“ City: Valletta / Country: Malta / World Region: Europe „
I would highly recommend that any visitor to Malta should spend some time in the very interesting city of Valletta. Valletta is a world heritage site and the Maltese capital.
Malta itself is a small Mediterranean island. Its capital is also small and densely packed with delights to indulge the curious tourist. Valletta honestly has 'something for everyone.' Whether you are there to dine to shop or to see architectural delights, or want to delve into the history of this city, then you shouldn't be disappointed.
Cruise ships coming into the harbour are a frequent site here. In fact, sailing into the harbour of Valletta is a delight. Its fortifications are an interesting and awe inspiring site to behold. I have seen Valetta from the sea and have also visited by car and bus. Whichever way make sure you visit and give yourself plenty of time as there is a lot to see. Seeing the harbour at night is an incredible site.
If entering Valletta by road you will probably first go along its main thorough fare, Republic Street, with shops galore. These shops sell anything and everything. There is the usual tourist and souvenir type shop, but the shopping here is not wholly souvenirs. Shops here sell local craftwork such as Maltese glass, which is very pretty, cheese, lace and wine. Some of the local wine is surprisingly pleasant. So much to choose from with pretty paper weights, to ornaments which capture Maltese scenes, inside the glass.
Maltese lace is worth looking at and it's worth haggling for a bargain. I would recommend the beautiful tablecloths and napkins. Handmade and authentic craftwork from Malta and her sister island, Gozo make a lovely keepsake or gift for those left at home. But there is much more here to entice the keen shopping; so much to peruse here, such as the knitted jumpers and shawls as well as the simple paintings.
Also there are toy shops, electrical, book, spirits and tobacco stores. As English is widely spoken in Malta, shopping is easy. The currency is the Euro.
There are many narrow cobbled side roads leading off from the main street and these lead downhill. More shops and a few bars can be found leading from these but pavements (sidewalks) aren't often to be seen so beware the mopeds which interweave the narrow backstreet. Some side streets are stepped. It can be hard work so, be warned!
Malta on the whole feels quite safe. Obviously normal precautions would apply to personal safety and possessions but crime isn't a big problem here. Valletta feels welcoming to the overseas visitor.
Back to Valletta's main street where here and there can be found wine bars and restaurants, and of course, the obligatory Macdonalds (I don't really approve!). About midway there is a square housing many restaurants, most offering inside dining with air conditioning, or outside tables, either in the sunshine, or shaded, with cooling fans dotted about, here and there, providing interesting Al Fresco dining. One can watch much of the world go by. With this being a popular destination stop off point for cruise ships it really does seem as if all nationalities can be seen here.
I have eaten in this square many times. There's a great choice of restaurants offering a varied choice of cuisine. Service in Malta is usually good and friendly. I wouldn't class the food generally as marvellous but one can find decent food in Valletta. It was here that my son ate the largest pizza he had ever seen. Of course, we said he would never get through it but being the type to like a challenge he did eat every bit! I would mention that the presence of so many foraging pigeons can be a little off-putting at times.
Once dining is over and shopping complete it will probably be siesta time. Some of the shops will shut until evening when Valletta really comes alive. But even during siesta time, everything doesn't stop and, although some take a nap, by no means all give in to the heat of a Maltese day.
A ride around the cobbled streets by horse and carriage is a wonderful experience for young and old. The carriages are prettily decorated as are the horses. The carriages are shaded. This is worth haggling for a good price as the drivers are very competitive. I have always found prices start very high. At quieter times the price can be greatly reduced. You can choose a short (about thirty minutes) trip around the streets taking in some of the sights or a longer journey. Drivers will act as tour guides and most are knowledgeable and proud of their city. Some will offer to wait while you enter a museum.
So whether you choose to tour via horse and carriage, or on foot, try to take in some of the sites to experience the delights of the small Maltese capital.
Valletta was named after Jean Parisot de la Valette, who, in 1565, defended Malta from an Ottoman invasion.
You could see The Grandmaster's Palace Armoury Museum. This government building is about midway along Republic Street and set back. It is very Maltese in essence and the museum shows full suits of armour. It also exhibits, arms and guns which can be dated right back to the 15th century.
