Ultimate Travel Guide to the Historic Valletta - All You Need To Know

Ultimate Travel Guide to the Historic Valletta


Valletta might be Europe’s smallest capital but it packs a punch for its tiny size. Sometimes referred to as an "open-air museum," when it was a named an UNESCO World Heritage site, UNESCO described Valletta as 'one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.’


north valletta city view valletta malta
View of northern Valletta.


Sitting at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Malta has had over 7000 years of history. Valletta itself was first founded by the Knights of St. John in 1566 as a fortified city after Malta almost fell to the Ottoman Empire. Valletta was later described as one of the best fortified cities in the world and the ideal Renaissance city. Over time the knights view of the citadel capital change and they brought more elegance to Valletta, seen most notably in St. Johns Co-Cathedral.  


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The Saluting Battery seen from the Upper Barrakka Gardens.


Today, Valletta is a budding city where the old and the new blend. Centuries old buildings house cafes and boutique shops. The city of Valletta is a visible legacy of history to its core, but in and around its baroque architecture is a lively culture and vibrant shops, restaurants, and attractions.


What to Do


Fort St. Elmo


fort st elmo valletta malta
Fort St. Elmo


Fort St. Elmo occupies the northern tip of the Valletta and has a panoramic view of the harbor and surrounding towns and fortifications. It was the first structure built by the Order of St. John when they decided to occupy the peninsula. The Fort St. Elmo offers visitors a double experience. Not only do you get to tour the fort that played such a strategic role in the Great Siege of 1565 and in WWII, but the fort also houses the National War Museum with all of its prized artifacts from both of the wars mention before.


Cost: Adults (18 – 59 years) - €10.00/$10.15; Youths (12 – 17 years), Senior Citizens (60+ years), and Students with ID - €7.50/$7.89; Children (6 – 11 years) - €5.50/$5.79
Hours: 9am – 4:30pm


Lascaris War Rooms


command center lascaris war rooms valletta malta
Command room in the Lascaris War Rooms.


A visit to the Lascaris War Rooms takes you back the WWII Battle for Malta and invasion of Sicily. Deep within the rock below the Upper Barrakka Gardens lies a massive military bunker that was used to house the Combined War Headquarters. There you will get a glimpse of the life underground during the non-stop air raids on the island while the Allied Forces planned their defense and eventual offensive. For military buffs, this is a must see.


Cost: Adults (17 – 59 years) - €13.00/$13.68; Children (16 years and under) - €6/$6.31; Senior Citizens (60+ years) and Students with ID - €11/$11.57
Hours: 10am – 4:30pm (Monday – Saturday)


Barrakka Gardens


lower barrakka gardens valletta malta
Fountain in the Lower Barrakka Gardens.


Both the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens are well worth a visit during your time in Valletta. Both of the gardens offer great photo opportunities within the gardens and along the wall. From both gardens you can gain an amazing panoramic view of the Great Harbor and the forts and towns on the other side. The Lower Barrakka Garden has a monument to Sir Alexander Ball and sits beside the WWII Siege Bell, which is rung every day at noon in remembrance of the non-stop bombing raids that happened from 1940 and 1943. The Upper Barrakka Gardens on the other hand sit above the Saluting Battery. You can buy a ticket to tour the battery if you wish, but if you are in the garden at 12pm or 4pm then you can watch the firing of the canon for free.


National Museum of Archeology


sleeping lady statue national archeology museum valletta malta
Sleeping lady statue at the National Archeology Museum.


Housed in the Auberge de Provence, an UNESCO Heritage Site in its own right, the National Museum of Archeology is well worth a visit for Both the ability to view the artifacts within, but also to see the elegance that was once the house for the French Knights of the Order of St. John. The Museum itself offers its visitors a look into the pre and early history of the Maltese islands. Malta is home to the oldest megaliths in the world and the museum showcases artifacts from this great history.  


Cost: Adults (18 – 59 years) - €5.00/$5.26; Youths (12 – 17 years), Senior Citizens (60+ years), and Students with ID - €3.50/$3.68; Children (6 – 11 years) - €2.50/$2.63
Hours: 9am – 4:30pm


St. John’s Co-Cathedral


st johns co-cathedral valletta malta
The inside of St. John's Co-Cathedral is extremely colorful and ornate.


Built soon after the Siege of 1577, the St. John’s Co-Cathedral transformed from a basic church to one of the most beautiful and ornate churches in existence today. Over the years, Grand Masters and Knights donated their wealth so that the leading artist of the day could make it into the masterpiece it is today. The church is covered in ornate gold inlaid walls, a mural wrapped barrel vaulted ceiling, and a floor overlaid with colorful tombstones. Today, St. John’s Co-Cathedral is marked as one of the sites that make up the UNESCO Heritage Site that is Valletta.


