Malta's capital, Valletta may be one of the smallest cities in Europe yet it's packed with the highest amount of historic sites in the world, so much so that the entire city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Those looking for a cultural holiday where you'll learn a thing or two are in luck as Valletta has plenty of stories to tell.
A piece of living history
Built by the Knights of Malta, Valletta is proudly perched on the island's north coast between two harbours. Walking its streets can make you feel like you've entered one huge open-air museum- historical buildings rich in Baroque architecture make up its every corner and date as far back as the 16th century. With St John's Co-Catherdral and grand palazzo Casa Rocca Piccola being amongst the top things to see in Malta.
A city strategically 'built by gentlemen for gentlemen' as ordered by founder La Valette- this tiny architectural gem covers just 1 square km of land. Its centuries-old fortified walls look out over the Mediterranean Sea - within them you'll find quaint limestone streets, overhanging wooden balconies and a skyline dominated by church domes.
Along with its title of the European Capital City of Culture for 2018, the city today is thriving with shops, restaurants and bars -an ideal place for a city break. Plus, if you're a fan of the London Shard and its quirky design, the same architect has worked his magic on Valletta's open-air theatre, parliament building and redesigned City Gate- architectural experts will be in their element.
GMT + 1
After dark ambience
As the sun goes down, Valletta turns into a magical fortified city. Without the hustle and bustle of shoppers and workers you can see the architecture lit up in all of its glory. Its nightlife scene is based on the infamous Strait Street also known as 'The Gut'- popular amongst American and British military men calling at the port back in the day.
This narrow alley of entertainment is now the hub of Valletta's nightlife. Expect sophisticated wine bars, al fresco restaurants and post theatre enjoyment. For something a little different- its Knights' charming baroque Manoel Theatre hosts a number of opera and music events throughout the year.
There's also the Grand Harbour waterfront where you'll find your fair share of Mediterranean bars and restaurants- the majority serve Maltese cuisine so you won't be disappointed if you're wanting to try Malta's famous rabbit dish. Or the traditional Maltese meze- pastizzi- a pastry full to the brim with cheese or mushy peas!
The best views in Malta
Just a stone's throw away from the city centre are some of the capitals beautiful gardens. Offering calm spots away from the commotion- they're one of the top things to do in Valletta. They're also a particularly good way to enjoy Malta's weather- an island that is fortunate enough to have over 300 days of sunshine a year.
The most popular are the Upper Barrakka Gardens- offering panoramic views of the majestic Grand Harbour and Fort St Angelo. If you're up there at noon or 4pm sharpish you can witness history being brought to life with the firing of the gun at the Saluting Battery. Or stay a little later and catch the amazing sunset- a popular hotspot for those on a couples holiday.
There's also the Lower Barrakka Gardens- perched on top of the bastion, this one has a more tranquil setting and is best for ship watching so keep your eyes peeled for your ship if visiting on a cruise!