The Maltese capital is the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Here’s why it’s time to discover, or rediscover, this Mediterranean jewel
Check out some of the highlights of the European Capital of Culture programme in Valletta, find out why Malta should be on your holiday wish list and make exclusive member savings on short breaks…
Why go to Malta?
Boasting more than 300 days of sunshine a year and some of the cleanest waters of the Mediterranean, Malta is a firm holiday favourite, but there’s so much more to this island than just sun, sea and sand.
Its history spans 7,000 years and its earliest archaeological sites and wonderfully preserved megalithic temples are the oldest free-standing buildings in the world, even older than the Egyptian pyramids.
The coastline of Gozo, one of the Maltese islands
It might only be around 15 miles long by nine miles wide, but this picturesque island – the largest in the Maltese archipelago – packs in the historic sights, from the ninth-century defence bastions of the Silent City, Mdina, to the 16th-century St John's Co-Cathedral and the Palace of the Grand Masters in Valletta.
Take time to see Malta’s natural wonders, too. You’ll be amazed by the Dingli cliffs, the perfect spot to watch the sun set on the horizon, the Blue Grotto caverns and the stunning Blue Lagoon on the tiny car-free island of Comino, home to hilltop villages and pretty fishing harbours.
The fishing village of Marsaxlokk, Malta
If that isn’t enough to tempt you, Malta is just over three hours’ flying time from the UK and has a burgeoning culinary scene, heavily influenced by neighbouring Sicily and with a dash of North African spice.
The Blue Lagoon on Comino
The city of Valletta
Malta's compact but elegant capital city is on a peninsula surrounded by bastion walls and the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea. It’s bursting with historical treasures. In fact, when UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1980, it described it as 'one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world’.
Valletta was built by the Knights of St John after they almost lost their island to the Ottoman Turks in the Great Siege of 1565. They built the city on a grid for defence, but this also gives Valletta a sense of grandeur, helped by its baroque architecture. Don’t miss the city’s museums, such as the National Museum of Archaeology, and the Manoel Theatre, one of the oldest ‘working’ theatres in the world.
Valletta's old streets
Enjoy the views as you walk around the city walls, particularly from the Upper Barrakka Gardens for stunning panoramic views of the Grand Harbour. From the harbour, you can take a cruise and see the city from a whole new perspective.
European Capital of Culture 2018
There’s always something happening in Valletta but this year there are even more reasons to visit. More than 400 special events and 140 projects are planned as part of the city’s Capital of Culture status.
There will be exhibitions of art and photography, fashion shows, concerts, music festivals, workshops, film screenings, theatre productions, fireworks and carnivals, put together by a collaboration of around 1,000 local and international artists, performers, writers, designers, choirs and film-makers.
Merchant Street, Valletta
The fun kicks off this month (4-13 February) with the Maltese Carnival, when the city’s historic streets come alive with marching bands and revellers dancing on floats in elaborate costumes.
Later in February, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra will join with a rock band for a special performance of Rockquiem, a rock reimagining of Mozart’s famous last work, at St Agatha’s Auditorium, Rabat.
On 7 June, a public holiday in Malta, Valletta’s Grand Harbour will become the backdrop for the Pageant of the Seas, with swimming and boat races, water performances and finishing off with a spectacular fireworks display and light show.
View of Valletta from the water
Throughout the spring and summer a flagship visual arts exhibition will see large installations and performances appear across the islands.
Based on the theme of Dal-Baħar Madwarha, inspired by a quote from the work of philosopher Gilles Deleuze and meaning ‘The island is what the sea surrounds’, the exhibition is being created by emerging artists from 15 countries, and will explore Malta's close relationship with the sea and how it shapes the country's national identity.
For more about what’s happening in Valletta this year, go to the dedicated website.