There is plenty of Malta sightseeing you can do in and around the capital already. So you really should dedicate at least an entire day to walk around the city and check out a few of its museums and historical buildings. To give you a starting point, there are the top 15 things to do in Valletta Malta.
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Valletta Travel Tips
Getting to Valletta
A visit to the island country is good no matter the season and whether it’s three days in Malta or two weeks, there’s plenty to do and it’s always gorgeous.
Yes, Malta in winter is just as beautiful and less crowded. (Which counts for a lot on those buses!) Luckily, it’s not difficult to reach and not too far out in the Mediterranean Sea. There are two options of reaching Malta.
First, you can take a ferry from Sicily to Malta and the other way round. The ride from Catania takes a little under two hours. Check timetables here.
Of course, you can fly as well. For the cheapest flights to Malta, you can take Ryanair from various destinations, such as London, Bristol or Frankfurt. If you check for deals and regular sales events, you can get them as low as 11€.
How to Get Around Valletta
Valletta is really walkable. That being said, you really should be prepared to walk. There are quite a few inclines and a lot of stairs, plenty of cobblestone streets and windy panoramas. Think comfortable walking shoes. Skip the fancy shoe wardrobe with this city.
If you want to take the bus, there are a few local lines going around the harbours and coastline, which you can take advantage of. The best way of getting around Malta is by bus, after all. Get yourself a special bus pass, such as the 7 day ticket for 21€ or the 12 rides for 15€.
Those are available at the bus info booths, such as at the central Valletta bus terminal near Triton Fountain or the ferry station in nearby Sliema (which is also worth a day trip). Single tickets cost 1.50€ in winter and 2€ in summer. At night, it’s 3€.
A popular alternative and one of the touristy best things to do in Valletta are the hop on hop off tours as well.
These are great if you only have a short time and cannot be bothered to suss out local bus schedules or absolutely hate the idea of being crammed (most likely standing) on an overheated public bus. Buses leave half hourly and a full tour lasts 3 hours. Get your tickets here.
More tips: What to pack for Malta
Are There Any Good Valletta Tours?
Another level from hop on hop off buses are group and private tours. This way, you have a personal contact person telling you fascinating facts about Malta’s capital city. Plus, they are catered to your interests.
The classic tour around Valletta is all about the cruising. See the beautiful two harbours of Valletta and the Three Cities of Malta with a popular boat tour.
For a more unusual atmosphere, opt for the Marsamxett Harbour and Grand Harbour Cruise by Night. For a good party, get a ticket to the 5-Hour Lazy Pirate Boat Party with Drinks & Food. How does live music by a DJ and a moonlight swim to you?
It’s no secret that Malta is steeped in history and a must for lovers of everything ancient and medieval. Take a look at the Medieval Walking Tour & The Malta Experience, to whet your appetite.
Get picked up at the doorstep of your Valletta hotel and go on a 4-hour walking tour of Valletta. Entrance to St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the audiovisual show Malta Experience is included. View more details of the tour here.
Valletta isn’t just all beautiful old buildings and grand harbor views. Are you into dark secrets and spooky tales? Get your share of haunted tales in a The Dark Side of Valletta tour.
Roam the streets while listening to local lore, actual murders and mysterious cases that lurk in Valletta’s past. Yes, there is a haunted house as well, namely that of Saint Ursula. Book the tour here.
Try a guided pub crawl with VIP access together with like-minded people. The Paceville district in nearby St Julians is perfect then and it also is the top address for nightlife in Malta.
You will get to check out various venues with 30 minutes of free shots and a welcome drink at each. On top of that, you will get discounts at bars and clubs. Check tour availability now.
Where to Stay in Valletta
Staying in Valletta means you are right in the middle of the action. There are bars, restaurants and shops all around as are plenty of tourists. Don’t count on dead quiet nights. If you prefer a somewhat quieter area, you can stay in nearby Sliema (just don’t take a window to the harbour, that can be noisy too.)
Check into Mr Todd Hotel for a sleek room with tasteful, minimalist design in monochrome colours. It’s less than 5 minutes to the ferries and main bus stops in Sliema and you have 24/7 access to the very attentive reception.
Rooms have a seating area, a flat-screen TV, toaster and a private bathroom with free toiletries and a shower. Continental and buffet breakfast are served daily. Reserve your room here.
Should you still prefer Valletta and want to treat yourself, stay at Domus Zamittello. You’ll feel like royalty strutting down the marble halls on the red carpet.
