Hello my lovely friends!
I told you already that I’m spending my Christmas in Malta! On my first day I wandered through the old, charming streets of Malta’s baroque gem – City of Valletta. What a beautiful City! I found Valletta breathtaking. It’s a living, working piece of history. The architecture is to die for. Just like being in a movie set. So much to see and all in such a small area that just walking round is magnificent!
Valletta is simply fascinating and a definite Must-See for everybody. Malta’s capital city, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, steeped in history and brimming with baroque architecture, ancient forts, magnificent churches and inspiring museums.
Valletta was built by the Order of the Knights of St.John as its seat of power and to house its grand palaces and institutions. Now, with its newly assigned title of European Capital of Culture 2018, the city is experiencing a major face lift, noticeable upon entering the City Gate. Some of its best-known sites have been restored and renovated, being a part of a rehabilitation project led by the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano that has given the capital a new lease of life. Valletta has often been in a state of change from the days when it was built by the Knights of St.John as a defence from an impending Turkish invasion, to the devastating attacks that came from the sky during World War II and destroyed some of its gems. Thankfully, most treasures are all still here and should be high on your agenda to visit. It’s also a shopping and dining Mecca and is particularly busy during the day with shoppers and office workers.
Stretching across just 2 km at its longest point, and with its grid-like pattern of streets, the capital is easy to navigate. Having been designed by the Knights of St.John in the 16th century as their seat of power and residence, the capital is home to magnificent historical buildings, some looking as majestic as they did when they were first built and others whispering of the glorious days gone by in their abandoned state.
I started my walk from the City Gate on the pedestrianised Republic Street. There are many others worth exploring, of course, including quaint St Ursola Street and Archbishop Street with its imposing buildings.
Starting off on Republic Street, your first stop should be the National museum of Archaeology, displaying artefacts of Malta’s archaeological discoveries. Further down you will come across the world famous St John’s Co-Cathedral. This church is a masterpiece of baroque art and architecture and houses precious works, including Caravaggio’s The Beheading of St John the Baptist’, while the tapestries displayed within its museum, along with many other treasures, are priceless.
One of the best places to enjoy a spot of lunch and a bit of people-watching, while being serenaded by a street musician, is Republic Square, which is situated halfway down Republic Street. Here you can see the facade of the National Library, which was the last public building erected by the Knights before the island was ceded to Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Grand Master’s Palace is adjacent to the Library and has been the seat of authority since 1571. Originally the headquarters of the Knights of St John, this magnificent palace is now the seat of the government. Here you can see an incredible range of historical artefacts, like the impressive armoury collection and tapestries. Once in this part of the city, I kept walking down to Fort St Elmo, which has undergone extensive rehabilitation works and was recently opened to the public for the first time in decades. Just beyond this point, you’ll find the Valletta Breakwater – a feat of engineering that is also a beautiful spot from which to watch the boats come and go from the Harbour. From the Palace I stepped out into St George’s Square taking pictures with the dancing fountains.
But the best part of the day was when I discovered a few ‘best kept secrets of Valletta city”, which provide rest and refuge from the crowds and a break from sightseeing. The Lower Barrakka Gardens affords lovely views of Great Siege Bell Monument, while the Upper Barrakka Gardens provide the best vista of Grand Harbour, with the Three Cities in the background and the Saluting Batter below. You must know that a gun salute goes off at noon on the dot every day. From here I took the newly reopened Barrakka lift down to the waterfront of the city. Find a bench beyond the flowerbeds, overlooking the incredible Grand Harbour and the Three Cities. The views are absolutely stunning.
Although some of the old roads in the capital are still blocked as part of the restoration works, a quiet amble around the back streets will still prove highly interesting. For even more interesting sights, look for the majestic Auberge de Castille, which houses the Office of the Prime Minister.
Naturally a long day of exploration can work up a hearty appetite. Taking lunch or dinner in the city of Valletta is for sure a romantic affair and I recommend you to head to the Valletta Waterfront. It’s the ideal place to wrap up a busy day of touring by sipping a refreshing drink while admiring the majestic Fort St Angelo on the opposite shore of the historic Grand Harbour.
If you choose to see only one really great attraction in Malta, see Valletta Living History!