Casa Rocca Piccola
Current home of the noble de Piro family, Casa Rocco Piccola is a 16th-century palace through which there are daily tours. The palace is stunningly beautiful, very well kept and tours are incredibly informative providing a unique historical perspective. The World War two air raid shelters have also recently been opened to public viewing, and give a fascinating glimpse into wartime life. Those giving the tours are extremely knowledgeable about the palace and can answer questions with ease, so visitors can see a vivid picture of upper-class Maltese life.
74 Republic St, Valletta +356 21221499
National War Museum
Located in Fort St. Elmo, a seaward-facing star fort built around 1552, the National War Museum of Malta contains military equipment and objects from as far back as the Bronze Age up to and including World War II. Two halls are dedicated to Malta’s important roles in World War I and II. Displayed in these halls you can see the three most important icons of the museum. The Gloster Sea Gladiator fighter plane, Roosevelt’s Jeep ‘Husky’ and the Malta award for gallantry, the George Cross. The museum closed in 2014 and reopened in May 2015 with an even larger collection, so is worth a visit now more than ever.
St. Elmo Place, Il-Belt Valletta +356 21222430
National Museum of Fine Arts
With pieces of fine art dating back to the time of the Order of St. John (16th Century), The National Museum of Fine Arts has much to offer to any fan of the arts. The building itself is a historical one. Originally one of the oldest in Valletta, it was largely rebuilt in the 1760s for the use of a Knight as his private home. It displays the largest collection of paintings by the Baroque artist Mattia Preti (1613–1699), a collection of rare, antique maps and works of art by many other artists who lived from 1500 to the modern day.
South St, Valletta +356 21954341
Known unofficially as the Great Wall of Malta, the Victoria Lines are a wall of fortifications with defensive towers which span the width of the island, dividing the north of the island from the south. Built by the British Military in the 19th century, the wall protected harbor installations in the south from attacks from the North. Large parts of the fortifications have collapsed, but there are guided walks (though individuals can walk by themselves if they wish) along the fortifications still standing. You can walk along the whole island, so the Victoria Lines offer some spectacular scenery.
St Francis of Assisi Church
The grand and beautiful St Francis of Assisi Church in Valletta has rather a complicated past. Built in 1598, opened in 1607, rebuilt in 1681 by Italian Grand Master Gregorio Carafa and finally enlarged in the 1920s by Emanuel Borg, it displays all the layers of its gradual construction. Displaying frescos by Giuseppe Calì and Gianni Vella as well as precious works of art including paintings by Mattia Preti, Pietro Gagliardi, and Filippo Paladini, there is much to be struck by in the church.
An important performing arts venue in Valletta, the Manoel Theatre is reported to be one of Europe’s oldest working theaters. It has an oval-shaped auditorium with three tiers of wooden boxes decorated with gold leaf, and a pale blue trompe-l’oeil ceiling resembling a round cupola. It has retained many of its architectural features despite multiple alterations over the years and is a very beautiful building. The theater still presents shows in both English and Maltese, including opera, pantomime, and musicals.
Old Theatre Street, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta +356 21246389
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
The most intricate of Malta’s churches, St. John’s Co-Cathedral was built between 1573 and 1578 by the Knights of Malta. It was designed by military architect Glormu Cassar who designed many prominent buildings in Valletta and is considered one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture (the interior’s ornate detail is largely the work of Italian Baroque artist Mattia Preti). The cathedral consists of eight chapels dedicated to each of the patron saints of each section of the knights. The entire marble floor is a series of tombs, housing almost 400 knights, and there is also a crypt beneath the cathedral.
The Grand Harbour served as the base of the Order of Saint John from 1530 until 1798, and it was during this time that the majority of the fortifications were built. Originally a natural harbor, the area was savagely bombed during World War Two in efforts to destroy the docks. The dockyard is still functional and is currently undergoing a restoration to protect the areas of historical significance.
Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens
The colonnaded Upper Barrakka Gardens provide an incredible view high over the Grand Harbour. They were designed in the 16th century as a place for knights to rest and relax, and today is a blissful and shady retreat from the bustling city, with lots of benches to sit on. The terrace below holds the Saluting Battery where the canon fires every day at noon. The Lower Barrakka Gardens are much less frequented by tourists than the Upper Gardens, making them something of a wonderful hidden gem.
Upper Barrakka Gardens, Triq Sant’ Orsla, Il-Belt Valletta
Lower Barrakka Gardens, Quarry Wharf, Valletta
A definite point of interest for anybody interested in the war history of Malta, The Grandmaster’s Palace is rich in 16th to 18th-century history. A symbol of the opulence enjoyed by the Grand Master, the palace is very ornate in its interior. The armory can be entered so you can see a collection of over five thousand suits of armor and equipment used by soldiers and knights since the 16th century. It also contains the only complete and intact set of the famous 18th century French Gobelins tapestries entitled, “Les Teintures des Indes”, in the world.