Valletta: Europe’s Cultural Capital

The smallest capital city in the world, often gone unheard of, Malta’s capital city, Valletta, is quickly becoming a cultural destination. A hidden gem, Valletta is regaining the title of ‘European Cultural Capital City’, after previously owning the title in 2012. This has invited a host of new creative and cultural projects happening all around the city.
(see: for more information).

Following a recent visit to this beautiful city, I have compiled a list of reasons why this city holds such cultural significance.

  • The History
The Narrow Streets of Valletta.

Valletta was built way back in 1565 by what were known as the ‘Knights of Malta’, the city is surrounded by bastion walls, as it was built for defence purposes during the ‘great siege of Malta’. Every building is made from limestone which creates a very antique feel. It’s hard not to fall in love with its narrow streets and sunny yellow buildings which, when the ever-glowing sun hits, paints a very aesthetically pleasing image of the city.

  • The Architecture
Image Source: ‘The City Gates’

There have been many refurbishments made from the ruins throughout Valletta, the first one you’ll come across would be the new renovation of the ‘City Gate’. Designed by the same architect of ‘The Shard’ in London, Renzo Piano, who also designed the impressive renovation of the royal opera house in Valletta, just a few yards from entering the city. The opera house was refurbished from the old national opera house that was demolished in World War 2. These refurbishments are significant to Malta’s history, as they still hold their original story, yet show how modern Malta is developing as the European capital city of culture.

  • Strait Street (‘The Gut’)
Image Source: ‘Strait Street: A History.

If there’s one place to go for nightlife in Malta, it has got to be to Strait Street. Otherwise known as ‘The Gut’ due to its delightful reputation for ‘rowdiness, prostitution and drunkenness’ back when American, British and Maltese military soldiers occupied the area. Nowadays, the street doesn’t hold such a reputation, but is still home to some of the most popular bars and restaurants in Valletta. You’re still guaranteed to have a memorable night if you take a trip to the famous street!

Strait Street is an important part of Valletta’s cultural significance as it shows a time where multiculturalism was present, with the mix of American. British, and Maltese soldiers residing here. Not only this, but they could socialise together, giving many of the locals the chance to learn English, which eventually led to English being one of the main languages spoken in Malta.

  • Festivals (all year round)
Image Source:

If you’re not already convinced that you should visit Valletta, you’re bound to be tempted after hearing that Malta hosts a range of festivals that go on all year round. With Valletta being the capital city, it is no surprise that many of these festivals take place here. These include the famous ‘Carnival’ taking place during February. The energetic Carnival parades through the streets, with crowds of people drinking and dancing. What’s not to like?!

Other festivals include: ‘Holy Week’ during the week running up to Easter Sunday. As well as various music festivals, including Valletta’s very own ‘International Baroque Music Festival’ which takes place in January, hosting a range of music dating all the way back to the time that the city was built.

Valletta is a city full of culture, and history. Whether your interests lie with the music scene, food, or history, you’re bound to find something to satisfy those needs. As the next European Cultural Capital City, I highly recommend visiting this vibrant, friendly city, so you can see for yourself what the Valletta hype is all about.