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Valletta: A journey into the history and beauty of Malta

Valletta, the capital of Malta, is one of the most alluring destinations in the Mediterranean. This UNESCO-listed walled city will welcome you with its unique mix of history, culture and architectural beauty.

The founding of Valletta dates back to the period when the archipelago of Malta was under the rule of the Order of St John (also known as the Order of the Knights of Malta), an order of chivalry dedicated to hospital care and the defense of Christianity. After the great victory over the Ottoman Turks during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the Order decided to build a new city to celebrate the victory and protect the island from future attacks.

Let’s discover together the wonders that Valletta has to offer.

What to see in the Historic Citadel of Valletta?

Begin your journey by exploring the Historic Citadel of Valletta. This impressive fortress, surrounded by massive walls, offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the sea. Lose yourself in the narrow streets, admire the magnificent Baroque palaces and visit the museums that tell the story of Malta.

In the Historic Citadel of Valletta, there are several attractions and places of interest that are worth a visit. Here are some of the highlights you shouldn’t miss:

Fort St. Elmo

This impressive fortress, located at the entrance to the Citadel, offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the port. Explore the ramparts, casemates and inner courtyards, and visit the War Museum to learn about Malta’s military history.

St. John’s Cathedral

A visit to Valletta would not be complete without admiring the magnificent St. John’s Cathedral. This Baroque masterpiece houses artistic treasures, including frescoes, sculptures and the famous canvas “Beheading of St. John the Baptist” by Caravaggio. Take the time to explore the richly decorated interior and marvel at the majesty of this religious structure.

Malta Heritage Museum

Located within the Citadel, the Malta Heritage Museum chronicles the history and culture of the island through a vast collection of artefacts. Discover archaeological finds, paintings, traditional costumes and much more.

Armory building

This museum houses a collection of historic weapons, armor and military uniforms that once belonged to the Order of St John. Here you will be able to admire the ancient swords, pistols, helmets and shields which date back to different periods of Malta’s history.

St George’s Square

This square is the heart of the Citadel, surrounded by historic and charming buildings. Enjoy the plaza’s relaxing atmosphere, sit at an outdoor café and admire the surrounding architecture.

St George's Square in Valletta

The Upper Barrakka Gardens

The Upper Barrakka Gardens are located on an embankment which forms part of the ancient city walls of Valletta. This green space was created in 1661 to provide a place for recreation for the Knights of the Order of St John. The architectural elements found within the gardens, such as the pavilions, stairways and statues, reflect the Baroque and Renaissance architecture of the era.

These gardens enchant visitors with their natural beauty and spectacular views of the Grand Harbor and the Three Cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. As you stroll the lanes, you will witness one of the most awe-inspiring panoramas in Malta, with majestic ships entering and leaving the harbor and the sea view stretching to the horizon.

Upper Barrakka

An iconic attraction within the gardens is the One Cannon. This ancient cannon is fired every day at noon to greet ships entering the port. Witnessing the firing ceremony has become an unmissable experience for visitors to the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

In the heart of the park, you’ll find a bronze statue of Winston Churchill. This statue is a tribute to the British Prime Minister who played a vital role in WWII and supported Malta during its bombing raids.

What can you visit around Valletta?

Situated on the eastern shore of the Grand Harbour, the Three Cities tell the story of Malta and offer a rich cultural experience for visitors.

Vittoriosa (Birgu)

Vittoriosa is the oldest of the Three Cities and has been an important strategic center for centuries. The city is surrounded by majestic fortified walls and characterized by narrow cobbled streets and charming courtyards. One of the highlights of Vittoriosa is the Fort Sant’Angelo, an imposing structure that offers a panoramic view of the Grand Harbour. The Malta Maritime Museum is a must-see for naval history buffs.

Senglea (Island)

Senglea is a picturesque city. Its narrow winding streets and colorful houses give Senglea a unique charm. As you stroll through the city, you will be able to admire historic churches, such as the Basilica of the Nativity of Mary, and enjoy the panoramic view. Senglea is also known for its Guardjola Gardens, perfect for a pleasant walk in the fresh air.

Cospicua (Bormla)

Cospicua, the largest of the Three Cities, is a hidden treasure of history and architecture. The city boasts a rich maritime and industrial heritage but is also known for its vibrant community life, with vibrant cultural events and traditions taking place throughout the year.

The beauty of the Three Cities lies in their authenticity and intact character, which will make you feel immersed in the history and culture of Malta.

How to get to Valletta?

Once you arrive in Malta, you will have several transport options at your disposal to get around the island. The island has an efficient bus service that connects the main cities of the island, including Valletta. There are several lines that depart from different locations and head towards the capital. The buses are usually clean, comfortable and air-conditioned.

Car rental and taxi services are also available at the airport and in the main urban centres. Also, the island is relatively small, so you can easily explore it using public transport or by renting a car.

Remember that Valletta is a compact city and easily explored on foot. Once you arrive in the city, you can visit its main attractions on foot.

Valletta is a destination that will take your breath away with its fascinating history, architectural beauty and unique atmosphere.