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Il-Belt Valletta
Humilissima Civitas Valletta
Città Umilissima
City and Local council
Il-Kunsill Lokali tal-Belt Valletta

From up to down: Valletta Skyline, Lower Barrakka Gardens, Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta Waterfront, (the latter located in Floriana).
Flag of Valletta
Coat of arms of Valletta
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Il-Belt
Motto: Città Umilissima
Location within Malta
Location within Malta
Country  Malta
Island Malta
Region Malta Xlokk
District Southern Harbour
Founded 1566
 • Mayor Alexiei Dingli (PN)
 • Total 0.8 km2 (0.3 sq mi)
Elevation 56 m (184 ft)
Population (March 2013)
 • Total 6,675
 • Density 8,300/km2 (22,000/sq mi)
Demonym Belti (m), Beltija (f), Beltin (pl)
Postal code VLT
Dialing code 356
Patron Saints Saint Dominic, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Saint Paul, Saint Augustine
Feast Days 3 August & 10 February
Website Official website

Valletta is the capital city of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt (English: The City) in Maltese. Geographically, it is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta having its eastern coast with access to the Marsamxett Harbour and its western coast in the Grand Harbour. The historical city has a population of 6,675.[1] Valletta is the second southernmost capital of the EU member states after Nicosia, Cyprus.

Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as Knights Hospitaller. The city is essentially Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture in selected areas, though World War II left major scars on the city; particularly the demolition of The Royal Opera House. The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.[2]

The official name given by the Order of Saint John was Humilissima Civitas Valletta—The Most Humble City of Valletta, or Città Umilissima in Italian. The bastions, curtains and ravelins along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches, led the ruling houses of Europe to give the city its nickname SuperbissimaMost Proud.


  • History 1
  • Government 2
    • National government 2.1
    • Local government 2.2
  • Geography 3
    • Climate 3.1
  • Cityscape 4
  • Culture 5
    • Saint James Cavalier 5.1
    • Music 5.2
    • Carnival 5.3
    • Feasts 5.4
  • Transport 6
  • Sports 7
  • Cultural references 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Historical affiliations
Mural in Valletta showing the city's construction

The building of a city on the Sciberras Peninsula was proposed soon after the arrival of the Order of Saint John in Malta in 1530. Back then, the only building on the peninsula was a small watchtower dedicated to Erasmus of Formia (Saint Elmo). In 1552, the watchtower was demolished and the larger Fort Saint Elmo was built in its place.[3]

In the Great Siege of 1565, Fort Saint Elmo fell to the Turks, but the Order eventually won the siege with the help of Spanish reinforcements. The victorious Grandmaster, Jean de Valette, immediately set out to build a new fortified city on the Sciberras Peninsula to fortify the Order's position in Malta and bind the Knights to the island. The city took his name and was called La Valletta.

The Grandmaster asked the European kings and princes for help, and he received a lot of assistance, due to the increased fame of the Order after their victory in the Great Siege. Pope Pius V sent his military architect, Francesco Laparelli, to design the new city, while Philip II of Spain sent substantial monetary aid. The foundation stone of the city was laid by Grandmaster de Valette on 28 March 1566. He placed the first stone in Our Lady of Victories Church.

In his book Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et Illustrissima Militia di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano (English: The History of the Sacred Religion and Illustrious Militia of St John of Jerusalem), written between 1594 and 1602, Giacomo Bosio writes that when the cornerstone of Valletta was placed, a group of Maltese elders said: "Iegi zimen en fel wardia col sceber raba iesue uquie" (Which in modern Maltese reads, "Jiġi żmien li fil-Wardija [l-Għolja Sciberras] kull xiber raba’ jiswa uqija", and in English, "There will come a time when every piece of land on Sciberras Hill will be worth its weight in gold").[4]

Valletta 3D

De Valette died from a stroke on 21 August 1568 at age 74 and never saw the completion of his city. Originally interred in the church of Our Lady of the Victories, his remains now rest in St. John's Co-Cathedral among the tombs of other Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta.

Francesco Laparelli was the city's principal designer and his plan departed from medieval Maltese architecture, which exhibited irregular winding streets and alleys. He designed the new city on a rectangular grid plan, and without any collacchio (an area restricted for important buildings). The streets were designed to be wide and straight, beginning centrally from the City Gate and ending at Fort Saint Elmo (which was rebuilt) overlooking the Mediterranean; certain bastions were built 153 feet (47 m) tall. His assistant was the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, later oversaw the construction of the city himself after Laparelli's death in 1570.

The city of Valletta was mostly complete by the early 1570s, and it became the capital in 1571 when the Grandmaster moved from his seat at Fort St Angelo in Vittoriosa to the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta. Seven Auberges were built for the Order's Langues, and these were complete by the 1580s. An eighth Auberge, Auberge de Bavière, was later added in the 18th century.

In António Manoel de Vilhena's reign, it was decided to build more fortifications to protect Valletta, and these were named the Floriana Lines after the architect who designed them. A town eventually began to form between the walls of Valletta and the Floriana Lines, and this evolved from a suburb of Valletta to Floriana, a town in its own right.

