Walking Tour: Valletta

  • Start City Gate
  • End Upper Barrakka Gardens
  • Length 2.25km; one hour

This walk explores some of Valletta's backstreets, and affords some great views.

Begin at City Gate. Just beyond it is the Renzo Piano–designed Parliament Building and Royal Opera House. Walk past the Opera House and turn right into Triq Nofs in-Nhar. You'll pass through the new Pjazza de Valette, dedicated to Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette. Next turn left at Triq il-Merkanti. You'll see the Palazzo Parisio on your right, where Napoleon stayed during his six days on Malta, and the Auberge d'Italie (1574) on your left. The latter building now houses MUŻA, Malta's new National Community Art Museum. Walk another few blocks and you'll see Palazzo Castellania, which used to house Valletta's law courts. The figures above the 1st-floor balcony represent Justice and Truth. Look for the pillory stone at the building's corner.

Turn right into Triq San Ġwann, then left into Triq San Pawl, passing the 16th-century Church of St Paul's Shipwreck. Turn left along Triq it-Teatru l-Antik, where you'll see the Manoel Theatre on the right, and the domed Carmelite Basilica beyond. Double back and then turn left down Triq id-Dejqa (Strait St); note the faded old bar signs dating from its years as the city's red light district. Next turn right along Triq San Kristofru, passing the 16th-century Palazzo Messina and Palazzo Marina, which once formed part of one palace. Follow Triq San Kristofru, then turn left onto Triq San Pawl, right on Triq San Duminiku then left again down Triq Sant'Orsla. Walk around the Knights' 16th-century hospital, Sacra Infermeria.

Heading southwards, you'll see the Siege Bell Memorial, commemorating those who lost their lives in the convoys of 1940 to 1943. Follow Triq il-Mediterran past the Lower Barrakka Gardens, which contain a little Doric temple commemorating Sir Alexander Ball, the naval captain who took Malta from the French in 1800. Continue along Triq Santa Barbara, a tree-lined street with fabulous harbour views. Cross the bridge above Victoria Gate and turn left to climb steep Triq il-Batterija to the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

Walking Tour: St John's Co-Cathedral

  • Start Chapel of Germany
  • End Oratory
  • Length two hours

The cathedral has eight chapels allocated to the various langues (divisions, based on nationality). Enter and turn to your right. You'll see the Chapel of Germany; look out for the German Langue's emblem of a double-headed eagle.

Cross the nave to the Chapel of Castille, Leon & Portugal, with its Mattia Preti altarpiece and monuments to Grand Masters Antonio Manoel de Vilhena and Manuel Pinto de Fonseca. Next is the sumptuous Chapel of Aragon, with another Preti altarpiece and the extravagant tombs of the brothers (and consecutive Grand Masters) Rafael and Nicolas Cotoner.

Next is the Chapel of Auvergne, with the tomb of Grand Master Fra Annet de Clermont de Chattes Gessan. Beyond is the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, which once contained an icon of the Virgin brought from Rhodes, removed from here when Napoleon expelled the order. It contains a 15th-century crucifix from Rhodes and keys of captured Turkish fortresses.

Opposite is the dark Chapel of Provence, with the tombs of Grand Masters Antoine de Paule and Jean Lascaris Castellar. The crypt (usually closed) contains the first 12 Grand Masters, including Jean Parisot de la Valette.

The Chapel of the Holy Relics guards a wooden figure of St John, said to be from the galley in which the Knights departed from Rhodes in 1523. The Altar is dominated by the Baptism of Christ by Giuseppe Mazzuoli; Preti's paintings of St John decorate the vaulted ceiling.

The austere Chapel of France, with a Preti altarpiece of St Paul, houses lavish funerary monuments, including to Grand Masters Adrien de Wignacourt and Fra Emmanuel de Rohan. Preti's painting, The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine, hangs in the exquisite baroque Chapel of Italy, overlooking a bust of Grand Master Gregorio Carafa.

The Oratory was built in 1603 as a plain, unadorned building for novices, and later redecorated by Preti. It contains Caravaggio's menacing Beheading of St John the Baptist (c 1608), the artist's largest painting, and his St Jerome, full of quiet power and pathos.