Valletta (//, Maltese: il-Belt Valletta, Maltese pronunciation: [vɐˈlːɛtːɐ]) is the administrative unit and capital of Malta. Located on the main island, between Marsamxett Harbour to the west and the Grand Harbour to the east, its population within administrative limits in 2014 was 6,444. According to the data from 2020 by Eurostat, the Functional Urban Area and metropolitan region covered the whole island and has a population of 480,134. Valletta is the southernmost capital of Europe,[note 1] and at just 0.61 square kilometres (0.24 sq mi), it is the European Union's smallest capital city.
City Built By Gentlemen For Gentlemen
Valletta (European Union)
|Coordinates: Coordinates: |
|Established||28 March 1566|
|Capital city||18 March 1571|
|Founded by||Jean de Parisot Valette|
|• Mayor||Alfred Zammit (PL)|
|• local council||0.61 km2 (0.24 sq mi)|
|• Urban||256 km2 (99 sq mi)|
|Elevation||56 m (184 ft)|
|• local council||5,827|
|• Density||9,600/km2 (25,000/sq mi)|
|Demonym(s)||Belti (m), Beltija (f), Beltin (pl) or Vallettan (m), Vallettana (f), Vallettani (pl)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|ISO 3166 code||MT-60|
|Patron saints||St. Dominic|
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
|Day of festa||3 August|
|Official name||City of Valletta|
|Criteria||Cultural: i, vi|
|Inscription||1980 (4th Session)|
Valletta's 16th-century buildings were constructed by the Knights Hospitaller. The city was named after Jean Parisot de Valette, who succeeded in defending the island from an Ottoman invasion during the Great Siege of Malta. The city is Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture, though the Second World War left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of the Royal Opera House. The city was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980. Today, with 320 monuments, is one of the most dense monuments areas in the world. Sometimes called an "open-air museum". Valletta was chosen the European Capital of Culture 2018. Valletta is also the sunniest city in Europe.
The peninsula was previously called Xagħret Mewwija (Mu' awiya – Meuia; named during the Arab period) or Ħal Newwija. Mewwija refers to a sheltered place. Some authors state that the extreme end of the peninsula was known as Xebb ir-Ras (Sheb point), of which name origins from the lighthouse on site. A family which surely owned land became known as Sceberras, now a Maltese surname as Sciberras. At one point the entire peninsula became known as Sceberras.
Recent scholarly studies have however shown that the Xeberras phrase is of Punic origin and means 'the headland' and 'the middle peninsula' as it actually is.
The building of a city on the Sciberras Peninsula had been proposed by the Order of Saint John as early as 1524. Back then, the only building on the peninsula was a small watchtower dedicated to Erasmus of Formia (Saint Elmo), which had been built in 1488.
In the Great Siege of 1565, Fort Saint Elmo fell to the Ottomans, but the Order eventually won the siege with the help of Sicilian reinforcements. The victorious Grand Master, Jean de Valette, immediately set out to build a new fortified city on the Sciberras Peninsula to fortify the Order's position in Malta and bind the Knights to the island. The city took his name and was called La Valletta.
The Grand Master asked the European kings and princes for help, receiving a lot of assistance due to the increased fame of the Order after their victory in the Great Siege. Pope Pius V sent his military architect, Francesco Laparelli, to design the new city, while Philip II of Spain sent substantial monetary aid. The foundation stone of the city was laid by Grand Master de Valette on 28 March 1566. He placed the first stone in what later became Our Lady of Victories Church.
In his book Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et Illustrissima Militia di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano (English: The History of the Sacred Religion and Illustrious Militia of St John of Jerusalem), written between 1594 and 1602, Giacomo Bosio writes that when the cornerstone of Valletta was placed, a group of Maltese elders said: "Iegi zimen en fel wardia col sceber raba iesue uquie" (Which in modern Maltese reads, "Jiġi żmien li fil-Wardija [l-Għolja Sciberras] kull xiber raba' jiswa uqija", and in English, "There will come a time when every piece of land on Sciberras Hill will be worth its weight in gold").
De Valette died from a stroke on 21 August 1568 at age 74 and never saw the completion of his city. Originally interred in the church of Our Lady of the Victories, his remains now rest in St. John's Co-Cathedral among the tombs of other Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta.
Francesco Laparelli was the city's principal designer and his plan departed from medieval Maltese architecture, which exhibited irregular winding streets and alleys. He designed the new city on a rectangular grid plan, and without any collacchio (an area restricted for important buildings). The streets were designed to be wide and straight, beginning centrally from the City Gate and ending at Fort Saint Elmo (which was rebuilt) overlooking the Mediterranean; certain bastions were built 47 metres (154 ft) high. His assistant was the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, who later oversaw the construction of the city himself after Laparelli's death in 1570.
