Read Caption
Upper Barrakka Gardens offers a high vantage from which Valletta's Grand Harbour can be viewed. (Photograph by Simon Reddy, Alamy)

Clive’s Valletta (Malta)

Clive Cortis has spent the past 40 years in Malta and doesn’t “regret one single year.” He spends his days as a certified tour guide, showing off the things he loves about the island’s capital city of Valletta. From sandy beaches to exceptional nightlife, here are some of Clive’s favorite things about this Mediterranean city by the sea.

Valletta, Malta is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place that I take them is a walking tour along the main streets. We start at Barrakka Gardens where one can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Grand Harbour of Malta. When one is looking for a perfect break, I always suggest visiting my city because it has the ideal mix of culture, lifestyle, shopping, sightseeing, and joie de vivre.

You can see my city best from various vantage points like Barrakka Gardens, Hastings Gardens and from the bastions that surround it.

Locals know to skip diet foods and check out lovely lunches and dinners instead.

Museums and artisan shops are the places to buy authentic local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Caravaggio, Sir Walter Scott, and Princess Elizabeth (the current Queen Elizabeth II) have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the National Museum of Archaeology because it houses original artifacts from our megalithic temples, which are considered the oldest free-standing monuments in the world.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s how easy it is to walk around. Valletta is a peninsula, heavily fortified with 16th century walls surrounding it, and it follows a grid plan. Valletta covers only 0.5 square miles which makes it very accessible to visitors.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is in one of the gardens enjoying spectacular views, in various piazzas surrounded by baroque palaces, sitting on a bench and people watching, or, on the hour every hour, walk down to piazza San Giorgio where a contemporary water jet fountain is synchronized with classic museum. Believe me, it’s a must!

My city really knows how to celebrate our traditional feasts where the statue of our patron saint is carried around the city on richly decorated streets full of lights, flags, food stalls, and fireworks.

You can tell if someone is from my city if he/she is speaking Maltese—a mix of an Arabic dialect written in the Latin form with strong influences from Italian, French, Spanish and the Latin world.

For a fancy night out, I would have dinner at one of the restaurants at the Valletta waterfront, or at a restaurant in the heart of the city where some of them are situated inside 17th century palaces, or have a nice meal accompanied with a nice bottle of Maltese wine in one of the wine bars. After that, I’d have a drink or two on Straight Street, the place were British naval officers in the past enjoyed their free time. Today this street it’s full of memories and charm with stylish bars inside 17th century buildings.

Just outside my city you’re spoiled for choice: the oldest free-standing monuments in the world, like Hagar Qim temples; Mdina, the old capital city of Malta, is a typical medieval city with narrow winding streets built on layers of remains from Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine and Arab rule; to rocky or sandy beaches; to new cities like Sliema, St Julians or Paceville were most of the new five-star hotels and the main night life scene are situated; to quite typically old villages where time stands still.

My city is known for being “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.”

The best outdoor market in my city is on Sunday, situated just outside the walls of Valletta and open until noon.

Piazza Regina is my favorite place to have breakfast and the Valletta waterfront is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Malta & Gozo Day By Day.

My city’s biggest sports event is the Rolex Middle Sea Race where close to 100 yachts—from international renowned maxi yachts to local sailing yachts—compete in a 606 nautical mile race and is sailed anti clockwise. They sail up to Sicily next to Mount Etna, and then to the straits of Messina, Aeolian islands, Egadi islands, Lampedusa, and back to Valletta.

When I’m feeling cash strapped I have a Cisk, our local beer where a pint costs only €3.50, and it’s delicious!

To escape the crowds I visit Hastings Gardens or San Anton Gardens, which are only 15 minutes away from Valletta. Next to these gardens one can find the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa, one of the first five-star hotels built in Malta with lovely gardens where one can have a nice lunch or dinner away from the crowd, or various treatments at the Corinthia Spa—a treat were one should not miss!

If my city were a celebrity it would be Sophia Loren because she’s a timeless Mediterranean sophisticated beauty.

The dish that represents my city best is fresh fish from our surrounding Mediterranean Sea and Cisk beer is my city’s signature drink.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral is my favorite building in town because it’s a perfect example of Baroque opulence.

Piazza Regina is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance check out the towns of St. Julians/Paceville area.

The Fireworks Festival, The Isle of MTV, and The Jazz Festival can only happen in my city.

In the spring you should enjoy nice temperatures where one can easily walk around in comfortable clothes and enjoy the city’s contrast of colors—the yellow color of our stone, the blue skies, and blue seas.

In the summer you should protect yourself from the direct sun, especially if one arrives from a not so sunny environment, drink a lot of water, and enjoy a nice dip in our clear blue sea—so inviting!

In the fall you should remember that you swam in the summer. ☺

In the winter you should visit our various cultural sites like museums, churches, and historical houses when temperatures would be approximately 63 F.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Popeye Village.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is Barry White’s “My First, My Last, My Everything.”