Introducing Malta, Valletta

The Maltese Islands are located in the central Mediterranean between Sicily, Italy, and the North African coast. The island nation is a *Commonwealth nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers over the centuries. It has numerous fortresses, megalithic temples, and ancient burial chambers. The Maltese language is a dialect of Arabic and includes a significant percentage of Italian and English vocabulary. All this, along with the use of Euro currency and the ubiquitous presence of water, were a continual reminder to me during my travels around the country that the Maltese Islands are strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Africa.  

The teeming, picturesque port town of Sliema on Malta island, the main island of the Malta archipelago, was my jumping off point to explore the Capital city of Valletta, and the neighboring historic Three Cities in Grand Harbour (my next posting).

I made myself at home in a charming little hostel in Sliema located up a narrow street from the town’s lively waterfront where I ate out nightly.  At times I felt like I was in “Little Italy” (as in Boston and Providence) because of the ubiquitous presence of Sicilian bakeries and restaurants with a decided Italian flair.

It was a beautiful, balmy morning as I made my way to the deck of a small ferry for a short ride across Marsamxett Harbour to the historic city of Valletta. As Sliema’s wide waterfront boardwalk disappeared in the distance, the commanding bastion walls of Valletta came nearer, enticing me to explore the cultural treasurers within.  The walled city of Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage site constructed almost five centuries ago by the **Order of St. John.  The grand Baroque architecture reflects the knights stature as aristocrats from noble European families. 

Upon disembarking the ferry, I fell into step with other passengers onto a steep, wide street and through an opening in the stone walls.  A grid-like plan of narrow streets where 16th century and *modernist architecture lined the streets, eventually opening to the heart of the old city at the ruins of the Royal Opera House with its monumental pillars. Left in ruins following WWII, it is now a popular open air theatre.

Nearby, just inside Valletta’s landmark City Gate, was the meeting point for a free walking tour. Our guide, Oliver, was a knowledgeable, young, Maltese man who works for tips.  He told us stories behind some of the old stone buildings with their traditional timber balconies, and related history of palaces and grand churches within the city walls.  Later I returned to a cozy seafood restaurant which Oliver had pointed out as a local favorite, and dined on savory local seafood at a bargain price. .

Fort Saint Elmo, built in the 16th century, is integrated into Valletta’s city wall. The fortress ramparts offered dramatic views of Three Cities, with their fortresses and miles of fortification walls and Grand Harbour.


*Commonwealth – an intergovernmental organization of 53 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire

**Order of St. John – became known as the Knights of Malta

***Modernist architecture has little or no ornamentation, with clean lines and functionality

(Move your cursor over each photo for caption/description. iPad users – hold a finger on each photo for a few seconds for caption/description)


2 thoughts on “Introducing Malta, Valletta

  1. I am guessing that you visited Malta in the off season Merrilee, i.e. winter. Your descriptions make me want to visit places like Malta and Poland pronto, before Brexit (March 2019), when who knows what restrictions may be placed on travel and low cost airlines. Your blog shows it is possible to have a great time in the off season as long as you wrap up warm and carry an umbrella!


    1. HI Lee,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes, it was wintertime when I was visiting Malta, but it was lovely. Several layers of clothing were critical during my visit to Poland just before I visited Malta. But only a couple of layers were needed in Malta, especially during the evenings.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s