Valletta City Break - Where to Stay / What to Do (2020)

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Valletta City Break - All The Things You Need To Know to Enjoy A Weekend in the Capital of Malta

Contents

In 1565, the Maltese islands weathered an attack from the Ottoman Turks that very nearly broke through the island’s meagre defences.

The bulk of the attacks were bombarded on Valletta, then a poorly-defended promontory with impressive sea views and easy access to the harbour. While history turned in favour of the Knights, the general opinion was that Valletta needed to be better equipped to defend the islands in the case of a second attack. 

The inaugural stone for Valletta was placed in 1566. Fortresses sprang up, the city’s streets were paved and redesigned in a gridlock formation, and elaborate buildings shaped the capital’s interior.

The capital became the holding place for the Knights of St. John, each segregated into an auberge dependent on their nation.

When the Knights left, Valletta continued to attract importance: kings and poets and artists have wove themselves in and out of its history, and while Valletta has always been a hub of importance, today the capital city is a treasured part of UNESCO World Heritage, a revered Capital of Culture (2018), and a part of Maltese living memory. 

A stay in Valletta is essential for any holiday trip, whether it’s a quick visit to tour the shops and museums, or a stop-off point on the way to other parts of the island. However, if you’re only in Malta for a weekend, and time is limited, why not consider staying in Valletta for the whole stay? 

Why You Should Opt for a Valletta City Break

While Valletta is a city, it isn’t always crowded - unless the cruise ships have stopped in port, or there’s a village feast scheduled, the city is comfortably full of people.

Summer months mean that Valletta is a little bit more crowded than normal, however you should still be able to go around and look at all the hotspots without too much of a delay. 

Furthermore, Valletta is located only a 15 minute drive away from the airport, making the trip there and back easy and low-stress for travellers looking for the ultimate relaxing getaway.

Similarly, there’s little reason to leave Valletta if you don’t want to, as the city has more than enough museums, restaurants, and sightseeing to fill up a weekend break amply. 

Most importantly, Valletta has a number of restaurants, cafes, hideaway delis, and food markets to suit any taste and any budget. In addition, Valletta also has quite a lot of hotels concentrated in the city itself. For a cheaper stay, you might want to venture to the outskirts, however if you’ve got the money to spend, there are higher-end hotels built into the old palazzos that are definitely a once-in-a-lifetime excursion. 

 

Where to Stay

High-end

While it’s hard to recommend just the one place to stay in Valletta, the latest offering to the Valletta boutique hotel scene has a lot to recommend it! AX Rosselli is a tucked-away 5-star hotel catering to the traveller with no limitation on what they spend on comfort.

AX Rosselli Valletta

Boasting a beautiful interior lounge, and an outdoor pool - a rarity in Valletta! - AX Rosselli is a hotel built for refined pleasure and once-in-a-lifetime luxury. Rooms vary according to budget, but even the cheapest one is equipped to suit a king: smart LCD TV, climate control, private bathroom, and a coffee machine. The lounge area and courtyard are open to guests, and come with the promise of Prosecco or Frangolino, and there’s no better way to swim than looking at the Valletta skyline. 

Check Availability at Rosselli

Mid-range

Prefer to spend your money on tours and food? Totally understandable!

For a mid-range stay that doesn’t compromise on comfort, Palazzo Paolina Boutique Hotel offers comfortable rooms and a quiet side-street to call home. 

Palazzo Paolina

A reinvigorated palazzo, Palazzo Paolina Boutique Hotel is all about affordable luxury: marble, fine carpets, good ambience, and an on-site bar. 

Check Availability

Bargain

Want to save even more of your money? Valletta is a treasure trove of tiny, well-appointed studio apartments and rare-find townhouses for rent for less than £100 per night.

Valletta Merisi Suites

While they sell out fast, if all you’re looking for is a safe place to sleep at the end of a hard day of exploring, we definitely recommend going for a studio apartment. Some of them come with antique Maltese balconies, the perfect place to sip your coffee in in the morning. 

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What To Do - Places of Interest

So you’re in Valletta for a weekend. What do you do? 

 

We’re going to take you on a stop-by-stop walking tour of Valletta, starting from the City Gate and working all the way down. While most of the City’s hotspots are popular with tourists, there are a few that are more popular than others, and some that get overlooked on walking tours. However, we have the local knowledge to tell you where to go and why. 

 

Starting from the City Gate, you’re going to want to go: 

 

St. James Cavalier

An art museum and gallery space dedicated to an ever-changing constellation of Maltese artworks, some of which are interactive and in-person. At night, St. James Cavalier can also be found showing movies, so definitely keep a look on the website to see what’s on that day. 