Golden baroque furniture adds extra glamour and the outstandingly helpful staff do their best to make your stay as memorable as possible. There are Double Rooms that sleep two people as well as Duplex Suites which sleep up to 4 people. Take a look at the splendor here.
Similarly stunning are the rooms and suites at the Palais le Brun. Enjoy a very central location with -conditioned rooms that come with free WiFi, a flat-screen TV and private bathroom.
Breakfast is served continental, à la carte or as the full English/Irish. The concierge will gladly assist you with organizing local tours and event tickets. Check availability here.
For a more affordable option among the Valletta hotels that also has a tasteful, sleek style, opt for The Vincent. It offers a quiet stay in a historic house. Wifi is included as is a daily buffet breakfast. Rooms come with a TV, air conditioning and satellite channels as well as a private bathroom with shower. See rates here.
Top 10 Valletta Attractions
It’s not difficult to find worthy places to visit in Valletta. It seems on every corner, there is some past to uncover, beautiful architecture to admire and hidden treasure to step into.
For short getaways, you have to be clear on your priorities. What is it you most want to see and experience? Is it historical sites or seaside pastimes? Food or fashion?
1. St. John’s Co-Cathedral
One of the most stunning religious buildings in Valletta is St. John’s Co-Cathedral. It dates back to the 16th-century and is a prime example of the high baroque style of that time. The crowning glory is a painting done by famous Italian artist Carvaggio himself.
2. Grandmaster’s Palace
Even if you just want to see the change of guards, come to the Grandmaster’s palace. It’s only a 10 minute walk from the ferry to Sliema, there are plenty of cafes around and the square is wonderful for soaking up the sun.
It was built between the 16th and 18th centuries and nowadays hosts the Office of the President of Malta in the State Rooms. More than that, the Palace Armoury of the Grandmaster’s Palace houses a large collection of armour and weapons from the 15th-18th century. It is open for visit.
3. Barrakka Gardens
There are two gardens you should check out. Both are quite similar and yet different. First, there are the Upper Brakka Gardens with beautiful flower beds, gnarly trees and honey-coloured stone arches overlooking the Grand Harbour and Saluting Battery.
Visit shortly before noon to for the midday gun salute. From the gardens, you can also take a lift down to the harbor for free. Back up, it costs 1€.
Then, there are the Lower Barakka Gardens, not far away. They are much smaller but offer a nice refuge. Plus, they are super close to the WWII Siege Bell and Fort St Elmo.
4. Casa Rocca Piccola
Roaming Valletta, you will pass a few townhouses and palazzos. Admire the decadent collections that include furniture, silver, historical documents and paintings at Casa Rocca Piccola, a 16th century palace. It is privately owned by the noble de Piro family but open for visits as it functions like a museum.
Back when it was erected in 1580, the goal was to match the grandeur of major European cities. It was even allowed to have a garden attached, which was unusual at the time. The palace has seen several major renovations and even had air raid shelters added prior to WWII.
5. MUŻA – The Malta National Community Art Museum
Suitably hosted in a historic building, the art museum offers a wonderful look at Malta’s past reaching back all the way to the Late Medieval period.
Furthermore, it houses the largest public collection by Mattia Preti, a Southern Italian artist who lived in the 17th century, as well as a selection of Baroque art masterpieces. There is even a watercolour of Malta by the famous English artist Joseph Mallord William Turner.
6. National Museum of Archaeology
You can visit a lot of ancient, prehistoric sites all over Malta. It is one thing to see the places that shaped prehistoric Malta and another to have everything put in context with lots of extra information on the significance of individual pieces.
However, the most important finds, such as carved reliefs, tools and figurines are preserved in the National Museum of Archeology. The collection showcases artifacts from the Ghar Dalam phase (5200 BC) and up to the Tarxien phase (2500 BC).
Particularly outstanding pieces are the ‘Venus of Malta’ (from Ħaġar Qim) and the anthropomorphic sarcophagus from the Phoenician Period.
7. St. Paul’s Pro-Cathedral
Arriving in Valletta via the Sliema ferry, you can’t help but notice the 60 metres (more than 200 feet) high tower of the Pro-Cathedral, which is an iconic landmark in Valletta. The cathedral was built in a Neo-Classical style, but you might not be able to tell from the outside. It doesn’t look that spectacular, so do step in.
Inside, you can find beautiful column, rowds of wooden benches with Maltese symbols and a beautiful organ that originally was part of the Chester Cathedral in England. By the way, it is a Pro-Cathedral because its bishop isn’t residing here, but in Gibraltar instead.
8. Triton Plaza
You definitely will come to Triton Plaza if you want to catch a bus from the main Valletta bus station. The plaza is a nice place to just take a breather and people watch for a while.
