Valletta: Must-See Sights and Hidden Gems in Malta’s Capital

La Valletta – Why You Should Definitely Visit Malta in Winter – A World to Travel

As an avid traveler always on the hunt for the world’s most captivating destinations, I was instantly enchanted when I first set foot in Valletta, Malta.

This fortress city and capital of the Mediterranean island country charmed me with its rich history, stunning Baroque architecture, and irresistible coastal setting.

Though Valletta sees plenty of tourists, its network of narrow alleyways and tucked-away sights means there are still secrets to uncover beyond the main attractions. 

During my visit, I made it my mission to explore as many hidden gems and must-see sights as possible to get the most out of experiencing Malta’s magical capital.

When looking at where to stay in Malta, I’d highly recommend basing yourself in Valletta to make the most of exploring the city’s treasures.

Wandering the Backstreets for Picture-Perfect Photo Ops

One of my favorite parts of visiting Valletta was wandering the labyrinth of small side streets and alleys that crisscross the city, stumbling upon one postcard-worthy scene after another.

The capital’s famed honey-colored limestone buildings and balconies are reminders of the medieval architecture brought over by the Knights of Malta who once ruled here.

Beyond Valletta, there are plenty of other amazing things to do in Malta like exploring the ancient temple sites or spending days lounging on the island’s beautiful beaches.

But within the city itself, I’d highly recommend getting lost in neighborhoods like Il-Bombi to snap photos of vibrant Maltese balconies decked out with lace curtains and overflowing flower boxes.

The photogenic corners and alleyways around St. Paul’s Street and Old Bakery Street are also ideal for pics boasting vintage European charm. Don’t miss the brightly-colored doors and entryways throughout the city either – they pop nicely in photos against the stone walls!

Admiring the Sweeping Harbor Views from the Barrakka Gardens

No visit to Valletta is complete without spending time taking in the panoramic views of the Grand Harbour from the Barrakka Gardens on the eastern edge of the city. I loved gazing out at the deep blue harbor waters while watching the boats come and go from this tranquil hillside oasis dotted with palm trees, fountains, and neoclassical architecture.

The ideal time to visit is just before sunset when the golden light illuminates the capital and the harbor below.

Walk along the Saluting Battery waterfront promenade stretching from the gardens for more excellent vistas of Fort St. Angelo across the harbor. The scenic outlooks are places where I could have lingered for hours!

Diving into Valletta’s Thriving Cafe Culture

As a passionate foodie, getting to sample Malta’s delicious cuisine and lively cafe culture was a huge draw. Spending lazy afternoons hopping between hole-in-the-wall cafes, bakeries, and restaurants is a must in Valletta.

I’d recommend stops at local favorites like Cafe Cordina for the Maltese sweet treats and Da Pippo for mains showcasing fresh Mediterranean flavors.

I also adored relaxing outside at the charming Cafe Society with a frothy cappuccino in hand, watching the world go by as the church bells chimed through the city.

Valletta has so many cute outdoor cafes and eateries to choose from – it was heaven for sampling local bites while soaking in the historic ambiance. Don’t miss the food markets either for tasty street snacks!

Finding Architectural Treasures on the St John’s Co-Cathedral Tour

History buffs will find a jackpot of art and architecture at the elaborately decorated St John’s Co-Cathedral near the center of Valletta.

The cathedral’s ornate exterior was impressive, but it was the lavish Baroque interior that blew me away. From the jewel-toned walls to the stunning marble flooring, every inch was a Baroque work of art.

I highly recommend taking a guided tour to get the fascinating backstory on the cathedral’s most prized artworks.

The audio guide also provides great detail on treasures like the magnificent artificial ceiling painted by Antonio Manuele. Don’t miss wandering the cathedral’s ornate side chapels either – they showcase beautiful examples of Maltese stonework.

Browsing Through Local History at the National Museum of Archaeology

For insights into Malta’s ancient past, the National Museum of Archaeology is an excellent stop. Housed in the stately Auberge de Provence building, this museum provides a well-curated overview of the island nation’s history spanning from prehistory to the Phoenician era.

I found the temple artifacts and stone carvings giving a glimpse into Malta’s mysterious temple-building past especially intriguing.

But the highlight was absolutely the Sleeping Lady, a stunning clay figurine dating back an astounding 6000 years! Don’t rush through – there are over 20 exhibit rooms showcasing Malta’s ancient wonders here.

Finding Street Art Surprises in Valletta’s Alleys

Beyond the Baroque facades, I delighted in discovering colorful and creative street art tucked along the streets and alleyways of Valletta. The city has a thriving urban art scene, with local and international artists using the cityscape as their creative canvas.

Some of my favorite murals were the gigantic mental health awareness pieces along St. Christopher Street and the blue whale on Old Theatre Street.

I’d keep your eyes peeled when exploring on foot – you never know what beautiful, thought-provoking image you might spot on an otherwise plain wall! The street art added an extra vibrancy and depth to the city.

Basking in Panoramic Views from the Upper Barrakka Gardens

While the Lower Barrakka Gardens boast views of the Grand Harbor, the Upper Barrakka Gardens across town offer sweeping panoramas over Marsamxett Harbor and the northern peninsula.

I’d recommend starting early to take in the looks over the yacht-speckled harbor while enjoying a coffee from the nearby cafe.

This was one of the top spots I found for watching the sunset over Valletta, with the golden light silhouetting domes and steeples to breathtaking effect.

