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Valletta is the capital city of Malta. The historical city has a population of 6,444 , while the metropolitan area around it has a population of 393,938. Valletta is the southernmost capital of Europe.
A harbour city, Valletta preserves much of its 16th century architectural heritage built under the Hospitallers. Valletta was one of the earliest sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Referred to colloquially as Il-Belt ("The City"), it takes its name from its founder, Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette.
|POPULATION :||City: 6,444 / Metro: 393,938|
|FOUNDED :||28 March 1566|
|TIME ZONE :||CET (UTC+1) Summer: CEST (UTC+2)|
|LANGUAGE :||Maltese (official) 90.2%, English (official) 6%, Other 3.8 %|
|RELIGION :||Roman Catholic 98%|
|AREA :||0.8 km2 (0.3 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||56 m (184 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||35°53′52″N 14°30′45″E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.99% |
• Female: 50.01%
|AREA CODE :|
|POSTAL CODE :||VLT|
|DIALING CODE :||356|
The architecture of Valletta's streets and piazzas ranges from mid-16th century Baroque to Modernism. The city is the island's principal cultural centre and has a unique collection of churches, palaces and museums and act as one of the city's main visitor attractions. When Benjamin Disraeli, future British Prime Minister, visited the city in 1830, he described it as "a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen," and remarked that "Valletta equals in its noble architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe," and in other letters called it "comparable to Venice and Cádiz" and "full of palaces worthy of Palladio.
Buildings of historic importance include St John's Co-Cathedral, formerly the Conventual Church of the Knights of Malta. It has the only signed work and largest painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The Auberge de Castille et Leon, formerly the official seat of the Knights of Malta of the Langue of Castille, Léon and Portugal, is now the office of the Prime Minister of Malta. The Magisterial Palace, built between 1571 and 1574 and formerly the seat of the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, used to house the Maltese Parliament, now situated in a purpose built structure at the entrance to the city. The Magisterial Palace still houses the offices of the President of Malta.
The building of a city on the Sciberras Peninsula had been proposed by the Order of Saint John as early as 1524.Back then, the only building on the peninsula was a small watchtower dedicated to Erasmus of Formia (Saint Elmo), which had been built in 1488. In 1552, the watchtower was demolished and the larger Fort Saint Elmo was built in its place.
In the Great Siege of 1565, Fort Saint Elmo fell to the Ottomans, but the Order eventually won the siege with the help of Spanish reinforcements. The victorious Grand Master, Jean de Valette, immediately set out to build a new fortified city on the Sciberras Peninsula to fortify the Order's position in Malta and bind the Knights to the island. The city took his name and was called La Valletta.
The city of Valletta was mostly complete by the early 1570s, and it became the capital on 18 March 1571 when Grand Master Pierre de Monte moved from his seat at Fort St Angelo in Birgu to the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta.
In 1798, the Order left the islands and the French occupation of Malta began. After the Maltese rebelled, French troops continued to occupy Valletta and the surrounding harbour area, until they capitulated to the British in September 1800.
The entire city of Valletta has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, along with Megalithic Temples of Malta and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum.
Valletta features a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
Winter temperatures are moderated by the city’s proximity to the sea. As a result, Valletta enjoys mild winters. Average high temperatures range from around 15 °C (59 °F) in January to about 30 °C (86 °F) in August, while average low temperatures range from around 10 °C (50 °F) in January to 22 °C (72 °F) in August.
|Daily highs (°C)||15.2||15.5||16.7||19.1||23.3||27.5||30.7||30.7||28.0||24.2||20.1||16.7|
|Nightly lows (°C)||9.2||9.3||10.1||11.9||14.9||18.4||21.0||21.8||20.1||17.1||13.9||11.0|
The Valletta peninsula has two natural harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour. The Grand Harbour is Malta's major port, with unloading quays at nearby Marsa. A cruise-liner terminal is located along the old seawall of the Valletta Waterfront that Grandmaster Manuel Pinto de Fonseca built.
Valletta contains a number of unofficial neighbourhoods, including:
- l-Arċipierku – an area close to the Sacra Infermeria. Its name possibly derives from archipelago since it contains a number of lanes which break up the area into many "islands" of houses, or from archi-borgo since the area is located just outside Fort Saint Elmo.
