Valletta and Birgu: the biggest attractions (map, sightseeing plan, tickets, interesting facts)

Valletta, Malta
Valletta, Malta

What is Valletta really?

The capital of Malta, Valletta, is a tiny, even pocket city. It is practically entirely filled with large and heavy old buildings, a large part of which are military and defense buildings. The historic part of the city consists almost exclusively of valuable, historic buildings and as a whole has been included on the UNESCO cultural heritage list. The area of ​​Valletta is less than 1 km2 (0,8 km2 to be precise) and it is hard to imagine that in this area the size of a "postage stamp" there are about 320 (!!!) legally protected, historical buildings. They constitute the area included on the UNESCO list, they delight travelers, and they, being attractions in themselves, hide many other works of art and attractions. It's no wonder that Valletta has earned the nickname "an open-air museum".

Valletta, Malta
Valletta, Malta

Walking around Valletta, almost on my back, I felt the weight of solid stone buildings crammed into a small area, surrounded by countless even more massive fortifications, capable of withstanding any enemy attack or bombardment. Beautiful buildings and palaces in the city are of course admirable, but my attention kept coming back to the military buildings. There are so many of them in Valletta that most of them remain undeveloped to this day. In recent years, a lot of different (and, it must be admitted, really interesting and large) museums have been made available to tourists, but despite this, the vast majority of military buildings still remain empty. Walking along the tops of the defensive buildings officially open to the public, we can observe a wide panorama covering the sea waters, bays, other parts of the city and subsequent towns across the water, and at the same time see endless military empty buildings. Amazing feeling. It is also amazing to know that some of these places remain almost untouched since World War II.

View from Fort St. Elmo for military vacant lots in Valletta

Standing on the edge of one of the fortifications, I tried to take in the vastness of all the towers, fortifications, anti-aircraft batteries, gun platforms, towers, towers, barracks, citadels... and what else, until I realized what Valletta and, by the way, the whole of Malta really were. Winston Churchill put it perfectly in two neat words: "unsinkable aircraft carrier". Valletta and Malta are a powerful, heavily armored, unsinkable vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, without which World War II would have turned out completely differently. I smiled to myself, took my eyes off the mesmerizing panorama of the city and went further to absorb this amazing and delightful city.
You're coming with me? I invite!

Where is Valletta?

Two simple maps will explain everything the fastest and easiest. The first shows the location of Malta on the map of Europe, and the second shows the location of Valletta on the map of Malta.

Location of Malta on the map of Europe
Location of Malta on the map of Europe

The red dot pointed to by the big red arrow is Malta. The size of the red dot more or less reflects the size of the island. To the north of Malta you can see Sicily. The difference in the size of the islands is clearly visible.

Valletta's location on the map of Malta
Valletta's location on the map of Malta

Birgu et al

It's best to start visiting Valletta with… Birgu (also known as Vittoriosa). Both names are used interchangeably, although nowadays Birgu is more often referred to as Birgu.
Why do I think this is the best way to start the tour? For purely historical reasons (firstly), and secondly, because of the additional attractiveness that the trip then gains.
The mentioned historical reasons are nothing other than the fact that before Valletta, Birgu was the capital of Malta. For a long time, it was the key to gaining control over the island. It is therefore worth getting acquainted with Birgu, which is even smaller than Valletta, and then, following the course of history, move to Valletta.

The course of the trip according to my idea will be as shown in the map below. First, we will visit Birgu, then we will take a boat ride, and then, after reaching Valletta, we will get acquainted with what the current capital of Malta has for us.

The sightseeing route from Birgu to Valletta

A visit to Birgu is even more pleasant because only a small handful of tourists come here (they all crowd into Valletta). The town's streets are beautiful, yet narrow, tight and cozy. Walking along them is pleasant not only because you can often walk almost alone, but also because they are really beautiful. Of course, Birgu, as befits the former capital, is also solidly fortified, so part of the walk runs along a natural path through military buildings.

Not sure if you want to see Birgu? Then see this short video. You will stop having doubts!

Birgu (Vittoriosa), Malta

Birgu (Vittoriosa) – map

Below is a map of Birg with the location of attractions marked. The tour starts from the parking lot in front of the city walls. Then we pass through the Malta at War Museum (1) and we head to a small district with narrow, tight streets (2), squeezed into beautiful, historic buildings. The short video I recorded and posted above comes from this part. I marked the most interesting area and streets on the map with a red ellipse. Then the sightseeing trail leads past other attractions to Fort Saint Angelo (7). This ends the tour of Birgu and we go to the water taxi pier (8).

Parking lot in front of the city walls in Birgu, GPS coordinates:
35°53’05.1″N 14°31’20.0″E
35.884761, 14.522219 - click and route

Map of the first part of the trip in Birgu
1. Malta at War Museum
Fragment of the defensive walls at the War Museum in Birg

The museum is located in the historic fortress of Couvre Porte and is dedicated to the history of Malta during World War II, when the island was one of the most besieged places in the world.
Major exhibitions include:
– original uniforms and weapons
– documents, photographs and propaganda posters
– personal and everyday items used in difficult war conditions

One of the most interesting parts of the museum are the preserved air raid shelters, through which the sightseeing route leads, and the 45-minute documentary "Malta GC" shown in the original military cinema. Filmed by the British Ministry of Information, the film tells the story of the heroism and perseverance of the Maltese people during the war. The Maltese contribution to the war was honored with the George Cross by King George VI in 1942, and a copy is on display in the museum (the original is in Fort St. Elmo).

