Valletta is a walled city with impressive ramparts on a grand scale. It was one of the most advanced defensive systems of the 15th century and one of Europe’s first planned cities.
Visitors to Valletta enter via the city gate and its large round bus station and majestic Triton Fountain.
Upper and lower Barracca Gardens provide spectacular views of one of the most beautiful deep water harbours in the world. At noon each day the row of cannons known as the Saluting Battery fire a single salute in keeping with tradition.
Take a stroll down Republic Street. If you follow it all the way through to the end you will find yourself at Fort Elmo. You will have witnessed some fine buildings, monuments, churches and the Grand Master’s Palace with its Armoury and State Rooms. The Palace was originally built in 1569 and is now home to Malta’s Parliament. Check opening times as visitors are not allowed while Parliament is sitting.
In Valletta you must visit the Aberge de Castille, first built in 1574. It is now the prime minister’s residence and an ornate example of fine architecture. Other impressive structures and places of interest might include the National Archaeological Museum, The National Museum of Fine Arts, St John’s Co-Cathedral, The National Library in Republic Square ( overlooked by a statue of Queen Victoria ) and the Church of our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Publius in Floriana.
Fort Elmo, built in 1551 to defend the island against the Turks, now houses the Police Academy, The National War Museum and the Malta Experience. The National War Museum presents the history of Malta through two world wars and illustrates the hardships and bravery of the Maltese in the Second World War.
The Maltese loyalty and support of the British prompted King George VI to award the whole island , in recognition of their suffering ( almost 4 times as many bombs fell on Malta as they did on London during the war ), the St George’s Cross for bravery. It is the only nation to have ever been granted this prestigious award.
Around the vicinity of Valetta, the shops of Sliema, with its harbour and expensive apartments, link up to the old fishing village of St Julian’s and the residential and commercial district of Paceville where the most concentrated and active night life of Malta can be found.
The tall Portomaso Tower dominates the skyline here. It features offices, shops and a conference centre.
Across from Valetta and the Grand Harbour are the three cities – Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. Fort St Angelo and Fort Ricosoli are visible reminders of the significant efforts that have gone into the fortification of Malta over the centuries. At Senglea the hexagonal watch tower is a popular attraction with panoramic views of the Grand Harbour.
For those using the yellow buses and arriving at Sliema, there is a tour around the city by boat or a direct ferry to Valletta across the short stretch of water from Sliema.