"Valletta: The fortress city. Citta' Umillissima. A city built by gentlemen for gentlemen."
Those are the words that the Maltese tourist board use to describe their capital and, at least as it relates to the fortress city, they're not wrong. Surrounded by a castle-like sea wall, the historic city is a great stop-off point in the middle of the Mediterranean ocean. Thankfully, a short(ish) layover on our trip to Bologna a little while ago gave us the chance to explore this archipelago nation. It's good to preface this by saying that, having done next to no research on Valletta, we had absolutely no idea what to expect when we got off the plane, seeing it as the perfect opportunity to just wander around and see what we could find.
Travel from the airport to Valletta is also super easy, with a regular bus service running from the city gates to the terminals on a semi-regular basis (£1.50 or so). So, armed with just a camera, some company, and a desperate need for caffeine, we set off to crush Valletta in a day.
Got any other cool layover locations? Hit us up!
That Maltese caffeine fix - Cafe Cordina
A short walk from the bus station gets you to Cafe Cordina and, seeing how it was now 10am, it was a necessary stopping point. An aesthetic cafe with a grand interior that looks like it could be at home at a 5* hotel, Cafe Cordina is by far the most popular on the island and, with a history stretching back 175 years, is an intriguing place to stop and plan the day ahead. It is also worth noting that they serve a huge assortment of Maltese delicacies so, if you're craving a cake or two, grab one while you can!
Church of St. Paul's Shipwreck
In a city that feels like it has a million churches, the Church of St. Paul's Shipwreck still manages to feel special. Unassuming and easily missed on the outside, it is the inside that makes it a key part of any visit as every spare inch is covered in intricate murals, sculptures, and even a relic from Jerusalem. Honestly, the Church may be small, but it's no wreck (sorry)... we ship it (again, couldn't resist... really sorry). Either way, it is well worth a visit!
Grab a bite
If you get here and feel like you need a drink, food, or just a sit down, the cafe opposite has got you covered too. Depending on where the sun is in the sky, their street-side seats make for the perfect spot to sit and just watch the town lazily sway by. Also their seats are super aesthetic, so 100% an instagrammable spot for a quick pic or two!
End the day with cannon-fire!
Stepping back in time in the city's history, the 4pm cannon-fire used to signal the closing of Valletta's gates, and the official end of the day. Now though, the cannons on the viewing galley by the Upper Barracks Gardens, are merely a ceremonial act. Though you can pay a couple of euros to get up close to the action, the view from the park is probably slightly better, but get there a little earlier to ensure you get a good spot! It is also worth noting that, if you're not around in the afternoon, they also shoot the cannon at midday, but we'd reccommend the afternoon one - especially in the winter months when it coincides with the sunset.
Just wander around
These are all cool things to see and do in Valletta, but it is such a small city that just wandering around its narrow streets enjoying the weather, and finding the little nooks and crannies that make the city interesting, is a great way to spend some time. From small galleries, to even more churches, to art stores and even the Fort St. Elmo on the north-eastern point of the city, everything is just a short walk away! Just be sure to leave enough time to get back to the airport at the end!