Many people that come to Malta do so on a cruise ship and as such may only see the Valletta area. The view of the water in Valletta is the photo that you see most often if you search for photos of Malta. Established in the 1500’s, Valletta is the capital city of Malta and has a population of around 6,000 people. It’s not the most populated city in Malta by any means but it does seem to be the most-visited city by tourists.
During our week-long vacation in Malta, we decided to spend a day in Valletta and take in some historical sites. We wanted to choose places we thought would interest us the most but not feel rushed and like we were trying to cram everything in, so we went to the Palace Staterooms, Palace Armory, and the National Museum of Archaeology. All of these places are part of Heritage Malta which includes 23 historical sites and museums plus the Malta National Aquarium and the Citadel Visitor Centre. My family and I bought a Multisite Family Pass that was good for everyone in my family for up to 30 days.
The Palace Armory contains arms and armour used by the Knights of St. John between 1530 -1798 and by the Ottoman Empire during the Great Siege of 1565. I especially liked seeing all of the different materials from so many different origins like Italian, German, French and Spanish. There are also a variety of Islamic and Ottoman arms and armor. Honestly, you could spend hours here if you chose to, since the collection is so extensive.
The National Museum of Archaeology is a good base for learning Maltese history and information on other archaeological sites on the island. The building was built in 1571 and followed a plan by local architect Ġilormu Cassar. This building was house to the Knights of the Order of St John originating from Provence, France and thus has many French architectural characteristics. This museum has artifacts from Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). Some of the more popular pieces include the ‘Sleeping Lady’ (from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum), the ‘Venus of Malta’ (from Ħaġar Qim), bronze daggers (recovered from the Bronze Age layers at Tarxien Temples), the Horus & Anubis pendant and the anthropomorphic sarcophagus, both belonging to the Phoenician Period.
Finally, we visited the Palace Staterooms. The Palace itself was one of the first buildings in the new city of Valletta founded by Grand Master Jean de Valette in 1566 a few months after the successful outcome of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. The Palace was enlarged and developed by successive Grand Masters to serve as their official residence. Later, during the British period, it served as the Governor’s Palace and was the seat of Malta’s first constitutional parliament in 1921. The palace today is the seat of the Office of the President of Malta. The 18th century French Gobelins tapestries entitled, “Les Teintures des Indes” were my favorite part of the Palace Staterooms.
It’s nice to just wander around Valletta and take in the views. At one point in the day, we found a quaint little cafe where we relaxed with some delicious pastries. There are no shortage of shopping opportunities of all sorts in Valletta either. Initially we thought we could combine Valletta with the Harbour area since they’re near each other, but we found it was just too much to take in on a single day, so we decided to come back to spend some time in the Harbour area.
Tips: Parking can be a pain in Valletta and some of the busier cities in Malta as well. I suggest finding a spot to park and leaving your car there and just walking around. We found free parking and didn’t have any problems walking to everywhere we wanted to go for the day. While there is a bus service in Malta, I had read that the buses run infrequently so we just rented a car and had no problems driving ourselves around the islands of Gozo and Malta.
In my next post, we go to the Harbour area of Malta and explore there. Join me as I continue on my adventure of this fascinating country!