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Il-Belt Valletta
Città Umilissima
Humilissima Civitas Valletta
City and Local council
From top: Skyline, Saluting Battery, Lower Barrakka Gardens, St. John's Co-Cathedral and the city walls
Flag of Valletta
Coat of arms of Valletta
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Il-Belt
Valletta in Malta.svg
Coordinates: 35°53′52″N 14°30′45″E / 35.89778°N 14.51250°E / 35.89778; 14.51250Coordinates: 35°53′52″N 14°30′45″E / 35.89778°N 14.51250°E / 35.89778; 14.51250
Country  Malta
Region South Eastern Region
District Southern Harbour District
Established 28 March 1566
Capital city 18 March 1571
Founded by Jean de Valette
Borders Floriana
 • Mayor Alexiei Dingli (PN)
 • Total 0.8 km2 (0.3 sq mi)
Elevation 56 m (184 ft)
Population (March 2014)
 • Total 6,444
 • Density 8,100/km2 (21,000/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Belti (m), Beltija (f), Beltin (pl)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code VLT
Dialing code 356
ISO 3166 code MT-60
Patron saints St. Dominic
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
St. Paul
St. Augustine
Day of festa 3 August
10 February
Website Official website
Official name City of Valletta
Type Cultural
Criteria i, vi
Designated 1980 (4th session)
Reference no. 131
State Party  Malta
Region Europe and North America

Valletta (/vəˈlɛtə/; Maltese pronunciation: [ˈvɐlɛ.tɐ]) is the capital city of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt (IPA: [ˈil.bɛlt]; English: The City) in Maltese. Geographically, it is located in the South Eastern Region, in the central-eastern portion of the main island of Malta having its western coast with access to the Marsamxett Harbour and its eastern coast in the Grand Harbour. The historical city has a population of 6,444 as of March 2014,[1] while the metropolitan area around it has a population of 393,938.[2] Valletta is the southernmost capital of Europe.

Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as Knights Hospitaller. The city is essentially Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture in selected areas, though World War II left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of The Royal Opera House. The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.[3]

The official name given by the Order of Saint John was Humilissima Civitas Valletta—The Most Humble City of Valletta, or Città Umilissima in Italian. The city's fortifications, consisting of bastions, curtains and cavaliers, along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches, led the ruling houses of Europe to give the city its nickname SuperbissimaMost Proud.


Historical affiliations

Order of Saint John[edit]

Mural in Valletta showing the city's construction

The building of a city on the Sciberras Peninsula had been proposed by the Order of Saint John as early as 1524.[4] Back then, the only building on the peninsula was a small watchtower dedicated to Erasmus of Formia (Saint Elmo), which had been built in 1488. In 1552, the watchtower was demolished and the larger Fort Saint Elmo was built in its place.[5]

In the Great Siege of 1565, Fort Saint Elmo fell to the Ottomans, but the Order eventually won the siege with the help of Spanish reinforcements. The victorious Grand Master, Jean de Valette, immediately set out to build a new fortified city on the Sciberras Peninsula to fortify the Order's position in Malta and bind the Knights to the island. The city took his name and was called La Valletta.

The Grand Master asked the European kings and princes for help, and he received a lot of assistance, due to the increased fame of the Order after their victory in the Great Siege. Pope Pius V sent his military architect, Francesco Laparelli, to design the new city, while Philip II of Spain sent substantial monetary aid. The foundation stone of the city was laid by Grand Master de Valette on 28 March 1566. He placed the first stone in what later became Our Lady of Victories Church.

In his book Dell’Istoria della Sacra Religione et Illustrissima Militia di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano (English: The History of the Sacred Religion and Illustrious Militia of St John of Jerusalem), written between 1594 and 1602, Giacomo Bosio writes that when the cornerstone of Valletta was placed, a group of Maltese elders said: "Iegi zimen en fel wardia col sceber raba iesue uquie" (Which in modern Maltese reads, "Jiġi żmien li fil-Wardija [l-Għolja Sciberras] kull xiber raba’ jiswa uqija", and in English, "There will come a time when every piece of land on Sciberras Hill will be worth its weight in gold").[6]

De Valette died from a stroke on 21 August 1568 at age 74 and never saw the completion of his city. Originally interred in the church of Our Lady of the Victories, his remains now rest in St. John's Co-Cathedral among the tombs of other Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta.

