Valletta On a Budget
SightsOne of the most sought after sights in the city is the Baroque St. John's Co-Cathedral, whose interior is incredibly ornate. The barrel-shaped ceiling is painted with fresco artwork, while the floor is inlaid with colorful marble inlay, indicating the tombs of knights down below. The church is also famously home to the Caravaggio masterpiece "The Beheading of Saint John." Caravaggio himself was briefly a Knight and his famous work is housed in the Cathedral Museum. Another impressive sight is the Grandmaster’s Palace, built between the 16th-18th centuries as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who ruled Malta. Today it houses the Knight's armory, and can be visited with audio tours available.
There are also a number of impressive outdoor attractions, like the Grand Harbor which has served as Malta's main fortified marine gateway for more than 2,000 years, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens which offers great views of the harbor from a public square and gardens with a cafe. The Lower Barrakka Gardens are also impressive, offering a public park setting complete with monuments, sculptures, flowers, and sweeping views of the harbor and sea.
The old waterfront Fort Saint Elmo houses the National War Museum, which exhibits from the Bronze Age through World War II. The 16th-century palace, Casa Rocca Piccola, offers an example of noble Maltese family's typical home. Daily guided tours are available to see the many ornate rooms of the residence. Also housed in a Baroque 16th-cenutry structure is the National Museum of Archaeology, which showcases prehistoric Maltese artifacts, weapons, and sculptures.
Other notable sights and attractions include the 17th-century The Manoel Theatre which serves as a performing arts venue, the National Library which houses the entire archives of the Knights of St. John, the 16th-century The Sacra Infermeria hospital, the National Museum of Fine Art, and the St. James Cavalier Fortress.
NeighborhoodsValetta is situated on a peninsula that is only a couple of kilometers in length. It is best navigated on foot, but being built on a ridge, much of the city requires some navigation up and down steep stairways. Most of the main tourist attractions, however, are located along the main street (Triq ir-Republika), which does not involve steep hills. Triq ir-Republika, also known as Republic Street, is a busy pedestrian zone leading down the middle of the peninsula from the main gate down to Republic square. There are plenty of shops and cafes along this street and in the square, as well as a daily market on the nearby Triq il-Merkanti, or Merchants Street. Another hub for activity is the Valletta Waterfront, which consists of converted 1700s port warehouses featuring global restaurants, bars, and views of cruise ship activity.
ActivitiesValletta has enough history and culture to explore for weeks, with architectural treasures at every corner. Guided tours are available at most of the popular locations. Visitors can also get a good historical background of the city by attending the Malta Experience, which gives a good introduction to the city's history and culture. Don't forget to enjoy the refreshing sea breeze and views of the harbor as well.
Food and DiningHaving to import most of its foodstuffs, Malta has a cuisine that is largely influenced by Sicily and other nearby nationalities, including English, Spanish, French, Maghrebin, Provencal, and other Mediterranean destinations. The traditional Maltese stewed rabbit (fenek) is considered to be the national dish, and even has historic value as it likely started off as a form of symbolic resistance to the hunting restrictions imposed by the Knights of St John, which were lifted in the 18th century. Pork is also widely used-grilled, stuffed, in traditional Maltese sausages, and added to certain dishes like kawlata (a vegetable soup) and ross il-forn (baked rice). Dishes vary greatly depending on the regions, but a few other common ingredients include flatbreads, fish, snails, artichoke, fritters, cheeses, olives, anchovies, and a variety of vegetables. In Valletta, visitors will find a wide variety of restaurants, even popular chains and fast food options.
TransportationMalta International Airport is the only airport in Malta, serving the whole of the Maltese Islands. It is located southwest of Valletta in the town of Luqa, and is primarily served by Air Malta and Ryanair with seasonal services by Aegean Airlines, Air France, and many others. There is also a ferry service from Pozzallo on Sicily, Italy.
Valletta itself is the hub for bus transportation to other parts of the island.