Benjamin Disreali described Valletta as “a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen”, when he visited it in 1830. Since that time not much has changed.
Proud capital of Malta, Valletta is the perfect weekend destination. Combining culture, sea and sun this UNESCO World Heritage Centre should be high on your list for a brief early summer escape.
5 reasons to visit Valletta:
1) The views of the Grand Harbour
I read in a guidebook I picked up from Valletta’s Information Office that the view overlooking Valletta’s Grand Harbour is one of the three most outstanding sites of the Mediterranean (along with the Golden Horn and the Bay of Naples). It is indeed breath-taking. The expanse of the natural Harbour, the impressive Forts of St Elmo, Ricasoli and St Angela & the Royal Naval Hospital are hard to take in all at once. Sit on one of the benches of the Upper or Lower Barracca Gardens (lovely) and take your time to enjoy it.
2) St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Valletta is the home of the Knights of Malta, and this stunning Cathedral is testimony of this – it was built by them and called after their official name (‘Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John’). The simple, almost military façade contrasts sharply to its intricate, grand Baroque interior. One of Caravaggio’s most famous works – the beheading of St. John the Baptist, hangs in the oratory. It is the only work of art Caravaggio signed. The audio guide comes free with entrance (€12) and is excellent.
3) Amble down Valletta’s side streets
The old town of the city is tiny and built like a grid, so very easy to get around. I loved ambling down the sloping streets, once in a while catching glimpses of the brilliant blue sea, enjoying the tattered old facades of the buildings and their unique, Moorish windows. Within a minute’s walk away from the tourist centre you practically can have a private view of the side streets, with only some stray cats to keep you company. Heaven.
Nestled in the old city walls, this newly renovated restaurant cannot be missed. Sit either inside in the ‘wine caves’ or outside on the beautiful candle-lit terrace with stunning views of the city walls and a pleasant breeze. The food is, quite simply, delicious. Try the scallops to start and the typically Maltese braised rabbit as a main. While it feels like a luxurious experience, Rampila is incredible value for money. Reserve a table online.
Rampila (St Johns Cavalier, Valletta)
5) St. Julian’s: Boutique Hotels & lively bars
Rather than staying in Valletta, I recommend staying in St. Julian’s. Its hip, there is a lively vibe and its ‘younger’ than Valletta. It’s rife with cool little Boutique hotels and busy bars. We stayed in the Argento hotel, which was great. St. Julian’s Bay is also absolutely lovely. Plus its only a 20 minute bus ride from Valetta, so it’s no problem to go back and forth.
Warning: stay away from St. George’s road in Paceville: its rammed with drunken teenagers…
Of course you need not just stay a weekend, for apart from Valletta, Malta has much more to be explored and enjoyed. Go diving in the North, near Mellieha and Gozo, visit more of Malta’s cultural hubs like Mdina & Mosta, or just relax on the beach and enjoy the beautiful clear waters of the Med.