On a cruise to Valletta, Malta, the city’s is immediately striking. It’s a cultural hub for Baroque art, museums, and historic sites. Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, limestone architecture pops against the year-round temperate sun. This mix makes Valletta perfect for an intellectually stimulating but relaxing stop on any Mediterranean cruise. Valletta was even named a “European Capital of Culture” in 2018 by the EU.
The historic downtown is easily walkable, and while there’s certainly more than a day’s worth of activities, you’ll get a sense of Valletta’s elegance in no time. Take a tour of the intricate St. John’s Co-Cathedral, built between 1572-1577 and every bit as elaborate as hundreds of years ago. Walk along the Grand Harbor for views of the Mediterranean sea, then stop in at an outdoor cafe or wine bar along the harbor for a bite. Or, take a ferry to the island of Gozo for hiking, swimming, and sunbathing along the area’s red-sand beaches.
Take a tour of the ornate church to discover its significance in Valletta’s history. Art lovers will find plenty to awe and inspire on a Valletta cruise stop. Inside this 16th century Baroque cathedral, you’ll see some of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings, including The Beheading of St. John the Baptist.
After your tour of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, head to the Grandmaster’s Palace nearby, just blocks away. The exterior is stately, but the interior of the Grandmaster’s Palace is nothing short of opulent, and the Parliament of Malta met in the building until 2015. Walk around the Palace and its grounds for a step back into the 16th century.
Valletta owes much of its development to its seaside location and its strategic importance throughout history. While you’re in the capital city on your Valletta cruise, be sure. Your views of the Mediterranean sea, dotted with white limestone and ships in the distance, is unbeatable.
Fans of military history will find much to see at Fort St. Elmo, which is also now home to the National War Museum. Check out military memorabilia or take an audio tour of the museum, where you’ll learn about the various ways the fort has guarded Valletta’s harbor, including enduring a brutal siege in 1565 by the Turks. Admission is only €10 for adults.
Slow down for a bit with a walk through the Upper Barrakka Gardens, where you’ll catch a panoramic view of the Grand Harbor from the terrace of these well-maintained public gardens. Entrance into the garden is free, and they are open from 7am until 10pm, so you can enjoy the gardens for sunrise and sunset any day.
The National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta is home to some of Malta’s most influential artists as well as historic art from European painters and sculptors. The museum is known for its comprehensive Baroque selection.
Gozo is a perfect day trip from Valletta for all kinds of outdoor activities from scuba diving to hiking. After your ship docks on your cruise to Valletta, Malta, take a car or bus to Cirkewwa. From there, a half-hour ferry will get you to Gozo, where you can see the nearly 100-foot tall limestone arch called the Azure Window, or swim the extra clear waters of Blue Lagoon.
The Valletta waterfront is rarely crowded and always atmospheric. Take a stroll down the promenade, where many of the warehouse buildings have been repurposed, and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants on the Marsamxett Harbor.
Address: 117/119 Santa Lucia Street, Valletta, Malta
For a true hole-in-the-wall wine bar, head to Legligin for a relaxed night out in Valletta. It’s wine selection is unmatched, and the menu changes regularly based on seasonality and what’s on hand in the kitchen. Past dishes like octopus and steamed mussels are standard fare. The interior of Legligin is cozy—the cellar is decorated with green tables and checkered black-and-white tiles. You’ll feel like you have the place all to yourself even with a crowd.
Address: 24 Triq Santa Lucija, Valletta, Malta
Stop inside Piadina Caffe for a quick lunch with an Italian spin. Seating is limited, so the restaurant has a quick turnaround time. If you’re looking to linger, take your food to-go and sit on a bench admiring St. John’s Co-Cathedral, which is nearby. Salads, sandwiches on fresh focaccia, and even a few cheap eats for breakfast can be found on the menu here.
Zero Sei Trattoria
Address: 75 Old Theatre Street, Valletta, Malta
Zero Sei is no frills, but it take Italian food very seriously. Cacio e pepe, carbonara, and veal dishes are staples of the menu. They aim to bring a taste of Rome to Malta in everything they do.
The Rootz Bar
Address: 11 Strait St, Valletta, Malta
Wine and cocktails flow at The Rootz Bar, which is a romantic, cozy stop for a drink or two and small plates. They don’t serve a full dinner menu, but cheese boards and charcuterie boards are there to help sate your appetite. You might arrive to find live piano playing. Start your night here, and then venture to dinner somewhere nearby.
Address: 211 Republic Street, Valletta, Malta
Noni is ideal for a fancy night out in Valletta. The restaurant regularly receives rave reviews, and its aim is to revitalize classic Mediterranean dishes in new, exciting ways. You’ll find no shortage of creativity—like local rabbit with a roasted garlic puree, slow-cooked octopus tagine, or chocolate and orange mousse—on the menu at Noni.
Valletta is Malta’s capital city, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, and today it’s a hub for government as well as music and public art. Valletta is a small capital, with a population of less than 7,000 people living in the city proper. Its small size, however, doesn’t diminish the city’s charm or its historic significance.
The city was established in 1566 by the Knights of Malta, who developed a new grid plan for the city. Valletta has a varied history of occupations by the Ottomans, the French, and the British throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Valletta saw a lot of destruction during World War II as a result of German and Italian air attacks, damaging the city’s Royal Opera House and many other buildings. The city’s architecture contains a heavy Baroque influence, and Malta is a major art destination, home to the National Museum of Fine Arts and the annual Valletta International Baroque Festival, held every January.
The Valletta cruise port is less than a mile from the city center. Within the cruise terminal, you’ll find standard amenities like restrooms, information centers, duty-free shops, and transportation services. The Valletta cruise terminal can accommodate multiple ships at once, so you’ll likely see passengers from other ships exploring the city center as well.
Taxis are a popular mode of transportation for tourists, and you’ll find taxis outside City Gate in Valletta. Taxis tend to have specific spots where they post up and will wait for passengers. If you’re renting a car, you can haggle on the rate sometimes, particularly during off-peak season from October to May in Malta. Hop on Bus 133 for a circular bus tour of the city, taking you around the city walls in about a half-hour. Buses are also commonly used for transportation in Valletta. Because of how walkable the interior of Valletta is, you probably won’t need to rent a car or motorbike unless you’re headed outside the city to neighboring towns or staying in town for more than a day.
On your cruise to Valletta, Malta, the majority of boutique shopping is in the city center, where many of the shops are family owned and operated. Leather, gold and silver jewelry, and souvenir stands for tourists are popular there. Many shops close on Sunday. You’ll also find a lot of lace for sale in Malta, as its one of the country’s most popular goods. Shopping centers and malls are further from the city center, and typically require a bus ride or car trip to get there.
On your cruise to Valletta, Malta, the Euro is the primary currency you’ll use, and you’ll find ATMs scattered throughout the city. Tipping is polite, anywhere between 5-10% in restaurants and bars, as well as hotels. If you notice a service charge already included in a bill, you don’t have to put forth anything extra beyond that. Leaving a tip for a guided tour 10% for their service is also encouraged, and tipping a porter or bellhop one or two euros per bag is best practice. Round up to the nearest euro for taxi drivers, or a little more if they provide recommendations to you while on your ride.