Malta War Museum (Malta at War Museum), GPS coordinates:
35°53’07.5″N 14°31’20.3″E
35.885411, 14.522317 - click and route

2. A district of picturesque streets
Birgu (Vittoriosa), Malta

Number (2) on my map, this is the district of picturesque streets I have designated. I marked it to make it easier to find here (though it's not difficult anyway). Below are the coordinates of a landmark located in this tiny district, consisting of only a few streets. Reaching this point will allow you to quickly get an idea of ​​its layout, so you can easily explore this area on your own in just a few minutes.

A landmark in the picturesque streets district of Birgu, GPS coordinates:
35°53’18.4″N 14°31’24.9″E
35.888447, 14.523578 - click and route

3. Inquisitor's Palace

The palace is one of the few surviving buildings in the world that served as the headquarters of the inquisitors and the only one in the world open to visitors as a museum. Built in the second half of the 16th century as the seat of the court, known as castellania, was transformed into the seat of the Maltese Inquisition (1574) and under a new name Palazzo del Sant'Officio he served in this role for over 200 consecutive years. The building turned out to be so universal that in practice, in addition to the inquisitor's office, there was also space for a court and a prison. So we can say that the inquisitor had a lot of work to do.
The activities of the Inquisition during the French occupation of Malta were ended in 1798 by Napoleon and then the building served as a military hospital, a canteen and a monastery. Since 1966 there has been a museum there, known since 1992 as the National Museum of Ethnography. Available to visit:
- Court: The place where inquisitors conducted interrogations and trials. This hall retains many original features, including furniture and decorations.
- Chapel: A richly decorated chapel that was a place of prayer for inquisitors. There are beautiful frescoes and reliquaries there.
- Living rooms: The rooms where the inquisitor lived. They contain original furniture and decorations that illustrate everyday life in the palace.
- Prison: Part of the palace where people accused by the Inquisition were held. The prison consists of several cells, including a dark and damp solitary cell.

Visitors can explore the palace with a guide or on their own, using available information materials.

Inquisitor's Palace (Inquisitor's Palace), GPS coordinates:
35°53’14.0″N 14°31’20.8″E
35.887231, 14.522434 - click and route

4. Collegiate Church of St. Wawrzyniec
The interior of the collegiate church of St. Wawrzyniec, Birgu
Fragmend podłowi in the Collegiate Church of St. Wawrzyniec in Birg

Collegiate Church of St. Wawrzyńca was originally built in the 12th century as a small parish church. Over the centuries, it was rebuilt and expanded several times, especially during the rule of the Order of the Knights of Malta, who made Birgu their first capital.
The church was severely damaged during the great siege of Malta in 1565, but was quickly rebuilt. Further destruction occurred during World War II, when it became the victim of several heavy bombings and was out of use until 1953.

Side entrance to the Collegiate Church of St. Wawrzyniec in Birgu, GPS coordinates:
35°53’15.0″N 14°31’16.9″E
35.887497, 14.521346 - click and route

5. Marina
Such equipment is located in the marina

A marina is most interesting when eye-catching, outrageously expensive yachts are moored there. When we were there, there were bunches of them, and each one was more expensive and shiny than the other. Those who like to admire will be pleased.

Marina in Birgu, GPS coordinates:
35°53’13.1″N 14°31’14.9″E
35.886966, 14.520802 - click and route

6. Malta Maritime Museum

The huge building on the bank of Birgu, which now houses the largest museum in Malta, was once... a bakery. The huge bakery operating here bakes for the needs of the British Navy (Royal Navy), as part of the system of provisioning the British fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. By the time it reached its maximum processing capacity, it was able to bake 14 tons of bread and biscuits every day using steam engines. It operated until the 50s.
The museum's collection consists of over 20 exhibits, which cover an area of ​​approximately 000 m2. The building is still undergoing renovation, so the museum's area is regularly expanding and the number of exhibits is increasing.
The exhibition is divided thematically into many smaller exhibitions:
– sea transport in ancient times
– period of the Order of St. John (1530-1798)
– French interlude (1798–1800)
– British administration (1798–1979)
– navigation and communication at sea
- the customs Service
– traditional Maltese boats
– merchant fleet
– marine engineering

Maritime Museum of Malta, GPS coordinates:
35°53’15.7″N 14°31’14.3″E
35.887694, 14.520626 - click and route

7. Fort Saint Angelo
Entrance to Fort Saint Angelo. In the background, higher parts of the buildings that constitute the territory of the Order of Malta

Fort Saint Angelo is fascinating. Of course, it has an interesting history, but in its case what is happening now is also extraordinary! The fort is the headquarters of the Order of Malta, which is recognized by many countries as a sovereign subject of international law. And these are not just empty words, because in practice the order is a party to many international agreements, maintains active diplomatic relations, participates in international conferences and acts as an observer in various organizations (UN, UNESCO, UNICEF, Latin Union). To make it even more interesting, part of Fort Saint Angelo is part of the territory of the monastic state (the next areas are two properties in Rome) and has the status of extraterritoriality. For this occasion, on December 5, 1998, an agreement was signed between Malta and the Order of Malta (whose full name is the Sovereign Military Order of Hospitallers of Saint John), according to which the order received: the upper part of Fort Saint Angelo, the Grand Master's House and the chapel of St. Anne (Chapel of St Anne). As the document says (the content is given from the translation available on Wikipedia), the transfer of the property was intended: "to give the Order the opportunity to better carry out its humanitarian activities as Knights Hospitaller of Saint Angelo, as well as to better define the legal status of Saint Angelo, which is not subject to the authority of the Maltese state over him."
While walking around the fort, you will cross the border between the two countries several times, although it is nowhere to be seen.

