This whistle-stop tour of Malta’s historic capital points out the city’s prized treasures.
With its wealth of gold-stone architecture, magnificent 16th-century fortifications, world-class galleries and grand Baroque cathedrals, it’s clear to see why Valletta, also known as the Fortress City, was named Europe’s Capital of Culture. To celebrate the prestigious accolade, and encourage visitors to experience the best of Malta’s vibrant capital, the tourist board has created the Valletta Trail. This comprehensive tour encompasses some of the loveliest sights in the UNESCO World Heritage city. Here are some of highlights you can expect to encounter on the Valletta Trail.
Start the Valletta Trail at the waterfront to stroll in the footsteps of the Knights of St John, the ancient order that ruled Malta back in the 16th century. The area has long been pedestrianised, so take a leisurely saunter past the historic warehouses, and stop by one of the many lively bars and restaurants for a coffee or a cold Cisk. The views out across the natural deep-water bay of Grand Harbour are some of the most beautiful in the city.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
Further along the coast, discover the 17th-century colonnaded Upper Barrakka Gardens, created as a place of retreat for the Knights. This cool, leafy escape suffered major damage during the Second World War, however, the gardens have since been fully restored and remain steeped in a sense of romantic history and charm. Be sure to bring a camera: the panorama across the three cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua makes a stunning shot. Time your visit for noon, when you’re invited to witness the pomp and ceremony that comes with the daily firing of the guns.
The city’s 19th-century covered market has been rescued and renovated from an abandoned structure into a thriving, vibrant culinary destination. From the stalls on the basement level, stocked with fresh, local produce, to the bustling restaurants and bars on the ground level, there’s plenty to see, eat, drink, and enjoy here. For those looking to linger a while, a table on the outdoor terrace is the place to be
Casa Rocca Piccola
A private family home that doubles as a museum, the Casa Rocca Piccola showcases the life of the Maltese nobility over the past 400 years. Visit to admire the elegant early 20th century summer dining room, its table laid ready for a feast; the golden sedan chair crafted for a French Knight of Malta; and the impressively tough bomb shelters cut into the solid rock beneath the house.