Francesco Laparelli was the city's principal designer and his plan departed from medieval Maltese architecture, which exhibited irregular winding streets and alleys. He designed the new city on a rectangular grid plan, and without any collacchio (an area restricted for important buildings). The streets were designed to be wide and straight, beginning centrally from the City Gate and ending at Fort Saint Elmo (which was rebuilt) overlooking the Mediterranean; certain bastions were built 47 metres (154 ft) tall. His assistant was the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, later oversaw the construction of the city himself after Laparelli's death in 1570.

The city of Valletta was mostly complete by the early 1570s, and it became the capital on 18 March 1571 when Grand Master Pierre de Monte moved from his seat at Fort St Angelo in Birgu to the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta. Seven Auberges were built for the Order's Langues, and these were complete by the 1580s. An eighth Auberge, Auberge de Bavière, was later added in the 18th century.

In Antoine de Paule's reign, it was decided to build more fortifications to protect Valletta, and these were named the Floriana Lines after the architect who designed them, Pietro Paolo Floriani of Macerata.[7] During António Manoel de Vilhena's reign, a town began to form between the walls of Valletta and the Floriana Lines, and this evolved from a suburb of Valletta to Floriana, a town in its own right.

In 1749, Muslim slaves plotted to kill Grandmaster Pinto and take over Valletta, but the revolt was suppressed before it even started due to their plans leaking out to the Order. Later on in his reign, Pinto embellished the city with Baroque architecture, and many important buildings such as Auberge de Castille were remodeled or completely rebuilt in the new architectural style.

In 1775, during the reign of Ximenes, an unsuccessful revolt known as the Rising of the Priests occurred in which Fort Saint Elmo and Saint James Cavalier were taken by rebels, but the revolt was eventually suppressed.[8]

French occupation and British rule[edit]

Bomb damage in Valletta during World War II

In 1798, the Order left the islands and the French occupation of Malta began. After the Maltese rebelled, French troops continued to occupy Valletta and the surrounding harbour area, until they capitulated to the British in September 1800. In the early 19th century, the British Civil Commissioner, Henry Pigot, agreed to demolish the majority of the city's fortifications.[9] The demolition was again proposed in the 1870s and 1880s, but it was never carried out and the fortifications have survived largely intact.[4]

Eventually building projects in Valletta resumed under British rule. These projects included widening gates, demolishing and rebuilding structures, widening newer houses over the years, and installing civic projects. The Malta Railway, which linked Valletta to Mdina, was officially opened in 1883.[10] It was closed down in 1931 after buses became a popular means of transport.

Nazi and Fascist air raids throughout the Second World War caused much destruction in Valletta and the rest of the harbour area. The Royal Opera House, constructed at the city entrance in the 19th century, was one of the buildings lost to the raids.[5]


In 1980, the 24th Chess Olympiad took place in Valletta.[11]

The entire city of Valletta has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, along with Megalithic Temples of Malta and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum.[3] On 11th November 2015 Valletta hosted the Valletta Summit on Migration in which European and African leaders discussed the European migrant crisis. After that, on 27th November 2015 the city also hosted part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015.

Valletta has been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2018.[12] As a result, various projects are under way, including the restoration of historic buildings, the installation of new monuments and the rebuilding of the city entrance.


Local government[edit]

Local Council building

The Valletta Local Council was established by the Local Councils Act of 1993, along with the other local councils of Malta.[13] The first election was held on 20 November 1993. Other elections were held in 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2013,[14] and the next elections are set to be held in 2017.[15]

The following people have served as Mayor of Valletta.[16] All were elected on the Nationalist Party (PN) ticket, an affiliate of the European People's Party, which holds the majority of the Council.

  • Hector Bruno (1993–1999)
  • Paul Borg Olivier (1999–2008)
  • Alexei Dingli (2008–present)

The present local council, which was elected in 2013, is made up of the following members:[17]

  • Alexei Dingli (mayor)
  • Christian Micallef (deputy mayor)
  • Norman Shaw
  • Raymond Azzopardi
  • Raymond Attard
  • Vincent Fabri
  • Vincent Farrugia
  • Gabriella Agius (executive secretary)

The local council is currently housed in a building in South Street. Since the city has been selected as the European Capital of Culture, the council began to look for new premises at a more central location. Various proposals were made, including the Main Guard, the Grandmaster's Palace, Fort Saint Elmo and the former HSBC offices, but nothing has been decided as of 2015.[18]

National government[edit]

Valletta is the capital city of Malta,[19] and is the country's administrative and commercial hub.[20] The Parliament of Malta is housed at the Parliament House near the city's entrance since 2015, and it was previously housed at the Grandmaster's Palace in the city centre. The latter palace still houses the Office of the President of Malta, while Auberge de Castille houses the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta. The courthouse and many government departments are also located in Valletta.


