There are plenty of things to do in Valletta, the capital of Malta, even though it is slightly smaller than your average capital city. We visited this walled city on a day trip from St Julian’s, so in this post we’ve summed up the best things to do in Valletta in one day.
We started our day in Valletta at the Valletta Ferry Landing at about 10:40. We passed up on the electric tourist train offering a city tour, and instead started walking uphill to the city centre.
Did you know everything is within walking distance in Valletta? You can cross the city on foot in just 15 minutes.
Grab a coffee in Valletta
We had our morning coffee at Caffe Cordina. Founded in 1837, this coffee shop/restaurant has become an icon in Valletta. It’s situated in a fancy palazzo with impressive ceiling paintings, and has a large terrace on the square in front of the building.
They’re known for a big selection of Maltese specialties, not just pastries, but dishes too. Pick your favourite pastry from the stretched counter inside to take away, or order something from the menu (can be a pastry too) to enjoy on the outside terrace. We stuck to drinks though, really loving the caramel flavoured cafe latte (€3.60 ~ $4.11), and the Super Berry Heaven Smoothie (€5.75 ~ $6.56).
Attend the Noonday Gun Firing
The guns from the Saluting Battery, situated at the edge of the Upper Barrakka Gardens, used to protect the city and harbour against naval attacks. Later, they were only fired on midday (so Ship Masters could calibrate their chronographs on board) and on special occasions. Now, the Noonday Gun Firing is a tradition heralding the passage of midday, attracting plenty of tourists daily.
We arrived at the balconies looking over the Saluting Battery at around 11:40, grabbing the last front row spots. We were just in time for a short explanation about the Noonday Gun Firing. At about 11:55 they started preparing the cannons, until one of the guys yelled something, followed by a single loud bang. The end.
The Noonday Gun Firing is often rated as one of the top things to do in Valletta, but apart from that loud bang, it wasn’t too impressive in our opinion.
Maybe it’s more impressive if you pay €3 (~ $3.40) for a true front row spot at the same level as the Saluting Battery, just a couple of meters away from the cannons. I believe this includes a guided tour as well. You can find more information on the sign that’s put up in the Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Anyway, the Upper Barrakka Gardens are worth a visit, whether you can make it to the Noonday Gun Firing or not. It’s a small, but nice park, with a great view over the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities. Besides enjoying the view, you can have a drink on the terrace of the Upper Barrakka Kiosk, or read a book on one of the benches. We just grabbed a bottle of water to go and left again at 12:10.
Lunch in Valletta
There are plenty of options for lunch in Valletta, but since we were there for just 1 day, we didn’t get to try many of those options. Just one, obviously.
We got takeout from a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop called The Submarine for lunch. They have great ciabatta sandwiches and salads, friendly service, but no seating. So we took our chicken with grilled vegetables and chicken with bacon and potatoes sandwiches (about €3.50 ~ $4 per sandwich) to the benches at the square in front of Caffe Cordina. With a pretty good street musician providing some background music with his guitar, it was a lovely lunch!
Explore the Valletta City Gate area
The current City Gate of Valletta is the 5th gate to be in this exact spot. Designed by Renzo Piano, this timeless city gate, undone from all decorations, blends in perfectly with the old city walls. The transition between the old and reconstructed parts of the walls are emphasised with large steel blades cutting through the wall. Although the gate is opened to the sky, making a breach in the fortifications, the high steel poles give the main entrance to the city status and strength.
Just outside the Valletta City Gate, there’s a large square around The Triton Fountain. Walking towards the gate from the fountain will take you over a bridge with views over the moat, that is now a lush green garden. Or so we’ve read, because large fencing was blocking the view at the time of our visit.
Just inside the City Gate, 2 broad, gently sloping flights of steps take you to the top of the city walls. We climbed the left one, making a U-turn to the left at the top, up some more steps. From there you have a nice view over The Triton Fountain and St Publius Parish Church. We visited during Malta Pride 2018, for which you see people assembling on the square below.
When making a U-turn to the right on the top of these stairs, you have a top view of Republic Street. From there we watched the Malta Pride parade pass below.
When continuing straight after reaching the top of the steps, you walk into Hastings Garden. This small, but charming park provides wonderful views over the Grand Harbour, as well as The Triton Fountain and surroundings. There’s a geocache hidden somewhere as well. During our visit they were setting up a film set in Hastings Garden. I’m guessing a wedding scene.
