Surrounded by glistening blue waters and packed with beautiful, honey-coloured Baroque architecture, the tiny Maltese capital of Valletta has always been striking. But, reenergised by its coronation as European Capital of Culture 2018, this walled city is now looking better than ever. Here’s how to make the most of your time there:
Located on Valletta’s eastern side, the Upper Barracca Gardens are one of our favourite spots in the city. The views out over the Grand Harbour are spectacular, and the Gardens also conceal the Lascaris War Rooms – an underground tunnel complex that served as the island’s secret Allied headquarters during World War II.
The whole of Valletta is an open-air museum, but the Museum of Archaeology is particularly intriguing. Don’t miss the famous ‘fat ladies’ – voluptuous statues taken from the island’s Megalithic temples.
BEST FOR...A SURPRISE
Just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor should you let a building’s exterior deter you from venturing inside. This is especially true of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, whose very ordinary façade hides a truly magnificent interior. And the curious name? St. John’s shares the honour of being the island’s principal church with St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina.
Architect Renzo Piano – who masterminded London’s Shard – redesigned Valletta’s City Gate ahead of the city’s year in the spotlight. Built using stone from Malta’s neighbouring isle Gozo, the new gate and adjoining parliament building form a suitably impressive entrance to Valletta.
BEST FOR...SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Take a water taxi over to Vittoriosa for more excellent views of the Grand Harbour and the chance to wander the atmospheric back streets of the original home of the Knights of St. John.