There’s a reason why the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its grid plan predates that of New York by over two centuries and, at one point, it was the most fortified city in Europe. Crossing it on foot will take the average person around 25 minutes, but along its straight roads lie a multitude of historical, architectural and artistic treasure. I think it’s time we rediscovered some of the gems hidden within its fortified walls!
Here are a few of our top choices:
St John’s Co-Cathedral
It’s mentioned so often it’s become a cliché, but it’s so stunning that any visit to Malta is wasted unless you set foot in this baroque world wonder. Its floor is made up of hundreds of marble tombstones – a floor which, as Dane Munro mentions in his book Memento Mori, is ‘the most beautiful floor in the world’. Everywhere you look reflects light, and it houses the only signed Caravaggio painting in the world. Honestly, if Versailles were a church, it might be competition.
Image: St John’s Co-Cathedral. Photo from flickr.com
The Upper Barrakka Gardens
On top of boasting the most breathtaking scenery – a panoramic view of the Grand Harbour – the Upper Barrakka Gardens are also home to a replica of Antonio Sciortino’s Les Gavroches, whose original is at the Fine Arts Museum in South Street, Valletta. The garden is just perfect to while away a warm summer afternoon or for the wine festival that takes place there every August. Also, a beautiful and ever so welcoming legion of cats graces the foliage.
Image: The Upper Barrakka Gardens. Photo from flickr.com.
Casa Rocca Piccola
Malta may have officially abolished its nobility a few decades ago, but remnants of the former luxury and glory experienced by the elite few can still be seen around Malta, particularly in Mdina and Valletta. Currently owned by the ninth Baron of Budach and ninth Marquis de Piro, Casa Rocca Piccola in Republic Street is a perfect example of a Maltese palazzo. If you visit, go to the Champagne Tour on Friday evening, which is carried out by the Marquis de Piro himself!
Image: Casa Rocca Piccola. Photo from expedia.com
Once the haunt of British sailors and prostitutes, this street has recently experienced a revival as the new IT place. The street is now dotted with bars and restaurants and frequented by droves of people from all walks of life. If you’re there, make sure to check out the original signs still hanging atop some of the original bars that lined the streets in its shady heyday.
Image: Strait Street. Photo from flickr.com.
Fort St Elmo
Before Valletta was built, the Sciberras Peninsula was already home to Fort St Elmo. In fact, this fort played an integral part in the Great Siege of 1565 by the Ottoman Empire. It has now been restored to its former glory, and you can still see many of its original features.
Indubitably, choosing just five places in Valletta is like trying to choose the best five songs of all time. On top of those places mentioned above, you simply have to see the New Parliament Building designed by Renzo Piano, visit the Archaeology Museum on Republic Street – where the world-famous Sleeping Venus resides – and head to Caffe Cordina, one of the island’s oldest cafes!
Image: Fort St Elmo. Photo from vallettafilmfestival.com.