One of my most popular posts is this Guide to Valletta, the capital city of Malta.
Valletta also happens to be one of my favourite cities in the world, and after having lived in Malta for a few years (but not having returned for the past two), I decided it was time to revisit the place I had once fallen in love with and get reacquainted. Even in just a couple years’ time the city has completely transformed thanks to it being chosen as the 2019 European Capital of Culture. It was time to update my original guide to reflect these changes.
Now, even though I never actually lived in the capital city itself, I won’t hesistate to state that I know Valletta just as well as any il-belt (the capital city’s residents). When I was living in Malta I’d be there often, my best friends lived there, and I kept up to date with all the new openings, etc. This visit to the island, however, was particularly special as I actually got to stay within Valletta’s own fortified walls!
My original Guide to Valletta still holds up – definitely use it to sightsee and stop in classic favourites. Here is how to spend a wonderful weekend in Malta’s capital city:
Check into the Ursulino Hotel. This historical townhouse was converted into the beautiful boutique accommodation of just 11 rooms, all uniquely designed and perfectly situated within the city – plus, the rooftop view is hard to top (literally). I set down my bags in my stunning duplex suite before heading straight up to the roof terrace to take advantage of the aperitivo hour while watching the sunset.
The staff are completely in-the-know of what’s happening in the city, so I asked them for a restaurant recommendation, in which they snagged me a last-minute table at the newest hotspot in town, Noni. The dining room is set in a stone vault and was the perfect spot to catch up with an old friend over a mouth-watering meal. We dined on this strands of al-dente hand-rolled pasta with pulled pork, a spiced slow cooked octopus tagine, and the chef’s own take on ftira – a traditional Gozitan bread – with olives and roasted vegetable sides.
For a nightcap head to my favourite bar in the world – Bridge Bar, and listen to live jazz while hanging on the bridge or stone steps.
I awoke early to watch the sunrise from the hotel’s rooftop while sipping on my coffee. Since it was still too early to gorge on their big breakfast offering, I heading into the streets to wander before the rest of the city woke up. It’s really the ideal time to enjoy Valletta in peace and daylight.
After a couple hours of walking around, and once the streets began to fill up with both locals and tourists alike, I headed back to the hotel for breakfast. Served on the rooftop terrace in good weather, the Ursulino offers a full spread as well as made-to-order classic egg dishes – go for their omelette, with cheese.
Full and fueled up it was time to hit up some of my favourite sights. For a walking tour, see my Guide to Valletta with everything worthwhile to see. My absolute favourite spot is the Upper Barrakah Gardens, which I’ve been to probably hundreds of times and the beauty of it never diminishes!
Since I had eaten a late brunch, but was starting feeling peckish, I headed to the newly opened wine bar Cru to enjoy a glass of vino + some small dishes. The owner offered for me to try a white he recommended, which upon the first swig I really wasn’t into it, and then after the second realized it had gone bad, so he quickly swapped it out for me! The second glass was much better – divine, actually.
If you’re looking for another great dinner spot, there are so many options quite literally at your fingertips, given the close proximity everything is in Valletta. Some favourites to add to the list in the Guide to Valletta are:
Legligin: traditional Maltese with a twist, affordable pri fixed menu with optional in-house made wine pairing (the name translates to “glugging down wine.”
Guzé Bistro: one of the best known longstanding restaurants in the city for well-appointed Maltese dishes.
That night I met with friends for drinks at Kinsgway Bar – another new spot that opened up since my last time on the island. Beautifully redone (it used to be an undergarment store!), and centrally situated on the main Republic street, its the perfect perch for people watching (or just drinking the night away with some of my favourite people on the planet and feeling as if no time had passed at all!).
I awoke a bit slower this day after the previous evening’s festivities, and needed an extra caffeine hit so I headed to my all-time favourite No.43 cafe. The owner is the sweetest Australian women, and this cafe was one of the first to modernize Valletta’s dining scene. I’ve been going here since the day it opened and its as good as ever.
Valletta is small, and chances are you saw all of it while walking around yesterday like I did. I took advantage of my proximity to the Three Cities to boat over to the neighbouring town of Birgu with a friend. We hired a dgħajsa – a traditional wooden water taxi – across the Grand Harbour, where you can pick one up from the same spot the ferry goes to (near the base of the elevator from Upper Barrakkah Gardens). Birgu is a magical city, and can easily be transversed in a couple hours. It’s best to just get lost amongst the narrow winding streets. The city’s Fort St. Angelo is also worth a visit – it opened up to the public since I’ve been away but I was lucky to get into a few private events there years ago and its since been beautifully restored.
After wandering around Birgu, we crossed the short bridge over to Isla, the next municipality of the Three Cities, where we refreshed with iced teas at Hammett’s Macina Restaurant. Set within a 16th century fortification that houses a newly opened hotel, its a beautifully restored spot that serves gastro Mediterranean fare in both this location and its sister-restaurant in St. Julian’s that I also got to try out.
If you have time to spare, my all-time favourite restaurant on the entire island is found deep within the maze of Birgu’s winding alleys. Tal-Petut is situated within an old Maltese stone house and I promise your dinner will be an experience. Tell Don – the owner – that Cassie from Canada sent you.
Since we had to make it back for an appointment, we then grabbed the ferry back to Valletta. I headed to the Myoka Sixty Six Spa – their newest outpost location within 66 Saint Paul’s Hotel, to enjoy a treatment. I actually used to work for Myoka while living on the island, so it was really special to be able to experience their service once again, which is by far the best in the entire country! I received the Booster Facial along with a Muscle Recovery Massage and I can honestly say it was the best treatment I’ve ever had. It was the perfect way to end my stay in my favourite city!
Feeling relaxed and refreshed, I checked out of the Ursulino before heading to the Sliema ferry to spend my last couple days on my favourite little island with friends. How incredibly therapeutic its been to be back, and next time, I won’t go quite as long without a visit to the world’s quaintest but coolest capital city. Even if I am just spending the perfect weekend in Valletta.