Curiosity:
As if these interesting facts were not enough, I would add that the Order of Malta, as a country, has its own license plates on official cars (the code for the plates is SMOM - look for them in the parking lot in front of the fort), issues its own postage stamps and has its own currency, the basic unit of which is there is a scudo, which, of course, is unusually divided into smaller units:
1 scudo = 12 tari
1 tari = 20 grani
1 ridge = 6 piccoli
that is, as simple calculations show:
1 scudo = 12 tari = 240 grani = 1440 piccoli
The Order has no right to grant asylum to anyone. It is also not possible to have only religious citizenship. It must function in tandem with other citizenship.

Fort Saint Angelo, GPS coordinates:
35°53’29.3″N 14°31’06.8″E
35.891457, 14.518546 - click and route

8. Stop – Birgu Water Taxi
Water taxi stop in Birgu, and several taxis that finish and start the next trip.

The water taxi stop is the last point of the Birgu walk. It is with regret that we say goodbye to the former capital of Malta, and we will use the water taxi in two ways. Firstly, as a regular means of transport that will allow us to get to Valletta, and secondly, as a very popular tourist attraction. Cruises around the port around Valletta are one of the most popular tourist attractions, and at the same time they provide a really interesting perspective and beautiful views of the towns around the Grand Harbor.
In many cases, this is the only chance to see interesting buildings to which tourists cannot access from the land.

View of the city from the deck of a water taxi on the Birgu - Valletta route

The last time (2023) I used water taxis:
– a one-way cruise from Birgu to Valletta (or vice versa) cost EUR 2 / person
– A 30-minute cruise around the Grand Harbor cost EUR 8/person
You pay directly to the man on the boat and it can only be done in cash.

Stop – Birgu Water Taxi, GPS coordinates:
35°53’14.5″N 14°31’14.2″E
35.887364, 14.520621 - click and route

9. Observation deck on Isla (L-Isla) and the marina
View from the observation deck in Birgu, Malta

The observation deck is an additional point of the program that should be included at the very beginning of the walk. It is not obligatory, because there will be plenty of different views of the port and marinas. I decided to add it because it resulted in one of my favorite photos from Malta, which I am posting below. The buildings on the other side of the water are the town of Isla (L-Isla).

Observation deck over Isla and the port, GPS coordinates:
35°53’06.1″N 14°31’16.9″E
35.885025, 14.521363 - click and route

Valletta – map and sightseeing

The capital of Malta is - as you already know - filled with monuments. It is difficult to designate a walking route because it is so small that you can walk all the way through it in just a few dozen minutes. A much better solution will be a map showing the location of the most important monuments and leaving you free to move between them. Of course, it places some route on the map, but treat it rather conventionally. Once you get there, it will turn out that you will probably go your own way anyway, and you will even be able to cross some streets several times.

A street in the center of Valletta, Malta

Below I put a map first, and then short descriptions of all the points on it.
The route starts at the water taxi point (10), which we will sail from Birgu. Then it's worth using the elevator (11), which in a few moments will transport you high up, straight to the first attraction in the center of Valletta. Then we throw ourselves into the whirlwind of sightseeing, exploring subsequent points of the trip. You won't be able to get everywhere in one day. There are too many attractions and too little time. Therefore, you can spread this route over two days, or before you go on the trip, plan in advance which museums you want to visit and which you can skip. If you need a hint, I think it's absolutely worth visiting: Lascaris War Rooms (14), Co-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (!!!) (18), Fort St Elmo and the War Museum (21). At the end of the walk you will return near the start of the tour.
Now all we have to do is return to Birgu to the parking lot where we left our car. You can do this by water taxi (taking the elevator down), by bus from the nearby bus stop, which is the main transport hub on the island, or by regular taxi. We were very tired at the end of the day and decided to order using the UBER app, which works quite well here and cost a few EUR.

Valletta – sightseeing map and location of attractions
10. Stop – Valletta Water Taxi

This is the second water taxi stop that interests us. This is where we get off after the journey from Birgu to start exploring Valletta. From the stop, the way to the elevator is straight and short. You can get there without any problems.
If you decide to return to Birgu by water, it will also be from this stop.

Stop – Valletta Water Taxi, GPS coordinates:
35°53’38.3″N 14°30’46.7″E
35.893974, 14.512969 - click and route

11. Lift to Valletta city center (Barrakka Lift)
Lift to Valletta city center (Barrakka Lift)

The Barrakka Lift connects the Grand Harbor waterfront with the upper level of Valletta. On the upper level, you drop off at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. The elevator is 58 meters high and goes to the top in just 25 seconds. It is designed to transport a large number of passengers - it can accommodate up to 21 people at a time. It operates every day from early morning to late evening. The lift ride has a fee and costs EUR 1 (2023).

Lift to Valletta city center (Barrakka Lift), GPS coordinates:
35°53’39.7″N 14°30’43.1″E
35.894357, 14.511970 - click and route

12. Upper Barrakka Gardens
Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta

The Upper Barrakka Gardens are located on the highest level of Valletta's defensive wall. Thanks to this location, you can admire beautiful, panoramic views of the Grand Harbor and the three neighboring towns: Vittoriosa (Birgu), Senglea (Isla) and Cospicua (Bormla).
The gardens were founded in 1661 by the Order of the Knights of Malta as a place of rest and recreation for knights of Italian origin. In the XNUMXth century they were opened to all visitors. It must be admitted that it is a really nice and perfect place to relax (unless you encounter a wild crowd of tourists). The gardens contain numerous monuments and sculptures, including a statue of Winston Churchill and a statue of Sir Alexander Ball, one of the British leaders during the Siege of Malta. Just below the gardens is the Saluting Battery, a historic cannon battery.

