So, you’re in the stunning region of Valletta, Malta and you’re stumped as to what you should do? We’ve got you covered. Valletta is the capital city of the small island of Malta and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s known for charming Baroque architecture, and enchanting streets lined with cafes and restaurants. Spend your days exploring the city and seeing the royal palaces and impressive churches, or venture out of the city center and witness the surrounding natural beauty. We’ve put together a list of 10 essential things to do in Valletta, so whether you’ve a few days, or a few hours, you can make the most of your time in Malta’s capital.
Immerse yourself in George R.R. Martin’s world on a tour of Game of Thrones filming locations in Valletta, Malta. See the city that doubles as King’s Landing and noted spots IRL like the Tower of Hand and Maegor’s Holdfast. Your tour will bring you to Rabat, Malta from Valletta where you can gaze upon the Mtahleb Cliffs, otherwise known as the Shadow Cliffs- the scene of the Dothraki wedding feast between Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen in season one.
Also in Rabat, you’ll stop at the Catacombs, a filming location for the Red Keep. You will finish your tour in Mdina, the first capital of Malta. Enter the city through Greek’s Gate, originally built in the Medieval period. Once, this gate was the only way slaves were permitted to enter Mdina. The gate was the scene of a touching farewell between Ned and Catelyn Stark in GoT. Next, find yourself at Mesquita Square. Look up at the ancient buildings and admire the area where they filmed Jaime Lannister’s ruthless capture of Ned Stark.
Wander around one of Valletta’s museums
With its rich culture and history, one of the best things to do in Valletta is to visit a museum. We’ve picked out three of our recommended museums to spend a rainy day in or to soak up stories of valor.
One of the most popular Valletta museums, the Museum of Archaeology houses Maltese artifacts dating back to the Neolithic period (5000 B.C.), all the way up to the Phoenician Period (400 B.C.). At the museum, find prehistoric tools, bronze daggers, and don’t miss the ‘Sleeping Lady’, a Neolithic statue unearthed from an underground tomb- ‘Hal Saflieni Hypogeum’. As she was found in a burial ground, she’s believed to represent death and the eternal.
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.. (Last admission: 5:30 p.m.) (March – December)
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Last admission: 4:30 p.m.) (January – February)
Students and Senior: €3.50
History buffs should make their way to the National War Museum in Valletta, located at Fort St Elmo. Fort St Elmo played a role in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, making it a key location for a museum that catalogs Malta’s tumultuous history. Make your way to this museum to catch sight of a collection of artifacts going back to the Bronze Age, around 2,500 B.C. The museum illustrates the struggles of wars and brings to life stories of heroic battles.
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Last admission: 5:30 p.m.) (June – October)
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Last admission: 4:30 p.m.) (November – May)
Closed on December 24th, 25th and 31st, January 1st and Good Friday
Adults (18 – 59 years): €10.00
Youths (12 – 17 years), Senior Citizens (60 years & over), and Students: €7.50
Children (6 – 11 years): €5.50
Infants (1 – 5 years): free
Absorb Malta’s past in an engaging format, enhanced with special effects and modern technology. Take in an enthralling film that lets the audience soar over open seas and ancient monuments. Catch a 3D movie while your seats move and transport you back in time with added effects like air bursts and water jets! Gain insight into the Knights of St John and Malta’s role in World War II. Shows run every 30 minutes, timetable here.
Visit the neighboring Gozo Island on a day tour from Valletta, Malta. The Mediterranean sea surrounds Gozo Island, one of 21 islands that make up the Maltese archipelago. The picturesque island is known for various natural landmarks like Azure Window- a rock formation enveloped by turquoise waters.
The island boasts sandy, golden beaches, rocky peaks, and still water. It’s a rural landscape, with a smaller population, making it a relaxing getaway from Valletta. On your day tour, make your way to the majestic Ġgantija Temples. These UNESCO World Heritage–listed temples are among the oldest megalithic monuments in the world, predating even the Giza pyramids in Egypt and England’s Stonehenge.