Satellite view of Valletta

The Valletta peninsula has two natural harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour. The Grand Harbour is Malta's major port, with unloading quays at nearby Marsa. A cruise-liner terminal is located along the old seawall of the Valletta Waterfront that Grandmaster Manuel Pinto de Fonseca built.


Valletta features a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Valletta experiences a lack of precipitation during the summer months and heavier precipitation during the winter months. Winter temperatures are moderated by the city’s proximity to the sea. As a result, Valletta enjoys mild winters. Average high temperatures range from around 15 °C (59 °F) in January to about 30 °C (86 °F) in August, while average low temperatures range from around 10 °C (50 °F) in January to 22 °C (72 °F) in August. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Csa" (Mediterranean Climate).

Climate data for Valletta, Malta 1960-1990 (Records 1947-2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.2
Average high °C (°F) 15.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 12.2
Average low °C (°F) 9.2
Record low °C (°F) 1.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 89.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 169.0 178.0 227.0 253.0 309.0 336.0 376.0 352.0 270.0 223.0 195.0 161.0 3,049
Source #1: ClimateData.EU[21]
Source #2: NSO Malta[22]


View of Valletta from the Upper Barrakka Gardens
The relatively austere interior of St. Barbara's Church
Casa Rocca Piccola's dining room
The 3,000-year-old "Sleeping Lady" of Hal Saflieni
The Royal Opera House, bombed to the ground during World War II
The Lower Barrakka Gardens and its monuments of remembrance

The architecture of Valletta's streets and piazzas ranges from mid-16th century Baroque to Modernism. The city is the island's principal cultural centre and has a unique collection of churches, palaces and museums and act as one of the city's main visitor attractions. When Benjamin Disraeli, future British Prime Minister, visited the city in 1830, he described it as "a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen," and remarked that "Valletta equals in its noble architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe," and in other letters called it "comparable to Venice and Cádiz" and "full of palaces worthy of Palladio."[23][24]

Buildings of historic importance include St John's Co-Cathedral, formerly the Conventual Church of the Knights of Malta. It has the only signed work and largest painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The Auberge de Castille et Leon, formerly the official seat of the Knights of Malta of the Langue of Castille, Léon and Portugal, is now the office of the Prime Minister of Malta. The Magisterial Palace, built between 1571 and 1574 and formerly the seat of the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, used to house the Maltese Parliament, now situated in a purpose built structure at the entrance to the city. The Magisterial Palace still houses the offices of the President of Malta.

The National Museum of Fine Arts is a Rococo palace dating back to the late 1570s, which served as the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet during the British era from the 1820s onwards. The Manoel Theatre (Maltese: Teatru Manoel) was constructed in just ten months in 1731, by order of Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena, and is one of the oldest working theatres in Europe. The Mediterranean Conference Centre was formerly the Sacra Infermeria. Built in 1574, it was one of Europe's most renowned hospitals during the Renaissance. The fortifications of the port, built by the Knights as a magnificent series of bastions, demi-bastions, cavaliers and curtains, approximately 100 metres (330 ft) high, all contribute to the unique architectural quality of the city.

Public housing is located within Valletta's walls. Originally the Order planned to construct for its navy a man-made anchorage in the area known as Manderaggio (Maltese: il-Mandraġġ), but never completed this plan. Instead, the area became a jumble of buildings with dark alleyways. In the 1950s the city demolished the Manderaggio, and rebuilt it as a housing estate.


Valletta has been designated European Capital of Culture for 2018.[25]

Saint James Cavalier[edit]

Saint James Cavalier, originally a raised gun platform, was converted into a Centre of Creativity in the year 2000 as part of Malta's Millenium Project. It now houses a small theatre, a cinema, music rooms and art galleries. Various exhibitions are regularly held there. Since it was opened it has welcomed over a million visitors.[26]


Jazz music in Malta was introduced in the Strait Street area, frequented by Allied sailors during both world wars. Malta's Jazz Festival took place here. Strait Street is also known as The Gut. This area is undergoing a programme of regeneration. The city's dual band clubs are the "King's Own Band Club" (Maltese: L-Għaqda Mużikali King's Own) and "La Valette National Philarmonic Society" (Maltese: Is-Soċjetà Filarmonika Nazzjonali La Valette).