- il-Baviera – an area around the English Curtain, bounded by Old Bakery, Archbishop, Marsamxett and St. Sebastian Streets. It is named afterAuberge de Bavière.
- il-Biċċerija – an area close to il-Baviera, named after the slaughterhousewhich was formerly located there.
- il-Camerata – an area close to the Sacra Infermeria. It is named after the Camerata, a spiritual retreat which was demolished in the 19th century and replaced by social housing.
- Deux Balles (Maltese: Duwi Balli) – an area close to il-Baviera. The name probably originates from the French occupation.
- il-Fossa – an area close to the Jews' Sally Port and Fort Saint Elmo. It is regarded as the worst maintained area of Valletta.
- Manderaggio (Maltese: il-Mandraġġ) – an area behind Manderaggio Curtain, bounded by St. Mark, St. Lucia, St. Patrick and Marsamxett Streets. This was meant to be a small harbour (mandracchio) but it was never completed, and a slum area developed instead. The slums were demolished in the 1950s and were rebuilt as housing estates.
Internet cafes is widely available In Valletta.
Almost all cafes and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi access.
Prices in Valletta
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€1.25|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€5.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€30.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€48.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€60.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€7.00|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€2.25|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€2.00|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€5.80|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€10.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€0.26|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€5.00|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€1.55|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€65.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||€49.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||€75.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€1.50|
Transportation - Get In
In front of the main gate of Valletta is the main bus station for the entire island, rather than buslines covering the island in a grid, most of them spread out from here and return to here.
Instead of paying a lot of money for a harbour cruise there is a small ferry leaving from Sliema which will take you across beautiful Marsamxett harbour and past Manoel Island for €1.50.
Another little known way is to visit Vittoriosa by bus and then have the Maltese version of the gondola, the so called Dghajsa bring you back in style across the spectacular Grand Harbour to Valletta, and drop you off just by Victoria gate for €3.50.
- Virtu Ferries runs ferries to Pozzallo and Catania in Sicily.
Transportation - Get Around
The Valletta peninsula is only a couple of kilometres in length and so the ideal way is to do everything on foot also allowing one to make use of the atmospheric stairs throughout this steep city. However, the city is built on a ridge, and is steep in parts (requiring walking up and down stairs in some places), which can be tiring. The alternative would be doing it by car which is not ideal for visitors due to lack of parking space, direction signs and the fact that the streets are very narrow, often one way and confusing if unfamiliar. Most of the main tourist attractions are along the main street (Triq ir-Republika) which does not involve steep hills.
To get further historical information about the numerous places of interest through Valletta it can be useful to hire an audio guide. It is available in different languages (Maltese, English, Italian, French, Dutch, German and Spanish) from the Archeology Museum in Republic Street. You can choose independently from the 24 stops and it is not necessary to follow the given order. Stops can easily be skipped or visited in another sequence when tired or full of the new information.
Another possibility is to rent one of the horsecarts (Karozzin), but be sure to haggle over the price.
Bus routes 98 (clockwise) and 198 (counterclockwise) run around Valletta. They depart from Valletta Terminus at the following times:
Route 98: 6:30AM-7AM - every 15 minutes - 8AM-8:20AM - 8:30AM - 8:50AM - 9:40AM - every 30 minutes - 5:40PM
Route 198: M-Sa 9:30AM / Su 8:30AM - every 30 minutes - 6PM
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The main street of Valletta is Republic street, a busy pedestrian zone leading down the middle of the Peninsula from the main gate down to Republic square, this is where many of the better shops are located, although it cannot quite compete with Sliema for clothing.
The best souvenir shop (the least worthless trinkets etc.) can be found at the Malta experience, but there are many other reasonable souvenir shops in Valletta. At the beginning of the Republic street there are several reasonable souvenir shops but prices are far cheaper if you walk 20 meters down South street (turn left if you have the bus station behind you) which crosses Republic street very soon after you have entered through the city gates.
The best bookshop of Malta is definitely the one formerly known as Sapienzas (know Agenda Bookshop as of 2008) on Republic street but can be a bit more expensive.