In 1749, Muslim slaves plotted to kill Grandmaster Pinto and take over Valletta, but the revolt was suppressed before it even started due to their plans leaking out to the Order. Later on in his reign, Pinto embellished the city with Baroque architecture, and many important buildings such as Auberge de Castille were remodeled or completely rebuilt in the new architectural style.

In 1775, during the reign of Ximenes, an unsuccessful revolt known as the Revolt of the Priests occurred in which Fort Saint Elmo and Saint James Cavalier were taken by rebels, but the revolt was eventually suppressed.

In 1798, the Order left the islands and the French occupation of Malta began. After the Maltese rebelled, French troops continued to occupy Valletta and the surrounding harbour area, until they capitulated to the British in September 1800. In 1801, the British Civil Commissioner, Henry Pigot, wanted to demolish the majority of the city's fortifications. Fortunately this was not done and the fortifications survive to this day.[5]

Eventually building projects in Valletta resumed under British rule. These projects included widening gates, demolishing and rebuilding structures, widening newer houses over the years, and installing civic projects. The Malta Railway linked Valletta with the city of Mdina from 1883 to 1931.

Nazi and Fascist air raids throughout the Second World War caused much destruction in Valletta and the rest of the harbour area. The Royal Opera House, constructed at the city entrance in the 19th century, was one of the buildings lost to the raids.[3]

In 1980, the 24th Chess Olympiad took place in Valletta.[6]

The entire city of Valletta has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, along with Megalithic Temples of Malta and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum.[7]

Valletta was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2018. It is currently undergoing restoration of historic buildings, installation of new monuments, rebuilding the city entrance and various other projects.


Auberge de Castille, the Office of the Prime Minister
Grandmaster's Palace, the Office of the President and the House of Representatives

National government

Valletta is the capital city of Malta and houses the Offices of the President and Prime Minister, the parliament, the courthouse and many government departments.

Local government

Alexiei Dingli has been the Mayor of Valletta since 2008. He was elected on the Nationalist Party (PN) ticket, an affiliate of the European People's Party, which holds the majority of the Council. Dingli has been reconfirmed mayor of Valletta following the Local Council election held in March 2013 whereas Christian Micallef was elected as deputy mayor for the first time.


Satellite view of Valletta

The Valletta peninsula has two natural harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour. The Grand Harbour is Malta's major port, with unloading quays at nearby Marsa. A cruise-liner terminal is located along the old seawall of the Valletta Waterfront that Grandmaster Manuel Pinto de Fonseca built.


Valletta features a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Valletta experiences a lack of precipitation during the summer months and heavier precipitation during the winter months. Winter temperatures are moderated by the city’s proximity to the sea. As a result, Valletta enjoys mild winters. Average high temperatures range from around 15 °C (59 °F) in January to about 30 °C (86 °F) in August, while average low temperatures range from around 10 °C (50 °F) in January to 22 °C (72 °F) in August. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Csa" (Mediterranean Climate).

Climate data for Valletta, Malta 1960-1990 (Records 1947-2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.2
Average high °C (°F) 15.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 12.2
Average low °C (°F) 9.2
Record low °C (°F) 1.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 89.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 169.0 178.0 227.0 253.0 309.0 336.0 376.0 352.0 270.0 223.0 195.0 161.0 3,049
Source #1: ClimateData.EU,[8]
Source #2: NSO Malta,[9]


UNESCO World Heritage Site
City of Valletta
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Type Cultural
Criteria i, vi
Reference 131
UNESCO region Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1980 (4th Session)
The relatively austere interior of St. Barbara's Church
Casa Rocca Piccola's dining room
The 3,000 year old "Sleeping Lady" of Hal Saflieni
The Royal Opera House, bombed to the ground during World War II
The Lower Barrakka Gardens and its monuments of remembrance

The architecture of Valletta's streets and piazzas ranges from mid-16th century Baroque to Modernism. The city is the island's principal cultural centre and has a unique collection of churches, palaces and museums and act as one of the city's main visitor attractions. When Benjamin Disraeli, future British Prime Minister, visited the city in 1830, he described it as "a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen," and remarked that "Valletta equals in its noble architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe," and in other letters called it "comparable to Venice and Cádiz" and "full of palaces worthy of Palladio."[10][11]

Buildings of historic importance include St John's Co-Cathedral, formerly the Conventual Church of the Knights of Malta. It has the only signed work and largest painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The Auberge de Castille et Leon, formerly the official seat of the Knights of Malta of the Langue of Castille, Léon and Portugal, is now the office of the Prime Minister of Malta. The Magisterial Palace, built between 1571 and 1574 and formerly the seat of the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, now houses the Maltese Parliament and offices of the President of Malta.

The National Museum of Fine Arts is a Rococo palace dating back to the late 1570s, which served as the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet during the British era from 1789 onwards. The Manoel Theatre (Maltese: Teatru Manwel) was constructed in just ten months in 1731, by order of Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena, and is one of the oldest working theatres in Europe. The Mediterranean Conference Centre was formerly the Sacra Infermeria. Built in 1574, it was one of Europe's most renowned hospitals during the Renaissance. The fortifications of the port, built by the Knights as a magnificent series of bastions, demi-bastions, ravelins and curtains, approximately 100 metres (330 ft) high, all contribute to the unique architectural quality of the city.

