2018 is a big year for Malta. Its beautiful walled capital, Valletta, is the European Capital of Culture and has been gearing up for a year of festivities. The tiny butterscotch city was built by the Knights of St John over 500 years ago and has a rich, artistic culture that has ensured its UNESCO status.
Malta gets more than 300 days of sunshine a year and is surrounded by clear blue waters, some of the cleanest in the Mediterranean.
The European Capital of Culture 2018 year officially begins on January 20th, 2018 during Valletta’s International Baroque Festival and continues with a host of events: performances, exhibitions and street parties.
Things to see and do in Valletta
Image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Start at the City Gate and check out Malta’s new parliament by Italian architect Renzo Piano, before walking down Republic Street.
Here you will discover the heart of the city with its boutique shops and bay window apartments.
Image by Tony Hisgett (Flickr/Creative Commons)
From there you can visit the National Archaeological Museum and discover Malta’s Neolithic Temples or step inside St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the Knights’ Church, which is covered in gold, paint and coloured marble.
The Baroque masterpiece is also home to one of Caravaggio's greatest paintings: The Beheading of John the Baptist.
If you’re a history buff, then the Grandmaster’s Palace offers a lavish illustration of Maltese culture. While music lovers can enjoy fantastic plays and concerts at the Manoel theatre, which dates back to the sixteenth century.
The Three Cities
Image by Juan Antonio Segal (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Relax in the sunshine at the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which overlooks the Grand Harbour, Three Cities, and the Saluting Battery (cannons are fired daily at noon and 4 pm).
Down at the harbour, you can take a Maltese boat taxi to the ‘Three Cities’ for only £2 each way. It’s a fantastic journey across the water, where you navigate past gigantic cruises chips, before arriving at the other side of the bay.
Here you will discover the sleepy provincial Malta where nothing has changed for decades.
When to go to Malta?
The summer it is the ideal time for sunbathing, swimming, diving and boat trips.
Spring and autumn are ideal for casual sightseeing and day trips when the weather is bright and mild.
Winter is a little more unsettled, but even in December, you can reach highs of 20C. Also, it’s much cheaper than the high-season with hostels dropping their prices accordingly.
Where to stay in Valletta?
Image by Mauro Cacciola (Flickr/Creative Commons)
With its all-year-around sunshine, you can visit the European Capital City of Culture on a budget if you book a hostel. Travel in Malta is cheap too - saving you, even more, money on your trips.
The ferry from Valletta to Sliema takes about 10 minutes, running every 30 minutes, and costs €2.80 ($4) for a round-trip ticket.