A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valletta rose from its soil in only 15 years, thanks to the industrious and visionary Grand Master of the Order of St John, Jean Parisot de Valette. Besides being a hospitaller Order, the Knights of St John were a military Order and Valletta a military location, which explains both the speed of its construction and the impressive bastions which encircle it.
Today Valletta is Malta’s capital city, the administrative and commercial heart of the islands. But for a living and working city, Valletta retains extraordinary tourist appeal - both for its most secluded and most vaunted aspects.
The facades of the charming streets are mottled with elaborate and colourful wooden balconies, and all ultimately lead to breathtaking harbour views. The interior of St John’s Co-Cathedral, a Baroque masterpiece, houses arguably Caravaggio’s most dramatic work, ‘The Beheading of St John’.
The Knights of St John themselves partook of Valletta’s cultural richness in the decorated baroque galleries of the Manoel Theatre. Valletta’s military heritage is more obvious in the weapon collections of the Grand Master’s Palace Armoury.
Photographers can delight in the startling colour contrasts between the honey coloured stone of Valletta and the rich blues of the sea and sky. A stroll through the grid pattern of narrow byways is guaranteed to produce as many pictures as memories.
Valletta has a lot to offer also to those passionate about contemporary architecture: the world-famous Italian architect Renzo Piano is currently redesigning its entrance, providing it with a new City Gate, an innovative Parliament Building and an open-air Opera House.
- Casa Rocca Piccola.
- The Teatru Manoel.
- Caravaggio’s ‘Beheading of St John the Baptist’ and ‘St Jerome’ at the Oratory of St John’s Co-Cathedral.
- The splendid panoramic view of the Grand Harbour from the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
- A pleasantly aimless walk through the Baroque environs of the narrow streets, overhung with ornate wooden balconies and guarded by door-knockers in the shapes of dolphins, sea horses and the Maltese eight-pointed cross.
- The astonishing marble floor of St John’s Co-Cathedral, with its richly inlaid tombstones.
- The National Museum of Archaeology which houses the Godess of Fertility and originals from the first temples ever built in the world.
- A visit to the brand new Fortifications Interpretation Centre, a cross between a museum, an information point and a resource centre. Here you can find models, interactive digital displays and videos on the history of Valletta’s impressive bastions.
- An espresso coffee at the historical Cafe’ Cordina in Republic Square.
Valletta’s bustle and liveliness settle into a serene and surprising tranquillity in the evening and at night, and the sound of your own footsteps will follow you around the city’s architectural delights and timeless atmosphere.
Tourist Information Office, Auberge d’Italie, 229, Merchants Street, Valletta. Tel. No. +356 2291 5440/2.
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- Buses towards every town of Malta start from Valletta Bus Terminus, just outside the Valletta entrance.
- Tourist Information Office:
- Mon - Sat – 9am to 5.30pm. Last admission 5.15pm.
- Sun and public holidays – 9am to 13pm. Last admission 12.45pm.
- Closed on 25 Dec, 1 Jan, Good Friday & Easter Sunday.
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