Valletta has become one of Malta’s most hip cities in the past few years. This year it is set out to be more in vogue than ever, while graciously bearing the title of European City of Culture 2018. Cool new shops and restaurants are popping up in Valletta every week, and while they may be fun to discover, they surely do attract some crowds! So what to do if you prefer to visit a quieter side to this city? You get off the beaten track! Now Valletta is a diminutive city to say the least, so you will be able to go through the locations on this list in one day – maybe even in one afternoon if you’re determined. Get your cameras (or phones) at the ready, and slide off Republic Street into the beautiful, still relatively unknown, parts of the city.
1. Visit the Siege Bell Memorial
The Siege Bell Memorial lies at the farthermost tip of the Valletta peninsula, perched high on the Castille bastion, greeting and bidding farewell to anyone entering or exiting the Grand Harbour. The Memorial commemorates soldiers buried at sea during the two world wars, and features a solemn bell and a statue of an unknown soldier in eternal rest. The Memorial is directly behind the Lower Barrakka Gardens, and while it does attract some attention, it never amasses the crowds that places like the Upper Barrakka are known for (especially in the summer) – even though the views from here are breathtaking!
2. Walk Valletta’s Coast
Moving on from the Memorial, you’ll find a steep flight of steps leading you down to the seashore, just in front of The Mediterranean Conference Centre. Once down by the sea, you can enjoy a rocky walk upon Valletta’s rugged coast, getting up close and personal with the bright red breakwater on a seaside adventure in the city. The St. Elmo breakwater bridge was originally constructed in 1903, yet was given a new lease on life in 2012, making it a striking feature in our natural harbour. The walk takes you around the circumference of the Valletta peninsula, however, be careful - waves may become dangerous, especially during storms. Also, make sure that your shoes are not slippery, or you might end up enjoying an unplanned swim!
3. Check out il-Mandragg
Il-Mandragg is a neighbourhood in Valletta which can be found in the backstreets of the area where the Sliema ferry berths. It was an area known for squalor and poverty during the war, cluttered with diminutive apartments built so high and so close to each other that they blocked the sun’s rays from reaching the streets. The area has now been given new life, thanks to years of regeneration and beautification; however, it still remains hauntingly beautiful in a way that the rest of Valletta isn’t. Il-Mandragg is a part of Valletta which is still quite raw yet bursting with life; it is the area where most Valletta locals live, and it has a totally different feel from the Valletta found on Republic Street.
4.Grab a bite at Is-Suq tal-Belt
Finally! Valletta has its own artisan market, housed in an authentic, Victorian-era building which used to be the main food market in Valletta for over a 100 years. Following other cities’ footsteps, Valletta has re-opened its wrought-iron market gates, and transformed a dingy, run-down warehouse into the fantastic example of Victorian architecture it is today. Don’t worry, it won’t just be your Instagram feed thanking you – the food here is truly something else! Your stomach will be eternally grateful when checking out all the different stalls – from humble pastizzi, to elaborate Asian food. Naturally, it tastes that much better when washed down with an ice-cold Cisk while people watching at Strada Merkanti.
5. Go underground at Lascaris War Rooms
Before heading out of Valletta, check out the underground world of Lascaris War Rooms, a series of corridors and chambers which had been used as the headquarters of defence of Malta during the Second World War. Pretty cool huh? It’s even cooler once you see the perfectly preserved rooms, still equipped with humungous maps of Sicily and Malta and with vintage wartime equipment. You’ll be transported back to the 1940s while on this underground adventure beneath the streets of the city, and your Instagram feed will thank you for it, mark our words.