Valletta is the scene of the Maltese Carnival, held in February leading up to Lent. Carnival in Gozo is celebrated in Victoria and parishes in both islands hold their own festivities.



The bus station at Valletta

Malta International Airport serves Valletta, with the airport located 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the city in the town of Luqa. Malta's public transport system, which uses buses, operates mostly on routes to or from Valletta, with their central terminus just outside the city's entrance. Traffic within the city itself is restricted, with some principal roads being completely pedestrian areas. In 2006, a park and ride system was implemented in order to increase the availability of parking spaces in the vicinity of the city. People can leave their personal vehicles in a nearby Floriana parking lot and transfer to a van for the rest of the trip, which takes a mere few minutes.

In 2007 a congestion pricing scheme was implemented, the Controlled Vehicular Access system, in order to reduce long-term parking stays and traffic while promoting business in the city.[27][28] An ANPR-based automated system takes photos of vehicles as they enter and exit the charging zone and vehicle owners are billed according to the duration of their stay. Various exemptions and flexible billing rules make the system the next evolutionary step of systems like the London congestion charge programme. Main differences from the London system include ex post invoicing (with financial incentives/penalties for early/late payment), prepayments not day-specific, hourly instead of daily rates, a maximum daily charge (8 hours), free dashes (free if duration under 30 minutes), defined free access periods for delivery and service vehicles.[27]

Valletta is served by a fleet of electric taxis which transport riders from 10 points in Valletta to any destination within the city.[29]

Notable people[edit]


Cultural references[edit]


  1. ^ "Estimated Population by Locality 31st March, 2014". Government of Malta. 16 May 2014. Archived from the original on 21 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Population by sex and age groups on 1 January". Eurostat. 15 April 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "City of Valletta". UNESCO World Heritage List. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Attard, Sonia. "The Valletta Fortifications". Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "History of Valletta". City of Valletta. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  6. ^ (Maltese) Cassar, Mario. "L-Istorja tal-Ilsien Malti". L-Akkademja tal-Malti. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "Floriana’s Pavilion from the Knights to the British". Times of Malta. 4 May 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Borg Muscat, David (2005). "Reassessing the September 1775 Rebellion: a Case of Lay Participation or a 'Rising of the Priests'?". Malta Historical Society. Archived from the original on 21 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Bonello, Giovanni (18 November 2012). "Let’s hide the majestic bastions". Times of Malta. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Cole, Beverly (2011). Trains. Potsdam, Germany: H.F.Ullmann. p. 64. ISBN 978-3-8480-0516-1. 
  11. ^ "24th Chess Olympiad". OlimpBase. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Valletta awarded the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018". Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  13. ^ "About Local Government". Local Councils' Association. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  14. ^ (Maltese) "Elezzjonijiet tal-Kunsilli Lokali fis-Snin li Għaddew (1993-2013)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2015. 
  15. ^ (Maltese) "Elezzjonijiet tal-Kunsilli Lokali 2015-2023" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2015. 
  16. ^ "Mayors from 1993". Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  17. ^ "Council Members". Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  18. ^ "No immediate solution to finding new premises for Valletta council". Times of Malta. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  19. ^ "The Maltese Islands". Government of Malta. Archived from the original on 17 July 2015. 
  20. ^ "The Capital City Valletta". Government of Malta. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. 
  21. ^ "Climate Valletta - Malta". Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  22. ^ Galdies, Charles (2011). "The Climate of Malta: statistics, trends and analysis 1951-2010". Valletta: National Statistics Office. Archived from the original on 13 November 2014. 
  23. ^ "Valletta - the Capital City". Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  24. ^ "LP21 - Valletta `Citta Umilissima` Lapel Pin". Collectables - Our Products. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  25. ^ "Valletta - European Capital of Culture 2018". 
  26. ^ "St.James Cavalier Theatre Overview in Valletta, Malta". Island of Gozo. Gozo Tourism Association. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  27. ^ a b "CVA System - The Purpose Of". Controlled Vehicular Access Technology. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  28. ^ "Valletta traffic congestion considerably reduced". MaltaMedia News. 6 May 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2008. 
  29. ^ Galea Debono, Fiona (15 June 2007). "Valletta gets its own clean taxi service". Times of Malta. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 

External links[edit]