Explore the grandiose Grandmaster’s Palace
Originally built between the 16th and 18th century, the Grandmaster’s Palace was erected as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who ruled Malta. However, today, it houses the Office of the President of Malta. The Palace is lavishly decorated and features the Palace Armoury and the Palace State Rooms- both are open to public viewing.
The Palace Armoury houses firearms, artillery, armor, and other weapons that once belonged to the knights and were used for military and sport purposes. There were once 25,000 suits of armor, though now only 5,000 remain. Admire crossbows, muskets, swords, and pistols that have fought in iconic battles.
The Palace State Rooms are a feast for the eyes. Look around to appreciate tapestries and magnificent works of art. Check out imposing portraits, naval battle scenes or the floors adorned with coat of arms. Feel captivated by the grandeur of the late 18th century Baroque illusionistic ceiling paintings.
Monday – Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Last admission: 4:30 p.m.)
Children (6 – 11 years): €5.00
Students (12 – 17 years, with a valid student card): €7.00
(Joint Ticket for Armoury and State Rooms)
Try traditional Maltese fare
Be sure to pack your stretchy pants for your trip to Malta! Because of Malta’s location in the central Mediterranean, Malta has changed hands multiple times lending to diverse influences in cuisine. Here are a few of the Maltese dishes to put on your to-eat list for a trip to Valletta:
Stuffat Tal-Fenek is a rabbit stew, and the national dish of Malta. With hearty flavors and spices, the stew is made with red wine, garlic, bay leaves, and tomatoes. It’s slow-cooked and served up with bread for dipping. The stew is comfort food at its finest!
Bragioli is also known as ‘beef olives’ which is a bit of a misnomer as there aren’t actually any olives in the dish! It contains thin slices of braised beef, rolled and stuffed and eaten in a tomato sauce with vegetables.
Lampuki pie borrows from English, Arabic and Italian influences. It is a savory fish pie in a puff pastry seasoned with mint and capers.
If you’re in a hurry, look for a Maltese ftira at a bakery in Valletta. It’s a take on sandwich using a ring-shaped, leavened, Maltese bread loaf. It’s stuffed with tuna, capers, olives, sardines, or potatoes.
Buy locally-made artisan crafts
During your stay in Valletta, don’t skip out on the shopping! You can find stalls throughout the city selling handicrafts made by the locals. These make excellent and unique souvenirs for friends and family back home. Here’s a few famed Maltese crafts to be on the lookout for during your vacation.
Ganutell Wire Flowers
Ganutell wire flowers are a traditionally-practiced craft in Malta. Using wires and beads, intricate flowers are created for stunning results. This Maltese art form was once practiced by monks and in monasteries. Interestingly, this practice fell out of popularity in the 20th century, the process is coming back thanks to groups of artisans. It’s a time-honored Maltese custom, so worth looking into and bringing back as a memory of your time in Valletta.
One of the things to do in Valletta is to head out on a day trip for a tour of Mdina and specifically,
Ta Qali Crafts Village. The village was constructed on the site of a World War II airbase; walk through and browse the stalls and huts of craftspeople. In Ta Qali Crafts Village, be on the lookout for Mdina Glass. This high-quality glass is blown out in the studios and shaped by hand. In the village, you can see the workshop firsthand and watch as skilled workers produce glass.
Bizzilla is a form of lace-making using techniques dating back to the time of the Knights of St John. This lace was very in vogue at that time, though now it’s appreciated less for fashion and more for the detailed workmanship that goes into production. Find craftspeople using multiple wooden bobbins to weave together interesting and complex lace pieces.
Malta is known for elaborate and meticulous work so while filigree jewelry is not a Valletta or Malta-specific item, Malta does produce these items very often and does a skillful job at it. Find stalls selling this jewelry made of fine, pliable threads of precious metal that are twisted or curled into a design.
