Valletta sees up to 60,000 commuters a day if you include the urban arc around it, its harbour and hinterland. It has around 6, 500 residents.
So, visit during the working day and you’ll find the city crowded. Stay there, lingering on when offices close and shops finally roll down shutters and you’ll discover a different side to it.
Even better, stay overnight in Valletta and you’ll smell the bread from its bakeries, hear the hawkers, be woken by its church bells, see the sunrise on its bastions and catch the impressive sight of city-sized cruise liners gliding in and out. Importantly, you can avoid hiring a car and just catch a bus from the terminus on your doorstep when you want to tour Malta – even if last buses home at night are often early!
There are many reasons to stay in Valletta, not just day trip here – mostly all emotional. To read some background and opinion on Valletta – its past, present and where it’s going, click here. It has numerous visitor ‘must-sees’ you can easily do by day. But if you want more from Valletta than shuffling round in queues to see St John’s Co-Cathedral, overnight here. Only then will the city really open up its secrets.
Visitors stay eagerly in most European capitals, so why not Valletta? It is after all one of Europe’s quirkiest, most fascinating and beautiful capitals as well as a slice of World Heritage. And with Valletta a European City of Culture in 2018, prices will rocket so get there now…
Where to Stay
First, there’s the small issue of where to stay. Valletta is most suited to the independent tourist – people who like to do their own thing and take their choice when booking hotels.
Valletta has some venerable, old-fashioned hotels, one refurbished to kind of five-star rating and one newly built, also supposedly five star. Here they are:
The ‘art-deco-styled’ five-star Phoenicia which has a colonial feel – and for better or worse is located by the bus terminus; the Excelsior Grand, also five-star, opened a couple of years ago on the edge of Floriana; the longest established family-run hotel in Malta, the two-star British Hotel, with its impressive harbour views and faded feel; the refurbished Osborne, in South Street near the Fine Arts’ Museum; the ‘superior category three-star’ Castille, which as its name suggests stands next to Castille palace, office of the Prime Minister, in a grand setting.
Be aware though that Valletta accommodation options are not like those on offer in the St Julian’s ‘golden mile’ of five-star hotels & resorts. Most in Valletta are reminiscent of the 1960s even after face lifts; one person commented on TripAdvisor that the Castille Hotel had the atmosphere of a Film Noir! Expect charm, oddities, and interesting buildings.
There are also some small bed & breakfast type places and lower star rated hostels and guest houses. One place is almost worthy of a Mr & Mrs Smith listing – the Valletta G-House, a historic one-bed town house over three levels designed for self-catering. It adds in luxuries like mega thread count sheets and a welcome hamper on arrival! TripAdvisor’s listing and comments are a good round up of what to expect of all Valletta’s hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and hostels.
If you can’t or won’t be staying in Valletta for now, get a feel for those faded hotels by dining lunchtime at the British Hotel – an institution in itself, but with amazing harbour views from your table.
We’ll be adding a post soon on a list of cafes, shops and restaurants worth checking out in Valletta – insider info and those off the main tourist drag.
Photo: Gege Gatt (a Valletta resident)