The island of Malta sits between Sicily and the northern coast of Africa in the Mediterranean Sea. Its central location means it has been a strategic port for generations of rulers and empires.
The capital, Valletta—or simply Il-Belt (“The City”) to locals—was built by the Knights of St John in the 16th century making it relatively new in comparison to the rest of the island’s history. The southernmost capital of Europe, the entire ancient city of Valletta is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Valletta is small—it sits on a peninsula that is just 1km long and 600m wide—as a result, it’s one of the most concentrated historic areas in the entire world. Its founders decreed that it would be a city ‘built by gentleman, for gentleman’ and this can be seen in the elegance of the architecture of the ancient city.
With the announcement that Valletta will be a European Capital of Culture for 2018, the city has begun a transformation of sorts, with new life being breathed into its ancient streets. New museums have opened, and existing fortresses and attractions have been restored, while new bars and restaurants have opened within the walls of 16th century stone mansions.
The combination of centuries of well-preserved ancient history and a new modern pulse, Valletta is quickly becoming a must-see destination.