Upper Barrakka Gardens, GPS coordinates:
35°53’41.8″N 14°30’43.2″E
35.894952, 14.511998 - click and route

13. Saluting Battery
Saluting Battery, Valletta

The Saluting Battery was established in 1566 as part of Valletta's defensive fortifications. It was originally used to give honorary salutes, warn against attacks and signal the time. Cannon shots were fired at different times of the day to help keep time for ships in the harbor and the city's inhabitants.
Salutes of honor were given during the arrival of important guests and on national holidays.
Currently, a cannon firing ceremony is performed every day at the Saluting Battery. As you can easily guess, the ceremony has become a popular tourist attraction and attracts a lot of people. The cannon fire is fired exactly at noon and that's when it gets really crowded here. The battery contains original, restored cannons from the 18th and 19th centuries. If you want to get a good place and see the ceremony, arrive at least a dozen or so minutes in advance.

Saluting Battery, GPS coordinates;
35°53’40.6″N 14°30’45.1″E
35.894619, 14.512515 - click and route

14. Lascaris War Rooms
British officers at the wall with maps during Operation Husky
source: Wikipedia under Public Domain rules

It is somewhere, but no one knows where... in short, we could talk about this place for many years. From World War II until 1977, the Lascaris War Rooms were one of the most secret places in Europe, and the location of the facility was the greatest of military secrets. Its secret history began in 1940, when Italy officially joined the war (June 10, 1940), becoming a military ally of Germany. It became clear that Malta, as never before, due to its location, which allows it to control the entire Mediterranean basin, would be the key to the development of events and the course of World War II. The existing underground tunnels, which had previously served as slave quarters under the supervision of the Hospitallers, were perfect for building a safe, secret command base. The British started the first works related to the expansion and adaptation of the tunnels almost immediately in 1940. The work was completed in early 1943 and thus the Lascaris War Rooms began operating under the Lascaris Artillery Battery.
Throughout the war, approximately 1000 people, including 240 military personnel, worked in the secret headquarters. Secret military operations were conducted from here, including Operation Husky, which was crucial for the course of the entire war, during which General Eisenhower and his commanders in chief: Field Marshal Montgomery, Admiral Cunningham and Air Marshal Tedder led the Allied invasion of Sicily. Operations rooms had all kinds of combat forces here! In fact, it can be said that nothing happened in the Mediterranean war zone without the participation of Lascaris War Rooms.
After the war, the facility became the headquarters of the Royal Mediterranean Fleet, and during the greatest escalation of the "Cold War" after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1967, NATO took over control of the facility. Until the Lascaris War Rooms were finally abandoned in 1977, they served as a NATO strategic communications center for intercepting Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean. Since 2009, the Lascaris War Rooms have been open to the public.
By visiting the secret rooms and walking the underground corridors of the complex, you can feel the cold of the Cold War on your own skin, which, as a mixture of fear, uncertainty, constant vigilance and fear of an unpredictable enemy, constantly manifests itself in the form of goosebumps all over your body. It is difficult for me to point out a facility whose depth and authenticity (all interior furnishings are 100% originals, which remained there after the army left the facility) would match what Lascaris War Rooms offers. Lovers of war and Cold War history will be delighted, and those less interested in the topic will certainly not remain indifferent this time. It is worth buying a ticket, crossing the threshold of history and teleporting several dozen years back in time. There will be no better opportunity.

Lascaris War Rooms, GPS coordinates;
35°53’41.6″N 14°30’40.8″E
35.894875, 14.511326 - click and route

15. Auberge de Castille
The Inn of Castile, the office of the Prime Minister of Malta

The attractive building of the Inn of Castile, although not the tallest in the city, thanks to its location in one of the highest points in Valletta, clearly dominates over the rest of the buildings. It was built in 1571-1574 as the residence of the knights of the Order of Saint John from Castile, León and Portugal. Currently, the office of the Prime Minister of Malta is located here. For this reason, the Inn of Castile often serves as a backdrop for political public events, state ceremonies, military parades, etc.

Inn of Castile, GPS coordinates:
35°53’44.8″N 14°30’39.9″E
35.895769, 14.511088 - click and route

16. Royal Opera House (Pjazza Teatru Rjal)
Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta

The House of the Royal Opera is also known as Pjazza Teatru Rjal. Unfortunately, the original opera house was one of the most spectacular buildings in the city and one of the most important opera theaters in Europe. In 1942, during German bombings, the building was destroyed and remained in ruins for decades. Discussions conducted at that time about the reconstruction of the facility and its future led to the creation of a concept in which the ruined elements of the building were symbolically left unchanged, and modern elements were incorporated into their interior, creating places for the audience and an open-air stage. The facility has been renamed Pjazza Teatru Rjal and is used to organize theater performances, concerts and various artistic events.

Pjazza Teatru Rjal, GPS coordinates:
35°53’46.9″N 14°30’38.6″E
35.896360, 14.510720 - click and route

17. MUŻA – Museum of Fine Arts
MUŻA – Museum of Fine Arts

MUŻA, the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta, is a modern and innovative museum that combines a rich art collection with modern technologies and interactive experiences. It is located in the historic building of the Italian Inn (Auberge d'Italie), which was the former headquarters of the knights of the Order of St. John of Langue d'Italie. The museum is quite new, having been opened in December 2018 as part of the Valletta 2018 project, when Valletta was the European Capital of Culture. Thanks to this, the organization of the exhibition is very modern and designed to attract interest and arouse curiosity of visitors. Art lovers will have a very pleasant time.

