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Valletta Destination Guide
Word is well and truly out about Valletta. With Malta experiencing record-breaking visitor numbers and the capital home to a blossoming film industry, you won’t take long to realise just why Valletta is currently experiencing somewhat of a renaissance. Attractive to lovers of history, food, and nature, Valletta was one of the first sites to earn a UNESCO World Heritage listing. A harbour city with a well-preserved 16th century architectural heritage, layers and layers of history is beckoning for you to uncover at this unique city once ruled by pretty much every country that set sail in the Mediterranean.
Renowned for being the first planned city in Europe, Malta’s capital is celebrated for having one of the most concentrated historic centres in the world and is home to some 320 monuments. In many ways one giant fortress, the city’s defensive structures, such as Fort Saint Elmo and the Saluting Battery are two of its definite highlights. A city easily traversed by foot, Republic Street is the city’s main thoroughfare and the area where you’ll find the Grand Masters Palace, The National Museum of Archaeology, and the ornate St. John’s Cathedral. Another main attraction is the city’s harbour, and a trip to nearby Birgu or Sliema by ferry or traditional Maltese ‘daisa’ boat may just be the best part of your trip to Valletta.
Valletta has no shortage of places to wine and dine the days and nights away. The waterfront and the main square make good starting points for a casual meal while a wander through the pretty backstreets will yield greater rewards. Housed in a centuries-old building, Guze is a fine place to munch on Mediterranean cuisine and mingle with locals while a fascinating place to dine is the Anglo Maltese Restaurant, an ex-service-men’s bar. For a big night out, hop on a bus or grab a taxi to Paceville then take your pick from one of the many bars and clubs in the area.
Where to Stay
Despite Valletta’s relative popularity as a tourist destination, outside of the busy summer season, travelers can really grab a great deal on a room. The Excelsior Grant Hotel and Hotel Phoenicia are the city’s leading hotel addresses and offer the full five-stars and perfect locations. Nothing is really far away in Valletta though so wherever you decide to slumber you’re bound to be in a good spot. More recommendations on where to stay include top mid-range options Castille Hotel and Osbourne Hotel, while if you are on a strict budget you won’t have to break out the credit card if you stay at the Grand Harbour Hotel or the British Hotel.
While by no means a shopping Mecca, Valletta is still surprisingly well served with places to shops. The best and busiest stores can be found in Republic Street and Merchants Street, which is where you’ll find many European staples including Marcs & Spencer. To escape the heat, The Embassy Shopping Complex is Valletta’s leading mall and home to cinemas and food outlets, while closer to the City Gate and South Street is where to shop for your souvenir shopping. Merchants Street Market is another place well worth a look and is where you’ll find many locals doing their daily shopping.
Valletta Like a Local
Don’t be surprised if you get a sense of déjà-vu when in Valletta. It takes local knowledge to know that many of Valletta’s locations have doubled for everything from ancient Rome, to 19-th century Marseille and even 1960’s Beirut. Now boasting a resume of being home to more than 150 productions, the London Times has even dubbed Valletta “the Mediterranean’s mini-Hollywood”. Thankfully these days you no longer have to be a local to know where to follow the steps of Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt, Sean Connery and friends around Valletta thanks to the Malta Union of Tourist Guides tour of Valletta movie sights.