Public housing is located within Valletta's walls. Originally the Order planned to construct for its navy a man-made anchorage in the area known as Manderaggio (Maltese: il-Mandraġġ), but never completed this plan. Instead, the area became a jumble of buildings with dark alleyways. In the 1950s the city partially demolished the Manderaggio, and rebuilt it as a housing estate.


Valletta has been designated European Capital of Culture for 2018.[12]

Saint James Cavalier

Saint James Cavalier, formerly a raised gun platform, was converted into a Centre of Creativity in the year 2000 as part of Malta's Millenium Project. It now houses a small theatre, a cinema, music rooms and art galleries. Various exhibitions are regularly held there. Since it was opened it has welcomed over a million visitors.[13]


Jazz music in Malta was introduced in the Strait Street area, frequented by Allied sailors during both world wars. Malta's Jazz Festival took place here. Strait Street is also known as The Gut. This area is undergoing a programme of regeneration. The city's dual band clubs are the "King's Own Band Club" (Maltese: L-Għaqda Mużikali King's Own) and "La Valette National Philarmonic Society" (Maltese: Is-Soċjetà Filarmonika Nazzjonali La Valette).


Valletta is the scene of the Maltese Carnival, held in February leading up to Lent. Carnival in Gozo is celebrated in Victoria and parishes in both islands hold their own festivities.


  • Malta International Music Master Classes - all levels from beginners to professionals piano, violin, saxophone, guitar, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, tuba, chamber music ensemble, the composition and improvisation*VFIMF & Central Academy of Arts
  • The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated on 16 July
  • Saint Paul's feast is celebrated on 10 February
  • Saint Dominic's feast is celebrated in Valletta on 4 August or before
  • The feast of Saint Augustine is celebrated on the third Sunday after Easter
  • The city's residents also conduct an annual procession in honor of St. Rita


Malta International Airport serves Valletta, with the airport located 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the city in the town of Luqa. Malta's public transport system, which uses buses, operates mostly on routes to or from Valletta, with their central terminus just outside the city's entrance. Traffic within the city itself is restricted, with some principal roads being completely pedestrian areas. In 2006, a park and ride system was implemented in order to increase the availability of parking spaces in the vicinity of the city. People can leave their personal vehicles in a nearby Floriana parking lot and transfer to a van for the rest of the trip, which takes a mere few minutes.

In 2007 a congestion pricing scheme was implemented, the Controlled Vehicular Access system, in order to reduce long-term parking stays and traffic while promoting business in the city.[14][15] An ANPR-based automated system takes photos of vehicles as they enter and exit the charging zone and vehicle owners are billed according to the duration of their stay. Various exemptions and flexible billing rules make the system the next evolutionary step of systems like the London congestion charge programme. Main differences from the London system include ex post invoicing (with financial incentives/penalties for early/late payment), prepayments not day-specific, hourly instead of daily rates, a maximum daily charge (8 hours), free dashes (free if duration under 30 minutes), defined free access periods for delivery and service vehicles.[14]

Valletta is served by a fleet of electric taxis which transport riders from 10 points in Valletta to any destination within the city.[16]


Cultural references


  1. ^ Estimated Population by Locality 31st March, 2013. Malta Government Gazette 19,094. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  2. ^ - Valletta profile at UNESCO World Heritage Centre website]
  3. ^ a b "History of Valletta". City of Valletta. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Cassar, Mario. "L-Istorja tal-Ilsien Malti". L-Akkademja tal-Malti. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Bonello, Giovanni (18 November 2012). "Let’s hide the majestic bastions".  
  6. ^ "24th Chess Olympiad". OlimpBase. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ name="">"ClimateData.Eu: Climate Valletta Malta". 
  9. ^ name="National Statistics Office Malta""NSO Malta The Climate of Malta: statistics, trends and analysis 1951-2010". 
  10. ^ "Valletta - the Capital City". Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  11. ^ "LP21 - Valletta `Citta Umilissima` Lapel Pin". Collectables - Our Products. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  12. ^ "Valletta - European Capital of Culture 2018". 
  13. ^ "St.James Cavalier Theatre Overview in Valletta, Malta". Island of Gozo. Gozo Tourism Association. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Controlled Vehicular Access, CVA Technology, 1 May 2007
  15. ^ "Valletta traffic congestion considerably reduced". MaltaMedia News. 2007-05-06. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  16. ^ "Valletta gets its own clean taxi service". City of Valletta. Retrieved 3 June 2011. 

External links

  • Valletta Local Council Administration
  • - Enter Malta's MegaMall
  • Valletta 2018 Foundation
  • Valletta Living History
  • Valletta Pictures
  • The Renzo Piano Valletta City Gate Project Press Article Archive
  • Audio recording of a traditional ghost story from Valletta

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