This morning was time to say goodbye to Ann, Joseph, and Mihaela in Luxembourg:
The 6 of us remaining boarded a 10am, 1 hour flight from Luxembourg and had about an hour’s layover in Munich before catching our connecting 2 hour flight to Malta.
And from one microstate to another, Malta is only 316 square kilometers with a population of 450,000 making it one of the world’s smallest and yet the most densely populated countries. Its capital, Valletta, is also the smallest capital city in the EU by area (yes, it’s even smaller than Luxembourg City!).
Malta is also home to some of the world’s oldest free standing structures in the world and its culture has seen influence (and dominance) by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, Byzantine, Arabs, Normans, the Holy Roman Empire, the Aragonese, the Knights Hospitaller, Barbary pirates, the French, and then finally the British before Malta achieved its independence in 1964.
More pertinently to us, Malta is part of the Schengen Agreement so our flying from Munich allowed for smooth sailing to the exit where an airport taxi waited to take us into Valletta.
And once we arrived, we knew why the city of Valletta was one of the first designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The entire place is an open-air museum.
We then checked into our lodgings at La Vallette, located in the heart of the old city. Its rooftop terraces are breathtaking:
After freshening up, we sauntered around town taking photos of nearly every building around the corner.
Triq Ir-Repubblika is the main pedestrian street that has all the shops and eateries, along with most of the historical buildings that you should see.
Here we stopped for a quick bite of local Maltese spreads and sausages at The Cage:
Nearly every building in Valletta is considered historic (after all the entire city is a World Heritage Site), but one of the more notable one along your walks should be Teatro Manoel, Europe’s 3rd oldest theater and the oldest continually operating theater in the Commonwealth, unchanged since its construction in 1731.
Halfway down the block is Madonna tal-Karmnu – Our Lady of Mount Carmel Carmelite Church:
One block over from the church is the square facing Parliament and the Presidential Palace, aka Palace of the Grand Master:
From there you can make a right down southwest to see the National Library:
….and most grand of all, St. John’s Co-Cathedral. It costs 10-12 euros per person to enter.
Afterwards, we headed out to the waterfront, passing by St. Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral:
Once on the waterfront, we walked a complete 360º around the city of Valletta that took only an hour to finish:
Enjoy the views along this classic Maltese walking tour, as everywhere you walk is a sight to behold of its natural harbor:
On the northern edge of the waterfront is Saint Elmo’s Fort, which fell to the Ottoman’s during the Great Siege of 1565 where all 1500 men under the Knights of St. John fought to the death defending the fort, taking 8000 Ottoman Turks with them. As Voltaire once said, “Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta,” here was the turning point of the war where the Ottoman’s pyrrhic victory caused them to eventually capitulated in their attempt to conquer Malta, ending Europe’s fear that they were invincible and leading to the rise of the Spanish dominance of the Mediterranean.
Inside the fort is a comprehensive and impressive war museum inside the Fort that chronicles Malta’s significance and strategic role in world conflicts.
And right across from the Fort entrance is the entrance to The Malta Experience, a 30 minute audio/visual film that traces the origins and history of Malta from prehistory to present day.
You can get a 10 euro combination ticket to both the fort’s War Museum and The Malta Experience if you find yourself unsure what you could be doing here in the first place other than for some sand and sun.
Another monument you can’t miss along the waterfront walk is the Siege Bell War Memorial:
…and right next to the bell, the Lower Barrakka Gardens:
We then got away from the tourists with views from St. Barbara Bastion, where Samin’s college roommate, Yannick — who happened to graduate with Samin last week in DC at Georgetown University — met up with us after flying in from Milan (just to hang out with his college roommate again!). That’s true friendship right there.
As the two friends “caught up” on the 8 days since they’ve seen each other, we ended up at the Upper Barrakka Gardens:
And and for a moment everyone was quiet taking in the views here.
On the left is Fort Ricasoli, the filming location for Game of Thrones’ Red Keep:
And on the right is Fort Saint Angelo located in the city of Birgu:
We then headed to the open space facing St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity:
A little further down from the square will be the main bus terminal, which directly faces the Valletta City Gate:
We then headed back onto Triq Ir-Repubblika, completing our tour around the city.
Afterwards we had dinner at La Mère Restaurant, where then night fell and the city essentially becomes yours. There is nearly a nonexistent nightlife here other than quiet cafés, bars, and wine bars.
And the views of Valletta from our rooftop at night are no less surreal:
– At time of posting in Valletta, Malta, it was 68 °F – Humidity: 78% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear