Things to Do in Valletta
The most famous of Malta’s cave complexes, the Blue Grotto is a series of nine caves whose rocky sides glow green, purple, and orange according to their mineral content. Surrounding the caves are some of the clearest, brightest cobalt-blue waters imaginable. The natural wonder got its name from British soldiers stationed in Malta in the 1950s who thought the caves were reminiscent of the Blue Grotto off the Italian island of Capri.
The former capital of Malta, this historic hilltop settlement—known as the Silent City—features honey-hued palazzos and centuries-old buildings. The town center, a knot of shady and quiet streets, is shielded from the hubbub and traffic of the outside world by thick walls that date back to between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Perched on eastern Valletta’s harbor walls, Upper Barrakka Gardens is one of the city’s top attractions. Created in 1661, the shaded gardens center on a fountain, statues, and colonnaded terraces that command views over Malta’s Grand Harbour.
Situated on an abandoned WW2 airfield, Ta’ Qali Crafts Village occupies a series of seemingly ramshackle Nissan huts that offer some of the best selection of authentic Maltese crafts found on Malta. It’s the place to find delicate filigree silverware, handmade lace, hand-blown glass, leather, linen and cheery painted ceramics, all created by local artisans.
Behind the misleadingly plain baroque facade of St. John's Co-Cathedral (Kon-Katidral ta' San Gwann) hides one of Europe's most spectacular churches, built by the Knights of St. John following their defeat of the Ottoman Turks in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. Today, this important religious site is one of Malta’s most visited attractions.
Malta is famous for the lavish scale of its many churches (there are 25 in Valletta alone, but few live up to the grandeur of the neo-classical Mosta Dome. Its self-supporting dome measures 121 ft (37 m in diameter and is 220 ft (67 m high, with every inch of the interior covered in gilt, frescoes, and marble flooring.
The Knights of St. John became the toast of a grateful Europe after their triumph in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, in which they repelled Ottoman invaders. Valletta’s magnificent Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta reflects the knights’ heroic standing and the wealth lavished upon them. Construction began in 1571 on the palace to house the supreme head of the Knights of St. John.
Stretching along Grand Harbour, below the fortified city and opposite the Three Cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua, the beautifully restored Valletta Waterfront (Pinto Wharf) is the grand frontage of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Right next to the cruise port, it’s the gateway to Valletta and the rest of Malta.
This grouping of three historic cities—Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua—look out to Valletta across the Grand Harbour. Originally enclosed by a line of fortification constructed by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century, the dockside neighborhoods were the knights’ base from 1530 until the Valletta’s founding in 1570. Today, the cities provide a scenic backdrop to the Grand Harbour.
Sitting prettily on the edge of Valletta’s ramparts, the landscaped Lower Barrakka Gardens offer incredible views east to the entrance of the Grand Harbor and south to Fort St. Angelo and Vittorioso, Senglea, and Cospicua, known as the three cities of Malta. The garden’s flowers, fountains, and palm trees provide shade and a relaxing respite in the heart of Malta.
More Things to Do in Valletta
Fort St. Elmo & the National War Museum
Set at the tip of Valletta’s old town, where it guards Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour, the star-shaped Fort St. Elmo earned its place in history during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 when the Knights of St. John repelled Ottoman invaders. It withstood further attacks, notably during World War II, and now holds the National War Museum.
Located around a bay on Malta’s south coast, Marsaxlokk has starred in thousands of postcards and many a film. Check out the colorful traditional boats in this photogenic little town, and be sure to sample some fresh seafood.
Auberge de Castille
Widely regarded as Valletta’s most beautiful building, the Auberge de Castille sits near the city’s waterfront and serves as the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta. While the rectangular 18h-century building isn’t open to the public, visitors come to admire its glorious baroque facade.