The National War Museum is also worth visiting. This is sited within St Elmo's Fort (watchtower) and explains much to visitors of the siege during WW11
Most of the architecture of this ancient town is baroque. The city was created by the knights of St John and this is mentioned many times in the history of the island. Valetta began as a place to tend wounded soldiers and to some extent civilians, during the crusades of the sixteenth century. Before that it was simply arid land without a building, apart from St Elmo's watchtower. Defences were deemed necessary, so were built. Hence, Valletta began its life as a fortified city.
Valletta has been influenced by many countries and their varied culture and traditions, including Spain and Italy. This has influenced building style. I would say there is also an Arab influence, although I am not very well informed on architectural matters. As Malta has been invaded many times it was bound to take on different flavours. It is worth visiting its many churches. The exteriors are impressive but the interiors are truly beautiful. Remember when visiting this Roman Catholic country where religion is as serious matter, to respect their culture and so cover up when entering its churches. Visitors who respect the deeply religious feel to Malta are welcomed into the churches to pray, to light a candle in prayer or to be simply awestruck, even if not particularly religious.
In more recent times the Second World War found Malta being put under heavy siege. In fact the island was cut off and almost starved. Buildings were destroyed, the Royal Opera House being one. This still shows some wounds. Malta was deservedly awarded the George Cross for its valour during the war. It is known as 'The George Cross Island.'
It is also essential to visit at least one museum while in Valletta. You could choose The National Museum of Fine Arts. Here is held Turner's splendid painting of the Grand harbour of Valetta. I personally haven't yet managed to visit this museum. When I next visit Malta I MUST make a point of visiting.
The Barrakka Gardens are a must to visit if you wish to see the spectacular views of the Grand Harbour. Lower Barraka Garden can be reached by bus. Inside the gardens are facilities such as public lavatories and a kiosk serving snacks and drinks. Restaurants, if requiring something more substantial are to be found immediately outside the gardens.
For the best views go higher. From the Upper Barrakka Gardens, If here at noon one can see the 'Noon Day' gun being fired.
I have hopefully given any would be visitor to Valletta a taste for this historic place. There is much more to see and I am always amazed that although Malta is such a small island, there truly is a wealth of things to see. Another delight about sightseeing in Malta is that it is easy, owing to the small size of the island, and the bus service available. Taxis are also easily accessible. If you should choose to go to see some sights many will only take a half day. This is great if you would like to combine a day of sightseeing with time spent relaxing by a pool or on the beach. However, I would suggest spending at least day in Valetta to do it justice or, alternatively, take a few visits.
I would also recommend visiting Valletta in the cool of the evening. Well, at least cooler than in the daytime. Everything is open and most of Republic Street is shut off to cars, enabling an easy and pleasant shopping experience. You will find the lights around the harbour spectacular. To add to this, often you would be likely to see a firework display lighting the sky, especially during the summer months when Malta holds many Festas (fiestas) in honour of its saints.
As the capital cities of Europe go, Valletta is a rather recent invention. It was founded in 1566, and built in a hurry, as if to make up for lost time. For perhaps the oddest thing about Valletta is that there wasn't a city on its site before.
A glance at a map shows the strategic importance of the island of Malta. It sits amid the narrows between the eastern and western Mediterranean, so that any shipping going from one to the other must pass close to its shores, as must any traffic plying the shortest route between northern Africa and southern Italy.
Malta is a natural location for a naval base, and has a natural harbour to serve just that purpose. Or rather it has two in close proximity, known respectively as Marsamxett Harbour and the Grand Harbour. Viewed on the map, as if in cross-section, they resemble nothing more than the top and bottom of a gaping mouth, with a tongue sticking out between them. The tongue is a hilly peninsula of solid limestone, hard to attack once fortified. Gun batteries placed on it can command both harbours and their entrances.
It's the spot from which any military commander might choose to control the harbours and with them Malta too, but until Jean Parisot de la Vallette came along in the late 16th Century and built Valletta, none of them did.
* Location, location, location *
What concentrated de la Vallette's mind on the value of the site was not imaginative foresight but bitter experience. He was Grand Master of the Knights of St John of the Hospital, a crusading order that had been forced over preceding centuries to retreat from Palestine via Rhodes to make their base in Malta in 1530. Their main enmity was directed against the muslim Ottoman Empire, a power that returned the compliment by invading Malta in force in 1565.
