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A World Heritage Site and the capital city of Malta, Valletta is 'a city of palaces built by gentleman for gentleman'. Built by Grandmaster La Vallette in the 16th century, today Valletta is the thriving financial and commercial centre of Malta. A centre for government administration, shopping and culture Valletta bustles by day. By night, the capital city of Malta becomes a centre for cultural and musical events.

Sometimes described as 'an open-air museum', Valletta was extensively bombed in WWII. Nevertheless, 320 historic buildings and monuments have survived and are concentrated in an area of just 55 hectares. It was this fact which led UNESCO to grant Valletta World Heritage Status in 1980. Originally built in the Baroque style, Valletta also has elements of Mannerism, Neo-classicism and Modern Architecture. Such is the wealth of architecture and museums here that Valletta merits at least a couple of days of exploration to do it justice.

Built on a grid pattern, Valletta's streets run parallel to each other eventually leading to the outer fortifications which surround the city on all sides. This feature was extremely important to the design of the capital - it allows an ingenious flow of air through the streets and a handy 'natural' cooling system for the city. On three sides the fortications are further surrounded by water. Built upon what was formerly known as Mount Sciberras, Valletta's streets are steep - so much so that many have pavement made of stairs. Touring the city on foot can therefore be very tiring for the elderly and children. However, there are new mini-cabs which will take you anywhere in Valletta for a small, set feet.

As you enter Valletta, you will be greeted by the three arched city gate which leads on to Republic Street and a square. Here a daily flea market, known as the "Monti" sells everything from bootleg DVD's and music to underwear and souvenirs. Just in front of the gate on the right hand side is the Tourist Office. As you walk down the street, you will soon come to the remains of the Opera House which was bombed in WWII. More than half a century after this event, the Opera House languishes in limbo while various plans for its redevelopment are put forward and contested. In the meantime, it serves variously as a car park and a stage for outdoor theatrical events in the summer. Head right here and you will soon pass an Auberge built by the Knights. It now serves as the president's palace. Across the road is the St James Centre for Creativity where everything from musical performances to film shows and art exhibitions indulge the Maltese demand for culture. To the right of the centre is the Upper Barracca Gardens. Built again by the Knights the gardens provide wonderful scenic views over the natural harbour of Valletta and across the waters to the three cities.

Built as it was by the Knights, Valletta has many historic and beautiful churches but none of these are comparable to St John's Co-Cathedral. Just off Republic Street, the cathedral is a baroque masterpiece. Adorned from ceiling to floor with paintings, intricate carvings and marble, St John's is breath-taking. The central isle is sided by 8 chapels with one built for every order. The crypt is honoured with the remains of the city's founder. However, the masterpiece here can be found in the cathedral museum. The Beheading of St John, by Caravaggio, was painted by the artist for the space on t he wall where it can still be seen today.

There is so much to do and see in Valletta that it would require a book rather than an article to do it justice. For first-time visitors, the best way to see the city is to simply wander around and take in the gorgeous architecture. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes here which offer al fresco dining oftentimes with a complimentary view of the grand harbour. For a selection, head to the Valletta Waterfront. A superb destination by night, the Waterfront has recently been revamped and the bars and restaurants which are situated here were once boat-houses.
We will be adding more detailed information on the main attractions in Valletta in the near future but for the moment here is a little list of sights you may wish to consider visiting.

The Malta Experience
Casa Rocca Piccola
Lower Barracca Gardens
The War Museum

Location Map