24 hours in Valletta – finding the architectural masterpieces of Malta
April 11, 2018Amy Trumpeter
Featured Image: View from the Upper Barrakka Gardens Valletta Malta
The capital city of Valletta, Malta, boasts charming architecture, fortified city walls and amazing views. If you are wondering how ling to spend in Valletta, you could easily fill a week with all of the museums and catacombs.
We set out early from the Melleiha Bay hotel on the far Northern part of the island, to see how much we could see in just one day in Valletta, Malta. Other great places to stay include St Julians and Sliema.
Introduction to the History of Malta
Our tour guide gave us an interesting brief history of the island of Malta (check out my ultimate guide to solo travel Malta). Italian was spoken in Malta before the war. The island itself was once the most densely populated island in the world, due to its position in the mediterranean and the economy activity created by the port. Malta was invaded by the Romans and then by the Arabs in 870AD. There was a German dynasty and also French influences from the time of the French influence on Sicily. Eventually, the Spanish came and used Mdina as their capital city. Finally, in 1530, the Knights of the order of Saint John were given Malta by Charles V. Needless to say that the island is a diverse melting pot of languages and culinary delights.
The Fortified Walls of Valletta Malta
Grand Master Jean de Valette was the great hero of the time when the Order of Saint John ruled over Malta. He asked the Kings of Europe and the Pope to send money to build the city of Valletta. Below you can see the f0rtified walls of the city.
Above: Fortress walls of Valletta Malta
Auberge de Castille
Auberge de Castille was built in the 1970’s to house the Knights of Saint John from the langues (an ethno-linguistic division used by the Order) of Castille, Leon and Portugal.
Above: Auberge de Castille Valletta Malta
In front of the Auberge de Castille, you will see a monument for Migration. It commemorates the Migration Summit which brought African and European leaders together in Malta in 2015. The shape of the knot symbolises Malta’s foreign policy that has been in place since 1970.
The Lady of Victory Church
Our next stop was the Lady of Victory Church, known as the first Church of Malta. It is said to be the exact spot where Jean de Valette placed the first stone of Valletta in 1566 after the great seige of Malta when they defeated the Ottomans.
Statue of Jean De Valette
Round the corner, you will see a statue of Jean de Valette himself. Jean de Valette was a man who saw the atrocities of the Turks at the time. He was twice imprisoned, twice a slave and could speak Turkish and Arabic. During the great seige, he had time to prepare for attack and built defences ready for the 40,000 strong Ottoman army – the biggest Empire of the time that occupied as far as the Eastern parts of Iraq and Iran. The Ottomans wanted to take Malta, and next, Rome. Due to the position of Malta, if it had been taken, the whole of Europe would have had a problem! To the locals, nothing is better known than the great siege of Malta. Following victory, they laid the first stone of the city.
On Freedom sqaure, around the corner of the statue of Jean de Valette you can find a statue of Francesco Laparelli and Girolamo Cassar who were commissioned to build the whole of Valletta.
The Modern Entrance to Valletta
The Modern entrance to Valletta is a stark contrast to the predominantly Baroque old city, and as a consequence, this ‘cheese-grater’ design was supposedly built to fit in with the old fortifications, but remains a little contraversial!
Auberges of the Knights of Saint John, Valletta
Valletta is home to a number of Auberges, which were built for the Knights of Saint John. After serving at the hospitals they could then stay in the Auberge for free.
We visited the Auberge de Province (above) to admire the beautifully decorated ceiling. The Auberge de Province is now used as the Archaeologic museum and houses some of the stone age discoveries of Malta. At one time, the Auberge was used as a band club for Italian music of Puccini and Verde.
We also walked past the beautiful Baroque exterior of the Auberge d’Italy (above) built in 1574, known to be one of the finest examples of architecture in Valletta.
Midday Gun Salute at Upper Barrakka Gardens
The Upper Barrakka Gardens are beautiful to visit and relax in, and they give you a marvellous view of the Harbour. Valletta has been chosen as Capital of Culture for Europe in 2018.
Make sure that you time your visit to the Upper Barrakka gardens to arrive around 11.45, to get in place ready for the midday gun salute.
Further down, you can see Victoria gate, a city gate built by the British in 1885, and named after Queen Victoria. Malta was under British rule for over 150 years, from 1814-1947, and through both world wars (See a timeline of Malta’s history here).
In the area around near the Victoria Gate, you will some more fantastic architecture. This part of Malta was known as a ‘Hollywood of the Mediterranean’ because so many films and TV series were filmed here including Games of Thrones and Gladiator.
Above: Architecture of Valletta Malta.
CoCathedral of Valletta
The CoCathedral of Valletta was so called because the original Cathedral was in Mdina, before the capital was transferred to the port of Valletta.
Above: CoCathedral Valletta Malta
While not much from the outside, the interior of the CoCathedral Valletta is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, with over 2000 metres of gold plating.
Above: Inside the Oratory of the CoCathedral (Carravagio’s Beheading of Saint John)
Hospital of the Knights of Saint John
In the afternoon, we took a visit to Sacra Inferma, the hospital built and used by the Knights of Saint John. At one point, this was the longest hospital in Europe, with 247 beds. The hospital accepted people of all races and religions, but no women! The upstairs was the ward for the rich (with a toilet each) and the downstairs was for the poor (three to a toilet and bed!
The Hospital has since had many uses, included a stable and now a theatre and conference centre. The Theatre has been built where the hospital used to be. We got the chance to watch the movie about Malta which gave us an excellent insight into Malta.
Bell Tower of Valletta Malta
Our final stop was at the Bell Tower, which is a bronze siege bell and memorial. It was erected in 1992 to honour the 7000 people who lost their lives during the great siege of Malta in WW2.
So that’s how much you can see in just 24 hours in Valletta! Malta is a beautiful country and I hope that you enjoy your stay. If you have any questions about Malta, please leave them in the comments below.