In the ensuing 'Great Siege' the knights, with the support of the christian locals, staved off the Ottoman assault, but it was a close-run thing. Key to the resistance was Fort St Elmo, at the tip of the peninsula on which Valletta now stands, which prevented the attackers gaining control of the Grand Harbour and which was only taken towards the end of the campaign at a cost of some 8000 men, about a quarter of the invading force. Exhausted, the Ottomans abandoned their siege of the knights' remaining outposts and sailed home, never to return. But de la Vallette and his lieutenants feared a renewed assault and, noting how valuable Fort St Elmo had been in the defence, set about fortifying the rest of the peninsula.
Once started, they moved quickly. The fortifications, vast by any standards, were completed in just five years. The streets and buildings within the walls, laid out and planned to a meticulous standard almost unparalleled at that time, were mostly in place by the end of the century. Despite the slings and arrows of two subsequent sieges and some rebuilding since, the core of the city is essentially unchanged from those days. So, although it is one of the most recently founded of European capitals, Valletta has a cohesive period style and atmosphere that few others can emulate.
* Town Planning, 16th Century Style *
Walking around Valletta, one is constantly reminded that it was originally built as much as a fortress as a city. It is compact, not much over a kilometre from the seaward point to the inland-facing walls. These overlook a deep cut down into the underlying limestone - known as the Great Ditch - running right across the neck of the peninsula, which is about seven hundred metres wide at this point. Apart from serving as a dry moat on the landward side, the ditch was also one of the quarries from which rock was hewn to erect ramparts and bastions right around the city.
Within the walls, the streets are laid out in a grid, with only minor divergences dictated by local topography. Where the ground is steep there are steps, preserving the straightness of the streets rather than letting them curl around the contours. This was to allow cooling sea breezes to blow through the city during the heat of summer. Similarly, it was stipulated that buildings must several storeys high, to maximise the shade at street level, and that all should have cisterns to store rainwater. Before the houses were even built, a network of ditches was furrowed into the rock beneath their foundations; this became a sewerage system flushed daily with seawater brought up from the harbours. By the foetid standards of most cities of the time, 16th Century Valletta must have been an extraordinarily modern and salubrious place. It still feels clean and airy today.
The houses themselves are tightly-terraced and flat-fronted, faced in the same creamy-yellow limestone of which the whole city is built. They are without front gardens or porches (forbidden in the original planning ordinances), though many of the frontages have their upper storeys decorated with enclosed balconies. The basic style is simple, but the detail is often ornate, making for an elegant impression overall, both in the busiest thoroughfares and the narrower back alleys.
* Planning a visit *
Valletta is a city you could wander round endlessly, discovering new aspects of interest all the time. In doing so, however, it is essential that you don't omit to:
1. Walk the length of the main street, the Triq ir-Repubblika, on or near which many of the historic buildings are to be found, coming back by the parallel Triq il-Merkanti.
2. Walk the complete circuit of the ramparts, which will not only bring you to other features of interest, but also afford you outstanding views across the harbours as you go.
Either of these will take you half a day. Don't, if you can avoid it, try to do both in the same day, though, since the opening times of the main attractions won't permit it. There's no room to go into them fully here, but a bit of prior research into these times is needed to get the most out of a visit. Anyway, let's take the two 'must sees' in turn:
* City centre *
Entering Valletta by the main gates is an experience in itself. Immediately outside is Malta's main bus-station, where vintage buses painted in a lurid orange-and-yellow livery jostle for room with passengers, loiterers and stalls. But no traffic crosses the bridge over the Great Ditch, and once you are through the stone gateway and within the walls the only hubbub is that of your fellow-tourists and peddlers of souvenirs. Cars do have restricted access to Valletta, but the main streets are mostly pedestrianised.
The Triq ir-Repubblika is straight ahead and lined with shops and restaurants for the first hundred metres or so, until you reach the St John's Cathedral on your right, opposite the colonnaded frontage of the Law Courts on the left. St John's Cathedral (strictly "Co-Cathedral" an odd title signifying that it shares the honour with another edifice in the ancient capital of Mdina) looks rather plain on the outside. Inside, it is ornate to the point of excess, hardly a square centimetre unadorned with carved stonework, inlays, gilt, paintings, statuary and similar High Baroque decoration. Adjoining the Cathedral is a museum housing some notable religious art, including Caravaggio's Beheading of St John the Baptist. Well worth the queuing and an entrance fee of 6Euro (c£5 at today's dispiriting exchange rate).
