Travel Guide – Valletta, Malta
Author: Alison Delaney | Last Updated: 15 Mar 2018
Valletta, the capital city of the Mediterranean island of Malta sits on a peninsula measuring just 1km by 600 meters. It was built by the Knights of St. John as ‘a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.’ This small city retains its elegant 16th-century style and has been described as one of the world’s most concentrated historic areas. Boasting plenty of architectural history and educational sites, Valletta is the perfect place for travellers who love to immerse themselves in the local culture.
The Grand Masters Palace
The 16th century Grand Masters Palace was the residence of the Grand Masters of the Knights of St. John. Then from the time of Maltese independence until 2015, it was used to host the country’s parliament until they moved into a new building.
The Armoury is now housed in what used to be the stables. There is a collection of 5000 suits of armour dating from the 16th until the 18th centuries, at one time the collection contained more than 25,000 but much of it has been lost over the centuries through neglect and poor housekeeping. Tourists wanting to take a peek at some of these amazing and historical suits of armour can purchase tickets for only 10 euro and the palace and armoury are open from 10 am to 4 pm.
The new Parliament Building was only recently opened in 2014 and was designed by Renzo Piano and has raised several debates through the modern design in such a historical city. Covering the roof are panels to generate enough energy to keep the building cool in the summer and heated during the winter. The parliament chamber is housed in the northern block while the south block holds the offices of the MPs.’
With so few architectural changes in the city since the 16th and 17th centuries, the design of this building together with the City Gate and Opera House was highly contested. Though, the building does add an amazing touch of modern style to the ancient city.
Now, the building may not be as interesting as some other sites in the city, its design and uniqueness are sure to excite any architecture lover.
The Barrakka Gardens & Battery
The colonnaded Barrakka Gardens were created in the late 16th century as a place to relax for the Knights from the Auberge d’Italie. They are perched high over the Grand Harbor and provide a shaded area away from the busy city streets, the balcony provides one of the best viewpoints in Valletta.
On the Saluting Battery there is a ceremony every day at noon and again at 4 pm when a cannon is fired, it is an attraction worth seeing and the children will love it. The guides all wearing period costume add to the spectacle with their enthusiastic descriptions of how the cannons are first loaded, then fired.
National Museum of Archaeology
This museum is located in Auberge de Provence and has relics including stone tools dating from 5200BC. There are also prehistoric figurines that were found locally. These beautiful models include the Sleeping Lady, a 5000-year-old sculpture found at the Hypogeum. The ‘fat ladies’ sculptures were found at Hagar Qim, they have large rounded thighs and arms while having tiny hands and feet. The Venus de Malta, found at the same site is just 10cm tall while the beautiful stone friezes were found at the Tarxien Temples.
The museum is open daily from 9 am until 7 pm and entry costs 5 Euros.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
Hypogeum (means underground in the Greek language) and is a subterranean necropolis that was discovered in 1902 during building work. Stepping into this silent and mysterious world you will be amazed by the quality of the halls, chambers and passages that have been carved out of the rock. The underground area covers 500 square meters and it is believed to have been constructed around 3600 to 3000BC.
There are an estimated 7000 bodies interred in this underground chamber. Visitors were doing damage through exhaled air and the attraction was closed for around 10 years. The climate inside and visitor numbers are now strictly controlled.
Guided tours at Hal Saflieni Hypogeum are priced at 35 euro and offer a comprehensive look into the necropolis.
A Haven Built by Knights, Valetta
The historic and tiny city of Valletta has the appearance of one that has been standing still since the 16th century but has now started slowly coming into the 21st century with modern buildings such as the new Parliament Building, the City Gate and its Opera House.
The city’s history clearly goes back even further in time with its archaeological museum and the underground passages of the Hypogeum. The traditions and history are perhaps best reflected in the daily ceremony of firing the cannon from the Saluting Battery.
All tourists will find the trip to Valletta like a trip back in time, with everything seeming exceedingly old, though still somehow in touch with the modern world.
Categories: Travel Guides