The city of Valletta was mostly completed by the early 1570s, and it became the capital on 18 March 1571 when Grand Master Pierre de Monte moved from his seat at Fort St Angelo in Birgu to the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta.
In Antoine de Paule's reign, it was decided to build more fortifications to protect Valletta, and these were named the Floriana Lines after the architect who designed them, Pietro Paolo Floriani of Macerata. During António Manoel de Vilhena's reign, a town began to form between the walls of Valletta and the Floriana Lines, and this evolved from a suburb of Valletta to Floriana, a town in its own right.
In 1634, a gunpowder factory explosion killed 22 people in Valletta. In 1749, Muslim slaves plotted to kill Grandmaster Pinto and take over Valletta, but the revolt was suppressed before it even started due to their plans leaking out to the Order. Later on in his reign, Pinto embellished the city with Baroque architecture, and many important buildings such as Auberge de Castille were remodeled or completely rebuilt in the new architectural style.
In 1775, during the reign of Ximenes, an unsuccessful revolt known as the Rising of the Priests occurred in which Fort Saint Elmo and Saint James Cavalier were captured by rebels, but the revolt was eventually suppressed.
In 1798, the French invaded the island and expelled the Order. After the Maltese rebelled, French troops continued to occupy Valletta and the surrounding harbour area, until they capitulated to the British in September 1800. In the early 19th century, the British Civil Commissioner, Henry Pigot, agreed to demolish the majority of the city's fortifications. The demolition was again proposed in the 1870s and 1880s, but it was never carried out and the fortifications have survived largely intact.
Eventually building projects in Valletta resumed under British rule. These projects included widening gates, demolishing and rebuilding structures, widening newer houses over the years, and installing civic projects. The Malta Railway, which linked Valletta to Mdina, was officially opened in 1883. It was closed down in 1931 after buses became a popular means of transport.
In 1939, Valletta was abandoned as the headquarters of the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet due to its proximity to Italy and the city became a flash point during the subsequent two-year long Siege of Malta. German and Italian air raids throughout the Second World War caused much destruction in Valletta and the rest of the harbor area. The Royal Opera House, constructed at the city entrance in the 19th century, was one of the buildings lost to the raids.
Valletta harbour c. 1850, photo by Calvert Jones
1853 King's Gate
Royal Opera House in 1911
Bomb damage in Valletta during the Second World War
The entire city of Valletta has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, along with Megalithic Temples of Malta and the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni. On 11 November 2015 Valletta hosted the Valletta Summit on Migration in which European and African leaders discussed the European migrant crisis. After that, on 27 November 2015 the city also hosted part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015.
The Valletta Local Council was established by the Local Councils Act of 1993, along with the other local councils of Malta. The first election was held on 20 November 1993. Other elections were held in 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2017. The present local council was elected in 2019. The local council is housed in a building in South Street.
The following people have served as Mayors of Valletta:
Valletta is the capital city of Malta, and is the country's administrative and commercial hub. The Parliament of Malta has been housed at the Parliament House near the city's entrance since 2015: it was previously housed at the Grandmaster's Palace in the city centre. The latter palace still houses the Office of the President of Malta, while the Auberge de Castille houses the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta. The courthouse and many government departments are also located in Valletta.
The Valletta peninsula has two natural harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour. The Grand Harbour is Malta's major port, with unloading quays at nearby Marsa. A cruise-liner terminal is located along the old seawall of the Valletta Waterfront that Portuguese Grandmaster Manuel Pinto da Fonseca built.
Valletta features a Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) with very mild, wet winters and warm to hot, slightly long, dry summers, with an average annual temperature above 23 °C (73 °F) during the day and 16 °C (61 °F). Valletta experiences a lack of precipitation during the summer months and most of the precipitation happens during the winter months. Winter temperatures are moderated by the surrounding sea, as a result, the city has very mild winters. The official climate recording station in Malta is at Luqa Airport, which is a few miles inland from Valletta. Average high temperatures range from around 16 °C (61 °F) in January to about 32 °C (90 °F) in August, while average low temperatures range from around 10 °C (50 °F) in January to 23 °C (73 °F) in August.
