Valletta is the capital city of the Mediterranean island of Malta, and is today home to around 7000 people. Founded in 1566 by the Knights Templar, the Citta' Umilissima or “Humble City” was named after the Grandmaster of the Order of St John - Jean Parisot de la Valette. The previous year had seen the Great Siege, when the Turks invaded Malta and were subsequently defeated by the Knights. Valletta was inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1980. With 320 monuments, the city has an astonishing concentration of historic sites and a wonderful architectural heritage. Since the middle of the twentieth century, the population of Valletta has declined steadily, but the city retains a key role in the political and administrative life of the Maltese archipelago. The seat of the Maltese Parliament is located in Valletta, and thousands of tourists are drawn to the city every year. Valletta's Grand Harbour, a major centre for container shipping, is also important for the island economy.


A good place to start is the [ National Museum of Archaeology], which charts the unique prehistory and history of Malta. The museum is is to be found in the former Auberge de Provence, one of the principal buildings constructed following the Great Siege. If you plan to explore further afield than Valletta, a visit to the Museum provides an essential introduction to the archaeological riches of the island.

The most impressive of Valletta's churches in undoubtedly St. Johns Co-Cathedral. Constructed between 1573 and 1577, the cathedral was commissioned by the Grandmaster of the Order of St John and built to the specifications of Girolamo Cassar, a leading Maltese architect. The interior of the Cathedral is paved with over 375 tombstones, beneath which lie the remains of Knights of the Order. There are eight chapels, each one dedicated to the patron saint of an institution of the Order. Don't miss The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, a painting by Caravaggio from 1608. Many consider it the artist's masterpiece.

Head next to the Palace of the Grand Masters, an imposing 16th century building in the heart of Valletta. It was built in the 1570s, and designed by an architect whose name becomes more and more familiar as you wander Valletta's streets – Girolamo Cassar. Today the Palace houses the President's office and the Maltese Parliament. It contains beautiful tapestries and frescoes, many detailing the history of the Order of St John. Also within the Palace walls is the [ Palace Armoury] - a fantastic collection of weaponry and armour. Even if battles and bloodshed aren't your thing, it's worth visiting to see the glorious interior of this historic building. A further recommendation is the [ Museum of Fine Arts], a flamboyant 450-year old building that was extensively rebuilt in the 1800s. The collection includes works from the time of the Knights, as well as contemporary art.

For a break from all that history, take a walk to the Upper Barrakka Gardens. With lofty views over the city's fortifications and the Grand Harbour, this medieval garden of the Italian knights is a beautifully tranquil place to while away a few hours. Alternatively, see the city from the water by taking one of the daily cruises around the capital's two natural harbours.


When shopping in Valletta, you're reminded that the nearest landmass to Malta is Italy – you'll find chic shops and trendy boutiques reminiscent of Milan and Rome on every street! Valletta’s main shopping area centres on Republic Street and Merchants Street. and there are a number of suburban shopping arcades with plenty of international brands on offer. It's more fun, however, to seek out the smaller stores and artisan's workshops in the back alleys of the city. If you get lost, don't worry, in Valletta you're never far from a café offering delicious coffee and directions.Look out for beautiful filigree jewellery, antiques and gastronomic delights including local cheeses and wines. For food, there are plenty of delicatessen to choose from, or you could visit one of the weekly markets – you'll discover that, for Vallettans, socialising and gossiping are as important as shopping.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Valletta is a great place for fresh seafood, so why not dine at a waterfront restaurant and watch the boats come in. For a more dramatic setting, try Giannini, right at the top of the city's bastions. The cuisine is Maltese-Italian and the setting is very special. In the heart of Valletta on Republic Street, you'll find Bologna, a lovely restaurant specialising in Italian food. International cuisine is available throughout the city, with Chinese and Mexican restaurants if you don't fancy Maltese specialities like Timpana - a meat-and-macaroni pie topped with flaky pastry.There are several popular cinemas and theatres in Valletta offering entertainment, and the city boasts a large number of bars. Summer festivals bring the streets alive with music, dance and fireworks – expect the party to go on into the early hours! More conventional all-nighters are harder to come by in Valletta. For clubbing head for nearby Sliema or Malta's nightlife capital, the Paceville area of St. Julian's.

Tourist Information

Auberge d'ItalieMerchants StreetValletta CMR 02MaltaTelephone: + 356 22 91 50 00Email: Website: []


Malta International Airport is located 5km south of Valletta, easily reached on public transport – there is a bus service every 20 minutes, with a journey time of 30 minutes. The airport has a couple of fast food outlets and cafés, as well as a Tax Free Shopping centre for those last-minute holiday purchases.You can fly to Malta on the national carrier, [ Air Malta], who operate daily flights from Gatwick and Heathrow, as well as weekly flights from Stansted and several regional airports. BA also fly daily to Malta from Gatwick, and there are charter flights from several UK airports. The flight time from London is 3 hours.