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Measuring a mere 80 hectares (197 acres), with approximately 60,000 inhabitants, Malta’s Valletta is the smallest capital city of Europe. Acting as the setting to many a popular Hollywood movie, this small but beautiful archipelago has long-captured the hearts of famous filmmakers. And rightfully so – it’s got remarkable history, architecture and unique traditions, innovative art projects, fossil-studded cliffs and gorgeous, hidden coves. And those are just some of the reasons Valletta has just been awarded as 2018’s European Capital of Culture.
Six years after its initial proposal to the Ministry of Culture to be considered for European Capital of Culture, the city of Valletta has successfully landed this year’s title. As set out by the European Commission, this is Valletta’s opportunity to bring a breath of fresh air to the city – through regeneration, increased tourism, raising the city’s profile internationally, and showing its inhabitants a greater appreciation of the city’s core values. As 2018’s Capital of Culture, it can celebrate the different cultures found across the European Union, and enhance the sense of unity found among them.
While still retaining its historic Baroque-style buildings and masterpiece constructions dating back to the capital’s 1565 inception following the Great Siege, Valletta also boasts some of the finest modern architecture in Europe. Funding has helped regenerate many parts of the city, the most notable being Valletta’s grand entrance. The infamous Triton Fountain has been fully restored, making it a stunning centrepiece when first entering the city.
Strait Street – sometimes referred to as ‘The Gut’, due to it being the hub of nightlife entertainment – has had a recent make-over, and a plethora of bars and restaurants line this buzzing part of town, waiting to be discovered. Live entertainment regularly takes place and the architecture alone, including beautiful, original façades, makes this street a piece of living history.
The streets of Valletta are packed with live entertainment, from musicians at restaurants and bars to street entertainers. Various locations across the vicinity host free events, while regular performances can also be caught in the capital’s historical buildings, such as the Manoel Theatre and the open-air Pjazza Teatru Rjal. Jazz, classical, opera and contemporary music, combined with an array of dance varieties, make Valletta the perfect destination for entertainment, sure to suit all tastes and ages.
Aside for St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the original home to Caravaggio’s stunning paintings, Valletta is an art-lover’s dream and a fast-growing artistic hub. Making the most of its available spaces, new exhibitions and special art events are propping up across town, with plenty of brand-new multimedia art exhibitions held in a multitude of locations, from converted churches to old warehouses. Celebrating local contemporary artists, in addition to embracing the work of those further afield, Valletta’s art scene is booming, breathing new life into Malta’s heritage sites and historic foundations.