|Welcome to Valletta, Malta and to the Alexander Ball Temple in the Lower Barracca Gardens. Photo: Cebete.|
When you think of grand European capital cities, places like Rome, Paris and Vienna probably come to mind at first and while these famous cities are undoubtedly brilliant, it’s easy to forget about some of the smaller, yet equally fascinating, capitals across Europe.
Valletta, Malta’s historic capital city, is a prime example. Its incredible beauty, history and culture make it one of the best city break destinations in all of Europe, yet this tiny Mediterranean island of Valletta on Malta remains well under the radar of many holiday-goers.
|The view of Valletta, Malta from Sliema. Photo: Paul Stephenson.|
If you’re planning a visit to the Maltese capital, here’s a brief guide on where to go and what to see:
|One of Malta's Megalith Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Throughout history, Malta’s desirable location in the Mediterranean, below Italy and north of Libya, has drawn many nations to stake their claim on this tiny island: First came the Phoenicians, followed by the Romans, Normans, Habsburgs and finally the British from whence it received its independence in 1964. Later that same year, it became a member of the United Nations and went on to become a republic in 1974, and finally entered into the European Union in 2004.
With such diversity in history, it's no wonder that history buffs seek out Malta to explore its fascinating past especially in Valletta's National War Museum, not to mention many of its UNESCO World Heritage sites scattered throughout the 55-hectare island—chief among these, the Megalithic Temples—11 prehistoric monuments erected between 5000 and 700 B.C. that claim the title as the oldest free-standing structures in the world; although that fact is still being debated in light of the Göbekli Tepe in Turkey.
|Upper Barracca Gardens in Valletta, Malta. Photo: Malcome Bott.|
One of Valletta’s best attractions is simply its gorgeous landscapes. Walk around the Upper Barracca Gardens and enjoy panoramic views of the city’s charming Grand Harbor. The public park, which sits atop Valletta’s historic fortifications, is an ideal spot for a picnic or a romantic stroll. If you’re looking to extend your scenic walk, the Lower Barracca Gardens are equally stunning.
|Another shot of the Upper Barracca Gardens in Valletta, Malta. Photo: Wolfgang Jung.|
Whilst Valletta’s natural scenery, the sun-drenched coastline and the sparkling Mediterranean, provide a scenic backdrop, the city’s man-made structures are also worth mentioning. You don’t have to be an architecture enthusiast to enjoy the striking beauty of 16th-century Baroque St. John's Co-Cathedral; the 18th-century Rococo palace—home to the National Museum of Fine Arts; and the many grand, Renaissance-era buildings that line its cobblestone streets.
|Saint John's Co-Cathedral built in the 16th century by the Knights of Malta. Photo: Ondablv.|
|Spectacular interiors await inside Saint John's Co-Cathedral. Photo: jonralinson.|
Foodies feel right at home in Malta, where the cuisine is a brilliant mix of Italian favourites, North African flavours and age-old recipes unique to Malta’s rich heritage. If you’re dining out in the city, head to Da Pippo Trattoria on Melita Street. The cosy eatery has attracted many a famous celebrity.
Epicurean adventurers to Valletta must try the rabbit stew (stuffat tal-fenek), a Maltese specialty served in nearly every restaurant. Other Maltese dishes include Timpana, a baked macaroni dish, Pastizzi, savoury fritters and Klamari mimlija: calamari stuffed with rice, breadcrumbs, capers and herbs.
|Valletta, Malta. Photo: Paul Stephenson.|
Valletta may be smaller than some of the better-known European capitals, but it’s no less noteworthy. If you’re looking for a less obvious city break destination, visit Malta’s hidden gem before the spotlight finally shines on Valletta and visitors start to flood in ....
This article was produced in partnership with Thomson Holidays.