AS THE DAYS CONTINUE TO GET LONGER AND MORE COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS ARE GRADUALLY BEING LIFTED, VALLETTA IS ALSO WAKING UP FROM ITS SLUMBER. ONCE AGAIN, IT IS BUSTLING WITH ACTIVITY.
Text Christine Cassar
Valletta — The Fortress City, Citta’ Umilissima, was named after its founder – Grand Master of the Order of St John, Jean Parisot de la Valette. It sits comfortably on the Mount Sceberras peninsula, and lies between Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour.
This magnificent walled city is also home to several historic buildings, beautiful gardens, stunning works of art, museums, palaces and much more. Whether you just want to wander, admire the architecture, visit places of interest or simply wine and dine, there’s truly something for everyone.
That’s why we’re going to take you on a walkthrough around some of the best top sights in Malta’s capital. We may also throw in some restaurants in case you get hungry along the way!
THE TRITON FOUNTAIN
Upon approaching City Gate, your eyes will fall on the Triton Fountain. Put simply, you can’t miss it. In fact, it’s a great point of reference in case you get lost inside the walls of the city. Just like any other famous landmarks and gems that are found in Valletta, this one has quite the story to tell. Rome’s very own Fontana delle Tartarughe (The Turtle Fountain) served as the main source of inspiration to sculptor Victor Apap. So, in 1959, he decided to bring his own creation to life with the help of his fellow draughtsman, Victor Anastasi.
At the time, Apap decided to include three bronze Tritons holding up a large plate, sitting and kneeling proudly on a seaweed base. Unfortunately, Apap had to make some changes after the plate and two of the tritons were damaged in the late 70s. Eventually, the new design featured a bronze pillar in the centre of the plate to conceal the damage and the new water system.
Throughout the last few years, more restorative works were commissioned to ensure that this work of art gets the recognition it deserves. On top of that, it has also been used as a stunning backdrop for a number of concerts and events that were hosted in Valletta.
UPPER BARRAKKA GARDENS
Back in the day, the Knights regarded the Upper Barrakka Gardens as the place where they could enjoy some peace and quiet, whilst they were off duty. Eventually, the gardens were then opened to the public following the end of the Knights’ rule in the year 1800.
Needless to say, the Upper Barrakka Gardens are simply magical. It’s the perfect spot to grab a coffee or a cold drink and admire more stunning views of the island.
THE GRAND HARBOUR
Don’t leave the Upper Barrakka Gardens without taking a few snaps of none other than the Grand Harbour. Once again, the history behind yet another historic landmark is simply fascinating. This natural harbour served as the main headquarters for the Knights of St John for 268 years. Following their departure, it also served as a base for the British for a further 170 years.
More importantly, the Grand Harbour took centre stage as it showcased one of the most famous battles in the world – the final showdown between the Knights and the Ottomans.
ST JOHN’S CO-CATHEDRAL
You are now approaching St John’s Co-Cathedral. As you step into this magnificent place, its high Baroque architecture, marble floors and all the little details don’t go unnoticed. In fact, it is known as one of the most beautiful co-cathedrals in the world. And with good reason!
It houses some of the finest paintings of the 16th and 17th century, including Caravaggio’s very own Beheading of St John the Baptist. According to several historians, Caravaggio worked on this historic masterpiece during his stay in Malta back in 1608.
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. This oil painting features life-sized figures, along with bright colours such as red and yellow – both of which are a nod towards the Baroque period. On top of that, you can’t miss the predominant use of chiaroscuro. Interestingly, it is Caravaggio’s sole painting that bears his signature. But it’s not just any old signature; Caravaggio cleverly placed it in red blood spilling from Baptist’s cut throat.
Surely the World’s Oldest Record Shop Est.1885 deserves a visit too, right? D’Amato Records is a haven for those who live and breathe music and films. From CDs, DVDs and even vinyl records, this shop has it all.
Since we are now living in the digital age where you can stream your favourite album with a few clicks, you won’t find shops like this on every corner. So, if you love music make sure you really take the time to visit and appreciate the work the owners have put in this beautiful shop.
Feeling peckish? We’ve got you covered with all the pubs and restaurants that line every corner of one of Valletta’s most iconic streets. Strait Street was the place to be during the 19th – and mid-20th centuries. People from different walks of life, classes and nationalities could mingle and coexist.
Nowadays, Strait Street is still very popular with many locals and tourists. In fact, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a cured meats platter, a bottle of wine, sexy cocktails and a dose of good music. Simply put, nothing screams summer in the city more than Strait Street.
If you’ve got room for dessert, we highly recommend a visit to Chocolate District’s “cave of treasures”. It is well and truly the ‘Home of the Finest Cacao’ on the island. What’s impressive about this little shop is that you can treat yourself to luxury chocolate that you definitely won’t find in your regular supermarket.
Put simply, Chocolate District invites you to go on a trip of the senses as you feast on flavours that you wouldn’t normally associate chocolate with. We’re talking chocolate paired with sea salt, prickly pears, olive oil and other assorted flavours that seriously pack a punch.
You can also grab some seriously good coffee and other chocolatey gifts that you can take home to your loved ones (or keep for yourself).