Cost: Adults - €15.00/$15.78; Senior Citizens and Students - €12/$12.63; Children (12 years and under) - Free
Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm (Monday – Friday), 9:30am – 12:30pm (Saturday)


Church of the Shipwreck of St. Paul


wrist bone st paul church of  the shipwreck valletta malta
Wrist bone of Paul at the Church of the Shipwreck of St. Paul.


The Church of the Shipwreck of St. Paul is one of the oldest in Malta. Although not large in size, it commemorates one of the most dramatic tales in the early church, the shipwreck of St. Paul. According to the story, the ship which carried Paul was shipwrecked on the northern coast of Malta. The church itself is small and dimly lit, but is well worth a visit. Recorded as part of the UNSECO Heritage Site that is Valletta, the church also holds the relic of St. Paul’s wrist bone and part of the pillar in which he was beheaded on.


Cost: Free
Hours: 7:30am – 12pm, 5:30pm – 7pm


National Library of Malta


national library of malta valletta malta


Sitting on the palazzo with Caffe Cordina, the National Library of Malta is another building on UNESCO’s list of sites for Valletta. Although you will not need to spend much time there, unless you plan to read some of their historic works, the library is well worth a visit. The collection within its walls spans from medieval times to the modern era.


Cost: Free
Hours: Winter (Oct 1 – June 15): 8:15am – 5pm (Monday – Friday), 8:15am – 1pm (Saturday); Summer (June 16 – Sept 30): 8:15am – 1:15pm (Monday – Saturday)


The Knights Hospitallers


The Knights Hospitallers Museum is a small museum within the conference center, but was once the Holy Infirmary of the Knights. The museum takes you down multiple stories and shows the history and life of the historic hospital. Although some of the museum can be a bit cheesy, it does give a great medical history of Malta during the Crusades, Great Siege of 1565, and the plaque, as well as giving an opportunity to tour a bit of the hospital, part of the UNESCO Heritage Site itself.


Cost: €5.00/$5.26
Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm


Teatru Manoel


teatru manoel valletta malta
Inside the Teatru Manoel.


Commissioned in 1731 by Grand Master of the Order of St. John, António Manoel de Vilhena, the Teatru Manoel is the third oldest working theater in Europe. A beautiful building on the inside, if you wish to view it you can either simply visit the theater or take a guided tour. But the best option would be to buy a ticket to attend one of the plays performed within its historic walls. Like many of the sites on this list, the Teatru Manoel is also on the list of UNESCO Heritage Sites that make up Valletta.


Cost: By donation.
Hours: Guided Tours: Every 30 min 10am – 12:30pm (Monday – Thursday); Visit: 1pm – 3pm (Monday – Thursday), 10am – 3pm (Fridays)


Palace Armory


weapons palace armory valletta malta
The Palace Armory has only a fraction of what it once had when the knights were still there.


The Palace Armory showcases the might of the Order of St. John. Within the armory you can see the armor and weaponry used by the knights during their rule over Malta from 1530 – 1798. Some of the most notable is the armor of two of the former Grand Masters and armor and weapons used by the Ottoman Empire during the Great Siege of 1565.


Cost: Adults (18 – 59 years) - €10.00/$10.15; Youths (12 – 17 years), Senior Citizens (60+ years), and Students with ID - €7.50/$7.89; Children (6 – 11 years) - €5.50/$5.79
Hours: 9am – 4:30pm


Church of Our Lady of Victory


ceiling painting our lady of victories chapel valletta malta
Ceiling Painting in Our Lady of Victories Chapel.


The Church of Our Lady of Victory was the first church and building erected in Valletta. Built in 1566, soon after the victory of the Ottoman Empire in the Great Siege of 1565, the church was set upon the site of the inaugural foundation stone for the city. A number of other notable buildings, also UNESCO sites like the church, surround the palazzo.


Cost: Free
Hours: 8:45am – 4pm (Monday – Friday), 10am – 4pm (Saturday), 10am – 1 pm (Sunday)


Wander the Streets


stairs street valletta malta
There are many stairs in Valletta.


Valletta is an amazingly beautiful and historic city. There are 14 notable buildings within the city walls that are listed as part of the UNESCO Heritage Site that is Valletta, but the list itself encompasses an incredible 320 sites in total. A walk amongst the winding streets of the city or atop the high city walls is a great way to take in the grandeur that was once considered the most fortified city in the world and has been the home of some of the most historic events in human history.


