Explore the capital city of Malta with our self-guided Valletta walking tour. It’s an easy and free way to explore if you have just one day in Valletta.
This Valletta city tour starts just outside the main gates but you can join it at any point along the circular route.
Use our free Valletta walking tour map (at the bottom of this page) to help you navigate around the streets and alleyways of the historic capital of Malta.
If you don’t fancy the self-guided version, why not book onto a guided tour of Valletta with a friendly local?
Valletta Walking Tour Starting Point – The Triton Fountain
We start our tour at the impressive Triton Fountain.
Three grand bronze Tritons holding a huge basin of water above their heads stand proudly outside the main gates of Malta’s capital.
The original statue, due to structural errors, collapsed in 1978. But thanks to the local artist and restorator, Kenneth Cauchi, the fountain was dismantled into 54 pieces and then brought back to life as an elaborate piece of art.
It was refurbished just in time to celebrate Valletta’s stint as European Capital of Culture in 2018 and is a popular spot to hang out at any time of the day or night.
It’s located right next to the main Valletta bus terminal and taxi rank if you are taking public transport.
Anyone driving can use the main MCP underground car park just outside the city walls on St Anne Street, Floriana. Postcode for satnav: FRN 1460.
Valletta City Gate
After you’ve admired the circular Triton Fountain, step into the city of Valletta through the controversial yet grand Valletta City Gate.
This fifth and the most modern edition restored during 2011-2014 is often referred to as the ancient Egyptian temple of Edfu.
The grand entrance will lead you across the bridge and onto the 1 km long Republic Street. This stretches the full length of the city from the gate, all the way down to the Fort St Elmo at Valletta’s waterfront.
Bonus: Hidden Gardens – Valletta Walking (De)Tour!
If you want to take a quick detour on this Valletta walking tour then check out Hastings Garden.
This lesser-visited Valletta attraction sits at the top of St. John’s Bastion and St. Michael’s Bastion. Just head up the steps on the left as you enter the city.
Here you can grab a panoramic view of the coastal Maltese towns Floriana, Msida and Sliema. It also overlooks the Manoel Island and Marsamxett Harbour.
This recreational space is dedicated to the British General Francis Marquis of Hastings who was a Governor of Malta during the British period on the island. Today, it’s a nice spot to grab some rare peace on the busy Maltese islands.
New Parliament Building
Next on your Valletta city walking tour is another sight regarded as too contemporary by the many critics – the New Parliament Building. Built at a cost of around 90 million euros, the project has sparked anger and disapproval among many locals.
Standing on stilts at Republic Square, Renzo Piano’s masterpiece blends in well with the rest of the monuments surrounding the area. It consists of two massive stone blocks with laser-cut windows and solar panels covering the roof. The north section houses MPs’ rooms while the south holds parliament offices.
Despite the controversy, the City Gate project has been instrumental in improving this area into a pleasant and beautiful space for everyone to enjoy.
Try to imagine a messy car park next to the derelict Royal Theatre site instead of the New Parliament Building and the restored Royal Opera House. That’s what Valletta entrance was like before 2015 – not so grand!
Royal Opera House Site
As you continue your self-guided Valletta walking tour, stop by the earlier mentioned Royal Opera House to the left of the Parliament building.
This unusual Royal Theatre is another site brought to life after sitting derelict for years as a carpark in Malta’s capital city.
Although it looks a bit like a Roman ruin, the columns are the remnants of the once grand exterior. Before the bomb hit and severely damaged the precious Maltese site during WWII, the Royal Opera House was regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in Valletta.
It was built by Edward Middleton Barry, the British architect who also designed the stunning Covent Garden Theatre in London.
Originally, the Maltese government proposed to clear the site for the Parliament buildings instead. But, luckily, Mr Piano had a better idea. He revived the bombed site as an open-air theatre naming it after its origin structure, Pjazza Teatru Rjal.
Church of Our Lady of Victories
Just behind the Royal Opera House, on your right-hand side, you’ll see the Church of Our Lady of Victories. It’s the first church building completed in Valletta by the Order of St. John in 1566 following the Great Siege of Malta.
The church served as the burial site for Grand Master La Vallette, the 49th GrandMaster and the hero of the Order. Later, his remains were moved to the elaborate John’s Cathedral.
Pop in and see how they are fighting to restore the intricate Alessio Erardi ceiling paintings.
Auberge de Castille
Next up on your guided Valletta walking tour is Auberge de Castille. It sits proudly, looking inland across the recently remodelled plaza area. You’ll find it just past the Church of Our Lady of Victories towards Upper Barrakka Gardens.
The present building dates back to the 1740s in a Baroque style, and it has been called “probably the finest building in Malta.”
