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Last updated : Nov 2009
Malta Valletta
Malta Valletta - TravelPuppy.com
Valletta

The town of Valletta was built at the end of the 16th century by the Knights of St John as the island’s new capital and, more importantly, as a fortress commanding an impregnable position over the peninsula. The city developed around what is now Republic Street, Old Bakery Street and Merchants Street, the latter containing some of the finest examples of Maltese-style Baroque architecture in the islands. The Co-Cathedral of St John has an austere exterior, but the interior is a sumptuous mixture of gilded tracery, marble mosaic floors and a lapis lazuli altar behind which is a remarkable marble group of the Baptism of Christ. The painting by the artist Caravaggio of the beheading of St John is in the Oratory.

The Grand Master’s Palace in Republic Street was built 500 years ago as the abode of the Grand Master of the Order of St John, and contains a series of paintings depicting the great siege of 1565, painted by a pupil of Michelangelo, and a group of tapestries originally designed for Louis XIV. The palace houses an armoury which has one of the best collections in existence.

The Manoel Theatre, named after one of the most popular Grand Masters, is the second-oldest theatre located in Europe and stages performances of opera, theatre, music and ballet between October and May.

The National Museum of Fine Art, housed in an 18th-century palace, has a collection of furniture, paintings and treasures connected with the Knights of St John. The Church of Our Lady of Victories, built during 1566, is the oldest church in Valletta and was built to commemorate the victory over the Turks.

Nearby at Auberge de Provence is the National Museum of Archaeology, which has exhibits from the area dating back to prehistory. The town also has a bustling market in the Floriana suburb on Sunday mornings and another one in Merchants Street from Monday to Saturday.

Sliema

Sliema lies facing the town of Valletta. It is a large, modern cosmopolitan town bustling with shops, hotels, cafés, cinemas, restaurants, bars, clubs and discos. The shoreline here is quite rocky, but is nevertheless good for bathing. The neighbouring St Julian’s is also a lively and popular resort area.

Mdina

Mdina is located on a high plateau towering over the rest of Malta and was once Malta’s capital and the citadel is one of the finest surviving examples of a medieval walled city. The town is entered by a stone drawbridge which leads to a maze of narrow streets, lined with churches, monasteries and palaces, connected by piazzas. Of particular interest is the Norman-style Palazzo Falzon which has a collection of antique weapons and pottery, a cathedral, and a museum that still houses a magnificent collection of art treasures; survivals from the sacking which the town suffered at the hands of the French during the 18th century. From Bastion Square, the visitor has a breathtaking view of the surrounding fields and villages, and also of St Paul’s Bay.

Rabat

Rabat has fine Baroque churches, St Paul’s and St Agatha’s Catacombs and the Roman Villa. There are many interesting walks within close proximity to the town, such as the Chadwick Lake, Dingli Cliffs and Verdala Castle overlooking Buskett Gardens, the only wooded area on Malta. On the southwest shore is the Blue Grotto where, legend reports, sirens bewitched seafarers with their songs. The four caves reflect the brilliant colours of the corals and minerals in the limestone. The most spectacular is the Blue Grotto itself, which is at its best viewed in the early morning with a calm sea. Buses run to an embarkation point in Valletta where a boat can be taken to the caves.

Elsewhere

Within close proximity to Paola are the archaeological sites of Tarxien, with its neolithic temple; Hypogeum, a complex of ancient underground burial chambers on three levels dating back over 3000 years; and Ghar Dalam (Dark Cave) where the remains of now extinct birds and animals such as dwarf hippos and elephants have been found.

Hagar Qim on the south of Malta is a neolithic temple dating back 3000 years and constructed from huge closely-fitting stones decorated in a very ornate style. Typical Maltese fishing communities such as Marsaxlokk, Birzebbugia and Marsacala are sprawled along the coves and inlets at the southernmost tip of Malta. Fishing nets and the colourfully painted boats crowd the waterfronts, and each day’s fresh catch can be eaten at the family-run tavernas. At Marsaxlokk is the recently discovered Temple of Juno, which was originally used by the Greeks as a place of worship to the goddess of fertility.

Resorts

The most popular beach area is along the north coast where sandy beaches are plentiful and the clear waters here are ideal for sailing, skindiving and water-skiing. The best beaches are located at Paradise Bay, Golden Bay, Mellieha Bay, Armier Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, all of which are very popular during the summer and pleasantly quiet during spring.