 

Upper Barrakka Gardens

A mere two minute walk after leaving St. James Cavalier is the Upper Barrakka Gardens, a lush, tree-drenched garden that’s most famous for its saluting battery.

The view from the Upper Barrakka to the Grand Harbour is a spectacle not to be missed. Here's a small preview of the amazing vista...

Upper Barrakka Gardens

And then there's the gun salute at noon, so if you want to be a part of a tradition five hundred years in the making, make your way over there for noon - you won’t be disappointed. 

 

War Rooms, Nato Tunnels, and the Lascaris War Rooms

Accessible through the Upper Barrakka Gardens, these landmarks have been recently renovated and updated with new materials, such as two authentic tanks, a Matilda and an M3 Stuart, to be put on permanent display.

While Malta’s part in World War 2 is relatively unknown, the island served as a pivotal spot for the British army, and was heavily bombed by the Italians during the war as a result of this.

The Lascaris War Rooms are a good microcosm of what life was like during World War 2 in Malta. The British waged their Mediterranean campaign from the Lascaris War Rooms - not a small accolade for an island as small as Malta!

 

Lower Barrakka Gardens

Usually much, much less crowded than their higher counterparts, the lower Barrakka Gardens are a tangle of tiny pathways fringed by flower beds, and an unparalleled view of the Harbour. Visit in winter, and the garden is a nice place to sit and watch the sunlight shift over the waves for a while. 

 

Fort St. Elmo

Sometimes open to the public, Fort St. Elmo’s an impressive visit even if you just look at the outside; the fortress doesn’t look like much with the bulk of Valletta in the way, but the sheer scale of it is surprisingly from up close.

Pjazza D'Armi

Add in the chance to see one of the coveted seasonal reenactment, and you can spend a whole afternoon mired in the atmosphere of older Malta. Fort St. Elmo also holds the National War Museum, for those military history aficionados. 

 

Toy Museum

Tucked away in a boxy, first-floor room, the Malta Toy Museum has a wide array of toys dating back as early as the 1950s. The collection has been curated by Vincent Brown, and styled after similar museums in the UK; make sure to ask him which of the collection is his favourite, as quite a number of them have stemmed from his own childhood!

 

Casa Rocca Piccola

A working historical house, Casa Rocca Piccola is the seat of the de Piro family, a noble family in Malta whose house is the first of its kind to be open to the public. The Marquis and Marchioness typically host the private tours themselves, helped along by a staff of interns and curators that work to keep the house and its collection open to the public. 

 

Palace Armoury

Located within the Grandmaster’s Palace, the Palace Armoury holds a treasure-trove of armour and weaponry used throughout the time of the Knights of St. John, with a particular focus on suits of armour owned by Grandmaster Jean de la Valette. 

 

Teatru Manoel

The "Manoel" as it is known locally, is a small but beautiful is named after the the knight's Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena who ordered its construction, originally in 1731!

Teatru Manoel

Although there are multiple shows that play at Teatru Manoel, you can also go and walk around the theatre before performances start. 

 

Where to Eat in Valletta

When it comes to food, Valletta will leave you spoiled for choice: whatever cuisine you’re craving, there’s someone in the city that sells it, either for takeaway or eating-in. We recommend taking the tried and tested local method of walking around the intricate side-streets until an appetizing smell catches your attention, however if you’d like some good places to start with, you can’t go wrong with the following: 

 

Dolci Peccati

Don’t go there expecting to find a table; this little coffee shop is a local favourite, and always packed to the brim with people. They’re known for their pastries and sweets, and for making coffee so strong it could wake the dead, Sicilian style!

 

Kingsway

Affordable and high-end, Kingsway has good food and good coffee for a price, and that price is well within everyone’s budgets. Located near the historic Caffee Cordina, Kingsway is where you should go for a brunch that will satisfy the biggest appetites. 

 

Is-Suq tal-Belt

Not quite street food, not quite restaurant, this food court has taken it upon itself to staff its stalls with food trucks from around the world. If you’re looking for a cuisine, and you’re not sure a restaurant in Valletta has it, before you give up hope look at Is-Suq tal-Belt. 

 

Sciacca Grill

Thick-cut steaks grilled at market prices, this restaurant is soft lighting and glamour and bespoke dining: you actually get to pick your steak before they grill it up for you. 

 

Conclusion

While it seems much longer when you’re planning it, and working out the logistics of where to stay and travelling there, a weekend break in Valletta will speed by. The city is packed with things to do, places to see, and restaurants to eat at, with a minimal amount of travelling required, making it perfect for people who want to get the biggest benefit out of a short holiday away. 

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