The square beyond the Cathedral is filled with the tables of two open air cafés and it's worth taking on some refreshment before seeing the Grandmaster's Palace on the far side. Though the Knights were deposed by the French during the Napoleonic Wars and never reinstated, the Palace remains the seat of Maltese Government to this day, and only parts are open to the public. These parts, though, include some impressive and beautifully decorated state rooms and the Armoury - an extensive museum of antique weaponry. The joint entrance fee is 4.66Euro (c£4), again well worth it.
The Grandmaster's Palace faces St George's Square, and by crossing it and descending the street to the left you will soon reach the Manoel Theatre, one of the oldest and prettiest in Europe. In my short stay in Valletta I never managed to see a performance there (if I had, I might have made it the subject of a separate review), but I did undertake the fascinating backstage tour at 4Euro (c£3.40), and ate a decent snack lunch in the courtyard café; there is also a full restaurant for pre- and post- performance dining.
Circling back to return to the main gates via the Triq il-Merkanti will bring you past Valletta's market (always worth a visit) and some fine facades, including that of the Auberge de Castille which once housed one of the Knights' main sub-divisions and now houses the Maltese Prime Minister, and the bastion of St James, deep within the massive walls of which one finds the Malta Arts Centre. Entry to this is free, and no staff were in attendance while my wife and I spent a rather surreal half-hour there finding our way around a display of installation art (or so I assume it to have been).
* Rampart walk *
Which way round to do this depends on the time of day. If you time an afternoon anti-clockwise circuit correctly it will bring you to the north-western stretch of the walls in time to see the sun set beyond Marsamxett Harbour, which is rather a fine view.
This means you will have started out going south-east from the main gates. Before mounting the walls you can try to visit the Lascaris war rooms under St James' Bastion, from which the British defence of the island was coordinated during the Second World War. Be warned, though, that the entrance is hard to find and that they may not be open when you reach it (they weren't when we went, although we were within the advertised hours). Whether thwarted or otherwise, you then ascend to the Upper Barrakka Gardens, a pleasantly green and shady spot, with a magnificent outlook towards the dockyards and forts on the far side of the Grand Harbour. Just below the gardens is a battery of old but well-maintained cannon, one of which is fired in a daily salute at 11.00 a.m.
The view of the harbour stays with you as you walk round to the Lower Barrakka Gardens, another little leafy oasis, beyond which is a huge bell hung in a stone memorial, which commemorates the Second World War siege and those lost in the convoys sent to relieve the island. On from here past the Knights' Hospital (they were dedicated to healing as well as to fighting holy wars), you reach Fort St Elmo, the redoubt that withstood the Ottoman attack so long in 1565 and much strengthened since. It is open at weekends only, and then only partially. On the day when we were there, little more than the main courtyard could be seen, though that was being used to stage a dramatic re-enactment of the siege of 1798-1800.
The French fleet that took Malta in 1798 went on to be destroyed by the Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, leaving the way clear for the British in turn to capture the island. But within the walls of Valletta the small French garrison held out for two long years before capitulating. After that, Malta was British until 1964, and many relics of British rule remain, including driving on the left, red pillar boxes and telephone kiosks and a universal knowledge of spoken English, which is very welcome to the visitor since Maltese - akin linguistically to a westernised Arabic - is a difficult language for non-natives.
Although little of Fort St Elmo is officially open, by poking around its environs one can see quite a bit more, including finding one's way past corrugated-iron fishing shacks to explore the isolated rocky foreshore beneath its walls, an intriguing break from the well-worn tourist circuit.
From here on you are overlooking Marsamxett Harbour, and soon you see below you the little jetty from which the ferry goes across to Sliema on the far side. Considering that it is surrounded by water, Valletta seems remarkably poorly serves by ferries, though. Even to take a cruise around the two harbours you have to first cross to Sliema and change boats. The cruise is highly recommended, but assuming you leave that for another time you must now ascend up steep steeps to St Michael's Bastion, atop which is a little garden known as Hastings Gardens for the final panorama before making your way back to the main gates.