San Anton Gardens
San Anton Gardens are among the most beautiful of the few public parks in Malta. They surround an ornate palazzo built by Grand Master of the Knights of St John, Antoine de Paule, as his summer residence in 1636 – it’s now the official residence of the Maltese President. The gardens were bequeathed to the public in 1882.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world, used between 4000 BC and 2500 BC, is remarkably well preserved. Located in the Maltese town of Paola, it’s the most impressive of the archipelago’s many Neolithic remains and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tarxien Temples (It-Tempji ta' Hal Tarxien)
Situated near Valletta, the Tarxien Temples are one of Malta’s most important archaeological relics. The UNESCO-listed site consists of four crumbled temple structures dating from between 3,600 and 2,500 BC, and is notable for its prehistoric art, such as carved reliefs.
Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum
Malta’s oldest prehistoric site, the massive limestone cave complex at Għar Dalam provides evidence of human occupation of Malta during the Neolithic era. Archaeologists believe that the first human settlers came to the caves from mainland Europe via a land bridge; in fact, there were still people living here in 1911 when excavations started.
Casa Rocca Piccola
This miniature stately home was built in the 1680s for a Knight of St John and has subsequently been occupied by many aristocratic Maltese families. Today it is open daily for guided tours that showcase both the architectural development of the mansion and the archive of fabulous wealth held by the current owner, the Marquis de Piro.
National Museum of Archaeology, Malta
Housed in an 16th-century baroque mansion in Valletta, the National Museum of Archaeology offers a window into Malta’s ancient past. Its collections span everything from early tools to temple altars from some of the island’s Neolithic, Tarxien, and Phoenician archaeological sites, making it a huge draw for history buffs.
Malta 5D is a fully immersive audio and visual show that takes audiences on journeys through the history and culture of Malta with a 3D film, moving seats, water sprays, air blasts, and leg ticklers. Over 20 minutes, the show takes visitors back in time to witness events that shaped the history and culture of the island archipelago.
Malta Falconry Centre
Situated on the outskirts of Siggiewi, the Malta Falconry Centre is the only place of its kind in the country. The center breeds native species of birds of prey with the goal of re-introducing them—and the ancient art of falconry—to the island nation.
Lascaris War Rooms
Buried deep underneath the Upper Barracca Gardens in the heart of Valletta’s atmospheric old town, the Lascaris War Rooms are secreted away in a warren of subterranean manmade tunnels and were the nerve center from which Allied commanders directed air and sea forces in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II. From here General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery coordinated the Invasion of Sicily in 1943 and the defence of Malta was organized during the Nazi blitz bombing of the island in 1940–43. After the war the tunnels became HQ of the British Navy’s Mediterranean fleet and, during the Cold War of the 1960s, a NATO strategic communication center.
Today this once-secret two-story complex of tunnels, secret offices, radar systems, encryption machines, telephone exchanges and sleeping quarters are open for all to explore. Carefully restored in 2009 and now staffed by waxwork models instead of great generals, this war-era time capsule has as its heart the operations rooms where all military maneuvers were monitored. All tours (guided or self-guided) begin with a Pathé newsreel broadcast showing the journey of a supply convoy from Britain to Malta and highlighting the plight of the island during World War II. It’s best to get there early or buy a ticket ahead of time to jump the lines; history buffs often combine the War Rooms with a visit to Valletta’s National War Museum.
This gem of a theater was built in 1732 by a wealthy knight to provide entertainment for the troops, and has been open on-and-off ever since. Built in a Mannerist style on the outside and containing gold and gilt opulence on the inside, the main auditorium has a delicately patterned blue and gold trompe l'oeil ceiling and seats 623 audience members.
Built on the site of an 18th-century hunting lodge, the early 20th-century Palazzo Parisio is an palace located in the old town of Naxxar, on the northwestern fringes of Valletta. Visitors are invited to explore the lavish palace and stroll around its formal garden, which is an oasis of calm and beauty.
- Things to do in Mellieha
- Things to do in Syracuse
- Things to do in Agrigento
- Things to do in Catania
- Things to do in Taormina
- Things to do in Palermo
- Things to do in Messina
- Things to do in Tunis
- Things to do in Djerba
- Things to do in Sorrento
- Things to do in Naples
- Things to do in Rome
- Things to do in Sicily
- Things to do in Amalfi Coast
- Things to do in Puglia