Valletta has awoken from a long sleep to become a great place to hang out at night. There's a cluster of bars centred on narrow Strait St, and other excellent options tucked away down side thoroughfares. Closing times vary depending on how busy individual venues are.
Strait St was once the notorious haunt of sailors on shore leave. In Strait Street: Malta's 'Red Light District' Revealed (2013), an interesting book about the street, the authors John Schofield and Emily Morrissey describe hole-in-the-wall bars, where the toilet was a bucket behind a curtain. But there was also bohemian theatricality amid the squalor, and the street has come alive once again to celebrate this.
The street's artistic director, Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci, who comes from the area, says, 'It developed into a cultural hub from its initiation. It used to house artists that were working at the Grand Master's (Manoel) Theatre. It developed into "the Gut", in a sense like a microscopic version of Montmartre (in Paris). You had a mix of bohemian characters'.
As local people moved out of Valletta post-WWII and the British Navy left in 1979, Strait St became a shadow of its former self, with faded vintage bar signs the only clue to its past. But this is now changing fast, as people realised the appeal of Valletta's fine architecture and the city was renovated to assume the mantle of European Capital of Culture for 2018. See local listings for upcoming events, or just wander past and see what's going on. Barely 4m wide for its 660m length, Strait St is at its best on weekend evenings. It's no nostalgic trip, but a rebirth, with occasional concerts, gigs and art exhibitions.