The gardens themselves are also worth exploring, with stone walkways weaving through palm trees, shady gazebos, and even a small aviary. The views make it a mandatory stop on any Valletta itinerary.

Final Thoughts

My time exploring Valletta absolutely charmed me – this coastal capital offers such a rich mix of history, culture, cuisine, and natural beauty.

Beyond the main sights, be sure to wander off the beaten path downside alleys, stop in cozy cafes, hunt for street art, and linger over gorgeous scenery.

With so many hidden gems still waiting to be found, Valletta is a destination I know I’ll return to time and again.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Valletta Explorations

As an avid traveler who loves uncovering hidden gems in captivating destinations, I’ve compiled some top tips for getting the most out of your own explorations of Valletta’s sights and alleyways.

Take it from me – with just a bit of planning, you can see the highlights, discover secret spots, and truly soak in the magic of Malta’s coastal capital.

Wander for Neighborhood Finds

Don’t limit yourself to the main tourist drags! Some of my favorite moments were spent wandering off the beaten path into Valletta’s various neighborhoods. Winding through the narrow streets is the best way to find those Instagram-worthy doors and balconies, stumble upon small piazzas and fountains, and feel the rhythm of local Maltese life. The maze-like streets hide cafes, shops, and surprises.

Tour Early to Beat the Crowds

An early start is key for a stress-free visit to Valletta’s top sights like St John’s Co-Cathedral and the National Museum of Archaeology.

I’d recommend visiting as close to opening hours as possible to avoid the multitudes of tour groups that flock in later. That way you can take your time viewing exhibits without being jostled. The city is also at its most peaceful in the early morning light.

Dine Like a Local

For authentic dining experiences away from the tourist traps, head to spots where you see plenty of locals. I loved finding family-run restaurants down side streets where the staff didn’t speak much English – it meant I got to try true Maltese home cooking!

Sitting outside and watching neighborhood life pass by over a meal is one of the best parts of a Valletta visit.

Capture the City at Golden Hour

The “golden hour” just before sunset is a magic hour in Valletta for photography. Be sure to hit Instagrammable spots like the Barrakka Gardens or the Upper Barrakka Gardens at dusk to snap that perfect shot with the paint-like pink and purple hues over the city. The low light illuminates the honey limestone buildings beautifully.

Pack Layers and Comfortable Shoes

Valletta’s hilly streets mean comfortable footwear is a must! Pack shoes or sandals with good traction and support for all the walking. Layers are also useful as shade can make some narrow alleys feel cool even when it’s hot outside. You’ll be popping your sweater or jacket on and off between sun and shade.

Look Up, Down, and All-Around

Some of Valletta’s most fascinating sights are overhead, underfoot, and off to the sides. Don’t forget to glance up at intricately decorated window frames, winding wrought-iron balconies, and colorful Maltese doors. Look down for ornate paving stones and mosaic street art. And peek through doorways or down alley branches for hidden finds!

With the right approach, Valletta will reward you with all kinds of beauty, history, cuisine, and culture around every corner. Let the city’s coastal charm and character cast its spell over you!

Valletta FAQs

What are the top things to do in Valletta?

Wander the narrow backstreets, admire the views from Barrakka Gardens, dive into the cafe culture, tour St John’s Co-Cathedral, browse the National Museum of Archaeology, hunt for street art, and watch the sunset from Upper Barrakka Gardens.

Where can I find the best photo ops in Valletta?

The alleyways and side streets in neighborhoods like Il-Bombi are full of Instagrammable spots like flower-decked balconies and brightly colored doors contrasting with stone walls.

What is there to do in Valletta at night?

At night, visit lively bars and restaurants in the main square for drinks and dancing. Take in a show at the historic Manoel Theatre or check out live jazz at Bridge Bar.

How many days do you need in Valletta?

2-3 days are ideal to see the major sights at a relaxed pace, wander different neighborhoods, sample the cafe culture, and enjoy sunset views. It’s very walkable.

What is the best way to get around Valletta?

As a small city, Valletta is extremely walkable. Just wear comfortable shoes to handle the hills and uneven cobblestones. You can also use the ferry and buses.

Where should I stay in Valletta?

Stay in the heart of the action around Republic Street or near the waterfront. Boutique hotels in restored townhouses offer historic charm.

Is Valletta safe for solo female travelers?

Yes, Valletta is very safe. The low violent crime rates and welcoming culture make it a great solo travel destination. Just take normal precautions as in any city.

In conclusion, Valletta, Malta’s capital, is a city that captures the heart and imagination of any traveler. With its fascinating history, stunning architecture, enchanting alleys, and panoramic views, Valletta offers a truly memorable experience.

From wandering its labyrinthine streets to immersing yourself in its café culture and uncovering hidden street art, Valletta – no matter when you visit Malta – leaves an indelible impression on all who visit.

So, embrace the magic of this coastal capital, and let Valletta’s charm and character cast its spell over you time and time again. Happy exploring!

Meet Billy, the adventurer behind BRB | Gone Somewhere Epic. For the past nine years, Billy has been exploring the world, embarking on incredible adventures that leave a lasting impression. With an unwavering passion for travel, he has mastered the art of experiencing epic journeys without emptying his wallet. Join Billy on his quest for unforgettable experiences and budget-friendly escapades as he shares his insights and tips for making the most out of every destination.