Valletta: One of the World’s Smallest Capital Cities

Valletta: One of the World’s Smallest Capital Cities

 

Valletta, the capital of Malta, is 2018’s European Capital of Culture. With a population of just over 6,000 and occupying less than one square kilometre, it’s one of Europe’s smallest capital cities and one of the smallest capital cities in the world. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valletta is unique and historically important. Walking around the capital, you can’t help but feel as if you’ve gone back in time. Especially when you veer away from the main streets, leaving behind the high-street shops, brand names and restaurant chains. In the side streets is where Valletta’s quaint and historical charm can really be felt. Looking up at the old shop signs and the Maltese balconies, especially at night, you wouldn’t immediately guess you were in the 21st century. Unlike other parts of Malta, where construction is rife, the capital city feels ageless.

During the day, the capital city is busy. Tourists fill the streets, the shops, the cafes and the museums. Many people also work in Valletta. On top of all the shop assistants, waiters, waitresses and tour guides, oodles of other men and women come to work every day in the capital. Valletta is home to Malta’s Law Courts, Stock Exchange and Parliament House. Before 2015, when the new Parliament House opened, Malta’s Parliament met in the Grandmaster’s Palace. The Grandmaster’s Palace is one of many beautiful examples of Baroque architecture. The concentration of Baroque architecture in Valletta is one of the reasons why UNESCO has vowed to preserve this historical gem.

At night, particularly during the week, Valletta’s streets are calm and quiet. It’s quite unlike many other world capitals. This evening stillness in the capital is by no means an indication of Malta’s vibrant nightlife. This is instead concentrated in other areas such as Paceville, as well as in St. Julian’s and Sliema. Sliema and St. Julian’s have been two of the most sought-after (and expensive) places to live in Malta. Property prices are high in these areas and they’re two of the priciest places to rent a flat or apartment. Up until recently, Valletta wasn’t seen as a desirable place to live. These other areas have been much preferred over Valletta. House prices and demand for property in the capital didn’t really start rising until around 8 years ago. 

Even as little as 4 years ago, Valletta remained tranquil in the evenings. Only lately have things begun to change. One bedroom apartments are now going for around €1,000 a month, which is comparable with these other areas, like Sliema. What’s more, buying property in Valletta is becoming more and more expensive! Why was this beautiful city scorned for so long and why is that only lately people are seeing its value and investing in it? Numerous old buildings, palazzos and houses are being restored and the city is coming back to life! There are some great restaurants and bars in the city, which are drawing in the crowds who have grown out of Paceville. Yard 32 and City Lights are just two eclectic examples of the city’s great hangouts. 

The entrance to Valletta is impressive. The Triton Fountain and Valletta Square were refurbished and reopened at the beginning of this year. No more fences, only beauty! This was an expensive project that was completed just in time for the start of Valletta’s year serving as the Cultural Capital of Europe. Over 400 events are taking place throughout the year which aim to celebrate artists, musicians, writers and filmmakers from Malta and from all over the world. It’s great to see this capital city, despite its small size, returning to its former glory. Valletta really is in its element this year. One can only imagine the buzz surrounding the city when it was first built in the 16th century.

During the Great Siege of 1565, Malta almost fell to the Ottomans. The Knights of Saint John ultimately prevailed and kept Malta from the hands of the enemy. Afterwards, the Grand Master at the time, Jean de Valette, decided to build a new city. The city would need to have strong fortifications and enough water reservoirs to keep the city going in the event of another invasion. In fact, every building and palazzo that was constructed in the new capital was required have its own water cistern underground! If you find yourself in Valletta, head on over to Casa Rocca Piccola to see a fine example, and one which was also used as a bomb shelter during World War Two.

This brand-new grid plan city was designed principally by Francesco Laparelli. The project was eventually overseen and finished by his assistant, Girolamo Cassar. Steep streets and shallow steps are characteristic of the capital, the latter of which were built to make the climb and descent as easy as possible for knights dressed in full armour. The first stone of Valletta was laid by the Grand Master who gave the city his name. De Valette’s Valletta was completed in just 15 years! Officially, Valletta was named the capital of Malta in 1571. The Knights moved in and the new capital was born!

Clearly, Valletta hasn’t always been the capital of Malta. In fact, throughout Malta’s history, the capital has changed twice. Before Valletta, the Knights’ headquarters were in Vittoriosa (also known as Birgu). The order had moved there as being based in the previous capital, Mdina, just didn’t suit their seafaring ways! Both of these places have a very different feel to Valletta but they’re equally as impressive. Mdina is worth a visit any day of the week, as is Birgu, however Birgu is particularly beautiful during the Candlelight Fest. Property prices in Birgu are on the rise and houses in medieval Mdina are sky high. A home to rent in Mdina will set you back thousands of euros a month. 

Will Valletta follow suit? Only time will tell. At the moment, one reason property in Valletta is cheaper than in Mdina is because more of the capital’s grand buildings have been converted into flats and apartments. There’s no doubt, though, that Valletta is becoming more and more popular and house prices in the capital will continue to rise. Anyone who sold their Valletta properties for pittance years ago will surely be kicking themselves now. Valletta might be one of the world’s smallest cities but it certainly isn’t lacking in soul. Lovely coffee shops, quirky bars and five-star restaurants are waiting round every corner. Why not have a look at the events programme for Valletta 2018 and join in the cultural celebrations? Make the most of the capital while all of this is going on. You never know what you might discover. A new venue, a new artist, a new city!

At QuickLets and at Zanzi Homes, we have the biggest database of property in Malta. If you’re looking for something in the capital, then get in touch with us. If you’re interested in buying a property in Valletta, our sales specialists at Zanzi Homes can help you every step of the way. It all starts with finding the right property! Whether you’re looking or a home or a rental investment, or a restoration project, we’ll help you locate the perfect place. QuickLets, on the other hand, focus on rentals. A two bedroom apartment, a three bedroom penthouse, a palazzo or an office - whatever it is you’re looking to rent in Valletta, let us know! Contact one of our Letting Specialists or come into a branch. Tell us your property requirements and your budget, and we’ll get you settled somewhere that suits you. 

 
 
Victoria Woods
Written By

Victoria Woods