* Around and about *
The scenic and historic interest of the area is not confined to Valletta itself. If - to mix the anatomical metaphor - the peninsula on which it stands were regarded as a finger rather than a tongue, the next knuckle down is an area known as Floriana. It was developed in the century following Valletta and is of less architectural interest, though it is also fortified to the point of excess. Almost hidden among its battlements are the attractive St Philip Gardens and the adjacent Argotti Botanical Gardens, though the latter seem to share the local failing of unpredictable opening hours.
Across the Grand Harbour are the "three cities" of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Conspicua. These are more ancient than Valletta, surrounding as they do the inlets that were the original harbour mooring-places and still constitute the main dockyards. Among them are some surviving original fortifications, including Fort St Angelo, the Knights' original Great Siege headquarters. Although badly battered by bombing in World War Two, this area still looks as if it holds much of interest; I regret that I managed to see all too little of it during my visit.
By contrast the resort of Sliema, on the far side of Marsamxett Harbour, has very little of historic interest. The seaward-facing promenade is pleasant enough for a stroll but is essentially unremarkable, and there is quite a lot of new hotel development under construction there.
* Where to stay *
Although the rest of the island of Malta is littered with new hotels, there are remarkably few places to stay within Valletta itself. Walking round, we noticed the rather quaint British Hotel and the Grand Harbour Hotel, both well-situated for views of the Grand Harbour, but both seemingly small and with no pretensions to grandeur.
We stayed just outside the walls in Floriana at the Phoenicia, which does have pretensions to grandeur, which it almost lives up to. It was indeed comfortable, the food and service good, and the swimming-pool, in the shadow of one of the bastions overlooking Marsamxett Harbour, excellent. But it's quite pricey (can't tell you exactly how pricey, since we booked as part of a package), especially if you pay extra for a room with a balcony, since the latter will hardly have room for you to sit outside. You also need to avoid rooms facing the bus station, which is noisy from the early hours of the morning.
* Food and Eating out *
Fish and (for some reason) rabbit are the local specialities, apart from which the cuisine is typically Mediterranean. There are some excellent - though not cheap, especially at the current rate for the euro - restaurants in Valletta and also some good cafés and snack bars, but not much in between.
The pick of the restaurants we experienced was the Malata, which has outdoor tables in Palace Square opposite the Grandmasters' palace. The food is excellent, the ambience charming and (if you like that kind of thing) there is live jazz twice a week. We also enjoyed dining at Chez Cyrille, a few doors up from the theatre, which offers good cooking and is pleasantly informal, though it does get crowded and hot.
The formal restaurant at the Phoenicia is expensive, but in the bar or on the adjacent terrace one can order copious and moderately-priced snacks, which for a fancy hotel are pretty good value.
* How to go *
BA, Air Malta, Easyjet and Ryanair all fly to Malta, as well as numerous package holiday carriers. We went on a package with Malta specialists Sunspot, who were efficient and competitive for what we wanted. Air Malta, though, with whom we flew, is not an airline I'd recommend; horrible food and cabin staff offhand to the point of rudeness. As an aside, it is perhaps worth mentioning that we did not find the Maltese in general very friendly or welcoming. Perhaps it's the siege mentality.
* When to go *
Avoid mid-summer if you can. Malta is on a parallel with Tunis in North Africa and within the city of Valletta the temperature will be baking hot, notwithstanding the vaunted ventilation of sea breezes down the straight uncluttered streets. It will also be very crowded. Spring would probably be a good time. We went in October, off-peak for crowds and when the weather was pleasantly warm, though we did experience some thundery showers.
* Recommendation *
Valletta is a truly fascinating historic city that fully deserves its status as a World Heritage Site. Dramatically situated, architecturally impressive and full of atmosphere, it merits more than a day-trip if you are staying elsewhere on the island of Malta. Indeed, from what I saw of the rest of the island, Valletta seems to me to be the main reason for visiting it at all, and the best place to stay on it.
