Valletta: an open-air museum


Founded in 1565 by the Order of St John as a refuge for soldiers returning from the Crusades, Valletta is now the capital of Malta and a piece of living history. Geographically, it is located in the South Eastern Region, in the central-eastern portion of the main island of Malta having its western coast with access to the Marsamxett Harbour and its eastern coast in the Grand Harbour.

Throughout the years, Valletta has welcomed emperors, heads of state, artists and poets and is now the permanent seat of the Maltese government.

Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John also known as Knights Hospitaller. The city is essentially Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture in selected areas, though the Second World War left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of the Royal Opera House. The City of Valletta was officially recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.

Dotted with quaint cafés and wine bars, the city is today one of Malta’s main tourist attractions, hosting among others, the majestic St John’s Co- Cathedral, the imposing bastions and a treasure of priceless paintings. It also provides a stunning snapshot of Malta’s Grand Harbour, often described as the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.

The city’s unique setting nowadays plays host to a series of cultural events, from theatre in English, to concerts by leading opera singers.

The city’s fortifications, consisting of bastions, curtains and cavaliers, along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches, it is no wonder that this smallest of European capital cities is a world heritage site.

Historical affiliations of Valletta

  • Order of Saint John 1566–1798
  • French Republic 1798–1800
  • Protectorate of Malta 1800–1813
  • Crown Colony of Malta 1813–1964
  • State of Malta 1964–1974
  • Republic of Malta 1974–present
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