Valletta has many titles, all recalling its rich historical past. It is the "modern" city built by the Knights of St John; a masterpiece of the Baroque; a European Art City and a World Heritage City. Today, it is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.
The city is busy by day, yet retains a timeless atmosphere by night, that gives the feeling that you are walking back in time. The grid of narrow streets boasts some of Europe's finest art works, churches and palaces.
Valletta is abundantly rich in sites to see and explore, intriguing historical buildings around every corner: votive statues, niches, fountains and coats of arms high up on parapets. Narrow side streets are full of tiny quaint shops and cafés, while Valletta's main streets are lined with larger international branded shops for fashion, music, jewellery and much more.
The best way to get around and see the most, from your visit to Valletta, is on foot and although the things to do & see are many, a good start and definitely not to be missed are Valletta's beautiful gardens. The Upper Barrakka Gardens, Hastings Gardens & the Lower Barrakka Gardens are just three of the most popular ones, however on further exploration many more hidden gardens can be discovered. From the Upper Barrakka Gardens it is also possible to see the Saluting Battery as well as take the lift down the bastions to sea level.
St John's co-Cathedral & museum are definitely not to be missed, this elaborately adorned church is home to world famous artistic masterpieces by Caravaggio and Mattia Preti. Apart from beautiful Baroque churches other places of interest include the various grandmaster auberges, piazzas & museums.
History of Valletta
After the Great Siege of 1565, the Knights set about an ambitious project, the building of Valletta, the so-called 'city built by gentlemen for gentlemen'. Pope Pius IV sent his foremost engineer, Francesco Laparelli, to build the city both as a fortress to defend Christendom and as a cultural masterpiece. A unique example of the Baroque, Valletta has been designated a World Heritage City.
In its day, Valletta was a fine example of modern city planning. Designed on a grid system, now common in the United States, the city was carefully planned to accommodate water and sanitation and to allow for the circulation of air. Most towns and cities evolved over centuries, but Valletta, in contrast, was one of the first European cities to be constructed on an entirely new site.
Grand Master Jean de la ValletteFrancesco Laparelli left the completion of Valletta to his assistant, the Maltese, Gerolamo Cassar (1520-92), who had studied in Rome. Cassar's masterpiece is the Co-Cathedral of St. John.
The magnificent, baroque interior was the later work of the Calabrian artist and knight, Mattia Preti (1613-99). The first baroque buildings to be designed in Valletta were the work of an Italian architect from Lucca, Francesco Buonamici, the Knights' resident engineer from 1634-59, assisted by the Italian military architect Floriani. He not only extended the fortifications to Floriana, but designed churches for Valletta, Rabat and Ħaż-Żebbuġ.