MUŻA – Museum of Fine Arts, GPS coordinates:
35°53’46.9″N 14°30’41.2″E
35.896372, 14.511445 - click and route

18. Co-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Saint-John's Cathedral)
Interior of the Co-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Valletta, Malta
Interior of the Co-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Valletta, Malta

Oh! It's hard to overestimate this attraction. While writing this text, I was wondering whether I should try to truly convey the impressions one has after entering the cathedral, or whether I should be more reserved and use words of admiration a little more sparingly. Ultimately, I decided that no one is ready for what they will see inside and no amount of admiration will take away the WOW! effect of entering the interior.
Generally, people's reactions are divided into two types - either you hear great admiration expressed and emitted aloud (despite the ban), or you hear nothing at all. Silence is by no means caused by the prohibition of making loud sounds. It is the result of the shock experienced by most visitors. The interior of the co-cathedral cannot be compared to anything else. It is unique, a unique work of art that, created over centuries of human activity, we can admire today in its best form.
St. Cathedral John was built between 1572 and 1577 as the conventual church of the Order of Saint John, which ruled Malta from 1530 to 1798. The exterior of the cathedral is characterized by a raw, fortress-like appearance, which enhances the contrast with the richly decorated interior. The interior is dripping with decorations, gilding, marble inlays, reliefs and a wealth of multi-colored frescoes. The density, detail and intricacy of the decorations are so great that they practically escape the perception of human senses. I decided to take a lot of photos so that I could look at everything in peace, and while visiting I simply let myself be overwhelmed by this masterpiece, simply enjoying the experience of seeing something so amazing.

WARNING!
When impressed by the interior of the cathedral, it is easy to miss two extremely important works of art. Both are located in the Oratory adjacent to the cathedral. When facing the cathedral exit, you will find the entrance to the Oratory on your left. You enter it directly from inside the main hall of the cathedral. The oratorio contains two paintings by Caravaggio: "St. Jerome Writing" and "The Beheading of St. John the Baptist", which was the only painting of his authorship signed by him.

Exhibition of Caravaggio's works in the Oratory of the Co-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Valletta

Curiosity:
Caravaggio was an artist known not only for his works, but also for his extremely hot-tempered and adventurous character. Even in times when adventurism was the norm, the painter definitely stood out above socially accepted behavior. There is even extensive police and court documentation about his crimes. He constantly got into conflicts with people and the law, from which he was rescued by high-ranking and influential fans of his work. In return, he often created and gave them his works as a form of gratitude. However, on May 29, 1606, an exceptionally tragic event involving the artist took place on the Champs de Mars in Rome. Caravaggio killed Ranuccio Tomassoni, a member of the Tomassoni family, known for its criminal activities in Rome (Ranuccia, as part of his family business, supervised the operation of a highly profitable organized prostitution). Helping Caravaggio meant opposing the influential and feared Tomassoni family, so this time there was no one willing to help the artist. An outlaw (he was sentenced to death), Caravaggio fled from Rome to Naples (which was outside the Roman protectorate) and, under the protection of the Colonna family, quickly rose from the most important painter of Rome to the most important painter of Naples. Counting on more lucrative orders and the protection and care of the Maltese Hospitallers, after a few months in Naples, Caravaggio set off for Malta. He became the court painter of the order, and the Grand Master made him a knight of the order and accepted him as a member of the Order of the Knights of Malta. It was then that the works that are exhibited in the Oratory of the Cathedral in Valletta were created. Unfortunately, for participating in the beating of one of the knights of the order, Caravaggio was arrested, imprisoned, and then expelled from the order "as a disgusting and rotten member." Caravaggio's wanderings lasted until the end of his life. Other people bribed with his paintings gave him shelter. Eventually, as the years passed, Caravaggio came up with the idea of ​​bribing influential people in Rome to grant him a pardon. And we did it! The unscrupulous Cardinal Scipio Borghese, also known as an art connoisseur with the power to issue acquittals, pardoned Caravaggio, giving him the opportunity to return to Rome. In the summer of 1610, Caravaggio packed the last three paintings, intended as a gift for Cardinal Borghese, and set off on his return journey, during which... he died. The circumstances of his death remain unknown to this day.

There is always a queue to enter the cathedral. It is often very long. I stood at the end of the line, but waiting at least an hour in the sun discouraged me. Then I remembered my own advice: buy tickets online. Eureka! After a minute, I had the e-ticket on my phone and walked past the long queue to the entrance for holders of tickets purchased online, which was completely empty. I walked inside without any expectation. I recommend!

Co-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, GPS coordinates:
35°53’52.5″N 14°30’44.5″E
35.897904, 14.512363 - click and route

19. Lower Barrakka Gardens

The Lower Barrakka Gardens is a small park with plants and several characteristic architectural elements, including:
– Tempietto: a small neoclassical temple, dedicated to Sir Alexander Ball, British admiral and first British Governor of Malta.
– War memorial: commemorating fallen soldiers from World War II, in the form of a cannon and a commemorative plaque.
Unlike the busier Upper Barrakka Gardens, the Lower Barrakka Gardens are usually quieter and less crowded. They are the perfect place to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle.

Lower Barrakka Gardens, GPS coordinates:
35°53’51.0″N 14°31’03.5″E
35.897503, 14.517631 - click and route

20. Siege Bell War Memorial

The Siege Bell War Memorial is an important monument commemorating the defenders of Malta during World War II. The monument was unveiled in 1992 to mark the 50th anniversary of Malta receiving the George Cross, Britain's highest award for civilian bravery. Malta received this decoration for the bravery of its people during the 1940-1943 siege by Axis forces. The Memorial takes the form of a large, free-standing bell (weighing 10 tons) placed on a high colonnade overlooking the sea. The bell is suspended in a stone tower surrounded by Doric-style columns and is rung every day at noon in remembrance.

