This miniature masterpiece was said to be “built by gentlemen, for gentlemen”. Valletta certainly lives up to this elegant reputation. A luxury city break could find you strolling along streets lined with baroque townhouses and palaces. Or walking in the footsteps of the Knights of St John through cathedrals. But Valletta isn’t all about history – cutting-edge architecture, boutique hotels and a buzzing local culture bring this centuries-old treasure right up to date.
A city steeped in legend, with a laid-back, timeless appeal
Things to do
Valletta was founded by the Knights of St John in 1565, fresh from defeating the Ottoman fleet at the Great Siege of Malta. The walled city sprang up in just a few decades, and remains one of the most complete collections of baroque buildings in Europe. Escape inside St John’s Co-cathedral to see this ornate style in all its glory, complete with gold-encrusted ceilings, sculptures and artworks. The city once again came under attack during World War II, and a network of underground tunnels and shelters still remains.
A popular pastime in Valletta is simply to sit back, and watch the world go by. As you walk through the city, look up at the colourful balconies clinging to the townhouses, and you’ll see plenty of people doing just that. But there are plenty of more lively options too. As the evening draws in, make your way to the Open Air Theatre – built by internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano – to watch dance or drama. Or seek out a wine bar or jazz club in one of the city’s subterranean vaults.
From Spain to Italy, Valletta’s many visitors over the centuries have brought flavours from all over the Mediterranean. Local favourites include pastizzi, a flaky pastry filled with ricotta that’s perfect for eating as you walk. Valletta has many restaurants that serve up island cuisine, from Maltese-style ravioli to a huge variety of seasonal fish dishes.
Find your way to the Upper Barakka Gardens in time for sunset. The balcony overlooking the Grand Harbour is said to be one of the best views in Malta.
Top Tip from SLH