2018 is the year to visit Valletta as the city celebrates its tenure as this year’s European Capital of Culture with gusto and awesome programs
Valletta is tiny; you can walk from Triton Fountain near the city gate to the mighty Fort St Elmo at the tip of the peninsula in just 20 minutes. Despite its size, the city has managed to pack a sizeable cultural punch.
Why go now?
Barely a decade ago, visitors to Valletta would have noticed the timeworn buildings sitting wearily among its baroque palazzi. The streets fell eerily quiet after the office workers left for the evening. It was a rundown city on the decline.
But things took a positive change in 2012 when the city was awarded the title European Capital of Culture 2018. Since then, the city and its people worked relentlessly to make Valletta a cultural showpiece once again. They fixed up dilapidated buildings (many are turned into boutique shops and hotels), cleaned the city walls (you can’t even find a stain of bird dropping on them), and put together a series of world-class programs for locals and visitors to enjoy. The transformation is magnificent, so come to Valletta this year and join the island-wide fiesta.
This year’s top 10 programs
- Carnival, 9-13 February 2018 – this colourful celebration sees marching bands, fancy-dressed dancers and handmade floats.
- HUSH, 17-18 March 2018 – a moving musical performed by the Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre.
- Dance Showcases, May 2018 – Jonzi D, one of the world’s master hip-hop artists, works with participants to show the best.
- Malta World Music Festival, May 2018 – celebrates the diversity of the world we live in today through music.
- Valletta Film Festival, June 2018 – films screens and ideas exchanged at various locations around the city.
- Malta International Jazz Festival, July 2018 – big names congregate in Valletta and promise to thrill the audience by playing contemporary jazz styles that are dominating the musical scene.
- Mediterranean Literature Festival, 23-25 August 2018 – includes a week-long Literary Translation Workshop.
- Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, 11, 13 and 15 September 2018 – a rework of Verdi’s Aida in the open-air Pjazza Teatru Rjal.
- Science in the city, 28 September 2018 – educational activities to delight visitors of all ages.
- Notte Bianca, 6 October 2018 – apart from live music, dance, film and theatre performances, Valletta also opens its museums, historic buildings and galleries to the public free of charge.
St John’s Co-Cathedral
You may walk past without paying attention to the austere building, but be prepared to stand in awe when you step onto its marble floor and look at its gilded vaults and painted ceilings. Pro tips: visit the masterpiece “The Beheading of St John the Baptist” by Caravaggio. It’s said that this is the only painting that he signed.
Grand Master’s Palace
Owned by the Knights of St John, this 16th-century palace is packed with stunning artefacts. One of the green balconies outside is said to be the first balcony ever built in Malta. It currently houses the office of the President of Malta.
The time-trapped Mdina is only 30 minutes away by bus – take bus 51, 52, 53 at the bus terminal outside the city wall of Valletta. Wander around, then make your way to Bastion Square which offers panoramic views.
Before you go, see the complete Valletta travel guide.
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