Valletta must be the perfect capital city of any European country in which to spend one day. It’s freakin’ tiny, man. Organising your trip to Valletta and curating a list of things to do in Valletta is going to be so easy.
Well, even easier since I’m doing it for you… Ahem, you’re welcome.
But seriously though, in my opinion, no trip to Malta is complete without a trip to Valletta. Though other people say that about Gozo and we didn’t go there, so what do I know?
What I do know is that Valletta in Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also a particularly popular stop-off location for cruise ships. Like duh, I literally just said one day is the perfect amount of time to spend in Valletta. So this doesn’t surprise me one dot.
So you need some tips on things to do in Valletta on a day trip? Look no further, I got you covered, sis. Sightseeing activities are listed first, food and drink second.
Things to do in Valletta, Malta
9 Things to see & do
The best thing about sightseeing in Valletta is that most of the top things to do in Valletta don’t cost a penny. They are mostly old, historic buildings and beautiful gardens.
Which is why, if you only have one day in Valletta, you might like to join a walking tour. An experienced guide will be able to tell you information about what you are looking at which will make your trip to Valletta 1000% more meaningful.
Or you could do what I did, which was to research that ‘such and such a building is supposed to be important’ then walk over to it, look at it, take a few pictures, then carry on walking…
Check out Viator’s Valletta Walking Tours
Discover One Day Excursions for Cruise Travellers
1. Valletta City Gate
Located right at the entrance of Valletta, you can’t miss it! The current gate is the fifth incarnation of Valletta’s city gate.
2. Parliament House
You’ll be able to see the Parliament of Malta on your right literally as you enter Valletta.
As you’ll also notice, Parliament House is very modern-looking. The Italian architect, Renzo Piano (what a cracking name) lead the construction of the new City Gate, Parliament House and converting the ruins of the Royal Opera House. Which, incidentally is next on the list…
3. Royal Opera House Site
There was lots of controversy surrounding the construction of this and the two former buildings. Most of the buildings in Malta are quite old, so to have the first three structures you see in the city of Valletta be less than ten years old is quite something.
The Royal Theatre was originally built in 1866 but was hit directly by a bomb in World War II. It re-opened as an outdoor performance venue in 2013.
4. Auberge de Castille
Just down the street from the Royal Opera Theatre, the Auberge de Castille houses the office of the Prime Minister of Malta. A bit like Portcullis House or the Downing Street offices in London, I guess? The building housed knights from the Order of Saint John back in the day. Which, if you visit N. 9 on this list, you’ll know are quite important to the military history of Malta.
5. Upper Barrakka Gardens
Literally just a really nice green, urban space. The gardens offer gorgeous views of the neighbourhoods across the water like Birgu and Senglea.
6. Lower Barrakka Gardens
Again, another quiet park on the Valletta waterfront which is twinned with the Upper Barrakka Gardens. This park still offers great views over the water but with, you know, a slightly different viewpoint.
7. St John’s Co-Cathedral
As we all know, every city (especially every capital city) has a Cathedral. St John’s Co-Cathedral is slightly more interesting, however, because it’s a Co-Cathedral. Which Wikipedia tells me means it shares its magic Cathedral power with another Cathedral, which would be St Paul’s Cathedral in the former capital of Mdina. I’ve written Cathedral a lot now. Cathedral, Cathedral, Cathedral.
8. National Museum of Archaeology
Now, I’m very aware that the National Museum of Archaeology is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s very informative and important to the historical landscape of Malta as a whole, but the building and exhibit is a wee bit of a fixer-upper. The museum needs some TLC and a bit of money thrown at it.
C’mon Maltese Government, you’ve got a brand-spanking new Parliament so how’s about a makeover for your National Museum of Archaeology?!
The reason I still think it’s one of the top things to do in Valletta is that Malta boasts some of the most astounding archaeological finds in the world. Thousands of years old temples and hypogeums… And with only one day, you might not have time leave Valletta to visit them. So, the next best thing is to learn about Malta’s archaeological discoveries in the museum.
9. National War Museum – Fort St Elmo
And finally, one of the top things to do in Valletta (aside from the great food, which I will get onto now) is the National War Museum at Fort St Elmo. Malta is a country of many forts, and one of the most important is Fort St Elmo.
Malta has an incredibly diverse history considering it’s only been an independent country since 1964 so I do recommend that if you don’t mind museums that you check out this one. The country was particularly instrumental during World War II so I found those exhibits pretty interesting.
Places to eat & drink
Obviously, I don’t expect you to eat AND drink at each and every one of these places (though I’d be mighty impressed) but here are a few recommendations…
Hard Rock Cafe, Vault 17, Valletta Waterfront
Yes, Hard Rock Cafe bar, it doesn’t serve food but there are two other locations in Malta that are restaurants.are a tourist’s wet dream but I don’t care, I still like going to them occasionally. This Hard Rock Cafe is in such a great location for cruise travellers. You can pretty much walk off the deck and be handed a Piña colada. You should also note this is just a
Tico-Tico, 61 Strait St
One of the most highly rated restaurants in Valletta on one of the best streets for food. Tico-Tico Bar is a Spanish style that still serves traditional Maltese dishes (rabbit, etc.) with three-course meal deals.
Papannis, 55 Strait St
We wanted to eat at Papannis during our trip but unfortunately, it was closed for refurbishment! It’s supposed to be one of the best Italian restaurants in the city.
Trattoria Romana Zero Sei, Old Theatre Street
So, we visited the next best Italian in Valletta instead! Trattoria Romana Zero Sei seemed like a really authentic place and one of the best tiramisu’s I’ve EVER had.
Nenu: The Artisan Baker, 143 St Dominic Street
Even though it has a slightly weird name, Nenu: The Artisan Baker is a traditional Maltese restaurant that’s a bit more veggie-friendly than usual Maltese cuisine.
67 Kapitali, Old Theatre Street
Ortygia Food Experience, 8 Triq Id-Dejqa
A self-titled ‘concept store’, the Ortygia Food Experience serves Sicilian Cuisine that seems like it should be expensive but according to TripAdvisor it actually isn’t and has good reviews.
The Beer Cave, Castille Hotel, Castille Square
I would have loved to try out this bar but on both nights we were in Valletta it was either closed or didn’t open when it’s Facebook page said it did. The Beer Cave is known for its huge selection of beer but also serves burgers and similar diner food.
Gugar Hangout & Bar, 89 Republic Street
A vegetarian/vegan restaurant with lots of character, Gugar Hangout & Bar is a laid-back place with recycled furniture and street art style paintings on the walls.
And those are my recommendations for things to do in Valletta, Malta! Have you visited Valletta, Malta? Let me know in the comments below!