Amazing things to do in Valletta, the tiny maltese capital

Last Updated on July 27, 2023 by

Valletta is the capital of Malta and even though it is one of the smallest capitals in the world it is extremely beautiful! The city is so small, you can actually walk around and see every nook and cranny in only a couple of hours. There are so many things to do in Valletta for free! Valletta was built as a fortress city in the 16th century by the Knights of Malta with great walls: thankfully not many modern buildings have been built since then and for that reason, you still get that romantic, medieval feeling whilst wandering around. What else do you need to know? That the whole city is designated a UNESCO heritage site, and for good reason!

The traditional Maltese balconies, the long stairs, and the cute cafes will make you fall in love with this Maltese capital. Nowadays Valletta is an extremely popular city with many concerts, fancy restaurants, and high-end boutique hotels but it is worth mentioning that a couple of decades ago the city was considered very dangerous and not safe at all – a seedy city, full of sailors and debauchery. Of course, now you have no reason to worry about your safety: Valletta is safe at night, the crime rate in Malta in extremely low and violent crimes are very rare. That doesn’t mean that are not robberies or assaults at all; pickpocketing and theft increase especially during the summer months, that’s why you should always be extra careful!

Let’s discover what are the most amazing things to see and do in Valletta. Even if you are disembarking from a cruise ship these are the best things to do in the city. 

Best things to do in Valletta

sunset upper barakka gardens
Watching the sunset from the Upper Barrakka Gardens

Start your tour from the main entrance of Valletta: that is exactly where the stunning Triton fountain is. Once you cross the bridge and the main city gate you will find on your right the parliament of Malta. This modern building, built from limestone, concrete, and steel is a project of the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano.

renzo piano stair

Now you are in Republic Street, the main street of Valletta. If you continue wondering down the street you will see that it is one of the most vibrant and busy streets in Malta! Valletta’s principal street is full of shops, bars, and restaurants. It is quite short, only 1km long, so my advice is to get lost in the small alleys and explore!

One of Valletta’s top attractions that you should not miss is Upper Barrakka Gardens! The view from these gardens is breathtaking! This is the best spot to admire the Grand Harbour and the 3 cities. The gardens are very cute so if you have some extra time you can chill out, have a coffee at the bar next to the fountain and have fun with the stray cats that wander around.

Below that vantage point is the noticeable Saluting Battery. Cannons used to fire to welcome the ships entering the port. For that reason, every day at 12.00 and at 16.00 the canons still fire – accompanied by a brief ceremony. If you are around, it is essential to pay a visit! If you are visiting from a cruise ship, the lift that takes you into Valletta brings you directly into Upper Barrakka Gardens!

συντριβάνι στην είσοδο της Βαλέττας
Triton’s fountain

If you do have time, also visit Lower Barrakka Gardens, a hidden gem in Valletta. It is one of the best things to do in Valletta if you have plenty of time!

 St John’s Co-Cathedral, a must-see in Valletta

cathedral valletta
St. John’s Co-Cathedral interior

St. John’s Co-Cathedral is definitely one of the best things to do in Valletta. It was built between 1573 and 1578 by Gerolamo Cassar and today you can find 2 incredible paintings by Caravaggio in the interior. The church of the Knights of St. John will amaze you with the gold leaves, the stunning details and it’s baroque charm.

The temple of the Knights is super luxurious, exactly like you would expect it to be. The ticket is not cheap but is definitely worth it!

  • The ticket for St. John’s Co-cathedral is €10.00 for adults and €7.50 for students and the elderly. Children below 12 enter for free.
  • The cathedral is open from 09:30 until 16:30 the weekdays. On Saturdays from 09:30 to 12:30. On Sundays and public holidays, it is closed.
  • Once you buy your ticket you will get for free the audioguide too. It takes around 2hours to fully listen to the tour and explore the monument.

The National Archeology Museum, a good value attraction

archeology museum valletta

If you have plenty of time or if you love history you can drop by the National Museum of Archeology of Malta. The ticket is very cheap and the museum is small. To be honest, I definitely think that the museum needs some more attention: there is no AC so it’s boiling during the summer and the paint on the wall is flaking off.

You can visit the National Museum of Archeology to know more about Malta’s history and more specifically about its pre-history. If you didn’t know it yet, Malta has many findings from the Neolithic Period (5000 BC) and from the Phoenician Period (400 BC). The most famous attractions of the museum are the figurines “Sleeping Lady” and the ‘Venus of Malta’ (from Ħaġar Qim Temples). If you don’t have enough days to visit the Maltese Stonehedge, pay a visit to this museum to briefly understand the history of Malta.

Where should I go after Valletta?

Once you are done with all the things to do in Valletta, you can take a ferry and have a mini cruise for only €1.50! You can take a ferry to go either to Sliema, a neighbourhood full of shops, restaurants and bars or to go to the 3 cities. It is very easy to find the ferry that goes to the 3 cities. Once you are in the Upper Barrakka Gardens, you will notice on you right a huge elevator that takes you down to the waterfront & cruise terminal. This elevator is free to get down (but it’s not free to go up!). Once you go down, just cross the street and look for the ferry station to your left. An alternative way is to take a Maltese gondola with only €2.00 to cross to the three cities! The third best way to reach the 2 cities is the hop-on-hop-off buses.

 

maltese gondola

Restaurants and Bars in Valletta

Βαλέτα

Valletta is full of restaurants and bars: you will not have any problem to find a good place to eat and drink. Locals love their capital too and very often dine in its excellent restaurants. For that reason, if you are planning to taste some of Valletta’s culinary treasure during the weekend…it’s better to book ahead.

There is plenty of options and many international cuisines in Valletta.  The Maltese cuisine has plenty of rabbits: you can try the traditional rabbit stew at La Pira Maltese Kitchen in Valletta. Some other restaurants that I love are:

  • The Food Market: many options and good prices
  • Sotto and Trattoria Vecchia Taranto: best pizzas in Valletta, I visit them all the time!
  • Rubino: tasty Italian pasta
  • Kapitali: craft beers and delicious sandwiches
  • Zero Sei: traditional Roman cuisine
  • Legligin: a mix of different Maltese flavors.
  • Alchemy: dreamy and unique cocktails
  • The Bridge Bar: for wine lovers. Very popular during the summer due to its live music on Thursdays.

These are the best things to do in Valletta at night. Certainly, there are many more bars and restaurants that I love in Valletta, above is just a small selection. It’s hard to find a “bad” restaurant in this city!

Hotels in Valletta

national library malta
the national library

Staying in Valetta is a double-edged sword. From one side, it’s beautiful, romantic, there are a lot of the things to do in Valletta and you can find plenty of luxurious hotels and apartments with great views but from the other side its nightlife is limited. If you are a party animal you will not find any night clubs in Valletta – the majority of bars close around midnight! You can of course always jump in a cab or take a night bus to the party capitalPaceville!

You can find some excellent offers from Booking below!



Booking.com

Lastly, if you have several days available, make sure to check out my comprehensive article on the best things to do in Gozo. It will serve as a valuable guide, providing you with insights and recommendations to help you maximize your experience on the island. Alternatively, go to explore Mdina, the “silent city” of Malta!

Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and purchase something I will receive a small commission – without any extra cost for you -.  By booking through one of these links, you help to keep this blog up and running!

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