Key points about this information item A guide to Valletta, Malta's capital cityVisit Valletta, the capital and historic fortified city of Malta Description:
A guide to Valletta, Malta’s capital city
Vallettta came into existence as a direct result of the Great Siege of 1565. The Ottoman Empire invaded the island, with a force that heavily outnumbered that of the Knights of Malta and their supporters, but the Knights held sway and Grand Master La Vallette immediately began to plan the strengthening of Malta’s defences. Central to this plan was the construction of a fortified city, later to be named Valletta after its founder.
The Xiberras Peninsular was chosen as the ideal location with its strategic position overlooking two natural harbours, Marsaxett and Grand Harbour. The foundation stone of the city was laid on 28th March 1566 with construction beginning immediately and an ambitious plan to complete the building work within one year. As with most large projects, the one year came and went and building work continued for many years to come.
The original plans were drawn up by Francesco Lapparelli and required several reviews before the grid [pattern that you see today was finalised. Later construction was designed and overseen by Gerolamo Cassar, who was responsible for all the Auberges, St Johns Co-Cathedral and many more splendid buildings in the city.
The Knights of St John ruled Malta from 1535 until Napoleon took Malta on his way to Egypt in 1798, but the French rule was short lived as an uprising by the Maltese, assisted by the British, lead to British rule from 1800. During this time, Valletta was completed and additional fortifications added and after the British took over a serious program of new building added much to the Valletta that we see today.
In 1980, Valletta was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, acknowledging the important place that the city plays in World history.
Despite being a very small city, of just over half a square kilometre, Valletta is steeped in history and contains more than its fair share of historical sites. Sadly, a large number of building were destroyed in the bombing that took place during the second great siege of Malta in the 1940’s.
During World War Two, both the Allies and the Axis powers recognised the importance of Malta as a strategic base in the Mediterranean and this resulted in a fierce battle over the island. Valletta, with its vitally important Grand Harbour, suffered very serious bombing, in which a large number of historic buildings were reduced to rubble, including the Royal Opera House, near City Gate, which was bombed on 7th April 1842.
Despite the destruction of World War Two, many splendid buildings and places to visit remain, including;
- St Johns Co-Cathedral – contains the Caravaggio painting of The Beheading of St John the Baptist
- Auberge de Castille
- Grand Masters Palace and Palace Armoury
- Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens
- St Georges Square
- Republic Square
- Triton Fountain
- Palazzo Parisio
- Great Siege Monument
- Palace Square
- Fort St Elmo
- Siege Bell Monument
- Church of St Paul Shipwrecked
When driving towards Valletta, look out for signs indicating Il-Belt, which is the locals’ common name for the City.
Valletta is a lovely city to spend time exploring, with numerous open squares, palaces and churches, plus the monumental fortifications surrounding the city. Republic Street is the main shopping centre, with many international brands such as Marks and Spencer, plus many shops and small cafes in the myriad of side streets. One good thing about Valletta Is that since it is built on a grid system, finding your way around is fairly simple.
Take a look at the other pages we have on places to visit in Valletta.
Article by : Martin Parker
Malta Holiday Home Services, property management in Malta