Admire the beauty of St. John’s Co-Cathedral
In the heart of Valletta, find yourself at St. John’s Co-Cathedral, an impressive baroque cathedral built in the 16th century. St John’s Cathedral was built by the Knights of St John and named for their patron saint, John the Baptist. The exterior may be simple but inside, you’ll find a work of art. See gold, marble and silver adorning the walls and furniture and breathtaking murals on the ceiling. In fact, artist Mattia Preti spent six years painting the ceiling. There are nine chapels in total. Check out the Oratory, an opulent room decorated with ornate gilded moldings, you’ll even find one of Caravaggio’s most important works, ‘The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist’. Look down and you’ll notice a marble floor, actually made of tombstones! There are 400 tombs in total, for the most famous Knights of St John. Given the location, stopping by St. John’s is a must-do on your Valletta’s itinerary.
Monday – Friday: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Last admission 4:00 p.m)
Saturdays: 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Closed Sundays and holidays
Children under the age of 12 are free
Pro-Tip: As this is a place of worship, everyone who enters must have covered shoulders.
Take a break at the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens
So, you’ve been sightseeing all week and need a little break? Find a moment of peace and quiet at the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens in East Valletta. The Upper Gardens were created in 1661 as a private garden for the Knights of St. John and were opened up to the public in 1824. The Upper Gardens offer up one of the best views of Valletta. Catch a panoramic of the sea and nearby cities. Then make your way down to the Saluting Battery where cannons were once fired as a salute to visiting navals. It’s worth your while to arrive at 12:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. to witness a cannon being fired off. Connecting the Grand Harbour to the Upper Barrakka Gardens and Valletta city center is the Upper Barrakka Lift. It’s a quick trip over to the city center and the lift is a remarkable 58 meters high.
The Lower Gardens serve a delightful view of the Grand Harbor and Mediterranean sea. Spend an afternoon with a coffee or tea watching the boats drift along the water. The Lower Gardens are a peaceful respite in a city (especially if you want to get away from crowds of tourists). Spot the nearby Siege Bell Memorial, a belfry containing a large, bronze bell that appears in the neoclassical temple style.
Daily, 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Live like a royal at Casa Rocca Piccola
So, you may not be any Meghan Markle but you can still feel like a royal at Casa Rocca Piccola. This 16th-century aristocratic home is over the top in the best way possible. Built by Admiral Don Pietro la Rocca and has had multiple tenants over the years. Currently, the de Piro family (Nicholas de Piro d’Amico Inguanez, 9th Baron of Budach, and 9th Marquis de Piro) resides in the grand home and provides tours of the estate. In the palatial house, you’ll find collections of furniture, silver, and paintings from Malta and Europe. Casa Rocca Piccola houses Malta’s largest private collection of antique costumes as well as the largest private collection of Maltese lace.
Daily, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays and public holidays
Tours take place every hour, last tour starts at 4:00 p.m.
Free admission for children under 14
Take in the lively atmosphere of a Malta festival
Malta is an epicenter of arts and culture with a number of thrilling festivals that take place throughout the year. If you’re there at the right time, one of the things to do in Valletta is to pay a visit to one of the festivals. From June to July, the Malta Arts Festival takes over Valletta for two weeks of dance, music, art, and theater from both emerging and established Maltese artists.
Also in July is the Malta Jazz Festival featuring a line-up of top international and Maltese artists performing electric and high-energy jazz music. In April, check out the International Fireworks Festival in Valletta. This tradition goes back to the era of the Knights of the Order of St. John. While the festival takes place, you can see striking fireworks displays or appreciate the pageantry of a gun salute or firing of muskets.
On June 24th, immerse yourself in the religious celebration for the Feast of Saint John. In July, admire various religious parades when the parish churches pay tribute to their patron saints. Witness Valletta’s churches as they become illuminated, and get a dose of local life and culture as you see marching bands parade through the town carrying icons, while city dwellers throw confetti.
Whether you’re hoping to embrace the bustle of a festival, soak up the city’s past or just find a spot in a peaceful garden to unwind in, we’ve got you covered with this list of 10 essentials things to do in Valletta. Use of list of must-do Malta activities in Valletta to build your itinerary and enjoy your time in this dynamic city.