Valletta Malta - the island's peaceful holiday destination
Valletta, 'the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen', is one of Europe's great sights. Built by the Knights of Malta in the 16th and 17th century, it quickly stole the title of capital city from Mdina and has since refused to give it back. Now the seat of the island's government, the capital of Malta is a city of such historical significance it was recently named a World Heritage City.
Surrounded on three sides by the sea, Valletta's many narrow streets are packed into a small space behind the great ramparts. At less than 2km end to end, Valletta is easily walkable, and this is by far the best way to explore the city. It's a compact place that will see you stumbling over highly decorated churches, monuments and historical sites that seem to fill every space.
Valletta's main street Triq Ir-Repubblika diagonally divides the city in half. It is one of Malta's busiest shopping and business districts, and also home to some of Valletta's most famous sights. The magnificent St John's Cathedral looks fairly innocuous from the outside but step through the door and you'll discover a treasure trove of baroque architecture. The equally impressive Grand Master's Palace is the seat of the Maltese parliament and the official residence of the President. In keeping with the time of its construction, the outside is fairly plain in comparison with the explosion of art and tapestries held inside. The National Museum of Archaeology is also worth a look; it holds an impressive range of exhibits from the Neolithic period, through to the Bronze Age, Roman, Medieval and Modern times. But it's not just the big sights that demand your attention. The grand views over the fortifications, the intricate balconies and pretty shop fronts will all have you reaching for your camera.
Valletta has retained much of its original ambience and refined elegance making it a great place for a few days meandering. Come with time to reflect on its historic atmosphere and appreciate the peace; nightlife is not Valletta's strong point. After the shops have shut, the stalls closed and the tours departed, Valletta winds down. Good restaurants are plentiful, theatres and bars popular, but the capital is too small and quaint for any more nighttime action than that.