© Also published under the name torr on Ciao UK, 2008
For your information just an account of our visit to Malta and Valletta in the beginning of June 2003. OUR HOTEL We were lodged for some ten days in hotel Osborne, a smaller hotel with some 60 rooms situated in South street, right in the centre of town maybe 1/2km away from the bus terminal. The hotel was an ideal starting point for various excursions throughout Malta and the neighbouring island Gozo. The hotel itself is a three star hotel and in my opinion if they want to hang on to their third star they'd better freshen up their rooms real soon. The ground floor with its reception, bar and restaurant has gonethrough a recent renovation and the difference really shows. The rooms however, especially for people being used to visit recently built resort hotels around the Mediterranean, aren't too brilliant. They are aircondtionned through big hideous modules suspended from the ceiling which make quite a racket. Finishing of the rooms leaves to be desired with stained fixed carpet (never good if you suffer from allergies) which I'd advise tochange as soon as possible for some quality tiles. The bathroom as well was in a rather poor shape withcracked tiles and a liberal use of silicon for the joints on bathtub and toilet which you'd have to see to believe. Luckily we had one of the few (6) rooms with a seaview which helped us to take our minds of the poor finish. THE TOWN Valletta is only 6 kms away from Malta's one and only (modern) airport, it takes you a good 20-25 minutes per taxi or minibus to reach the capital. As described in the other review here Valletta has one main street, called Republic street, which is luckily turned into a pedestrians only zone. The other, neighbouring streets, running up from or down to the harbour, are open to traffic, be it mostly one way, and on foot you'd better watch out as cars zoom up and down rather swiftly. Parking in the town centre is a problem just like in any ot
her capital of Europe. There is however a huge underground carpark situated near the bus terminal. Overall and except for the market days the town was remarkably quiet in this month of June, especially in the evenings. On republic square there are three big outdoor terraces and only one was open in the evenings and even this one only had about a dozen people sitting on it. So not quite really the high nightlife. Nightclubbers need to go a bit more outside the city itself to the neigbouring communities in the northwest like St. Julians, where lots of trendy bars are regrouped. If you like shopping Valletta will suit you as it has numerous clothes, antiques and jewellery stores. During the daytime there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, this goes from the likes of BurgerKing and McDonald's in the centre to more cosy litle places near the harbour offering you fresh fish menus. And all this at very affordable prices, especially compared to other destinations around the Mediterranean (e.g. South of France, Italy). As a whole, just like our hotel room, the old Lady Valletta could really do with a facelift, work is already been undertaken or planned for some monuments but there is still lots to do to give the whole of the city a more clean and fresh outlook. Because it is without a shadow of a doubt a city which offers lots to see and to visit in the form of churches, museums and historical remains. Remarkable here is, and although I am all for progress, the fact that if you wanted to learn a bit more on special monuments your are expected to use your mobile phone and call a specific number where you obtain more explanations on its history. This is really pushing it a bit I think, I think that only the local mobile phone provdier sponsoring this service benefits from this. Having my own (foreign) provider I had no idea of what costs would be involved so I refrained from using the service. Therefore I can not comment on the q
uality of the information given, but surely in this case a simple sign with some text would be more handy (*). However - if you don't mind the exercise - a nice and free excursion is to do the tour of the whole Valletta seafront on foot, which at certain points involves some minor rockclimbing but which offers you access to all kinds of hidden corners. We, involuntarily, did this by night and at a certain point I doubted seriously if we would make it back if ever a high tide should set in because we were in areas that were sometimes covered by the sea. Especially because at that part of the seafront the spotlights were broken. Although from time to time on the tour we did startle some local lovebirds who clearly didn't expect to see tourists turn up then and there, it was fun all the same. Located at the seafront Valletta itself has no sandy beaches whatsoever, only some miles to the north towards St-Julian's there is one small sandy beach which about hundred metres long and only a few metres deep. People do swim in the sea at at certain points there are metallic ladders installed to help you get in and out of the water but at these places the shore is rocks only. THE PEOPLE At first contact and quite contrary to what is said in other reviews on the net I find the Maltese not really that warm and friendly, at least not those dealing with tourism in the cities. Busdrivers in particular are very blunt. An illustration of this is that I never even got round to learning the Maltese word for Hello, or good morning and so on as I never heard it used. People off the beaten tracks, and especially the old folk tend to be more open. However it is my conviction once you get to know them a bit more and you gain their confidence and you can look behind that cold exterior you'll find some warmhearted souls. Also, now almost 40 years after Malta became independant it is my impression that the knowledge of the English language is d
