Exploring Malta's Capital City Valletta

Exploring Malta's Capital City Valletta

The wonders of the island can be explored in its gorgeous capital, the city of Valletta. Valletta is a fortified city situated between two natural harbours. The 2018 European Capital of Culture is bristled with gripping historical sites around every corner, including votive sculptures, fountains, and coats of arms perched high on parapets. While Valletta’s main thoroughfares are jam-packed with bigger, internationally recognised retailers of clothing, and other goods, its narrow alleyways are brimming with quaint little boutiques and coffee cafes.

The 1565 Siege of Malta drew the attention of Europe and assisted in the contrsuction of the brand-new city of Valletta. Founded in 1566, with the aid of the most known European military engineers of the 16th century, the Knights of St. John envisioned and planned the city as a single, integrated late Renaissance construct with a consistent grid layout behind defended and bastioned city walls.

The city’s urban fabric is made up of 320 monuments, representing every facet of the oustanding civic, artistic and religious vision held by its founder. Among these monuments constructed during the Renaissance city’s founding period include the St. John’s Cathedral, the Grand Master’s Palace, the Auberge de Provence, the Infirmary of the Order, and the church of Our Lady of Victory.

The city is famed for its defences, which include bastions, curtains, and cavaliers. This is accompanied by the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens, and churches. Valletta has a wide range of architectural styles in its streets and squares, from mid-16th century Baroque through modernism The city was so loved by visitors that when visiting the city in 1830, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli described it as “a city of palaces erected by gentlemen for gentlemen,”. He even went on to add that Valletta might be the richest capital Europe in terms of architecture.

During the Great Siege of 1565, Fort Saint Elmo, a star fort in Valletta, was taken by the Ottomans, but the Order finally won owing to Sicilian reinforcements. Grand Master Jean de Valette, who had triumphed, started work on a new fortified city on the Sciberras Peninsula to strengthen the Order’s position in Malta and bind the Knights to the island. He bestowed his name to the place, giving it the name La Valletta. The only building on the peninsula at the time was a little watchtower dedicated to Saint Elmo, Erasmus of Formia, built in 1488.

Unfortunately, De Valette passed away on August 21, 1568, at the age of 74. He never got to see his city that he adored so much become a reality. His remains, which were once interred in the church of Our Lady of the Victories, are now positioned in St. John’s Co-Cathedral with those of the previous Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta. Francesco Laparelli, the city’s chief architect, deviated from the typical Maltese architecture of the Middle Ages, which included chaotic, winding streets and lanes. He didn’t utilise any collacchio and laid out the new city on a rectangular grid. The streets were meant to be wide and straight, starting at the City Gate and ending at the Fort Saint Elmo, looking over the Mediterranean.

Nowadays, Valletta serves as the main cultural heart of the island, adored with a distinctive blend of churches, palaces, and museums.

things to see and do in valletta


Customarily, the Triton Fountain in Valletta is transformed into Santa’s City for the festive season until the 6 January 2023. Santa’s City will be recreated at the entrance to Malta’s capital city, ready to provide children and adults the ultimate Christmas experience. The Ice Rink and Rudolph’s Wheel, which once again will provide the best aerial views of Valletta and the surrounding cities, are two attractions that are predicted to return. Santa Claus will undoubtedly reside in Fairyland and be on hand to visit children from all around the world.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral

If you are interested in the arts and culture, The Cathedral is a must visit! The fact that Malta is overwhelmed with churches does not undermine or hinder the charm of John’s Co-Cathedral. The Co-Cathedral is home to a plethora of Baroque art and artefacts, in addition to its magnificent Baroque frescos, intricate marble floors, three-dimensional sculptures, carved stone walls, and beautiful vaulted ceilings adorned by the great Italian Baroque artist Mattia Preti. The Co-Cathedral is also the location of one of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s most famous pieces, ‘The Beheading of St John the Baptist’ (1608).

valletta waterfront

The Valletta Waterfront is a popular destination for tourists searching to take a break from the city’s history and unwind with some shopping and entertainment. Previously of enormous economic and cultural significance, the Valletta Waterfront has recently been modernised and renovated to satisfy the ever-changing demands of this dynamic city. The current design, which combines a centre for transit, entertainment, and commerce, is situated on the western side of the Grand Harbour and overlooks the quaint walled village of Senglea.

the saluting battery

Photo credit: Antongiulio Pisani

The Saluting Battery, one of Malta’s top tourist attractions, seeks to bring history to life. It offers scenic views of the Grand Harbour and the fortified cities that surround it. The battery is elevated along Valletta’s eastern old walls, currently standing as the oldest saluting battery still in service. Its weapons guarded the harbour from naval assault for more than 500 years. Together with the midday signal, these signals played a critical role in dictating the pace of life in the city and its arresting environs.