Malta’s capital city of Valletta is brimming with culture. With an eclectic mix of modern and baroque architecture encompassing galleries, museums and places of worship to name a few, the whole capital city has been given the title of a UNESCO site and is Europe’s 2018 Capital of Culture. Spread over such a small area, spending 24 hours in Valletta would give any visitor ample time to experience just some of what this exciting place has to offer.
Head to the Triton Fountain just outside Valletta’s main walls, which has recently undergone a major restoration as part of extensive work going on in the area. The fountain stands tall and in all its splendour shows off a sculpture of a large bronze platter being held by three Tritons, depicting Malta’s links with the sea. From here you can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage down to Valletta’s waterfront and enjoy a walk viewing the boats and yachts moored here and find a spot to eat in one of the restaurants housed in internally converted stores and warehouses dating back to the 18th century. Cuisines are varied and very reasonably priced. Enjoy a relaxing evening taking in the views and a leisurely scenic stroll can take you back to Valletta’s main centre.
Insider Tip. Don’t be afraid to haggle with the drivers of the horse and carriages, they are used to it. Prices will start off extremely high but will come down quite dramatically with some haggling once they think they may lose your business completely.
Pay a visit to the National Museum of Archaeology on Valletta’s main road of Republic Street. This museum is home to artefacts showcasing Malta’s prehistoric periods. Dating back to as far as the first arrival of man, right through the Bronze Age and Phoenician period. The museum is based in the stunning Auberge de Provence building which, in itself, is something of awe. It was built in the late 16th century, following the Great Siege, although over the years it has undergone some structural changes, many original features are still intact. Today, this building remains one of the most well-preserved residences of the Knights of the Order of St John.
A 10-minute walk from the Archaeology Museum is the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Arrive here and make your way to the spectators’ area by 11.45am to hear a short commentary before the firing of the noon gun from the saluting battery below. With views over the Grand Harbour, enjoy Valletta’s biggest attraction of possibly the world’s oldest saluting battery still in operation. Being used for almost 500 years, in the early 19th century, the battery introduced the daily midday firing in addition to marking several special occasions throughout the year and to welcome visiting vessels and dignitaries. Probably the most impressive timepiece you will witness.
Grab a bite to eat at the renowned Caffe Cordina in Valletta’s Republic street. Difficult to miss, this large place offers sheltered outside seating, ideal to watch daily life in Valletta’s heart. Despite its location, prices are reasonable and variety is wide ranging from light snacks to full meals and delectable desserts. Producing its own Maltese delicacies, Caffe Cordina is a great meeting spot also attracting locals who wish to grab something quick. Starting as a small outlet in 1837, the Cordina family has passed their skills through the generations and now have outlets across the island. Valletta is the flagship venue and is known island wide.
Insider Tip. If tables are full, it’s worth hanging around for a few minutes. Because of its scale, people come and go regularly so there’s never too much of a wait to be seated if it appears there are no spaces. A waiter and waitress service means there is no need to leave your table once seated.
Caffe Cordina, 244 Republic Street, Valletta, Malta +356 2065 0400
A visit to St Johns Co-Cathedral is a must. This stunning baroque place of worship seeps with exuberance. Frequented by the Knights of St John, both the knights and Grand Masters ensured that only the highest quality of artwork was donated to here. Discover the cathedral history through an audio tour available in eight different languages as you peruse, at your own pace, the artwork and gloriously rich architecture. With separate sections displaying original pieces by Caravaggio and Mattia Preti, tapestries, tombstones, artefacts and the history of the knights, there’s plenty to take in.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Triq San Gwann, Valletta, Malta +356 2122 0356
You can’t visit Valletta without popping into some of the shops and doinga bit of exploring. Among the large chain stores that pop up in many a capital city, you will find quaint boutiques, bespoke jewellery shops, bookshops, artist workshops and traditional coffee shops. The back streets are predominantly residential with daily life among the baroque buildings. Take a saunter along the most famous street in Malta, Strait Street, and step back in time to easily see why this street was the entertainment hub during the war years. End your day with some refreshments in one of the tucked away cafés or perhaps something alcoholic at The Pub, famous for being frequented by Oliver Reed and the place where he passed away.