Planning a one day in Valletta itinerary is necessary when mapping out a trip to Malta. Valletta is creeping up on the typical European traveller’s radar, and for very good reason. Malta is becoming something of a sleeper hit for those looking for an affordable Mediterranean getaway and its popularity is only going to increase.
Part of the reason for the new travel obsession with Malta would be its crowning jewel of a capital — Valletta.
Picked as the European Capital of Culture for 2018, Malta’s capital city is one of the smallest in the world but it is packed with great things to do. No trip to Malta is complete without visiting this amazing city and luckily, you only need to plan for one day in Valletta in order to really get a feel for the city.
Though small in size, Valletta has a lot to offer visitors and it’s worth taking the time to explore this beautiful city. Its compact nature makes it ideal for simply spending only one day and though there is lots to see, you will also have time to take in the laid-back nature of the Maltese capital and allow yourself to kick back with a gelato or a drink at a wonderful streetside cafe.
So if you’re planning a trip to Malta and want to make the most out of a visit to its capital city, make sure to check out this Valletta itinerary to help you enjoy the city to its fullest.
Getting To and Around Valletta
If you’re staying in Valletta during your time in Malta and need to arrive there directly from the airport, there are a couple of options available to you. If you’re looking to save some money, your best option is going to be to take the bus.
Bus number X4 leaves frequently from the airport and can get you to Valletta in anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour depending on the state of traffic. The bus costs €1.50-2 for a single journey (prices are raised in the summer season) and you can purchase tickets directly from the driver in cash.
If you want to get where you’re going a little faster and more conveniently, then your best bet is to take a taxi.
You can get a taxi from the rank outside of the airport arrivals hall that will take you to Valletta for about €20, however, you may be able to get there cheaper if you use the Bolt app to hail a taxi — often this will cost around €15-20 and you don’t have to worry about not having cash to pay. You can also book a private transfer in advance.
If you’re not staying in the Maltese capital and you plan on relying on public transport to get around whilst in Malta — which we would recommend as the system is extensive and affordable — there are a couple of options when it comes to getting to Valletta.
Assuming that you’re staying in Sliema or St. Julian’s, you could easily take a number of buses to Valletta’s central station. As Maltese cities can be very busy and have quite a lot of traffic, the bus may not be the fastest way to reach Valletta.
Probably the best way to get to Valletta is by ferry. There are ferries that leave from Sliema and Bormla (one of the Three Cities) every half hour. Both journeys only take about five minutes and the views from the harbour are unbeatable. The adult price for a one-way ticket is €1.50 and it costs €2.80 for a return ticket.
Valletta itself is very small and, while you are there, you will only really need to get around on foot. While the city is hilly, it is only 1 kilometre at its widest point so you will never be walking uphill for long and it doesn’t take long to get from one side of Valletta to the other.
There is also much of Valletta that is completely pedestrianised which means that it is a walker’s dream and makes it even easier to get lost while exploring this small city and the waterfront on foot.
One Day in Valletta Itinerary
Though only 1 kilometre long by 500 meters wide, there are a lot of things to in Malta’s capital. However, spending one day in Valletta will allow you to see most everything that is packed into this historic though diminutive capital. Saturated with a rich history, a beautiful setting, a thriving, up-and-coming restaurant and bar scene, it can be difficult to figure out what to do in Valletta. Here are some of our favourite suggestions:
Walk Along The City Walls
This is probably the best way to get your bearings and also a fantastic first step if you’re looking for things to do in Valletta for a day. An excellently preserved medieval city, Valletta is almost completely walled around its peninsula and strolling along these limestone walls provide excellent views Sliema to the south, the Three Cities to the north, and Valletta itself.
While circumnavigating the city, I would recommend taking the time to venture away from the walls and to explore some of Valletta’s beautiful back alleyways. The architecture is stunning and the shade can be a welcome refuge from the harsh Maltese sunshine.
Fort St Elmo
Built in the 16th Century by the Order of the Knights of St John, this is Valletta’s most important fort and it was integral in defending Malta during the Great Siege of 1565 when the Ottomans invaded Malta but failed to take the island nation.
You can explore Fort St Elmo and it is one of the best places to visit on a one-day Valletta itinerary, especially if you want to see what has kept Malta so strong and resilient throughout its long history. In the fort, you can also visit the National War Museum where you can learn about how Malta has withstood centuries of conflict.
St John’s Co-Cathedral
To be completely honest, I’m not generally the first person to jump at the chance to explore a cathedral. In most European cities, I’ve found that they all kind of look the same and it’s given me something of an “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” attitude. However, this is not the case with St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.
The former headquarters for the Order of the Knights of St. John, the cathedral’s dome is the definitive aspect of Valletta’s skyline.
The architecture inside is just as impressive, however, and there is also a massive collection of artistic works by the Renaissance painter Caravaggio, who sought refuge there while wanted for murder in Italy. The most famous of his paintings on display in the cathedral is his depiction of the beheading of St. John the Baptist.
Malta is a very Catholic country and, as such, there are many beautiful churches to explore. However, if you’re only dedicating one day to your Valletta itinerary and only go to one church, make it this one. It is well worth the €15 entrance fee.
Upper (and Lower!) Barrakka Gardens
The Upper Barraka Gardens are public gardens situated at the highest point of Valletta’s city walls. They are a lush place to relax while also commanding stunning views of the harbour and the Three Cities.
