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- 01 Aug 2021, 3 nights
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Despite being the smallest capital in the European Union, Valletta punches above its weight with cultural sites, mouthwatering food and impressive architecture. The Maltese capital has been ruled by everyone from the Greeks and the Romans to the Order of the Knights of St John, leaving it a unique melting pot of cultures. British red letterboxes perch at the top of winding alleys and limestone townhouses are adorned with multicoloured Maltese balconies. It's no wonder that it’s such a popular film shoot location, featuring in flicks including Captain Phillips, Gladiator and World War Z.
Many hostels in Valletta are in historic buildings, including a converted 16th-century palace close to the Grand Harbour. Original features include mosaic tiles and a spiral staircase, and some Valletta hostels have rooftop gardens that are ideal for soaking up the Maltese sunshine. You can even take in the view over colourful laneways from a traditional balcony dating back 500 years. Hostels with on-site restaurants and lounge bars will introduce you to local Maltese cuisine.
Republic Street is Valletta’s commercial centre, a 1km pedestrianised high street lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. Running parallel to it, Strait Street is one of the narrowest streets in the city and was once the rowdy red-light district, with nightlife to entertain American and British sailors. It’s now filled with music venues, craft beer pubs and underground whiskey bars. Between Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, set back from Quarry Wharf, you’ll find a quieter set of laneways including one home to the famous jazz venue Bridge Bar.
The Saluting Battery, a dramatic cannon firing, takes place at midday and is best seen from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. That’s also the place for a sunset cocktail with stunning views across the Grand Harbour, though you can catch the sunset from an evening harbour cruise too. By day, hop on the ferry across the bay to explore the Three Cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua), which receive relatively few visitors despite being a stone's throw from Valletta.
Valletta is a walking city, where you can travel from one end to the other within about 15 minutes. To reach other island destinations, like the 4,000-year-old walled city of Mdina, where Game of Thrones was filmed, you can travel by local bus. A small ferry service runs to seafront towns like Sliema and Senglea. Malta International Airport is a 20-minute drive from Valletta, with a regular bus connection running from early morning to late evening.