It now houses the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta hence the security guards waving away any curious visitors.
Upper Barrakka Gardens and Saluting Battery
You shouldn’t leave Valletta without visiting the two-tier Upper Barrakka Gardens. The view from the upper level is probably the most satisfying on the island.
Just follow the signs to find the gate in. Head straight over to the terrace and soak up the vista across the Grand Harbour towards the “Three Cities” of Malta.
There’s the fortified Birgu jutting out into the sea closely guarded by Sanglea (Isla) and Caspiscua (Bormla).
The Grand Harbour tour boats leisurely pass by showcasing the grandest of the fortifications of Valletta from below. You’ll also see tiny Traditional Maltese fishing boats bobbing up and down the harbour crewed by the local folk.
The public garden at the top tier contains beautiful arches built by the Italian knights and a number of monuments commemorating several famous people including Sir Winston Churchill.
It’s a relaxing spot so, be sure to sit on a bench next to the fountain for a couple of minutes.
The lower tier of the Barrakka Gardens houses the Saluting Battery, overlooking Fort St. Angelo. It was originally used for the firing of the saluting guns but during WWII it was used for military purposes when needed.
Today it’s used for its original purpose and, of course, for tourists’ amusement. Hordes of visitors gather at the upper and lower tiers to hear the loud bang and see the three cities disappear in a cloud of smoke.
The guns usually fire daily at 12pm and 4pm.
At this point, you can either carry on following this Valletta city walking tour or stray away to the tranquil Three Cities. If you have plans to spend a couple of Hours in Birgu, take the Barrakka Lift from the gardens down to boats across to the Three Cities.
There’s a regular ferry or for a truly local experience, jump aboard a fishing boat. The latter, as we mentioned earlier, is run by locals who can even give you a quick 1-hour Grand Harbour tour for a few euros extra.
This is a superbly quirky thing to do in Valletta if you have some spare time.
The Lascaris War Rooms
Back inside the Upper Barrakka Gardens, you’ll find some more military history if that’s your thing. Head down the stairs to discover “Malta’s best-kept secret.” Their words, not ours!
The British began expanding the existing network of tunnels and chambers during the Siege of Malta in 1940.
Completed in 1943, these rooms hidden 150 feet below the city streets were the central hub for directing allied military operations in Malta and the wider Mediterranean.
The complex lived on long after the end of WWII, being used by NATO to intercept Soviet submarines in the Med until shutting down in 1977.
The rooms are now open to the public having been fully restored.
Tourist Information Centre – Merchants Street
If you’re in need of some more info and what to see, do, eat and drink whilst in Malta then pop over to the Tourist Information Centre on Merchants Street.
Follow the map to find it, it’s annoyingly tucked away and non-signposted for a tourist office, but hey, at least it won’t be busy!
Plus, don’t forget to visit our 101 Things to do in Malta post for a full guide to the islands!
National Museum of Archaeology
Back on our self-guided walking tour, head two streets over and back onto the main shopping drag of Republic Street.
Construction of this “auberge” on Republic Street began in 1571. It is one of the first buildings to be erected in Valletta after the Great Siege in the late 16th century and therefore one of the oldest buildings in the city.
It was originally a palace, used by the Knights of Malta, and now houses the National Archaeology Museum of Malta which is worth a quick look.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral Museum
Head a little further along Republic street and you’ll find the visitor entrance to the Cathedral on your right.
Despite its relatively plain exterior, a quick look inside will show you why St. John’s Co-Cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Europe.
Adorned with intricate details, embellished dome ceiling and artwork donated by the knights, it was designed to rival the churches of Rome. The marble floor here houses tombs of around 400 Knights of the Order and so carries massive significance within Malta.
One of the most notable works of art and the one tourists flock to Valetta to see is the Beheading of St John the Baptist by Caravaggio. Considered to be his greatest work, the painting offers a rather gory depiction of human death.
The canvas was commissioned by the Knights of Malta as an altarpiece for the cathedral and is the biggest canvas the artist ever painted. It was also Caravaggio’s only work which he signed.
If you visit, be sure to pick up an audio guide to learn all the details about this masterpiece of shadows.
Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck, Valletta
Head back towards the waterfront along St Lucia’s Street and hang a left on St Paul Street just before the steps.
Here sits the Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck, one of Valletta’s oldest structures, dating back to the 1570s.
It is famous for the wooden statue of St. Paul, which is paraded on the streets of Valletta on February 10th each year during the celebration of St. Paul’s Shipwreck.
Head out of the church and further along St Paul’s Street and then left, down St Christopher’s Street to find…
Lower Barrakka Gardens
Twinned with the Upper Gardens of the same name, Lower Barrakka Gardens are a much smaller and quieter affair.
