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Photo of Valletta

Valletta is found about half way along the north-east coast of Malta. Malta itself is in the Mediterranean, between Italy to the north and Libya to the south. Valletta is the capital of the island - the smallest capital in Europe, having a mere 7,500 residents.

Locally Valletta is known as 'Il Belt' - the city. It is also Malta's main port, due to its being a long peninsula (called Sceberras Peninsula) between two natural harbours - Grand Harbour and Marsamxett.

Explore Valletta

The city is best known for its setting and its architectural beauty and interest , including its imposing fortifications, its Grand Harbour and its Baroque palaces and churches and the city is a listed UNESCO world heritage site.

Much of the architecture dates from the years following the foundation of the town by the Knights of St John in 1566 (following the siege of Malta by the Ottoman Turks the year before), although there are also substantial later additions and modifications.

Valletta in Malta

Valletta suffered quite badly during World War II during sieges by the Italians and Germans and among the buildings lost was the (apparently very impressive) Royal Opera House, but the level of evident damage is surprisingly small.

Because the town is squeezed onto a thin, often steep, peninsula you are advised not to explore with your car. Rather, leave your car at Floriana just outside Valletta and then travel around the city on foot or by bus.

At the heart of Valetta is Rebublic Square where you will find the Cathedral, National Library and the Grand Master's Palace and Armoury. The cathedral is called the Saint Johns Co-Cathedral and is fairly plain on the outside but has a highly decorated interior.

Its central nave is lined with ornate golden arches and the ceilings covered in beautiful frescoes. The floor of the nave is almost entirely covered with decorated marble tombs of the knights of Saint John. Around the edges are a series of ornately decorated chapels.

The cathedral museum whose entrance is included in the price of the cathedral entrance contains two paintings by Caravaggio. Caravaggio's painting the 'Beheading of Saint John the Baptist' is on display in the museum and is considered one of his masterpieces. His work 'Saint Jerome Writing' is also on display.

The Grand Masters Palace and Armoury houses the office of the President of Malta and can be visited to admire the state rooms with their displays of paintings and tapesteries. You can also visit the Palace Armoury with its impressive display of medieval weapons and artefacts.

The main street in Valletta, Republic Street, runs east to west next to Republic Square and runs from the bus station in the west to Fort Saint Elmo at the tip of the promontary which Valletta sits on. Fort Sain Elmo has now been converted into a war museum with interesting information about the experiences of Malta during its history from the settling of the Knights of Saint John here to the destruction during World War 2.

This is one of the main streets in Valletta for shops and restaurants. The other main street is Merchant Street which runs parallel to Republic street. At the western end of Merchant Street the Upper Barracca Gardens are a combination of peaceful gardens and beautiful views.

The views from the Barracca gardons across the Grand Harbour to the Three Cities is fabulous and you can also look over the wall to the canons of the Saluting Battery below. The Saluting Battery can be visited and the canons are fired each day at midday.

If you wish to visit the Three Cities you take take a ferry or traditional boat across the harbour from the dock at the bottom of the Barracca Lift.

Valletta cathedral

There are a number of churches scattered around Valletta. There are more than 20 to be found in this small city. The highlights include Our Lady of Victories Church (the first building completed in Valletta); the Carmelite Church and the 19th century Saint Pauls Anglican Cathedral.

As well as the National War Museum in Fort Saint Elmo Valletta has a number of other interesting museums. These include the Malta at War museum has lots of World War II memorabilia and extensive air raid shelters to visit. The Valletta Museum of Archaeology traces 7500 years of Maltese history through its artefacts. It has an especially impressive Neolithic and Bronze Age section.

Valletta is still encircled by its medieval fortifications offering numerous fine views across the harbour (especially from the Barracca gardens and the Hastings Gardens).

However the main enjoyment of a visit to Malta is to admire its beautiful buildings with their colourful balconies, stop for coffee and meals at one of the many very reasonably priced cafes and restaurants and admire the views out to the Three Cities to the south and Sliema and Saint Julians to the north. Valletta is an excellent choice for a city break holiday.

Photos of Valletta

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  • bibliotheca
  • cathedral-interior
  • cathedral
  • defensive-walls
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  • gateway
  • ornate-decorations
  • siege-bell-war-memorial
  • steps
  • upper-barakka-garden
  • valletta-sliema
  • view-three-cities
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