If you’re wondering what top things to do in Valletta for one day, The Upper Barrakka Garden, though quite popular, is a must. There are also a number of statues and memorials throughout the garden and also a nice cafe where you get get a cold beverage to take the edge off a warm day.
If you’re looking for the same stunning views and tranquil landscapes with fewer tourist crowds, head to the Lower Barraka Garden. Twinned with its larger neighbour, there is no cafe here but there are a number of benches and the scenery is just as nice. These can be a great place to get away from the busyness of Valletta.
Get Lost on Valetta’s Streets
As mentioned earlier, Valletta is only 1000 metres by 500 metres and the entire city is built on a grid system, so it is impossible to actually get lost in the Maltese capital. However, its small size and logical streets make it the ideal place to just allow yourself to wander for an hour or two and see where your feet will take you.
Some of the most beautiful parts of Valletta lie away from the main tourist drags or shopping streets and if you just wander around for a bit, you are sure to experience all of the charms and beauty that this tiny city has to offer.
The terraced pedestrian lanes and the beautiful Maltese balconies overlooking them are scenes that you can’t really get in other cities in Europe and getting a bit away from the tourist crowds will certainly make you appreciate how unique Valletta truly is.
Taking a city walking tour is a great way to discover some of these spots with a local guide.
And if you want to visit a few more historic sites, then consider heading to the Casa Rocca Piccola to tour a historic house or even to the Grandmasters Palace courtyard for a tranquil escape.
Valletta Restaurants And Bars
One of the things that we were incredibly impressed by in Malta was the quality (and value for money!) of the food. The local cuisine is delicious and there are myriad fantastic restaurants where you can sample it.
There is also a great cafe culture that is worth trying out, even if you only have time for a one-day Valletta itinerary. Below are some of our favourite Valletta restaurants and cafes but if you want to experience the food culture with a knowledgeable local guide, then this Valletta food tour is an excellent choice. Alternatively, this food and culture tour is another great option.
Soul Food is a fantastic vegetarian and vegan restaurant in Valletta. They have a diverse menu that can be a welcome change from the meat-heavy local cuisine or if you’re looking for a healthy lunch. They also serve some wonderful organic local wines making this a great place to sit down, have some nibbles and enjoy a little break while people-watching.
If you’re looking for a good, affordable meal on the go, then look no further than The Submarine. This sandwich shop offers made-to-order sandwiches and salads. The ingredients are both locally sourced and very fresh and they also offer generous portion sizes making it great value for money! It’s located right in the centre of the city and it is a favourite place with both locals and tourists alike.
Tucked away in a picturesque Valletta alley, Cafe Society is truly a great hidden gem of a cocktail bar. The classy, cosy interior is adorned with vintage movie photos and their outdoor seating area provides great views of the sunset from the harbour.
They have a great cocktail menu, a good wine list, and a fabulous selection of local craft beers. They are open from noon – 1 AM every day (except Sunday, when they are closed) making this a great option to drink into the wee hours of the night as well.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience in Valletta without seriously breaking the bank, look no further than Rampila. This restaurant serves absolutely fantastic local fare in an intimate and romantic setting. They have a lovely roof terrace that allows for great views of the nearby City Gate and their wine list is also quite impressive. We cannot recommend this restaurant more.
The Harbour Club
If you’re looking for a fantastic fine dining venue that offers absolutely delicious food, then you can’t go wrong with the Harbour Club.
Situated directly on the Grand Harbour with beautiful views of the Three Cities and overlooking the sea in Valletta, here you can get delicious, fresh Maltese fare, great wine, and fantastic service. This is a pricier place to eat and good for special occasions, but it is worth every penny if you want a memorable dining experience.
Where to Stay in Valletta
Though you can easily spend one day in Valletta and see it all, many like to stay in the Maltese capital in order to experience the small city at all times of the day. Due to its diminutive size, however, there aren’t a lot of accommodation options available in Valletta. However, if you’re wondering where to stay, these are our top suggestions:
Domus Zamittello Hotel – This hotel, located in the heart of Valletta and within a stone’s throw of the beautiful Upper Barrakka Garden, is a fantastic place to rest your head in the Maltese capital. They have a number of spacious and comfortable rooms available, a free breakfast included, and a helpful staff to ensure you have a great visit. Click here to check availability
The Saint John – This hotel is the perfect place to stay in you have a higher budget and are looking for a bit of luxury on your trip to Malta. Excellently located in Valletta, they have a number of wonderful, air-conditioned rooms on offer, fantastic facilities, and 24-hour reception. Click here to check availability
U Collection – If you’d like to have your own space in Valletta, then these apartments are a great option. They have a number of flats to choose from and all come fully furnished with everything you may need for your stay. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Valletta!
Though small in size, spending one day in Valletta is absolutely one of the best things you can do when visiting Malta. Packed with many historical sites, wonderful restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife, you certainly won’t be left wondering what to do in Valletta!
Are you planning to visit Valletta? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!
Would like to point out that the traditional balconies that are posted here are in Sliema not Valletta, but similar(and even nicer ) balconies can also be enjoyed in valletta 🙂
Thank you for pointing that out! I’ve changed the photo to one in Valletta 🙂
I was in the US Navy in 1971 and Valletta, Malta was a frequently visited port for us on my Med. cruise. I would like to say that the people living there had a wonderful custom of daily strolls on their main street in the evening. It was a pleasure to join the crowd and walk along with them! They are pleasant people and it’s very comfortable to join in the process of strolling up and down the downtown’s main streets, right along with them!
Sounds like quite a nice memory, Kenneth!