Constructed by knights in the 16th century, this is Malta’s capital.
Stretching from Marsamxett to the Grand Harbour, Valletta is not only Malta’s capital city but it’s also Europe’s southernmost capital. Much of this high Baroque jewel was constructed by Knights Hospitaller during the 16th century, but was hugely damaged during World World II. Today, the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A trip to Malta isn’t complete without at least 24 hours in Valletta, here are must-do’s that will make your visit extra special!
SEE: St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
Probably one of the most beautiful cathedrals you’ll ever see in your life, St. John’s Co-Cathedral is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, and was built in 1572. Designed by Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, the glistening golden interior was later redecorated by Mattia Preti and other artists. It is one of the most extraordinary high Baroque art I’ve ever seen!
SEE: Palace Armoury.
Order of St. John, or Knights Hospitaller, is an enormous part of Maltese history and culture. To further understand its influence, the Palace Armoury is a must-see. The collection of knights armour in the 17th and 18th centuries is spectacular, one to leave your jaws drop upon entering large rooms filled with metals, helmets and swords. This is one of the the world’s largest collections of arms and amour, and it comes highly recommended.
DO: Stroll through Republic Street.
Republic Street extends from City Gate to Fort St. Elmo. Valletta is quite small, and the heart of it is Republic Street. Stroll through this 1 kilometer-long pedestrian road, and you’ll pass by many shops, bars, cafes, restaurants where you can rest your feet.
DO: Walk around in Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Barrakka Gardens is so utterly beautiful that it makes a trip to Valletta well worth it. This is the perfect daytime activity, strolling along the Upper Brrakka Gardens, sit down for a sip of cafe and snap tons of photos of the waterfront view.
The public garden encompasses a panoramic view of the Grand Harbour, and sits on top of St. Peter & Paul Bastion built in the 1560’s. Prior to the French occupation of Malta, the gardens were used to recreate the Italian administration of the Knights Hospitaller. After the French occupation, the gardens became open to the public. You’ll see many monuments here, even one dedicated to Sir Winston Churchill. The Upper Barrakka Gardens also reach the highest point of Valletta’s city walls.
EAT: Rubino for traditional Maltese cuisine.
Originally opened in 1906, Rubino is one of the oldest and recognizable restaurants in Valletta. Previously owned by a Sicilian confectionery, it’s now run by brothers Karl and Michael Diacono who come from a foodie family. This is an elegant white-tablecloth restaurant which features a changing daily menu. Known for fresh seafood and flavorful risottos, Rubino is a must-eat.
EAT: Harbour Club for the grandiose view.
The vibe is posh, hence Harbour Club is fitting for those who love a sophisticated meal with a breathtaking view. The Mediterranean influence means you’ll see lots of seafood on the menu, along with a slew of tasty cocktails served in beaker glasses. Reservation is highly recommended.
EAT: Sotto Pizzeria Italiana
For a slice of authentic Roman pizza, come to Sotto Pizzeria Italiana. They use four different kinds of flour, and each pizza requires 72 hours to rise up. It also offers great vegetarian options.
DRINK: Coffee at Caffe Cordina
Caffe Cordina is one of those institutions to have stood a city’s test of time. Established in 1837, the interior is classically European with a bakery at the entrance of the restaurant, lined by local grandmothers. The caffe may seem touristic, and it probably is, but I highly recommend enjoying a cup of coffee or wine on the outdoor terrace, simply because it is such an institution in Valletta that you’ve gotta do it.
DRINK: A Kinnie at Upper Barrakka Kiosk.
A Kinnie is THE soft drink to consume in Malta. It contains a bittersweet carbonated taste, with extracts of bitter oranges and wormwood. The color looks like Coca Cola, and it has become Malta’s national soft drink. You’ve gotta taste a bottle of Kinnie at the Upper Barrakka Kiosk, which is the open-air outdoor cafe overlooking the harbour. It’s simply the loveliest way to spend an hour in the afternoon.
DRINK: A glass of wine at Legligin Wine Bar.
Also a fantastic restaurant, Legligin features an impressive collection of wine. A cellar-turned wine bar is very much a hole-in-the-wall, authentic experience that serves up great bottles of vino and delightful plates of meze. You’ve just been introduced to a Maltese mother’s kitchen.