egrading. To my surprise several of the Maltese I met didn't speak English all that well. Also waitors need to go back to school as all of them, be it in the hotel or elsewhere, systematically started clearing the table even if not everyone had quite finished their meals or drinks. Very disturbing indeed. Other omnipresent inhabitants of Valletta are the streetcats and the pigeons. Both species seem to get along rather well, proven by the fact that the cats are all quite thin which shows they didn't grow fat on an overdose of poultry. THE BUSSES Well known is the fact that on Malta and Gozo the public transport is assured by (English) busses that are several decades old, and which were referred to by the local newspaper as 'boneshakers'. But, in spite of their age, almost none of the busses crashed out clouds of black exhaust gasses, or suffered from breakdowns, which makes me suspect that underneath their beaten exterior at least some new parts most lurk. The Valetta bus terminal, the biggest on the Island, has the shape of a horseshoe and at first and without a paper guide you are dazzled by all the coming and going of these yellow relics. But in the information booths they readily hand you over a leaflet explaining the numbers on the busses and where you can find them, something, which when you get the hang of it, makes choosing the right bus quite feasible. Their average speed is rather low and it takes them about an hour to take you from one side of the island to the other. However they are very cheap and don't be tempted to buy the multidaypasses advertised as it would force you to do more than six busrides a day to break even compared to a normal fare per ride which is between 15 and 20 maltese cents. CONCLUSION Another reviewer here spoke of Malta and its capital Valletta in the terms of love and hate. Personally I find both terms too strong to use in this r espect and may
be I can just summarize it by saying that I liked it but found there was room for (further) improvement. Cheers, Vik (*) "handy" is the term used in Germany for mobile phone (or cellphone if you prefer)
My wife and I visited Valletta for the first time in May 2001. It has been said, about Malta itself, it seems by just about everyone, "You either love it or hate it", No middle ground - I loved it, my wife hated it, Valletta that is. Neither of us could sensibly describe what it was about it that had influenced our opinions. During the next week we went all over Malta, Gozo et al and enjoyed each and every day. Everything that we did, everything that we saw and everybody that we spoke to cemented our opinion of Malta and the Maltese - It and they were lovely. That is if you can put into one small word all that we felt about a very large subject and about a beautiful collection of Islands, and a wonderfully kind, indomitable, friendly, warm people. We made a second visit to Valletta. This time we both loved it. The answer is, when you come to Malta, give yourself time. The islands and the people have been here for thousaands of years. Historic temples on these Islands pre-date the Pyramids!! Valletta has a history that I cannot hope to describe here. The pagentry goes on day by day - during our visit there was a parade with all the players in Mediaeval costume and ancient battles were played out to the joy of all the visitors who watched, freely. Tourism is the essence of the Islands, they have little or no other income than money spent by tourists. Tourists however are not fleeced, there are very few souvenir shops with tawdry knick knacks. Cruise ships plying up and down the Meditaranean visit Malta all the time and they are always made welcome. Film shows of the Knights of St. John and the siege by the Turks are all part of the great panoply on offer. When you visit Valletta you will come in by the main entrance where there is a bus terminus. This entrance leads you through the main backbone of the city. You will visit churches, museums, Cathedral, shops, restaurants
to either side of this main drag. Do not go down the hill either to the right or left until you have seen all that you want to of the centre. The steepness of the hill will mean that you would have to climb it again to come back to the City. Not a good idea at any time and certainly not in the heat of the day. Rather, go down the hill to the left to the Ferry terminal for St. Julians which is another small town across the bay, very quiet with bars, cafes and shops and with the North Western arm of the Harbour of Valletta in front of you. You can always go back to Valletta by local bus for 15cents - an experience to be enjoyed by itself. If you elect to turn to the right hill off the main drag in Valletta and negotiate the steep slope this brings you to the Grand Harbour with the three peninsulars facing you each with its own town at the top of the hills. The harbour is vast and very busy with always many Naval, merchant ships, and cruise ships, as well as the many small local craft that are unique in the way that they are painted, to see and wonder at. Altogether, Valletta is a delight, a richly deserved five stars in our book and we recommend that you visit, at least twice, soon.
Valletta is the capital city of Malta. The whole city was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.