Malta: the country that God built. Well, kind of. Malta is well-known for being the once-stronghold of the famous religious military order, The Knights Hospitaller, who were granted the land in 1530 from the King of Spain in exchange for an annual fee of one Maltese falcon (which eventually inspired the name of Dashiell Hammett’s famous novel). And these marauding knights certainly did a great job putting the place together. Valletta, the nation’s capital, remains the highlight and exploring this fascinating walled city (which kept the Hospitallers secure until they came across Napoleon in 1798) is akin to walking back in time. It’s small size (just 0.3 square miles) makes it the perfect cruise stopover and is the ideal base for exploring the rest of the country on excursions.
Why cruise Valletta
Valletta may be small in terms of size, but in terms of international stature, Malta’s Unesco World Heritage capital is mighty. Packed full of historic sites, cruise passengers will be able to absorb all the wonders that Valletta has to offer on their stopover. While no longer under the rule of the empire, Valletta remains a popular destination for British holidaymakers with the majority of tourists arriving from the UK, no doubt drawn to the island’s sun-soaked shores. If history isn’t your thing, then not to worry as the city also boasts golden sand beaches and wonderful Mediterranean fare.
What to see and do
Grand Master’s Palace
The seat of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller for the entirety of their time on the island – and which eventually became the base for the parliament of Malta. While the exterior of the building may not be much to shout about, if you head inside you’ll be greeted by vast quantities of artwork and tapestries collected over the centuries, and make sure to visit the Armoury to see thousands of suits of armour worn by the Knights Hospitaller.
History surrounds you in the fascinating walled city of Mdina – once the capital of the island and now home to just under 300 people as of the last census – now known as ‘The Silent City’. Explore the majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral and its beautiful frescoes, feed your curiosity at the Natural History Museum or merely stroll around the ancient walls and breathe in thousands of years of history. Worth booking an excursion for.
St John’s Co-Cathedral
There’s a pattern with many Maltese buildings – a plain exterior which belies an impressive interior. St. John’s Co-Cathedral (so-named because it shares the Archbishop’s seat with St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina) is no exception. It doesn’t look much from the outside, but once you step foot inside the explosion of colour and detail of this baroque, grand cathedral strikes you instantly. Never judge a book by its cover, as they say.
What to expect when travelling to Valletta
Getting around in Valletta
The port of Valletta is within easy walking distance of the city centre and although it can be a little hilly – it shouldn’t be a problem for most able-bodied walkers. If you want to visit the ancient city of Mdina then you’ll need to book yourself on an excursion provided by the cruise line or take a taxi (a single fare shouldn’t cost more than €20). Once in Malta, traffic in Malta can be a nightmare. Drivers don’t pay much mind to pedestrians; the city centre can get packed very quickly and even public transport can fill up before you know it. We advise you stick to walking.
When to go to Valletta
The best time to visit Malta is during the spring and early summer, between April and June, when the weather is warm but not hot and there are fewer tourists. Autumn is another great time to visit if you wish to avoid the crowds.
Malta uses the euro.
If you hold a British Citizen passport, you don't need a visa to enter Malta.
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