Siege Bell War Memorial, GPS coordinates:
35°53’51.4″N 14°31’05.7″E
35.897608, 14.518249 - click and route

21. Fort St Elmo and the War Museum
The original Gloster Sea Gladiator "Faith" at the War Museum, Fort St. Elmo, Malta

Operating in Fort St. The Elmo War Museum is probably the most important war museum in Malta and it (along with the Lascaris War Rooms) should be on the mandatory list of places to visit. The fort was built by the Order of Saint John in 1552 in a strategic position at the entrance to the Grand Harbor and Marsamxett Harbour. Its design was crucial to defense against sea invasions. He played a decisive role during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, where, despite huge losses, he managed to delay the Ottoman attacks, which was crucial to the subsequent success of the island's defense.
Located inside the fort, the National War Museum details Malta's role during World War II, paying particular attention to the Siege of Malta (1940-1943) by Axis forces. The exhibits include original artillery, weapons, uniforms, documents and personal items of soldiers. One of the most important exhibits of the museum is the original George Cross, awarded to Malta by King George VI.
Also inside is a Gloster Sea Gladiator "Faith", one of three aircraft that defended Malta during the initial phase of the siege in 1940.

Fort St Elmo and the War Museum, GPS coordinates:
35°54’03.2″N 14°31’08.0″E
35.900899, 14.518884 - click and route

Fort St Elmo and War Museum, Valletta
22. Casa Rocca Piccola

Casa Rocca Piccola is a unique, historic palace and one of the few aristocratic residences still inhabited and open to visitors.
Casa Rocca Piccola was built at the end of the 16th century by Admiral Don Pietro La Rocca, one of the knights of the Order of Saint John, and still remains in the hands of various aristocratic Maltese families.
Visitors can see many beautifully preserved rooms, including living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and a library. Each room is richly decorated and contains many interesting artifacts. One of the most interesting rooms is the Family Chapel, which is still used by the owners of the palace. Casa Rocca Piccola has extensive basements that were converted into shelters during World War II (also open to the public).
The inhabitants of the palace (the aristocratic de Piro family) often show visitors around the rooms available for viewing.
Casa Rocca Piccola is open to the public most days of the week, but it's worth checking in advance as it is sometimes rented out for readings, concerts, exhibitions and other special events.

Casa Rocca Piccola, GPS coordinates:
35°53’59.7″N 14°30’54.8″E
35.899922, 14.515211 - click and route

23. Grand Master's Palace and Palace Armory

The palace was built just a few years after the founding of Valletta (1571-1575). It served as the residence of the Grand Master of the Order of Saint John, as well as the administrative and political center of Malta. During the period of British rule in Malta (1800-1964), the palace served as the seat of the British Governor. Today, the palace is the seat of the President of Malta and the House of Representatives (parliament). Theoretically, parts of the palace are open to the public as a museum, but in recent times they have often remained closed.
At the back of the Grand Master's Palace there is the Palace Armory. Contains one of the largest (really powerful) collections of Renaissance and Baroque weapons and armor used by the knights of the Order of Saint John (plate armor, helmets, shields, horse armor, swords, sabers, halberds, crossbows, firearms including muskets and guns, cannons and other types of artillery, banners, insignia and military tools).

Grand Master's Palace and Palace Armory, GPS coordinates:
35°53’56.4″N 14°30’49.7″E
35.899010, 14.513817 - click and route

A street in the center of Valletta, Malta
A street in the center of Valletta, Malta
24. National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum is located in the Auberge de Provence building, the former residence of the Provençal knights of the Order of St. John. The museum offers rich collections covering periods from the Neolithic to Phoenician and Roman times.

The most important exhibits
"Venus of Malta" (Sleeping Lady): One of the most famous figures from the Neolithic period, depicting a woman in a lying position. It was found in the Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum.
"The Fat Lady": Found in the Tarxien temple, this is a figurine of a seated woman, a symbol of fertility.

I – Prehistory of Malta
Ġgantija Culture: The museum holds some of the most important artifacts related to the megalithic temples of Malta, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Temple: Exhibits include sculptures and objects from the excavations of these ancient temples.

II – Bronze Period
The museum has numerous artifacts from the Bronze Age, including pottery, tools and weapons.

III – Phoenician and Carthaginian Heritage
Exhibitions include jewelry, amulets, ceramics and other everyday items related to the Phoenician and Carthaginian settlers in Malta.

IV – Roman period
The museum displays mosaics, sculptures, coins and other artifacts from the Roman period that illustrate life in Malta during the Roman Empire.

National Archaeological Museum, GPS coordinates:
35°53’50.7″N 14°30’40.3″E
35.897409, 14.511199 - click and route

25. Parliament of Malta
Parliament of Malta

Currently, the Parliament of Malta is located in a modern building with sharp, geometric shapes, designed by Renzo Piano, known, among others, for designing the Center Pompidou in Paris. Before moving to the new building (2015), the Parliament of Malta met in the Grand Master's Palace.
The Parliament of Malta consists of 67 members of the House of Representatives, elected for a 5-year term, and is open to the public during parliamentary sessions, enabling citizens to observe the legislative process.

