Skip to Content

Top things to do in Valletta, Malta plus city guide

It’s 7:15am and we’re on Silhouette’s bow; keen for our first glimpse of Valletta, Malta’s capital city. The sea is calm and as the sun creeps higher in the sky we slowly glide into Valletta’s Grand Harbour. 

The rising sun paints the sixteenth-century bastion walls gold and we can see buildings interspersed with honey-coloured domes, spires and arches. Valletta is steeped in history, it’s easy to get around and incredibly easy on the eye.

The Grand Harbour, Malta
The Grand Harbour, Malta

Valletta covers an area of less than one square kilometre and its grid system makes it easy to get around on foot. It’s small enough that you can see all the best things in Valletta in one day, which we did on our cruise.

Is Valletta, Malta worth visiting?

Yes, Valletta is well worth visiting. There’s a lot to see in the city which is packed with history, culture, museums and churches. The architecture is beautiful and the city is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s a vibrant food scene with many restaurants, bars and cafes to enjoy.

I’ve been twice, once during a longer trip to Malta and once for just a day on a cruise. I enjoyed exploring Valletta just as much the second time although only spending a day there was a bit of a tease.

Upper Barrakka Gardens

We disembark our Celebrity Cruise ship and take the five-minute walk to the 20-storey lift which will deposit us at The Upper Barrakka Gardens. At €1 return it’s worth every cent to avoid the knee-crunching hike up the steep 280 steps.

The gardens are the perfect spot for enjoying the panoramic views across one of the world’s largest, deepest natural harbours. We watch as cannons are prepared for the midday salute.

Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta
Upper Barrakka Gardens

Valletta takes its name from its founder, Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette and owes its existence to the Knights of St John, who planned the fortified city as a refuge for injured soldiers and pilgrims during the 16th century Crusades.

Auberge de Castille

An Auberge is where the Knights lived. During their first years in Malta, the Knights served once a week in the hospitals – in return they lived in their Auberge for free. Of the original eight Auberges only five remain, the finest being the Auberge de Castille and Leon; severely damaged during WWII the building’s been restored and now houses the office of the Prime Minister.

Auberge de Castille
Auberge de Castille

The Great Siege Monument

Fortitude flanked by faith and hope – this bronze monument commemorates the Great Siege of 1565 when the Ottoman Empire invaded the island. The Knights, helped by 400 Maltese men, women and children and about 2,000 foot-soldiers won the siege against the Turks, one of the most fiercely fought, bloodiest battles in history.

Great Siege Monument, Valletta
The Great Siege Monument

Malta and WWII

Malta has a solid British connection and played a key part in the Mediterranean campaign in WWII.  It was one of the most intensively bombed areas during the war and suffered terribly during during The Siege of Malta where the enemy were determined to either bomb or starve the Maltese into submission.

The people were rewarded for their bravery when George VI awarded the entire island the George Cross.

It was Remembrance Sunday and we could hear catches of music from a military band and glimpse them passing by the end of the street.  The flash of a scarlet poppy could be seen on many a lapel and iconic red British telephone and post boxes which are still used. We felt quite at home!

Valletta with telephone box

Explore Valletta’s streets

A walk through the quiet, narrow back streets gives a taste of everyday life and an opportunity to meet some interesting characters.

This is Gerry…

Gerry Fluffy Cat

…and these are Gerry’s friends…

Cat watching pigeons
Not so brave Gerry

His owner told us how his furry friend will go after a pigeon if it’s alone – when there’s a few he’s not so brave and just glares!  The old man would have liked us to stay and chat for longer – they’re a friendly bunch, the Maltese.

Read More: Things you should know before visiting Malta

The sun-bleached buildings of Valletta’s streets are adorned with galleriji; the city’s traditional balconies.

Valletta Street with balconies
Valletta Street with balconies

Fort of St Elmo

We pass the fort of St Elmo on the far end of the promontory and walk back along the quiet quay towards the ship.  Some Mods on Lambrettas buzz by and we pass fishermen casting lines for their lunch – there’s a chilled Sunday vibe about the place.

The Grand Harbour, Malta
The Grand Harbour, Malta

Valletta Waterfront

Too soon we’re back at Valletta Waterfront which sits just below the city’s fortifications.  It used to be called Pinto Wharf before being beautifully renovated and is home to some vibrant bars and restaurants – the dining options in Valletta are good and varied.

Valletta Waterfront
Valletta Waterfront

Malta is saturated in history and needs at least a week to delve into its vibrant past and then maybe another week just to relax and enjoy its food, wine and hospitality.  

But we’ve had a taster which will do for the time being; now we must board, pack and leave for the airport as this is where our cruise ends; but I shall return one day to explore properly and immerse myself in Malta’s rich history.

Photo Tour of Valletta

Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises UK for hosting me on my first cruise. As always views and opinions; good, bad or otherwise are entirely my own.


Sunday 18th of December 2022

I am hoping to visit Malta this spring. The architecture looks fabulous! I can't wait to discover it for myself. You're not joking about the history! As well as Valetta, I'm planning a visit to Ġgantija,the megalithic temple complex on Gozo. It looks fascinating.

Suzanne Jones

Tuesday 20th of December 2022

I think you'll love Malta, there's so much history there and yes the architecture is stunning. I haven't been to Gozo so I look forward to any blogs you create.

Travelbunny Highlights 2013 | The Travelbunny

Monday 30th of December 2013

[…] Cruises as a #destinationblogger visiting Kotor and Budva in Montenegro, Matera in Italy, Corfu and Valletta in Malta.  The ship, Silhouette, was a destination in herself and warranted a thorough exploration […]


Tuesday 17th of December 2013

Nice one Suzanne. You keep adding destinations to our 'possibles' list. Just not enough time do visit them all.

Suzanne Courtney

Tuesday 17th of December 2013

Ha ha - I know the feeling Dave :)

Setting Sail with Celebrity Cruises | The Travelbunny

Tuesday 17th of December 2013

[…] Dubrovnik I visited Kotor and Budva in Montenegro, Matera in Italy, the island of Corfu and finally Valletta in Malta.  Five destinations in five days without taking another flight.  Clever huh?  Actually […]

Anne Woodyard (@MusicandMarkets)

Saturday 14th of December 2013

Gorgeous photos and intriguing prose - thanks! Malta's been on our wish list for years now... someday!

Suzanne Courtney

Sunday 15th of December 2013

Thank you - I have a lot of 'somedays' on my travel list too :)

Comments are closed.