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Exploring La Valletta, the architectural legacy of the Knights of St. John

Let me start off by saying that despite its size, Valletta (Malta’s capital city) has been in the middle of a mash of ancient civilizations such as Greeks, Romans and Arabs therefore, it was only natural to think these rich influences would be reflected in the food, architecture and people. Nevertheless, it came as a surprise.
All you see is a pleasant mix of cultural diversity. Everything is the result of this long relationship between the Islanders and the many civilizations who occupied the island over the centuries.

We spent a couple of days walking around Valletta with our friends, who have been living there for some time now and proved themselves as great hosts and guides.

The entrance into the city (“City Gate”) is beautiful! Although I wouldn’t call it a gate, it’s more of an opening in the fortifications with a modern twist, really unexpected!
We soon realized that Valletta isn’t completely frozen in time, and the most striking proof of this is the definitively modern remodeling of the area around the City Gate by renowned architect Renzo Piano.

Straight to the Barrakka gardens.

Our first stop. One cannot visit the lovely island of Malta without stopping in Valletta and visiting the Barraka Gardens!
The view from the upper gardens overlooking the Grand Harbor and the three ancient cities Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, must be one of the greatest city views in Malta.

This is also known as one of the most strategic positions in Malta, as is evidenced by the battery of antique canons facing the water. Everyday at noon they fire a cannon from the saluting battery with actors dressed in 19th century military uniforms. We didn’t get to see it live, but based on our friends recreation, it seemed liked something pretty nice to witness, so make sure to be there around noon and catch the show!

You have to pass through the garden to get to the lift which takes you down to the waterfront. (going down it’s free, but have to pay to go back up! Smart strategy, huh?)

The Lower Barrakka has lots of bars, shops and restaurants all along the waterfront. It’s an ideal place to sit down, grab a coffee or a drink and watch the great cruise ships anchored.
Here you’ll find a lot of boats ready to take you to different locations. We took a beautiful traditional water-taxi for 5 euros and went to visit Birgu.


For me, Valletta is charming, full of narrow cobbled streets, historic buildings, churches, museums and so much for the tourists to enjoy. Magnificent architecture in every direction!

The impact of the Knights of St. John on Malta’s history is still highly visible today. You can find various buildings and landmarks around that have survived the test of time.
You can also see the influence of the Knights through the use of the Maltese Cross. That symbol is still very much associated with Malta as a nation.

The St. John’s Co-Cathedral is absolutely amazing and definitely worth a visit. So misleading from the outside, but grandiose once you step in.

After visiting Saint-John’s Co-Cathedral, walk down the Republic Street to explore the area around Palace Square on the way to the next attraction: the Grand Master’s Palace.
And so on.
Just walk, meander, there is so much to see and you cant even get lost! Its a grid system; one of the first I might add.

5 thoughts on “Exploring La Valletta, the architectural legacy of the Knights of St. John

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