Parliament of Malta, GPS coordinates:
35°53’47.2″N 14°30’34.7″E
35.896430, 14.509629 - click and route

26. Triton's Fountain
Triton Fountain, Valletta

Triton's Fountain is, above all, a good landmark and easy to arrange an appointment at, as Malta's central public transport hub is also located near the fountain. It is located in Triton Square at the main entrance to Valletta, close to the City Gate (the main entrance gate to Valletta).
The fountain depicts the three tritons, mythical sea creatures that were half-human, half-fish in Greek mythology. The tritons hold a huge bowl on their shoulders from which water gushes out. The triton sculptures are made of bronze, while the base of the fountain is made of local limestone.
Tritons are a symbol of the sea, reflecting Malta's close connection with the Mediterranean Sea and its historical importance as a strategic and trading point on sea routes.

Triton's Fountain, GPS coordinates:
35°53’44.3″N 14°30’29.8″E
35.895640, 14.508283 - click and route

27. The main public transport hub in Valletta

Most buses and transport lines in Malta have one common stop and it is located here. From here it will go anywhere that Maltese buses go. I wrote more about this in the main guide to Malta, where you will also find a map of public transport on the entire island.

The main public transport hub in Valletta, GPS coordinates
35°53’41.2″N 14°30’31.4″E
35.894772, 14.508711 - click and route

28. Viewpoint of Lazaretto, Fort Manoel and Fort Tigne

I included this point off the main sightseeing route because my plan is so full of attractions that I didn't have the heart to include this place yet. So why did I add them at all? This is a place for those who will have more than one or two days in Valletta, but will not find time to reach Lazaretto, Fort Manoel and Fort Tigne. From this point at the top of the defensive walls, all these places can be seen perfectly. So if you want to see them but don't have time to go there, go to this viewpoint.

Viewpoint of Lazaretto, Fort Manoel and Fort Tigne, GPS coordinates:
35°53’55.7″N 14°30’24.9″E
35.898806, 14.506907 - click and route

Malta sightseeing itinerary

This entry is part of a complete one Malta sightseeing plan - [click]. The guide contains plans, maps and descriptions of specific sightseeing routes.
To see all currently available descriptions of attractions in Malta, click on the link: Malta - [click].

Safe car rental guide: Malta - is it possible to rent a car without a deposit?

Valletta – hotels and accommodation

You can find some sample accommodations from which you can start your search below. As usual, the links contain filters that limit the results to a given location and the immediate vicinity, which significantly facilitates the search. The hotels I have suggested should not be treated as the only ones or recommended ones. Treat them rather as a suggestion from which it is worth starting your search, because the search engine, apart from the object I have selected, will also suggest several other, very similar objects. You will probably quickly find a good offer at a good price this way.

Hotel Castille – [click]

Tritoni Valletta Harbor suites – [click]

Tritoni St Ursula suites – [click]

Valletta's surroundings

Finally, I will show you one more map. I know that my readers are inquisitive and curious people. They are often looking for interesting ideas to implement sightseeing according to their own plans, modifying my suggestions, so I will use it and plant another seed in your minds!
Below is a map of Valetta and the surrounding bays and peninsulas. See on the map how interestingly shaped the coastline of this part of Malta is and how many other, unexplored corners can be found here! When you go on a water taxi cruise from Birgu or Valletta, you will sail exactly in these waters, i.e. the waters Grand Harbor.

Map of interesting sites within Grand Harbour, Malta

Note that on each of these peninsulas there is a micro-town with its own fortifications and its own history. These are the areas where the fortifications are the least civilized and bear the most original traces of history. These places give you the most space to explore and discover both from land and sea. At the ends of these peninsulas there are usually naturally neglected places that can be treated as great viewpoints of the Valletta skyline. The most unique scenic photos of the capital of Malta are often taken here. Unfortunately, over the years, reaching these places was often difficult and several barriers had to be overcome (e.g. a hole in the fence, an overgrown and neglected path or a stone blocking the passage), but recently extensive renovation works have been carried out and it is possible that this problem no longer exists. exists. However, if you have the explorer gene in you, these are the places that will satisfy your appetite for adventure. For my part, I will recommend a few places. Below you will find their names and a very short commentary, with a link to more information. You might be interested in this!

Lazzaretto Manoel

Lazzaretto Manoel is located on Manoel Island in Marsamxett Harbour, opposite the town of Gżira. Manoel Island was a strategic point in the defense of Malta and had great military importance. The name comes from the Grand Master of the Hospitaller Order, António Manoel de Vilhena, who commissioned the construction of the hospital in 1723-1733.
Lazzaretto Manoel was built as a lazaret, i.e. a hospital and quarantine for people suspected of carrying infectious diseases. Malta, being a trading hub in the Mediterranean, was often prone to epidemics, so such a facility was necessary. It played a key role in times of epidemics, especially during the outbreaks of plague and cholera in the 18th and 19th centuries. Arriving ships and their crew were sent to the hospital for quarantine to prevent the spread of diseases.
The typical quarantine period was 40 days (from the Latin "quaranta" meaning "forty"). This was the standard time used in many hospitals around the world, including Malta, to ensure that any symptoms of infectious diseases at this time would be revealed. If a ship was suspected of carrying a particularly dangerous disease, such as plague or cholera, the quarantine period could be extended.
In the 19th century, the facility underwent several modernizations and reconstructions. During World War II it was used as a military hospital and later as a military warehouse.
At the time I was there, access to Lazzaretto Manoel was very difficult, but there were works going on there at the time, so I don't know if access is easier now.

find out more about Lazzaretto Manoel

Lazzaretto Manoel, GPS coordinates:
a point before Lazzaretto on the water's edge, which was probably the easiest to get to
35°54’04.9″N 14°30’10.9″E
35.901346, 14.503026 - click and route

