3 Must-See Places to Visit in Valletta

Grand Harbour boat tour

The celebrated Grand Harbour is at the core of much of Malta’s history. A site of the Great Siege of 1565 in which the Knights of St John just succeeded to hold off the occupying Ottoman Turks, and the centre of momentous events of the Second World War, the harbour was home to the British Royal Navy in the Med until the 1970s.

Having seen the scene from the Upper Barracca Gardens, inclement weather it is well worth getting out on the water. The best way to do this is on a tour in a traditional dghajsa. There used to be loads of these colourful little wooden boats ferrying sailors between ship and shore. Now there are only a few and their single oar (used somewhat like that of a gondola) is supplemented with a motor, but are still the most redolent way to get around the Grand Harbour.

Malta’s War Museum

This is not only a museum about Malta’s Second World War but – more interestingly – it offers tours of the immense World War Two shelter underground. Descend into the world of the Maltese during the worst of the war. Malta was the bull's eye of some of the most concerted bombing anywhere and this area, home of the Grand Harbour dockyards doing vital ship restoration work, experienced the toughest hit. Hundreds of people spent days and nights down in these hand-cut rock passageways with only murky little oil lamps for light. The chaperons here are extremely knowledgeable and really bring the place to life.

Lascaris War Rooms

Deep inside the defender walls of Valletta, these channels were once the slave quarters of the Order of St John. In the Second World War, they became the clandestine headquarters of the British and Allied Mediterranean forces, and it was from here that General Eisenhower commanded Operation Husky, the efficacious attack of Sicily in 1943. You can still see ops rooms comprehensive with maps, phones and plotting tables, along with ancient-looking – yet imaginative – communication systems. There is an audio guide in English as well as human guides full of additional facts and stories about Malta’s crucial role in the war. The Lascaris War Rooms are beneath the Upper Barracca Gardens so it’s easy to visit both on the same outing.

It's also great to keep in mind, 2018 will also be the year in which Valletta is European Capital of Culture and will be presenting a jam-packed programme of cultural events as part of the Valletta 2018 Cultural Programme.

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