Cruise guide to Valletta, Malta
Valletta is the capital of Malta, and also happens to be the smallest capital city in the European Union, with approximately 5,700 residents making up its population. The Maltese capital is a common port destination for many European cruises liners, which often allow passengers the whole day to disembark and explore the small island country of Malta. The small size of the island is part of what makes Valletta a fantastic place to stop off on your cruise. You’ll be able to explore all of the exciting things the country has to offer over the course of the day, some of which we are going to explore later. Historical palaces, incredible architecture, and the Baroque influence on the city are just a few reasons why you should consider passing through Valletta on your next cruise.
Facts about Malta:
Malta is an archipelago nation in the Mediterranean Sea, and hosts some fantastic beaches as a result. While their main official language is Maltese, English is widely spoken on the island too, due to the colonisation of the country by the British in 1815. Given its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta was historically seen as a country with great utility, particularly when seen for its value as a naval base for the British Mediterranean Fleet. Malta is home to an array of historical sites which make for a great day of sightseeing and exploration, since you can do many of them within the span of a few hours.
Things to See and Do in Valletta:
Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens
Two of the best sites in Valletta to stop and smell the roses, the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens have everything you need to fully relax, and watch the world go by. Located in the south of the city, the Barrakka Gardens not only serve as great places to come for a well-earth cup of coffee after a day of sightseeing, but also as some of the best spots in Valletta to survey the stunning surroundings. From the Upper Barrakka Gardens you will be treated to a quite spectacular vista of the port, the city, and the myriad boats sailing on the deep blue water. From up high you’ll also see the row of cannons which were used to salute visiting ships once upon a time. In the Lower Barrakka Gardens, you can take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, stopping off to admire the neoclassical monument paying tribute to Sir Alexander Bell.
Grand Master’s Palace
Construction on this grand palace began in the 16th century, and now it serves as the residency for the President of Malta. If you have any interest in delving into the history or culture of the small island nation, then a visit to the Grand Master’s Palace is a must. Housing grand courtyards, beautiful ceilings, and a staggering armoury within its walls, the palace is more than worth a few hours of your time. Complete with a Throne Room and Hall of the Supreme Council of the Knights, there are few better places than this palace to see knights and the weapons they would wield.
Wander through the limestone streets
One of the best aspects of the Maltese capital is how even just a walk through its streets and alleys will likely evoke feelings of awe and admiration. With many of its streets and buildings made with limestone, a stroll around the city of Valletta will produce a veritable feast for the eyes. Commonly seen throughout Malta, limestone architecture is the norm in this small island country, and will leave you wanting your cruise stop to last a few more hours. An especially eye-catching example of limestone architecture can be found in the form of Victoria Gate. This city gate was originally built by the British towards the end of the 19th century, and was named after Queen Victoria.
A savoury snack only really made in Malta, pastizzi are well worth seeking out during your cruise holiday stop-off in Valletta. The filo or puff pastries are typically filled with mushy peas, or ricotta cheese, before being folded into a knot-like shape similar to croissants. Incredibly cheap, at just 25 or 30 cents at most bars and cafes, the pastizzi are served hot and go really well with a nice cup of coffee. For the most authentic experience, you’ll want to head to one of the many pastizzerias, where they bake up fresh batches of the delightful pastry on metal trays in their gas or electric ovens. The locals will tell you that this savoury pastry can be eaten any time of the day, and it’s not unusual to eat several throughout the course of the day. As a word of warning, the pastizzi are served piping hot and contain liquid filling, so it might get messy.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
A Roman Catholic Co-Cathedral in Valletta, which means it both serves the function of a cathedral and a bishop’s seat, St. John’s was built in the 16th century. What makes this co-cathedral a worthwhile visit during your cruise stop in Valletta is mainly its wonderful Baroque interior, which is said to be one of the best examples of the style in Europe. Inside you’ll find some fantastic Caravaggio paintings, a pristine marble floor, an abundance of gold leaf, and spectacular monuments scattered through each chapel. Even if you’re not usually one to visit cathedrals, you should make an exception for St. John’s during your time in Valletta. The ornate interior will likely leave a lasting impression and be a highlight of your trip to the Maltese capital.
Once you’ve exhausted everything you wanted to see and do in Valletta, consider a trip to the Blue Grotto, just a stone’s throw away, to behold the stunning series of caves situated on the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. To get there, you’ll need to take the bus on route 74, get off at panorama bus stop, before walking down the hill to the Grotto. This journey will only take you around 30 minutes, and will be absolutely worth your time. The Blue Grotto consists of a towering arch over the azure water, and a series of 6 caves, with such names as the Reflection Cave, and the Honeymoon Cave. Formed over the years through erosion caused by the crashing waves of the Mediterranean, the cave network can be explored by boat, and depending on the time of day, the water within its perimeter displays myriad colors due to the fauna and sea life.
Situated in the south-eastern part of Malta, Birżebbuġa is a coastal town considered by many to contain the best beach the island nation has to offer, called Pretty Bay. Like the Blue Grotto, Birżebbuġa isn’t found within Valletta, but can be reached by taxi in just 15 minutes. The beach at Pretty Bay is a must-visit during your day in Malta, after all, what cruise holiday would be complete without a few hours spent relaxing on an idyllic white sandy beach, beneath the palm trees? While you’re in the seaside town, you could also explore some historical sites such as the impressive dark cave of Ghar Dalam and the ancient Bronze Age settlement remains of Borg in-Nadir. A town once occupied by the Phoenicians who once used it to dock their ships in the bay, there is lasting evidence of their presence here in the temple of Erocle, which pays homage to lives lost at sea.
Author: Sophie Anderson
Post Date: 18th December 2019