There is a daily market selling cheap clothing in the parallel street to Republic street called Triq il-Merkanti, or Merchants street.
Valletta has a collection of decent restaurants, due to most of the tourists residing either in Sliema or on the north coast of the island there are fewer of the trashy variety, although it does have the ubiquitous fast-food places (Burger King, McDonald's, Pizza Hut). The Valletta waterfront is absolutely amazing especially at night, it contains different types of restaurants, from Chinese to the Hard Rock cafe, there is also a book shop and jewelry shop in the same waterfront.
If you keep your eyes open you may run into one of the charming traditional bakeries tucked away here and there where the tourist economy hasn't forced prices up yet and one can get lovely steaming fresh bread for mere cents.
- De Robertis (Roof Top Restaurant), Castille Square c/w St. Paul's St, . The view is incredible and the food is very tasty. 12 - 18.
- Trattoria da Pippo, 136 Melita St, . A place where locals go for lunch. They have an excellent selection of seafood dishes.
- Caffe Cordina, 244/5 Republic St, . This place has a venerable history behind it, and has a reputation to match. This is the place to be seen having lunch, but the food isn't as good as one may expect. The coffee bar inside is the best place for a quick espresso whilst admiring the ceiling.
- Malata Restaurant, Palace Sq, . If one is looking for a place in Valletta to have dinner on a terrace, then this is a nice place to go slightly later in the evening when the square in front of the Grand Master's palace is almost emptied of parked cars. There is Live Jazz on Tuesday nights.
- Pintonino Restaurant. Tucked a few meters away from the Valletta waterfront, a fine restaurant that offers great food and a selection of more than 150 wines.
Sights & Landmarks
- St. John's Co Cathedral.Is unremarkable from the outside but incredibly ornate on the inside. Each of the different 'langues' (knights of a particular nationality had their own langue) has a their own chapel lined along the side of the nave in which they try and outdo each other in splendor. The barrel shaped ceiling is a single huge fresco, the lifework of famed artist Mattia Preti. And last but not least the floor is entirely taken by knight's graves all intricately inlaid marble in different colours, a recent book on the subject describes it as the 'most beautiful floor in the world.' This relatively unknown cathedral can count itself one of the most impressive in Europe. Open 9:30AM and 4:30PM on weekdays and 9:30AM and 12:30PM on Saturdays. Entrance is through the Carappechia Annex on Republic Street in between St John's Street and St Lucy Street, directly opposite the Law Courts. As soon as you enter you will be provided with an audio guide included in the entrance fee which leads you through the cathedral in 24 stops enabling you to get further historical information about the paintings and special parts of St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
- The Cathedral Museum. olds two works by Caravaggio who was briefly himself a Knight, one of them being his masterpiece the famous huge "Beheading of St. John the Baptist."
- Palace of the Grand Masters. Now is the President's office and the Maltese parliament. The staterooms, when accessible are quite impressive. It also houses the Knights' armoury which is open to visitors daily from 9AM–5PM. (However, all other parts of the palace are closed to visitors, so what they can see is limited.) At the entrance you can receive an audio guide which is included in the entrance fee. It provides you with further historical information about the various armoury of different eras beginning from the medieval chain mail up to the 17th century armour.
- The Malta Experience. Despite not being entirely cheap (3.5 Liri) visitors who have any interest in culture or history and who haven't exhaustively read up on the country before coming here would do well by starting their visit to Malta by going here as it is an excellent introduction to the country. It gives an impression of major events that shaped the country, but as it's only half an hour long and meant for first-time visitors one shouldn't expect an in-depth dry scholarly treatment of the subject. St Elmo Bastions, Mediterranean Street, Tel +356 243776 +356 251284
- The Upper Barrakka Gardens (at the upper south side of the peninsula).The gardens offer a jaw dropping view of the Grand Harbour. Go on a sunny day and bring champagne!
- The National Museum of Archaeology. Even though Malta has an impressive and unique ancient history this museum housed in the former Auberge de Provence in Republic street can be rather a disappointment. The museum is currently partially being renovated hopefully bringing something more worthy of its name. Auberge de Provence, Republic St, Tel: 2122 1623.
