The smallest capital in the European Union is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean, majestically situated on a promontory on Mount Sceberras. It is flanked by two large, natural harbours, Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour, both of which have been in use since Roman times. Valletta is the seat of the Maltese government and an important business centre.
It is said of Valletta that it is a city built by gentlemen, for gentlemen. It was founded by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century as a refuge for wounded pilgrims and soldiers during the Crusades.
Valletta has become a prime tourist destination, with many wine bars and cafés dotting the city offering respite for travellers who come to visit the priceless treasures in the National Museum of Malta, the many imposing bastions from the city’s illustrious past, the charmingly worn limestone buildings, and the city’s grand old Baroque churches. Valletta hosts a series of cultural events every year, from English theatre productions to concerts by leading opera singers.
Within its fortified walls is a unique commercial centre where centuries-old Baroque buildings and structures temper the modernizing effect of new buildings rising next to them. As the frenetic energy of business activity slows down at sundown, Valletta transforms into a quiet city perfect for strolling around in.
Because of its strategic location, Malta was a much fought-over prize between the Axis Powers and Great Britain during World War II. It was heavily bombed for years throughout the war, and Nazi air raids devastated much of Valletta. Many buildings were destroyed in the bombings, and most of the population was evacuated. The Maltese were motivated to rebuild and reconstruct the capital after the war, especially in the run-up to its independence from Britain in 1964. Some of the city’s battle scars can still be seen in some places, notably the ruins of the old Royal Opera House in the heart of the city.
Despite what it suffered during the war, much of Valletta’s original architecture remains intact. Its well-preserved churches and houses give the city the feel of an open-air museum.
In the years after the war, Valletta’s inhabitants moved out to more modern settlements outside the city. But recently renewed interest in the city’s unique architecture has lured some back to the city to invest in old properties, spurring a renaissance of sorts in Valletta.
Valletta’s main thoroughfare is Republic Street, a pedestrian shopping zone going down the middle of the peninsula to Republic Square.
The Valletta Waterfront within the Grand Harbour is a beautifully restored 18th century Baroque wharf that is now a commercial complex, with dozens of upmarket restaurants, bars, clubs and shops.Tigne Point
On the peninsula curving around Manoel Island reaching towards Valletta is Sliema’s historic Tigné Point, where military outposts were built to guard the island in times of war. Fort Tigné, built in 1792 by the Knights, still stands and is undergoing renovation by the developers of a new residential complex in the area.
Tigné North and Tigné South. The former is built around a historic Garden Battery, a coastal defense system built by the British that is now being restored. Tigné North is the more commercial of the two parts of the development; retail stores, restaurants, cafés and office buildings along with waterfront homes are currently being constructed.