Valletta, capital of Malta, is a captivating fortress city of golden stone that sits on a narrow peninsula. It was built by the Knights of the Order of St John in the 16th century, and its elegant grid of palace-lined streets has been so beautifully preserved that it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It overlooks a stunning bay, and a (very) short ferry-ride will bring you to the lively nightlife and shops of Sliema or you could hop on the bus if you fancy the beach in St Julian’s. It’s an exciting time to visit this gorgeous city, as Valletta has been designated a 2018 European City of Culture. Don’t miss out on anything this sunny, historic city has to offer!
Day one: morning
Enter Valletta through its spectacular main entrance, the City Gate. The original gate was bombed during the Second World War and has recently been replaced with a stunning new design by Renzo Piano. Spend the morning getting some insight into the Order of the Knights of St John, who built this gorgeous city, at the spectacular St John’s Co-Cathedral. It has a lavishly gilded Baroque interior, and more than 400 knights and Grand Masters are buried in the tombs laid on the marble floor. There are two paintings by Caravaggio, and the cathedral museum also contains some fine artworks, including tapestries by Rubens. Enjoy lunch on one of the charming, sunny squares.
Day one: afternoon
Continue your stroll through the beautiful, historic city to reach the Fort St Elmo at the tip of the peninsula: this impressive fortress now contains the fascinating National War Museum, which brings the history of the island vividly to life with audiovisuals and high-tech exhibitions. After dinner, you could take in one of the bars on Strait Street – formerly a red-light sailors’ haunt popularly known as ‘Gut Street’, it’s now lined with enticing little jazz bars and live music venues.
Day two: morning
The other big historical sight bequeathed by the Knights of the Order of St John is the splendid Grand Master’s Palace. Begun in 1571, it now houses the Maltese Parliament, but its sumptuous state rooms, smothered in marble and gilt, are usually open to the public. You can also visit the Knights Armoury, which contains elaborately decorated dress armour. After visiting the palace, head over to the Lower Barakka Gardens and the Hastings Gardens, which both wonderful views over the magnificent harbour.
Day two: afternoon
After a culture-packed morning, you deserve a break! Take the ferry (just a quick jaunt across the spectacular harbour) from Valletta to Sliema, which is crammed with fantastic places to shop and eat and drink. After a spot of shopping, stroll along the seafront promenade and soak up the amazing views. If you’re in the mood to swim, you could hop on a bus to St George’s Beach in St Julian’s. You’ll find plenty of fabulous places for dinner, many of which enjoy gorgeous sea views.