Then stroll down the parks, past the statue of Saint Peter and Indipenza (Independence) for some shade underneath the trees. It’s a great place to dig into a packed lunch.
9. Toy Museum
No need to actually b a child to visit Valletta’s Toy Museum. The idea for this museum started in the 1980s when a friend gifted Vincent Brown old toys for his kids. They were too young to play with them so he decided to take care of them instead.
Quickly, he developed a real passion for the preservation of vintage toys. The oldest ones in the collection are from the 1950s. On three floors you can take a close look at all kinds of toys, such as model planes, matchbox cars, trains and dolls.
10. Fort St Elmo
Fort St Elmo isn’t just another impressive fort in Malta, overlooking the tip of both Marsamxett Harbour and Grand Harbour. It also functions as the National War Museum of Malta. Here, you will learn all about its crucial role in the Great Siege of Malta of 1565.
The fort is built in the shape of a star and divided into upper and lower St Elmo. During the occupation of the British, the military building was further fortified and parts of it repurposed to hold the armoury.
11. Palazzo De La Salle
Splendour and extravaganza at its best, Palazzo de la Salle really ought to be on your list of fascinating museums in Valletta. Along with other beautiful buildings, you can find the 16th century building in the lower Republic Street.
For over 200 years, it used to serve as a home for various Knights of the Order of St John and now is the base of the Society of Arts (MSA). A special gem is the little-known Chapel inside, which is covered in stunning 1730s wall paintings and thanks to a crowd fundraiser, is being conserved to finally be opened for public view.
For a very special evening, attend one of the cultural events and live performances that are held at the city palace.
12. Is-Suq Tal-Belt
Valletta restaurants can be found in abundance but for a quick eat, try Is-Suq Tal-Belt. Here, food might be prepared fast but has excellent quality and is still freshly prepared. It’s essentially a huge food market with various smaller vendors dishing cuisines from all over the world.
Get Spanish tapas, dig into steaming piles of pasta, help yourself to a pad Thai or devour Italian ice cream. You can easily spend quite a good chunk of time here. In fact, I returned for a second helping, it was so good and affordable, too.
13. Caffee Cordina
Foodies (especially those with a sweet tooth), listen up. Valletta has excellent cafes as well and the most prestigious one might be Caffee Cordina. It was established in 1837 as a small family bakery, it has developed into the go-to address for traditional Maltese sweet delicacies.
You can take out pastries and cakes or choose to dine in. If you pick option B, then you can also enjoy the decadent décor with gleaming chandeliers and old Vienne café feel. If you fall in love with their creations, you can even book them for catering.
14. Lascaris War Rooms
When you enter Valletta through the main city gate in the South, you cannot help but notice the impressive fortifications and structures protecting the city. ‘Walled City’ is definitely a fitting description.
But did you know you can not only enter it but also go down into the underground complex comprised of tunnels and chambers? The Lascaris War Rooms served as the War Headquarters of Malta during WWII and then of NATO. Now, it’s a very unique museum.
15. Battery Street
Are you a fan of fish? Then visit the place where Pixkerija, the Old Fish Market at Barriera Wharf, used to be hosted from 1937- 2015. It offers a beautiful stretch of little houses and a short walk away, even more photo opportunities await.
Here, you get the chance to climb the many steep steps of Valletta and walk through Victoria Gate and across bridges that give you a birds eye perspective of the streets below.
Are there any beaches in Valletta?
The water around Valletta is all harbour. As a result, it’s not entirely a good idea to dip in the blue waters here. There are boats cruising about and it’s not exactly clean. Better head out to see beaches all over Malta instead of searching for Malta Valletta beaches.
Is One Day in Valletta Enough?
Valletta is a definite must see in Malta, you can’t skip the capital. However, if you only have a short amount of time and wonder what to see in Valletta, planning a day trip is a good start. Sure, to visit all museums, partake in all the experiences and try multiple restaurants and pastizzerias, a day isn’t enough.
Therefore, if you want to have a good chance of walking around Valletta multiple times without long travel routes to get there, stay inside Valletta or in neighouring Sliema. The ferry only takes about 10-15 minutes.
Tell me: What are you looking forward to most among the Valletta things to do?
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Ryan K Biddulph says
Every place looks fabulous Annemarie. I just love the feel of the place; so old skool. Beyond old skool really, as we talk centuries ago, seeing the building look and feel. Amazing to me. Feels like you step back, time traveling.
Hi Ryan, it really is very historical and there is so much history to soak in! I love when travelling feels like stepping back in time, too.