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Valletta's long heritage and rich culture
Valletta has been recognised as Europe’s Capital of Culture 2018 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1980, and with good reason. A capital city since 1571, the Maltese know their city by the name Il-Belt (‘The City’) and it remains a hugely popular place to be, for islanders and tourists alike. This spectacular walled city has many examples of baroque 16th-century architecture and fortifications nestled among more modern builds, and there is no shortage of things to see and do here. Influences from the Knights of St John are to be seen everywhere, and the city itself appears to have grown up out of its baroque foundations.
The Maltese capital today is home to two busy harbours: those of Marsamxett and Malta’s main port, the Grand Harbour. The trade and travel via the Mediterranean that this situation has allowed for the city is a large part of Valletta’s long-standing heritage and it has helped to keep the city on the map for hundreds of years. The harbours remain active and are a working example of the history of the port. The many museums nearby showcase the harbours' many ups and downs over time, including bombardment and defence during the Second World War.
Beautiful art and fascinating history in Valletta
First on the list of must-see sights for many visitors is the spectacular 16th-century St John’s Co-Cathedral, which is dedicated to St John the Baptist and sits right in the centre of the city of Valletta. This Roman Catholic cathedral houses Caravaggio’s masterpiece ‘The Beheading of Saint John’ among other notable artworks, and the neighbouring Museum of St John also contains many incredible artefacts and pieces of art including some fine Rubens tapestries.
The cathedral itself was built by the Order of St John in the 1570s but it was not until a century later that its interior was decorated in rich baroque style – hailed today as one of the finest examples of this in Europe. Visit the cathedral to explore its long and fascinating history, to marvel at the collections of art and at the art of the decor itself, or simply to enjoy the calm and spiritual space in the centre of the busy city of Valletta.
Experience an outdoor space with a difference in Valletta
Valletta is home to the magnificent Barrakka Gardens, another unmissable attraction for visitors to the city. The gardens were originally designed for the Knights of St John as a space to relax, and they still offer a peaceful retreat from the busyness of the city. The gardens are situated on the 16th-century St Peter and Paul Bastion, and from their highest point the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens combined offer spectacular panoramic vistas of the city and of the Grand Harbour.
Take a walk by the baroque architecture of the terrace, relax among the lush greenery of the gardens, and drink in the phenomenal views across the Maltese capital and beyond. You’ll see that it is no wonder that the Barrakka Gardens were the primary place of recreation for the busy knights, and that it is much less of a wonder that the gardens attract many thousands of visitors every year since being opened to the public back in 1800.
There is always plenty to see and do on a Valletta holiday
Malta’s capital Valletta is nicknamed Superbissima (‘most proud’) by the Italians, and it is easy to see why. Malta’s own Il-Bent is the ideal destination for holidaymakers as it is home to a huge variety of attractions hosting art and history combined. The very architecture of the city hails back to its baroque beginnings, and what remains of the walls and fortifications appears to cradle the more recent additions to the city.
Must-see destinations within the city include its many churches and museums, which showcase Maltese history and architecture at their best. The opulent Grandmaster’s Palace in St George’s Square now houses the Maltese President’s offices, but the Palace State Room and Palace Armoury are open to the public and are well worth a visit. Finally, do not miss the city’s busy harbours and marinas. The Grand Harbour is situated on a natural harbour and its use dates back to prehistoric times – millennia of people have recognised it as a place to be.
Visitors to Valletta – what you need to know
The island of Malta is situated in the Mediterranean Sea, and it enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate of hot summers, with little rain, and mild winters, when the rains do come. Popular tourist times are during the spring, between the months of April and May, before the temperatures start to soar to their summer highs.
If you are the type of holidaymaker who enjoys festivals and music, you might like to consider timing your Valletta holiday to coincide with one of the following exciting events. The International Baroque Festival in January hosts a fortnight of classical music against a backdrop of a truly baroque city. Jazz lovers should not miss the Malta Jazz Festival in July, which attracts a wealth of talent in the jazz world. The International Fireworks Festival also takes place in July, lighting up the Maltese sky with a magnificent display, and later in the year, in October, Valletta’s restaurants, shops and visitor attractions are open all night for the Notte Bianca.
Whatever your preference as a traveller, Valletta holidays offer something for everyone: culture, history, music, delicious food and glorious sunshine. Once you have experienced it you will see why so many previous visitors to this beautiful and interesting city can’t wait to return. Discover your own Maltese experience with handpicked offers on Valletta holidays. Sign up today and get exclusive last-minute deals and discounts.