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Travelers who enjoy soaking up the sun, learning about history, and taking long walks will thoroughly enjoy a city break in Valletta, one of Europe’s tiniest capitals.
Protruding from Malta’s main island, Valletta, once an enclave for the Knights of St John, blends Baroque with a modern elegance.
Gozo and Comino, located in the Maltese archipelago, have beautiful beaches, lagoons, and scuba diving that are popular among tourists in the Mediterranean. However, the walled city of Valletta is the cultural and historical center of the entire island nation.
The city of Valletta, which is the capital of Malta, has earned the nickname “The Fortress City” due to its impressive collection of historical landmarks, including elaborate churches, war museums, and fortifications dating back to the 17th century. These structures connect the city’s Unesco World Heritage Centre to the Order of St John of Jerusalem and the events of both world wars.
Discover the splendor of St John’s Co-Cathedral, take a cruise through the Grand Harbour, and indulge in delicious Maltese food. Here is our ultimate list of things to see, eat, and do while enjoying a sunny vacation in Valletta.
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Visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
Attending Sunday Mass at St John’s Co-Cathedral is quite an extraordinary experience. The opulent Baroque decor, abundant marble, and Caravaggio paintings make for a grand setting. This architectural gem, commissioned by the Order of St John, showcases the immense wealth of the knights. It features nine intricately designed chapels, a collection of tombs, and an underground crypt.
Rise and descend on the Upper Barrakka elevators.
A visit to the Upper Barrakka Gardens offers stunning vistas of the beautiful Grand Harbour and Fort St Angelo. An impressive 58m tall glass elevator connects the gardens to Valletta’s waterfront, providing easy access to ferries at sea level. The round trip on the elevator costs only €1. Within the verdant gardens, you can admire fountains, monuments, and a neoclassical shrine while taking in some of the most breathtaking views of the city’s skyline. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic with a loaf of Malta’s famous sourdough bread.
Explore Fort St Elmo and the National War Museum
Fort St Elmo, the star-shaped stone fortress situated on the peninsula’s edge, is the oldest fort in Malta. It serves as a protective barrier for the entrance to Valletta’s Grand Harbour. The fort features a chapel, where fallen knights are laid to rest, and the National War Museum, which showcases military armor, the George Cross, and a WWII memorial. This provides a valuable educational experience, offering a glimpse into 7,000 years of Maltese history.
Explore the Grand Harbor by boat.
East of the city, the cerulean Grand Harbour, a passage to the “Three Cities” of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua that both predate and neighbour Valletta, has been an active seaport since the Phoenician times. Traditional Maltese harbour boats, the colourful wooden dghajsa, ferry holidaymakers onto the water for a sea view of Malta’s imposing fortifications as the sailors would have seen it, but with all the romance of a Venetian gondola.
Observe the cannon being fired at the Saluting Battery.
Experience the booming sounds and visible smoke from the firing of cannons each day at noon from the Saluting Battery, a 16th-century fort that sits above Fort St Angelo and Valletta’s Grand Harbour. This ritual, dating back to 1566, commemorates the salutes given to naval ships and dignitaries visiting the city. Tickets for adults to witness this historical display are only €3.
Experience a walking tour while sampling traditional street food
The streets of the former European Capital of Culture are filled with delicious food, but the small, hidden eateries offer the most authentic taste of Malta’s blend of simple cuisines. The national dish, stuffat tal-fenek (rabbit stew), and pastizzi (pea-filled pastries) can be found alongside fresh seasonal swordfish and timpana (pastry-style lasagna) on the side streets of Valletta. Walking tours focused on cultural experiences allow visitors to try local antipasti and lagers while exploring the city. The historic walkways provide a visual and gastronomic treat for tourists.
Take in the Tritons’ Fountain
The iconic Tritons’ Fountain, located at the entrance of Valletta’s City Gate, features three bronze tritons holding up a basin amidst a stunning display of water jets and mist. It was created by Maltese sculptor Vincent Apap and was first unveiled in 1959. Recently restored, this grand fountain serves as a shimmering greeting for visitors to the European city. Additionally, the spontaneous sprays from the fountain are a welcome relief on hot summer days in Malta.
Explore the Lascaris War Rooms
To learn more about Malta’s involvement in World War II, take a trip to the Lascaris War Rooms. These underground rooms, connected by a series of tunnels and chambers, were used by generals to plan major events such as the invasion of Sicily in 1943. The headquarters for critical operations in the Mediterranean, the war rooms still contain faded maps and schedules that were crucial to the planning of the war.
Stroll Republic Street
The primary attractions of Valletta’s walled city can be found along Republic Street, a 1km stretch that runs from the city gates to Fort St Elmo. This popular pedestrian street is lined with artisan vendors selling silver filigree and lace, charming old lunch spots like Caffe Cordina, and the National Museum of Archaeology. Taking a leisurely walk down this street is a great way to immerse yourself in the essence of Malta’s capital city.
Dine at San Paolo Naufrago’s street-side location.
St Lucia’s Street’s step-side San Paolo Naufrago pizzeria has opened every morning bar Sunday at 10am since 1938 to delight islanders’ appetites with fresh parma pizzas, charcuterie platters and glasses of vino from inside the cosy wine bar. Multicoloured chairs line the steps for al fresco meals under the glow of fairy lights in the centre of Valletta, and orders of sought-after dough at the family-run joint will set diners back just €8.
Experience a beautiful sunset at The Rooftop Restaurant, The Embassy.
If you want to enjoy views of the city while sipping on unique cocktails, The Embassy’s Rooftop Restaurant is the perfect spot to visit at night. With a stunning view of the Grand Harbour, Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and the Mediterranean Sea, as well as colorful sunsets and a selection of seasonal dishes, The Rooftop is an ideal place to relax after a busy day of exploring.
Take a look at some of our top-rated hotel reviews from Malta.