with intricately laid tombstones, underneath which four hundred Knights are buried. Each tombstone is decorated with the coat of arms of its occupant and symbols reminding people of the inevitability of death. The oratory contains what may be one of the most famous paintings from the 17th century; The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1608). Michelangelo Merisi, otherwise known as Caravaggio, painted this piece, depicting the exact moment when the sword meets St. John’s neck, as he lies on the floor in a pool of blood.
For both locals and tourists, taking a traditional water taxi or a colourful luzzu across the Grand Harbour is an easy and cheap way to venture over to the three cities of Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea. It’s also a great way to see the Valletta from the water and take in the stunning skyline.
Valletta is known to have some of the best weather in all of Europe, boasting approximately three hundred sunny days a year.
Exploring Valletta by foot is by far the best way to see the city. However you decide to spend your days in the city – whether manoeuvring your way through tiny alleyways or relaxing on a patio sipping Cisk beer while people-watching – its atmosphere and beauty will be hard to forget.