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Malta Must-Sees: Valletta

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View of Valletta


Despite its small size, Malta offers many attractions to fill your days with adventure. To begin our series of posts on Malta Must-See locations, there’s nowhere better to start with than the island´s stunning capital: Valletta.

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1. Valletta Entrance and Parliament

Reimagined by world-celebrated architect Renzo Piano, the entrance to Valletta has been completely transformed in a way that brings it more in line with the original. Walk along the bridge over the deep ditch to the narrow 8m gap in the walls that marks the city’s entrance, giving a sense of the strength and depth of Valletta’s architecture. Also part of this project, the new Parliament just beyond the gate was built to generate 60 to 80% of its energy through solar panels and an energy efficient construction. The unusually shaped blocks jutting out of the building help shade the inside from heat whilst allowing sunlight to stream in and maintain views. The entrance and square are spectacular by night thanks to perfectly positioned lighting.


Valletta entrance and Parliament

EXPERT LEVEL TIP: Research about Renzo Piano’s other projects online. Which one is your favourite? Try writing a blog about it or preparing a mini presentation. You can entertain your friends (in English of course) or practice in front of a mirror.


Getting to Valletta entrance

Most locations have direct bus links to Valletta. Stop at the Terminus (last stop) and follow the flow of people into the city.


2. The Manoel Theatre

Commissioned and funded by Grandmaster António Manoel de Vilhena in 1731, the intricate Manoel Theatre was meant to keep young knights out of trouble and also provide the public with ‘honest entertainment’. An inscription to this effect in Latin, ‘ad honestam populi oblectationem’ can be seen inscribed above the main entrance. Remember to look out for the Royal Box, placed exactly in the middle of the theatre and adorned beautifully to house nothing less than royalty. Should you wish to take the theatrical out of the theatre, the wardrobe department hires out its costumes.

Manoel Theatre

Visiting the Manoel Theatre

Take a tour through the history of theatre in Malta (€5 including an audio guide) or better still watch a performance in the theatre for the full, authentic experience. Check out what’s on at

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday: 09.30hrs to 16.30hrs and Saturday: 09.30hrs to 12.30hrs (and evenings on performance nights).

Getting to the Manoel Theatre

Found in Old Theatre Street corner with Old Bakery Street, Valletta.


3. St John’s Co Cathedral & Museum

Decorated in baroque style and a complete contrast to the plain exterior, every centimetre of the cathedral’s interior boasts beautiful, intricate and precious art. Commissioned by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière, the Knights of St John really strived to make this a unique monument nodding to their flamboyance and taste, and donated generously in funds, precious artefacts and commissioned art. Take advantage of the free audio guide to learn all about the cathedral and don’t miss the two stunning Caravaggio paintings in the adjoining oratory, including The Beheading of St John which is the only known signed painting of this temperamental artist.

St John Cathedral, Valletta

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday: 09:30 to 16:30 and Saturday:
09:30 to 12:30.

Visiting St John’s Co Cathedral & Museum

Entrance to both the Cathedral and Museum costs €3.50 for students and €6.00 for adults. Being a place of worship modest dress is requested – shawls are available at the entrance. Stilettos or narrow heeled shoes are not permitted as these damage the inlaid marble floors.

Getting to St John’s Co Cathedral & Museum

Visitors’ entrance is from Republic Street just opposite the Law Courts.


4. Upper Barrakka Gardens

Originally built as a garden for the Knights of St John’s leisure, in the hope of keeping them out of trouble, Upper Barrakka offers some of the most beautiful views in the Maltese Islands. Walk through the landscaped garden past the restored Malta Stock Exchange building and through the arches to enjoy panoramic views of Grand Harbour with the Vittoriosa, Senglea and the shipyards just across the water and the harbour entrance to your left.

Visiting Upper Barrakka Gardens

Entrance to the Gardens is free. Arrive at noon or 4pm and you can watch one of the guns in the Saluting Battery below being fired. Should you want a closer look you can also go down into the Saluting Battery for a charge of €2.

Once you feel you’ve taken in the whole view, walk to the right and ride the Barrakka Lift (free to go down, €1 if you want to come back up) down to the water where you can take a boat to the Three Cities from just across the road or walk underneath the tunnel, up the hill, through Victoria Gate and up the stairs back into Valletta.


Upper Barrakka Garden

Opening Hours of Gardens and Lift

Monday to Sunday 07:00 hrs to 22:00 hrs. Saluting battery open Monday to Sunday 10:00 hrs to 17:00 hrs.

Getting to Upper Barrakka Gardens

Found in St Ursula Street, Valletta. The entrance is across the road from Castille (the Prime Minister’s Office) and just next to the Stock Exchange Building.

Check out our complete chapter “What to see & experience – Memorable Malta” in our Malta Travel Guide to find more suggestions. Download it now for FREE!

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