Valletta is Malta’s Capital City and a world Heritage site nothing short of an open-air museum. In Maltese known simply as Il Belt, meaning “The City”. Valletta is dotted with historic cafes and museums, restaurants, banks, hotels and government offices. Among other tourists attraction, it hosts among other tourist attractions, the majestic St Johns Co-Cathedral, the imposing bastions and a treasure of priceless paintings. It also provides a stunning snapshot of Malta’s Grand Harbour, often described as the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.
Your visit to this magnificent city should start at the main entrance, also known as the City Gate. On entering, look to your right and you will see the remains of the Old Opera house which was first built in 1861. Continue your venture through Republic Street, the main street which passes down the centre of the city. Republic Street is also scattered with a multitude of branded shops, a few cafes and other outlets.
Walking on down the street you will come across the Great Siege Square. In the centre of the square is the bronze Monument of the Great Siege, and on the left hand side are the new Law Courts, built on the ruins of Gerolamo Cassar’s Auberge d’Auvergne, which was destroyed during World War II.
A Further 100m down the road one finds Republic Square home to one of Malta’s oldest café; Café Cordina which was founded in 1837.
Taking a right hand turn by the piazza and walking up Old Theatre Street you will find yourself in Merchant Street. On Merchant Street, as Republic Street, you can find many shops and places to buy refreshments. If you happen to visit in the morning however, you will find the very popular local market, also known as the ‘Monti’ at the end of the street.
Taking the second turning on the right whilst walking up Merchant Street, you will come across St. John’s Co-Cathedral. This beautiful building was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578 having been commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière. If you enter the Cathedral you will find many carved stone wall designs, as well as the painted vaulted ceiling and side altars with scenes from the life of St John. The Cathedral also houses one of Europe’s most impressive and famous art works – Caravaggio’s Beheading of St John the Baptist.
The Cathedral was a shrine to the Knights, as many sons of Europe’s noble families from the 16th to 18th centuries lie buried here.
Walking back to Merchant street and up the hill towards the Upper Barrakka gardens, you will walk past the Auberge de Castille which was the official seat of the knights of the Langue of Castille, Leon and Portugal – one of the most powerful of the Order, its Head being the Grand Chancellor. This is now used as the office of the Prime Minister.
The Upper Barrakka Gardens are situated a stones throw away from the Auberge de Castille and possess unsurpassed views across the Grand Harbour over to the Three Cities.
The origins of the Upper Barrakka Gardens date back to 1661, when it was a private garden of the Italian Knights, whose inns of residence (auberges) lie close by. It was not before 1824 that it was opened as a public garden and during WWII the garden suffered much destruction.
The paths are lined with and the busts, statues and plaques that chart various personalities and other significant events in Maltese history.
Other Places of Interest:
– Great Siege Monument – The 10 ton bronze Great Siege Bell at Valletta was inaugurated in 1992 by Queen Elizabeth and the President of Malta, as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Siege of Malta during 1940 – 1943. It is rung daily at midday.
– The Grand Masters Palace – The palace was used by all the Grand Masters. In 1800 it became the official residence of British Governors. The Palace contains some fine examples of medieval Armour and weapons used by the Knights of St. John and their adversaries.
– The Palace is now the Presidential Office and Malta’s Parliament House.
– Valletta Water Front – Nineteen historical 250 year old sumptuous warehouses, built by Grand Master Pinto at the height of the baroque period in Malta … stretching along the water’s edge and the historical Quay Wall where the Knights of St John and European merchants used to unload their wares
– Manual Theatre – built during the reign of Manoel de Vilhena. Building of the theatre started in 1731 and is one of the oldest theatres’ in Europe.
Come to the EC Malta main reception and book for this incredible cultural trip.