- Fort St. Elmo. Built at the tip of the peninsula by the knights after the Dragut Raid of 1551. During the Great Siege of 1565 the Turks made the mistake of choosing to first take this fort, for which they had planned a week. Instead the knights and soldiers present fought desperately for a month, buying essential time. The knights in the fort knew they were fighting to the death, and so rather than being taken off the ramparts when wounded, knights would fight on seated in chairs until they couldn't even lift their arms anymore. Today the fort houses the Police Academy and is only partially open on the weekend.
- Manoel Theatre. Is 'La Scala' in miniature, a very beautiful 17th century theatre in original state. One of the oldest active theaters in Europe, it is the place for many classical music performances but also for instance the hilarious Christmas Panto. Old Theatre St, Tel: 356/22-26-18.
- The imposing defence walls and ramparts at the entrance to Valletta built by the Knights in the late 16th century are interesting to explore.
- The National Library. An evocative old library on Republic Square, next to the Grandmaster's Palace. Only part of it is open to the public: you will need to take a Passport or other Photo ID to get in. The entire archives of the Knights of St. John from the Crusades in the 11th century until 1798 when Napoleon took Malta, are kept here, in true Maltese style in rickety wooden filing cabinets. They were proud to mention that recently a sprinkler system had been installed to protect this priceless collection.
- The Sacra Infermeria. The great hospital built by the knights in the 16th century, open to everyone, it had the highest level of healthcare available in Europe at the time. It was mostly destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt and now functions as a conference centre. It is rarely open to the public.
- The Casa Rocca Piccola. A Maltese Noble Family House on Triq ir-Republika, a few hundred yards past the Grand Master's Palace on the right hand side. Very enjoyable.
- National Museum of Fine Art. The biggest collection of paintings by Mattia Preti. Also found here are paintings by Ribera, Erardi and many well known Caravaggisti.
- St. James Cavalier. A fortress opposite the Auberge of Castille (today the Prime Minister's office) which was built as part of the elaborate defence systems of Valletta. Today it houses a 'Centre for Creativity', with its own theatre, cinema, music room and exhibition halls. Its twin, St. John Cavalier is currently the embassy of the Knights of St. John who are, like the Vatican, recognised by several countries as a sovereign entity.
Things to do
You can take a spectacular walk along the sea around the outside of the city walls. If you go to the mooring place where the ferry for Sliema leaves, there is the possibility to walk over the rocks towards the tip of the peninsula and then around it coming back up into the city just next to the Malta Experience. This walk takes about 30 minutes and is done by virtually no-one.
At night in St George's Square, there is a lovely water fountain, with coloured spouts of water which pop up and down - a fantastic play opportunity for children. They WILL get wet, so don't let them go near if they are wearing their best clothing. Great fun for kids.
Festivals and events
Valletta is the scene of the Maltese Carnival, held in February leading up to Lent. Carnival in Gozo is celebrated in Victoria and parishes in both islands hold their own festivities.
- The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated on 16 July
- Saint Paul's feast is celebrated on 10 February
- Saint Dominic's feast is celebrated in Valletta on 4 August or before
- The feast of Saint Augustine is celebrated on the third Sunday after Easter
- The city's residents also conduct an annual procession in honour of St. Rita
- Trabuxu, No. 1d, Strada Stretta, . A charming wine bar in an ancient cellar serving light meals. It's at the beginning of a small alley parallel to Republic street, look for the wooden sign with the corkscrew.
- Rampila Restaurant and Wine bar (Rampila), St John's Cavalier(Opposite St. John's Cavalier on a back street corner. Turning first left after passing into to the city through City Gate and then left again you find an olive tree, an antique stone bench and the railings around the entrance to Rampila.), . A Fine Maltese/Mediterranean fusion restaurant and wine bar in the impressive bastions. One can enjoy a fine plate of fresh seafood, meat, game, pasta or risotto there or enjoy a platter and/or dips accompanied by wine from an extensive selection.
Safety in Valletta
Apart from some restaurants and bars open in the evening Valletta still has next to nothing happening in terms of nightlife, so apart from Republic street the streets are quite empty late at night. Most of the usual petty crime that travelers are confronted with happens in Sliema and St Julians, but it's something to keep in mind.