The view across the Grand Harbour from here is no less impressive though. It’s a lovely spot to take a load off and escape the busier streets of Valletta.
Siege Bell Memorial
Right beside the gardens, you’ll see a giant bell hanging in a simple memorial tower overlooking the Grand Harbour.
It rings out every day at 12 noon in memory of all those who lost their lives during the incessant bombing Malta took during WWII, often known as “The Siege of Malta.”
As the signs warn, the noise is very loud so cover your ears if you’re closeby at midday!
Head back down the monument steps and along Mediterranean Street and seek out the Mediterranean Conference Center on the corner of North Street.
The Knights Hospitallers
Hidden below the conference centre is “The Knights Hospitallers,” an exhibition detailing the medical beginnings of the Order of St John.
Sometimes also known as the Knights of Malta, history generally depicts them as a band of sword-wielding warriors. This attraction focuses instead on their work in the Holy Infirmary, which once stood on this site, treating the sick and injured of the Crusades of the 1500s.
It’s worth a look to experience the spooky network of tunnels running deep into the Valletta rock.
Fort St Elmo – National War Museum
A little further along Meddeteranian Street, sticking out at the very end of Valletta, you’ll find Fort St Elmo. This former gunpowder magazine and armoury is now home to a massive exhibition covering the history of Malta from the bronze age to the 1990s.
If you’ve got the time then it’s a great place to get a handle on the complete history of the islands. There’s a heavy focus on World War II with the St George’s Cross which Malta received for its pivotal role in the allied victory, proudly on display.
Casa Rocca Piccola
Navigate your way back to the furthest end of Republic Street and begin walking back up towards the city gates. Just past St Dominic Street on the left, you’ll see a sign for Casa Rocca Piccola.
Inconspicuous from the outside, stepping through the door here will transport you into the 16th- century palace of a noble Maltese family.
There are 50+ lavishly decorated rooms to explore and the included 45-minute guided tour will take you down to the hidden bomb shelters and tranquil gardens too.
Madonna tal-Karmnu – Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Take a wander along St Christopher’s Street and take a left when you reach Old Mint Street. Further along, here you’ll see the side of The Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the right side of the street.
There’s no shortage of churches to visit in Malta but this one holds a special place for many of the locals. The iconic dome can be seen from far across the country and is easy to pick out of the Valletta skyline.
There’s been a place of worship here since 1570 but the current structure only dates from 1958 despite seamlessly blending into the surrounding streets.
Teatru Manoel – Manoel Theater
Pretty much next door to the church, standing on Old Theatre Street, is Europe’s third-oldest working theatre. This stunning venue has been hosting performances since 19th January 1732.
Nothing special on the exterior, all the magic is hidden inside. Despite multiple alterations over the years, the interior still holds true to the original stunning 18th-century design.
It’s currently home to Malta’s National Theatre and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. Check the listings to catch shows in English or Maltese, including opera, pantomime or a musical.
Grandmaster’s Palace and Armouries
Just a block away from the theatre is the open space of St George’s Square and the imposing facade of the Grandmaster’s Palace.
Built as a home for the “Grandmaster” (ruler of Malta) in the 16th century, it’s been used and altered by various occupants every since. Today it’s home to the office of the President of Malta.
The public can visit the State Rooms and Armoury exhibition areas run by Heritage Malta. Entrance for both of these can be found on Old Theatre Street to the right of the building.
Pop in the entrance regardless as you can wander around one of the two palace courtyards for free.
Queen Victoria Statue
Right across from the Grandmaster’s Palace is Republican Square, called Pjazza Regina or Queen’s Square by the locals. This is your final stop on your self-guided Valletta walking tour.
Look up at the white marble statue located away from Cafe Cordina and in front of the National Library.
It was erected in 1891 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee during British rule, despite her never having visited the country.
It’s also a tribute to Queen Victoria ordering “eight dozen pairs long and eight dozen pairs short mitts, besides a scarf” made from Maltese lace. She’s therefore credited with single-handedly reviving the old tradition of lace-making on the Maltese islands at a time of need.
Come closer to look at the ornate shawl covering Queen’s lap – it’s made from Maltese lace.
From what was a small tea shop in Bormla in the 1800s, Cafe Cordina grew into a Valletta icon. With its striking interior, mouth-watering cakes and pastini, the cafe, located in an old palazzo, is a popular coffee pitstop for both locals and visitors.
Celebrate completing the tour by pulling up a chair at one of the courtyard tables and grabbing something nice to eat and drink.
Despite being a tourist hotspot the prices are reasonable and the service is snappy. Enjoy!
Would you rather explore Valletta by yourself or with a local guide? Let us know in the comments below…