Do a coastal walk in Valletta
We haven’t done this, but apparently you can do a coastal walk all around the tip of the Valletta peninsula. The start, or end, is at the Valletta Ferry Landing. Follow Boat Street towards Fort St Elmo, which houses the National War Museum. When you’re getting close to the museum, the road will become unsealed.
Continue along the water. You’ll pass the St Elmo Breakwater Footbridge, and probably some people tanning on the rocks as well. There’s a geocache hidden here somewhere, if you’re into that. We found it!
Keep going until you reach the steps leading up to the street, with a blue railing. Do note that this path isn’t that accessible, with narrow parts and some rock scrambling involved.
Instead of doing this entire coastal walk, we descended the steps with the blue railing from the street. They’re right next to Bistro St Elmo, on the right side when facing it. We enjoyed the nice view over the water and the St Elmo Breakwater Footbridge, with the St Elmo Lighthouse on its tip. We logged the geocache and returned the way we came.
Stroll through the Lower Barrakka Gardens
Just like its sister (the Upper Barrakka Gardens I mean), the Lower Barrakka Gardens are a small but nice park. The views are slightly different, but equally impressive. From the Lower Barrakka Gardens, you can see the breakwater on your left, and a different view of the Grand Harbour on your right.
Across the street from the Lower Barrakka Gardens there’s the Second World War Siege Memorial. The memorial has a big bell that tolls every day at noon in memory of those who let their lives during the siege of Malta between 1940 and 1943.
Visit St John’s Co-Cathedral
St John's Co-Cathedral is a must see in Valletta, from what we’ve read. The outside doesn’t differ much from any other church in Malta, but the inside is a lavish display of Maltese baroque art and architecture.
Did you know Malta has over 350 churches, and St John’s Co-Cathedral is said to be the most impressive?
We haven’t seen it with our own eyes though, as we visited on a Saturday, when the ticket office closes at 12:00 instead of 16:00, and Brecht forgot about that little detail. It’s closed for visitors on Sundays and public holidays as well, in order for the services to take place undisturbed.
To see the ornate inside of St John’s Co-Cathedral, you have to pay a €10 (~ $11.40) entrance fee. This fee pays for the high maintenance and conservation costs of the cathedral due to the large amounts of visitors that pass through daily. A handheld audio guide is included though, which gives you some historical information at 24 stops throughout the cathedral.
Have a flower-shaped gelato
You surely have seen many flower-shaped gelato photos on Instagram. Want one too? Queue at Amorino for an Amorino Rose, made of all natural gourmet gelato. A small cone costs €3.60 (~ $4.11), and can have as many flavours as you like. Their signature Amorino Rose has a macaron al gelato in the middle.
It was not just pretty, but yum too! Don’t be put off by the queue spilling out of the small boutique, the friendly staff works fast and efficient.
Geocaching in Valletta
We mentioned Geocaching a couple of times in this post, because that’s something we always love to do when exploring a city. It takes you to hidden spots you wouldn’t have found otherwise, and other great locations with nice views for example. You can plan it beforehand, or just check the Geocaching app while wandering around. We found 4 geocaches in Valletta.
Enjoy a cocktail by the water
While waiting for the ferry, we sipped a Gin Blueberry Cooler and a Raspberry Lemonade at Cockney's Lounge Bar. The Gin Blueberry Cooler (€6.50 ~ $7.40) had homemade blueberry-rosemary syrup and wasn’t too bitter. The large glass of refreshing Raspberry Lemonade (€3 ~ $3.40), made with homemade raspberry syrup, was very good too.
Cockney’s is a restaurant as well, but we enjoyed our drinks at the outside lounge bar. It has cosy benches made of wooden pallets, with a view over the water. The Valletta Ferry Landing is just a stone’s throw away.
Do a guided walking tour of Valletta
In case you aren’t the planning type, or prefer a guided tour over solo wandering, you can book a guided walking tour of Valletta.
Dinner in Valletta
Do note that the night service of the Sliema-Valletta Ferry starts at 19:30, warranting slightly more expensive tickets. Find more information on taking the ferry from Sliema to Valletta (and back) here.
Accommodation in Valletta
If you prefer to stay (the night) in Valletta, check out all accommodation options according to Booking.com here.
We definitely enjoyed our day in Valletta, exploring this beautiful walled city and enjoying the stunning views of its surroundings. Hoping you will too!
Does this post have all the information you were looking for, or are you missing something? Maybe we missed something that’s worth seeing or doing in Valletta? We’d love to read it in the comments!
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