|Climate data for Malta (Luqa Airport in the suburbs of Valletta, 1991–2020)|
|Average high °C (°F)||15.7
|Daily mean °C (°F)||12.9
|Average low °C (°F)||10.1
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||79.3
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||10.0||8.2||6.1||3.8||1.5||0.8||0.0||1.0||4.3||6.6||8.7||10.0||61|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||169.3||178.1||227.2||253.8||309.7||336.9||376.7||352.2||270.0||223.8||195.0||161.2||3,054|
|Source: Meteo Climate, MaltaWeather.com (sun data)|
The architecture of Valletta's streets and piazzas ranges from mid-16th century Baroque to Modernism. The city is the island's principal cultural center and has a unique collection of churches, palaces and museums and act as one of the city's main visitor attractions. When Benjamin Disraeli, future British Prime Minister, visited the city in 1830, he described it as "a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen," and remarked that "Valletta equals in its noble architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe," and in other letters called it "comparable to Venice and Cádiz" and "full of palaces worthy of Palladio."
Buildings of historic importance include St John's Co-Cathedral, formerly the Conventual Church of the Knights of Malta. It has the only signed work and largest painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The Auberge de Castille et Leon, formerly the official seat of the Knights of Malta of the Langue of Castille, Léon and Portugal, is now the office of the Prime Minister of Malta. The Grandmaster's Palace, built between 1571 and 1574 and formerly the seat of the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, used to house the Maltese Parliament, now situated in a purpose-built structure at the entrance to the city, and now houses the offices of the President of Malta.
The National Museum of Fine Arts is a Rococo palace dating back to the late 1570s, which served as the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet during the British era from the 1820s onwards. The Manoel Theatre (Maltese: Teatru Manoel) was constructed in just ten months in 1731, by order of Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena, and is one of the oldest working theatres in Europe. The Mediterranean Conference Centre was formerly the Sacra Infermeria. Built in 1574, it was one of Europe's most renowned hospitals during the Renaissance. The fortifications of the port, built by the Knights as a magnificent series of bastions, demi-bastions, cavaliers and curtains, approximately 100 metres (330 ft) high, all contribute to the unique architectural quality of the city.
Valletta contains a number of unofficial neighbourhoods, including:
Eurostat estimates the labour force in 2015 for the greater Valletta area at around 91,000 people. This corresponds to a share of just under 50 percent of Malta. As in Malta as a whole, tourism is an important economic sector. The most important tourism zone is the area surrounding the Grand Harbour. For the cruise industry, after several years of planning, work began in 2002 to build the Valletta Waterfront Project, a cruise terminal, in the Grand Harbour. There is also a publishing house in Valletta, Allied Newspapers ltd, a media company. This company publishes the two market-leading newspapers, Times of Malta and The Sunday Times of Malta.
Valletta has been designated European Capital of Culture for 2018. The year was inaugurated with an event called Erba' Pjazez (Four Squares), with shows focused in 4 plazas in the city – Triton Square, St. George's Square, St. John's Square, and Castille Square – along with other shows in other points. This was followed by the unveiling of a public art installation, Kif Jgħid il-Malti (Maltese Sayings), which featured a number of Maltese language proverb figured in gypsum, in order to engage linguistic heritage.
Saint James Cavalier, originally a raised gun platform, was converted into a Centre of Creativity in the year 2000 as part of Malta's Millennium Project. It now houses a small theatre, a cinema, music rooms and art galleries. Various exhibitions are regularly held there. It has welcomed over a million visitors since opening.
The Valletta International Baroque Festival is held every year in January. Jazz music in Malta was introduced in the Strait Street area, frequented by Allied sailors during both World Wars. Malta's Jazz Festival took place here. Strait Street is also known as The Gut. This area is undergoing a programme of regeneration. The city's dual band clubs are the "King's Own Band Club" (Maltese: L-Għaqda Mużikali King's Own) and "La Valette National Philharmonic Society" (Maltese: Is-Soċjetà Filarmonika Nazzjonali La Valette).
Malta International Airport is 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the city in the town of Luqa. Malta's public transport system, which uses buses, operates mostly on routes to or from Valletta, with their central terminus just outside the city gate. Traffic within the city itself is restricted, with some principal roads being completely pedestrian areas. In 2006, a park and ride system was implemented in order to increase the availability of parking spaces in the city. People can leave their vehicles in a nearby Floriana car park and transfer to a van for the rest of the trip.
In 2007, a congestion pricing scheme was implemented to reduce long-term parking and traffic while promoting business in the city. An ANPR-based automated system takes photos of vehicles as they enter and exit the charging zone and vehicle owners are billed according to the duration of their stay.
Valletta is served by a fleet of electric taxis which transport riders from 10 points in Valletta to any destination in the city.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Valletta.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Valletta.|