Alighting off the bus at the Floriana terminus, I walk across the small bridge spanning the deep ditch and pass through the city gate. The city immediately opens up before me as I walk down the main thoroughfare of Republic Street. Valletta, the capital city of Malta, was originally known as “the city for gentlemen, built by gentlemen” (or words to that effect). Today it is much more than that. Not only do gentlemen (of the contemporary kind) still walk the streets, but also an abundance of international tourists and the local Maltese themselves who come here for a spot of shopping, coffee or lunch.
Valletta is not just Maltese. It is also European and a World Heritage City. The layout of streets in a grid pattern makes it easy to navigate, and the different styles of architecture in its buildings give it a cosmopolitan vibe that breathes constant life into it and creates an atmosphere that echoes renaissance period European cities like Venice and Florence. The hidden beauty of Valletta is that it is compact and not sprawling like most major cities, which is a delight especially if you only have a limited time to explore it.
My visits to Valletta usually consist firstly of a morning coffee and sweet delight at either CafÉ Royale or Charles Grech, both in Republic Street (the continental donuts at CafÉ Royale are worth a special mention), then whatever shopping or other business I need to attend to.
Continental Donuts at Cafe Royale
Once I have completed my tasks I seek a place to rest my feet and partake in a bite to eat and a refreshing beverage. There are many cafes and restaurants in Valletta of varying standard and quality. The ones in the main tourist areas of Republic and Merchant streets can be a bit hit and miss so find your way into the back streets and try out some of the smaller establishments which serve delectable and authentic Maltese snacks and dishes. These are usually good value and the service is extra friendly. Two I can highly recommend are the Museum CafÉ in Melita Street and CafÉ Dimitri in St Paul’s Street.
Cafe Dimitri Museum Cafe
Depending on how much time I have, I may go walking around and venture into some of the more extreme corners of the city with their stepped streets and alleyways where I always discover a quaint little shop with an interesting frontage or an old building with character that has history written all over its faÇade. The camera is always at hand and I have captured many nooks and crannies that aren't in the tourist guides.
Shoe Store Fishing Tackle Store
This is just a brief taste of this city that I love so much and there are many other aspects that I will have to leave for another article. My admiration for Valletta has not diminished over the years and actually increases with every visit. I never tire of it and always look forward to my regular outings there. Many people I have met whilst in Valletta usually have the same good opinion of it and although some of the locals take it for granted, there are those who also appreciate its magnificence and endearing qualities that make it special.