Top 5 Hidden Architectural Gems in Valletta, Malta’s Capital
Do you like architecture and culture? Or do you think you’re really uninformed about culture, history, and architecture that you thought you should start learning about these topics? Whether you’re a culture aficionado or just beginning to appreciate these ideas, Valletta is the perfect destination to visit to get you started.
Valletta’s History: In a Gist
Valletta is listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, which is why many travellers— locals and foreigners alike—consider it as an open-air museum. The city has had several historical affiliations, starting from the Order of Saint John to the French rule and British Occupation. Strolling around the quaint city, you can find Baroque, Roman, and French architecture. Its basilicas, chapels, and churches show off the long and rich Maltese tradition.
As the capital city of Malta, Valletta is also the centre of business activity, housing both local and international companies. Aside from its picturesque landscape, the city’s cafes, restaurants, and wine bars also offer a gastronomic feast for the food aficionado. There are many points of interest in Valletta. Here we are going to talk about the top 5 architectural gems.
- The Back Streets of Valletta
You’re probably attracted first to the bustling city center due to its modern cafes and five-star hotels. But if it’s your first time to visit Valletta, be sure to take a walk in its back streets. Here you’ll discover the quaint and pedestrian-friendly cobblestone roads that speak of the city’s rich history.
Remarkable Features: As you trod the Maltese back streets, be sure to prepare your camera and take photos of the colorful balconies. The windows and walls of homes usually have foliage motifs, contorted faces, animal statues, and hanging gardens. These designs and styles got its architectural influence from the last five centuries of the city’s history.
- The Chapel and Church of San Matthew in Qrendi
The chapel and church of St. Matthew is located in just the same vicinity. The larger church was built in 1682, and the chapel’s origins date back to the 11th century. Medieval inspiration is prominent in both the interior and exterior of the chapel. On April 1942, the church had endured extensive damage due to Nazi attacks during the WWII. Today, the church has a new front and two belfries.
Remarkable Feature: When you get inside the church, you’ll see a magnificent painting right behind the altar. Created by Mattia Preti, the masterpiece illustrates St. Matthew the Apostle’s martyrdom. It is believed that Preti was authorized by the French Commendatory Nicola Communette. There’s also an organ gallery that was constructed in 1834.
- Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Built around 1595, this church was a significant section of the Magdalene asylum. The Magdalene nun’ mission ended in 1798 as the French took over the monastery and disbanded its members and assumed its properties. After WWII air raids destroyed most of the structure, it was now being renovated and restructured and a primary school stood in its place.
Remarkable Features: Typical of most monasteries, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene has a very plain square entrance. Its two levels have three bays. The church interior is Baroque style.
- Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck
The Maltese consider St. Paul the Apostle as its spiritual father, and the city probably got its first Christian influence when St. Paul got stranded in the island as outlined in Acts 28:1. Listed as one of Malta’s oldest churches, the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck was built in 1570 to 1582. It was rebuilt by the Jesuit Fathers in 1639 and in 1885 following the design of Nicola Zammit.
Remarkable Features: The church is home of Malta’s finest artistic works, including an altarpiece by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, as well as the paintings of Giuseppe Calì and Attilio Palombi. Melchiorre Cafà carved St. Paul’s wooden titular statue in 1659, and his brother Lorenzo Cafà designed the church’s dome. Here you can also find a relic of St. Paul’s right wrist-bone and a part of the San Paolo alle Tre Fontane column where the saint was beheaded.
- Nibbia Chapel
Originally constructed in 1619, Nibbia Chapel was built by Fra Giorgio Nibbia as a dedication to Our Lady of Mercy. It is located next to a cemetery where the deceased patients of the Sacra Infermeria were buried. After it was heavily ruined due to aerial bombardment in 1941, the chapel was renovated to take on Baroque style architecture in 1731.
Remarkable Features: At first glance, the Nibbia Chapel lay almost in ruins next to the Evans Building. It was once a domed octagonal building, the façade of which boasts of a large portal. Underneath the chapel is a vaulted crypt where the remains of Sacra Infermeria patients lie. Only a little portion of the Nibbia Chapel and the crypt remains today as the authorities reclaimed and renovated the area to give way to the expansion of the nearby hospital. What makes the crypt such an architectural masterpiece is its unique and almost creepy decors — skulls and skeletons.
Visiting all these architectural masterpieces on your own might be creepy and boring. So to ensure you’ll have fun on your trip, be sure to go with a group. Contact a local travel agency and talk about how best to plan your trip. Here are two options for you to consider to make sure that you can these sites conveniently:
- Full-day or Half-day City Tour — This tour takes you around the capital city. You can opt for the cheaper city sightseeing tour package that cost around €20 or the more comprehensive private tour that cost €460.
- Walking Tour — If you’ve got sturdy feet, you can choose the Valletta City of the Knights Walking tour, which is a 3-hour walk featuring the city’s UNESCO listed attractions. The tour cost around €42. There’s also a 2-hour walking tour that features the city’s main and back streets, which cost around €12.
Click here for a full list of churches in Malta and Gozo
Just a Quick Tip: Be sure to remember that Malta’s weather is sunny most of the time. So whether you’ll explore on foot or by bus, bring ample food, sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed hat.
Considering Malta’s rich culture and history, it’s a no brainer that its architecture are all masterpieces. But the sites listed above offer more than just a feast for the eyes and your camera; those also give you a closer look at Malta’s religious traditions and influences.