Valletta, Malta 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 Malta itinerary is complete without visiting this amazing city so if you’re wondering what to do if you want to spend one day in Valletta, check out this guide to get you started!
How To Get There
If 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 journies 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.
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.
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 dedicated one day to your Valletta itinerary and only go to one church, make it this one. It is well worth the €10 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 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 it’s 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.
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. Here are some of our favourite Valletta restaurants and cafes:
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 5:30 PM – 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 from the city walls and their wine list is also quite impressive. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of beef carpaccio, fresh mussels, lampuki, and octopus in garlic. We finished it with a divine tiramisu and some wonderful limoncello. We cannot recommend this restaurant more.
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 it’s 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 see their latest prices
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 see their latest prices
Airbnb — If the above two options are a bit out of your price range, there are a handful of Airbnb properties — both private rooms and full apartments — in Valletta that can be much more agreeable to budget-conscious travellers. Make sure to book well in advance if you have your heart set on staying in the capital. If you’re new to Airbnb, you can click here to get up to $40 off your first stay!
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 a one day in Valletta itinerary? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!