Where to Eat


pastizzi valletta malta


Valletta, like all capital cities, has an array of national and international restaurants throughout the city. Just about everywhere you turn in this historic city you will find an amazing restaurant or café. Many different cultures have called Malta their home and throughout the ages they have left their mark on the cuisine there. Possibly the most popular street food in Malta is the pastizzi. This flaky, savory pastry can be found all of the island filled with a number of different fillings like cheese, peas, or corned beef, just to name a few. Little pastizzeria shops can be found tucked into small slots all over the place, but in Valletta, Jeff’s Pastizzeria stands out as the best in the city.


Manouche coffee cookie valletta malta
Cookie and coffee at Manouche.


If you are looking for a café then look no further than Caffe Cordina. One of the oldest coffee spots in Valletta, Caffe Cordina is located in the historic palazzo. If you are looking for pasta, I recommend ImPasta. It is a small Maltese chain, with two other restaurants, but you get to create your own pasta bowls which are delicious. For an unforgettable bakery or bistro try Manouche. This craft bakery is also now a Maltese chain, but that hasn’t affected their product. They have amazing brownies and cookies!


Where to Stay


city view valletta malta
View of Valletta from the south looking north.


Valletta is the capital city of Malta, and as such has an array of hotel options within the city. Although, if you are looking for accommodations on the cheaper side then you might want to look outside of Valletta for a place to stay. The best option for cheaper accommodations is just across the harbor in Sliema or Gzira. Both are a short bus ride or ferry ride to Valletta. When booking my hotels, I always use Agoda to find the best hotel in my location and price range. 


How to Get Around


houses valletta malta
Houses and shops in Valletta.


Valletta itself is a fairly small area, so getting around the city is easiest by foot. At its longest distance, from the Triton Fountain to Fort St. Elmo is only ¾ of a mile.




There is a bus route (133) that makes its way around Valletta if you are in need of transportation. This is a Valletta only route. If you happen to be staying outside of Valletta, then taking the bus or ferry (from Sliema) to Valletta would be your best option. You can use Google Maps or the Tallinja App to find the right bus and schedule.


If you do plan to take the bus frequently to get in and out of Valletta or plan to explore more of the country, then I highly suggest getting the Tallinja bus pass for easier and cheaper access to the bus system.


How to Get There


pin map valletta malta


Most people arrive in Malta by plan at the international airport or by ferry from Italy, but Valletta is also a stop on many Mediterranean cruises as well. Once in the country traveling to Valletta is best done by public bus or the domestic ferry depending on where you are coming from.




If you are traveling to Valletta from Italy, then you can take a ferry from Pozzallo, Italy to Marsa, Malta. The ferry only takes 1 hr 45 min to make the journey, but you will want to check the ferry’s website for the schedule as it differs depending on the day of the week. The cost of the ticket also changes depending on the season. One-way passenger fares for Oct – April: 42/$44.28 (14+ years), 32/$33.74 (4 –14 yrs); May – June: 56/$59.04 (14+ years), 47/$59.56 (4 –14 yrs); July – Sept: 66/$69.59 (14+ years), 57/$60.10 (4 –14 yrs).


From the ferry terminal in Marsa, you can catch a bus at the Hatab stop just outside the terminal. This will take you to the Valletta bus station just outside the city gate. Alternatively, you can take the short 1-mile scenic walk from the terminal to Valletta either along the waterfront or through Floriana to the city gate.




Malta International Airport (MLA) services many of the international airlines, but there are no direct flights from the US.  The airport is located in Luqa, 5 miles south of Valletta, but there are a number of ways to get to Valletta from the airport.



The bus is by far the cheapest option, especially if you get a bus pass. Without the bus pass a cash ticket (you will need exact change) costs 1.50/$1.58 (winter), 2/$2.11 (summer), and 3/$3.16 (night). If you arrive between 5:35am – 10:35pm, then the X4 bus will take you from the airport terminal entrance to just outside the city gate of Valletta. This bus comes by every 20-30 minutes depending on the time of day and will take about 25 minutes.


Shuttle Bus

If you are wanting to be dropped off directly at your hotel, then a shuttle bus is your best option. Suntransfers is a great company and has a few options at different price ranges. Their cheapest is a shared Express Shuttle. There will be other stops along the way, up to four, but it only cost 7.39/$7.78.



A taxi is always an option for leaving the airport, but it is also one of the most expensive. Although a private transfer, a taxi from the airport to Valletta will cost around 20/$21.


Car Rental

Car rental is an option and there are rental companies at the airport, but this may not be the best option. The roads can be narrow and often congested. Public parking is also fairly hard to find, especially in Valletta. Valletta can be fully toured by foot, so unless you plan to tour the country as a whole I would not recommend renting a car. Even touring the country can mostly be done by public bus with possible short walks.


What did you like most about Valletta?


Ultimate Travel Guide to the Historic Valletta



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