A point on the road opposite the Lazaretto building, GPS coordinates:
35°54’06.7″N 14°30’13.6″E
35.901861, 14.503789 - click and route

Fort Manoel

Fort Manoel was built in the 1723th century by the Order of Malta. Construction began in XNUMX during the reign of Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena. It has a square shape with four bastions in the corners, constituting an excellent example of Old French-style fortifications.
Fort Manoel was intended to protect the natural port of Marsamxett and the city of Valletta against attacks by enemy fleets. Inside the fort there is a baroque chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, which was a place of worship for soldiers stationed in the fort. During World War II, the fort was damaged by bombing. After the war it fell into ruin. Since the 2000s, Fort Manoel has undergone extensive renovations that have restored it to its former glory.
Fort Manoel was a filming location for scenes from the popular TV series Game of Thrones. Scenes showing the Great Sept of Baelor in King's Landing, where the dramatic scene with Ned Stark took place, were filmed here.

find out more about Fort Manoel

Fort Manoel, GPS coordinates:
35°54’09.4″N 14°30’21.4″E
35.902602, 14.505952 - click and route

Fort Tigne

Fort Tigne is one of the oldest polygonal forts in the world. It was designed by French engineer Stephen de Tousard. Its unique triangular shape with bastions at the corners was innovative for the period. The construction of the fort took over three years (1792-1795), and the name comes from the knight Tigne who financed its construction.
Fort Tigne played a key role during the French invasion of 1798. It was one of the first places that Napoleon's troops attacked. Although the fort defended bravely, it had to surrender due to lack of ammunition and numerical superiority of the enemy. After the British took over Malta, the fort was used as a military barracks and warehouse.
During World War II, when Malta was one of the most bombed places in the world, Fort Tigne was heavily damaged. In recent years, Tigne has been restored and is now part of the luxurious Tigné Point residential complex, with part of its grounds open to visitors (beautiful views of Marsamxett Harbor and Valletta). Despite modernization, many historical elements of the fort have been preserved.

find out more about Fort Tigne

Fort Tigne, a viewpoint over the water, GPS coordinates:
35°54’20.4″N 14°30’48.7″E
35.905668, 14.513520 - click and route

Entrance to the parking lot of The Tigne Point shopping center, GPS coordinates:
you can use the shopping center parking lot
35°54’24.5″N 14°30’37.7″E
35.906810, 14.510482 - click and route

Gardjola Gardens

Gardjola Gardens, also known as Il-Gardjola, are picturesque gardens located on the Senglea Peninsula. Situated on the edge of a peninsula, they offer spectacular views of the Grand Harbour, Fort Saint Angelo and Valletta. This is one of the best places to admire the panorama of the port and the surrounding area.
The gardens were founded in the 16th century by the Order of Malta. They were part of a larger defense complex and served as a place of rest and a strategic observation point.
A characteristic element of the gardens is the guard tower, known as Il-Gardjola. The tower was used to observe approaching ships and potential threats. Pay attention to the symbols of vigilance decorating it: an eye, an ear and ... a crane.

Entrance to Gardjola Gardens, GPS coordinates:
You have to park somewhere near the access road
35°53’25.3″N 14°30’51.5″E
35.890349, 14.514309 - click and route

A small parking lot from which you have to go up the stairs along the left wall of the walls, GPS coordinates:
35°53’27.2″N 14°30’50.7″E
35.890875, 14.514071 - click and route

Bighi Complex

The Bighi complex was built in the 30s as a military hospital. Its construction was initiated by Sir Henry Bouverie, then Governor of Malta, and it was named after Sir William Bighi (the founder of the project). It was one of the most important military hospitals in the Mediterranean. He provided medical services to soldiers injured in various conflicts, including the Napoleonic Wars and both World Wars.
Currently, Bighi Complex is the headquarters of the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), which manages EU funds for research and innovation. The complex has been transformed into a science and research center that promotes technological development and innovation in Malta. In some parts of the complex, exhibitions and expositions related to the history of military medicine and science and technology are organized.

Parking (lots of spaces on the street and an indoor parking lot) in front of the Bighi Complex, GPS coordinates:
35°53’32.5″N 14°31’27.8″E
35.892366, 14.524375 - click and route

Fort Ricasoli

Fort Ricasoli is the largest fortress in Malta, covering an area of ​​approximately 35 hectares. Its structure includes massive bastions, curtains, moats and casemates, making it one of the most impressive examples of military architecture. It was built by the Order of Malta between 1670 and 1698. The funds for its construction came mainly from the Italian knight Fra Giovanni Francesco Ricasoli. It was intended to protect the entrance to the Grand Harbor and defend Malta against naval attacks. Its powerful guns could fire at enemy ships trying to enter the port. During World War II, the fort was severely damaged by air bombing. Part of the structure was destroyed, but many fragments have survived to this day, reminding us of the dramatic events of those times.
Fort Ricasoli has been used as a film set many times. Scenes for films such as "Game of Thrones", "Gladiator", "Troy" and "The Count of Monte Cristo" were shot here.
Since 2015, Fort Ricasoli has been closed to public access and is quite difficult to get to.

find out more about Fort Ricasoli

The end of the road before the closed gate to Fort Ricasoli, GPS coordinates:
35°53’48.8″N 14°31’44.7″E
35.896901, 14.529074 - click and route

A place to park and get down towards an interesting part of the coast, along which you can walk a bit, exploring the coastal buildings of the fort, GPS coordinates:
35°53’45.3″N 14°31’50.0″E
35.895911, 14.530548 - click and route

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