No matter what country you visit, a capital city always stands out. Whether it’s the sightseeing, the entertainment, or the shopping experience, cities of the likes of Paris, London, and Rome always have a lot to offer; but even the smaller cities can surprise you.
“L-essenza tigi fil-fliexken iz-zghar,” is the first thought that comes to mind for most Maltese people. This is literally translated to “the essence comes in small bottles” and Valletta is no exception. Small and quaint, but rich in more ways than one.
As you approach Valletta’s main gate, the wide open space encompassing the majestic Triton fountain immediately stands out. Walk through the gate and take in the grandeur of it all. The foundation stone for Valletta was laid in the year 1566 and since then, it has developed into a majestic city filled with culture, great food, and countless historical sites.
When you walk into the city, you’ll find yourself on Republic Street, a busy bustling street filled with shops, restaurants, and historical landmarks.
Take a walk through the crowds that flock to experience this beautiful city or maybe stop for a coffee at one of the many coffee shops situated throughout the street. The first one that immediately stands out is Cafe Teatro, a small cafe with tables outside, just underneath the Royal Opera House.
A Little Bit of Culture
The Royal Opera House once housed numerous theatrical performances but after it was bombed and the ceiling was destroyed during World War II, it fell into disuse. Today, it is one of Malta’s most prominent open theatres. Keep on walking down the street and you’ll find yourself at the edge of St George’s Square where you’ll find one of Malta’s most famous cafes called Cafe Cordina.
If you’d like to take in some culture, visiting the Manoel Theatre or St James Cavalier will always leave you satisfied. The Manoel Theatre, or simply the Manoel, as it is more commonly known, has seen a plethora of different shows ranging from ballet to rock concerts, and there’s always something going on.
If theatre isn’t your thing, you can head over to St James Cavalier where art exhibitions are always being held. On this side of Valletta you’ll find the Upper Barrakka Gardens where you can see panoramic views of the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities.
The Hungry are Spoilt for Choice
Once you’re tired of walking around, sit down at one of the many restaurants and have a bite to eat. Whether it’s traditional Maltese or Asian fusion, Valletta has it all. Towards the middle of Merchant Street, the second-most popular street in the city, you’ll find the “Suq Tal-Belt”, the old marketplace which was recently renovated into a food court and supermarket. Here you’ll find pizza, pasta, local cuisine or even artisanal chocolate.
The variety of cuisines attracts a lot of people so it can be difficult to find a seat, especially during the lunch rush. If you’re looking for a more relaxed lunch with a view, you can visit the Valletta Waterfront where you’ll find loads of bars and restaurants at the water’s edge. It’s good to know that there’s a lift from the Upper Barrakka Gardens down to the seafront which puts you within walking distance of the Valletta Waterfront.
Valletta Shines at Night
Once you’ve taken in the sites, watched a show or two, and the sun has gone down, the party starts. Valletta is not only a place to enjoy during the day; it also comes to life at night. Depending on your poison, the city offers a number of bars dedicated to specific spirits such as StrEat Bistro, which focuses on whiskey, or Yard 32, which houses over 200 gins and 42 variations of tonic. If you’re not picky but still like to find your favourites, I would recommend the Pub located just off St George’s Square to see where Oliver Reed spent a lot of his evenings.
If you’d rather go for a nice dinner instead of a night of drinking, there are lots of restaurants throughout the city but quite a few of them can be found in South Street. South Street is home to restaurants such as Sotto Pizzeria (an underground pizzeria which serves fantastic pizza), the Pulled Meat Company (the name speaks for itself), and Sciacca Grill (the best place for a good steak in my opinion).
It’s difficult to mention everything that there is to do in such a culturally rich city but I’ll leave you with this one note. If you do get a chance to visit Valletta, take a walk and check out the numerous side streets which offer more restaurants, more shops, more undiscovered antiquities, and more sites to visit. Go on, get lost, take it all in. You won’t regret it.