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A city break in Valletta, European Capital of Culture 2018

St John’s co-cathedral in Valletta. — IStock.com pic via AFP
St John’s co-cathedral in Valletta. — IStock.com pic via AFP

VALLETTA (Malta), Jan 14 — On January 20, Valletta will become the European Capital of Culture. The year’s festivities will include the International Baroque Festival, a carnival, plus artistic installations and exhibits. Keep reading to find a list of the must-see tourist attractions in the Maltese capital which celebrated its 450th anniversary last year.

How to get there

Malta is served by regular airlines, with a few low-cost carriers including Ryanair, Wizz Air and Vueling connecting to this former British enclave. Malta’s only airport is near the town of Luqa, around 6km from Valletta, which is easy to get to by bus. Valletta has good bus and boat connections to the seaside resort of Sliema, which is very popular with tourists. You can also get to Malta by boat from Sicily.

One of Valletta’s charming historic streets. — IStock.com pic via AFP
One of Valletta’s charming historic streets. — IStock.com pic via AFP

The place you have to visit

As the capital of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem and of Rhodes, Valletta is home to Saint John’s co-cathedral, whose unassuming exterior belies the opulent splendour within. The unique floor is covered in no fewer than 374 marble tombstones. The highest-ranking Knights of the Order are buried here. There is an adjoining museum if you are interested in delving further into the cathedral’s history.

A good spot to take a break

Viewed from the sky, or the bay opposite, it’s clear that Valletta is a fortified city, boasting many examples of its storied past. An ideal spot for a moment of calm is the Upper Barraca Gardens, which have been built in a prominent position overlooking the city. Further down you can see the Saluting Battery, a 16th century artillery battery that is still in operation today.

Facing Valletta, the Three Cities of Senglea, Vittoriosa and Cospicua will complete your immersion in the history of the Knights of the Order of Malta. — IStock.com pic via AFP
Facing Valletta, the Three Cities of Senglea, Vittoriosa and Cospicua will complete your immersion in the history of the Knights of the Order of Malta. — IStock.com pic via AFP

Visiting the surrounding area

If you have another 24 hours, you could take a trip to the Three Cities which can be seen from the Upper Barraca Gardens. Senglea, Vittoriosa and Cospicua will complete your immersion in the history of the Knights of the Order of Malta.

How to transform your weekend break into a longer vacation

Malta is not a seaside destination, but is loved by hikers and divers. The Blue Grotto in the south, which is just 43 metres long, is particularly special. You can take a typical Maltese painted boat out close to the seven spectacular sea caverns. In a similar vein, the Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino is a paradise for swimmers and snorkelers. — AFP-Relaxnews

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