NOTES FROM ANOTHER SMALL ISLAND
Ididn’t grow up in Valletta but Malta is a small island. Going to Valletta for Maltese people means a maximum 45minute drive, even if you live at the other end of the island,” Lorraine Vassallo says. A local tour guide for 20 years, and with Bunnik Tours since they started travelling to Malta in 2003, Lorraine says she loves the “Fortress City” of this tiny nation for many reasons. “Firstly the architecture, since I love the Baroque period in our history, then the breathtaking views offered from the fortifications, the beautiful coloured, closed, wooden balconies, and for meeting so many different people!” Before you visit, get acquainted with Malta’s capital with Lorraine’s top tips.
EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE
Valletta has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2018, which means the city is being recognised worldwide for its splendour in architecture and arts, and its position and historical importance through the ages. People are coming to appreciate more of what the city has to offer – not only tourists but also locals who were previously not so interested in our Maltese culture.
Various concerts, festivals and exhibitions are being held in Valletta but also in other parts of the island where everyone can attend, participate and experience the celebrations first-hand. One of the most awaited events is going to be the Picasso and Miró art exhibition held at the Grand Master’s Palace between now and June.
DON’T MISS THIS
First and foremost, you should visit St John’s Co-Cathedral, once the conventual church of the Knights Order of St John (the Knights of Malta). It’s the most beautiful church I have ever seen in my life.
Dating back to 1731, The Manoel, Malta’s National Theatre, is Europe’s third-oldest still functioning theatre. It may only house 623 seats but many opera singers, musicians and troupes have graced its stage throughout the past 300 years.
The Upper Barrakka Gardens offer breathtaking views over the famous Grand Harbour, no matter the weather.
And for more history, the National Museum of Archaeology has repertoires dating as far back as 7000 years. Here is where you’ll find the famous “Sleeping Lady” of Ħal-Saflieni and other artefacts recovered from the various prehistoric sites situated all over the archipelago.
Valletta is small so even though this seems like a lot, you’ll manage all of this and more in two days.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
While visiting Valletta – or anywhere around the islands actually – you must try the local “pastizzi”, a flaky, savoury pastry usually filled with ricotta or mushy peas, and oven baked until golden brown.
Wash it down with the fizzy soft drink known as Kinnie, brewed from bitter oranges and extracts of wormwood. It’s the national soft drink of Malta and both Kinnie and pastizzi are easily found in Valletta cafes.
ONCE YOU’VE SEEN THE SIGHTS
Seek out the Hastings Gardens, situated on top of the bastions above the right-hand side of the Main Gate. From here, you can see a large part of the island, Marsamxett Harbour, and also get a closer look at the fortifications protecting the city.
In two days, you can explore much of the beautiful Fortress City of Valletta in the tiny nation of Malta.