A year of culture that lasts forever
title is held by Valletta in Malta and Leeuwarden in the Netherlands.
The development and publicity opportunities that come with being a European Capital of Culture can have a direct impact on house prices. “As soon as the Valletta 2018 Foundation Board of Governors started promoting the city in 2013, property prices shot up, in some cases by 100 per cent,” says Ray Young of Frank Salt, a Maltese estate agent. “Valletta has come back to life. A lot of almost derelict buildings have been bought and renovated, and a number of properties that just wouldn’t sell have now been sold. There used to be around 2,000 empty buildings. This has gone down to around 500.”
There’s still opportunity to snap up some of Valletta’s stylish homes. A fivebedroom palazzo with high ceilings, wooden beams and stone arches is on the market with Frank Salt for €1.7million (£1.5million). It has a lift and a decked roof terrace with a small swimming pool and sea views. For a smaller option, there’s a two-bedroom penthouse listed with Homes of Quality, a member of the Frank Salt group, for €1.1million. This duplex apartment has been elegantly refurbished with an open-plan kitchen/living/dining area, two terraces, a heated Jacuzzi and a roof terrace with views over Manoel Island and Tigné Point.
Many of these huge palazzo buildings, which were built by the Knights of Saint John, have been turned into boutique hotels or apartments, especially since the government launched incentives to boost the city’s image. “Over the past three years, in anticipation of Valletta being the 2018 European Capital of Culture, we have seen a considerable amount of new interest from both local and foreign investors,” says Benjamin Grech of estate agency Engel & Völkers. He is marketing a duplex apartment designed by AP Architects, which has recently collaborated with Italian designer Renzo Piano on the new parliament building in Valletta. The two-bedroom flat is listed for €2.8million.
Michele and Keith Jenkins bought a seven-storey house with a bedroom on each floor in the centre of Valletta in 2015, paying about €200,000. The couple, who live in London, had previously owned a flat in St Paul’s Bay on the north-east coast of Malta for more than 20 years. “We wanted a change and as we used to go to Valletta frequently, we thought why not buy there instead,” says Michele. The couple have noticed quite a change in Valletta over the past few years. “A lot of buildings have been renovated leading up to this year and there’s been a marked increase in the number of restaurants and bars,” Michele says. “When we first came here to go to the theatre, there was nowhere to eat afterwards.”
Improvements have been made across Valletta, from tidying up the city’s moats to refurbishing the old covered market in Merchants Street, which has now reopened and sells Waitrose products. The unveiling last month of the restored Triton Fountain at the modernised city gate topped off the extensive renovation works.
Most cities use the year as an occasion to restore, transform or build new cultural and other buildings, according to a report from the programme’s organising body. In 1996, Copenhagen turned its former naval yards into
The view of Valletta from Sliema, main; the Maltese city’s colourful streets, above; a palazzo in Valletta, below right, is €1.7 million with Frank Salt
A two-bedroom penthouse in central Valletta is €1.1 million through Homes of Quality