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This post will provide details about the best free walking tours you can take in Malta, including information about both guided and self-guided options.


OVERVIEW

There are a lot of interesting things to see and do in Malta, including several historic landmarks and attractions you might want to visit.

If you need some help finding the most notable locations in Malta, you may want to consider taking a free walking tour.

 

Thankfully, there are many different tour options to consider which cover different areas and subjects.

Panorama of Valletta

The main tours will provide an introduction to the city of Valletta, including stops at notable government buildings, cultural sites, and information about the best places to eat and the most interesting museums to visit.

There are also ghost tours which take place at night and offer a look at the creepier side of Valletta, including tales of legends, paranormal activity, murder, plague and more.

One of the most popular locations to visit is St. John’s Co-Cathedral, and while you’ll need a ticket to get inside, there are free walking tours you can take which cover the history of the landmark and even offer a discount on admission!

Finally, if you want to explore some of the most notable sites outside of Valletta, consider taking a tour of Mdina and Rabat to see another side of Malta.

Most of these outings are pay-what-you-wish walking tours, which means that you get to decide what the tour was worth after it’s over. A majority of guests will tip their tour guide around €5 - €10.

 


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INTRODUCTIN TO VALLETA TOURS

If you’re looking for a general overview of Valletta, these tours provide information about multiple locations in the city, allowing you to learn about important sites in the capital of Malta.

This type of tour is best for anyone who wants to learn about more than just one landmark or subject, as an introductory tour covers a variety of attractions and offers tips about the best museums, places to eat, and more.

New Parliament Building

Here are a few of the stops you can expect during an Introduction to Valletta tour:

  • New Parliament Building
  • George’s Square
  • Triton’s Fountain
  • The City Gate
  • Palazzo Ferreria
  • Palazzo Parisio
  • Merchant Street
  • And more!

Visitors who want to discover these sites and more should definitely consider taking one of the following free walking tours in Malta.


Authentic Malta

This is one of the most popular tour companies in Malta, and they currently offer an extensive 2 ½ hour tour which provides an introduction to Valletta.

You can take this tour every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 am. In addition to this tour being pay-what-you-wish, they also offer discounts on tickets to St. John’s Co-Cathedral.

Learn more or book this tour.

 


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SELF-GUIDED TOUR

If you’d rather explore Valletta at your own pace, we currently offer a free self-guided tour you may want to consider which is actually very similar to the service provided by Authentic Malta.

This is an excellent option for anyone who would prefer to avoid crowds of tour groups or set their own schedule.


Introduction

This self-guided tour will lead you through some of Valletta's main attractions, from the City Gate (remember is a walled city) to  the center of the city.

Lots of sites that will help you to discover why Valletta has been described as “A city built by knights for gentlemen” but also to understand why it has been described as an “open air museum” by UNESCO.

As you probably know, Valletta is the only UNESCO capital of Europe.

It is best to set aside two to two and a half hours for walking this route. Remember to wear comfortable shoes but try to avoid leather soles. Maltese stone is slippery...

You can take fantastic pictures of emblematic locations and charming streets, have a break for a typical pastizzi, a good coffee or tea.

Remember our past as a British colony, which puts into perspective the tea and the telephone boots (take this past into consideration when crossing the streets!).

We recommend our guided free tours of Valletta that operate on the pay-what-you-think-is-worth model. The day tour of Valletta includes, if you wish, the entrance to the co cathedral with a discount.

Getting around in Valletta is pretty easy, remember the city is built like a grid, on top of Mount Sciberras and it is located in half of a peninsula with a length of 1.5 km and a width of 1 km.

Mount Sciberras

Main streets are wider and side streets are narrower and if you get lost it will take you 30 seconds to find your way: Just walk, with the sea at your back, to the main street of the city “Republic Street”.

Valletta is lively even after dark, with people sitting in terraces and squares, enjoying the fantastic Mediterranean weather, and it is safe day and night, therefore you can walk around the city at any time.

We also have a tour of the “Dark side of Valletta” in the late evening, so you can see the city´s beauty at night, discover different streets, stories and its nightlife.

We will be orienting you relative to buildings and with the help of street names, but in Malta, street names are not in every corner, therefore it may take you some time to find them.

Sometimes they will be in English, others Maltese, even though, majority of times are in both languages.

Being a walled city, buses will leave you in Floriana, less than 200 metres from the Triton Fountain, a well known modern landmark just before the entrance of the city.


Triton's Fountain width=

Triton's fountain. Triton was Poseidon's son in Greek mythology and Neptune's son in Roman mythology.

The fountain is located right in the centre of a large square in front of the City Gate, till few years ago, surrounded by buses, since this was the main central bus station of Malta. Probably a good first picture as a memento of the day.

For the guided tour we won't be meeting here even though it seems as an ideal spot, because there is no shade at all around the fountain, and remember the Mediterranean weather is characterised by another omnipresent God: the Sun. So our guided tour starts under the Parliament.

The Triton fountain was constructed in 1959, by a Maltese sculptor, Vincent Apap, and his inspirations were the fountains in the Roman squares. The construction took almost 5 years and the tritons were cast in bronze in an italian foundry.

In the 70's the plate on top of the Tritons was used as a stage for performances, and since this plate was just holding on the demigods, 2 of them were damaged.

Recently, it has been restored and reinstalled for Valletta 2018, when the city was European capital of culture.


City Gate

Just enter the city through the City Gate, just behind the Triton fountain, but take a few minutes to observe the impressive curtain walls, bastions and the ditch protecting the city.

Remains of the old ravelin can be seen in the floor in front of the gate, under a glass. This ravelin was used to protect the entrance from the artillery of besiegers.

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Remember the city was built by the knights of St John sponsored with “European funds” from the main kings of the Old Continent in 1566, to stand a new attack of the Ottomans , after the Great Siege of Malta.

The full name of the knights is “The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta”...

From now on on this tour and for the sake of time, Order of St John, Order of Malta or just the Order.

As soon as you enter the city gate, left and right you will see imposing staircases and immediately after the staircase on your right, the most modern building in the city, the Maltese Parliament.

You are now standing in the main artery of the city: Republic Street.


Maltese Parliament

The Parliament, the new City Gate (yes, you are right, there is no gate.

We are surprised too) and the remains in front of you, belonging to the Royal Opera House, the neoclassical theatre built by the British which was bombarded during WWII, are all in its present state part of a plan by the italian architect Renzo Piano to remodel the entrance of the city.

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The Parliament is the most modern building in Valletta and that is exactly the reason many citizens are not very happy with it.

The Royal Opera House, has been transformed into an open theatre, respecting the remains from old times and its cafe, sited in Republic Street is a nice place to have a coffee and observe locals and tourists alike.

Opposite to the Royal opera House, there is an espectacular building,Palazzo Ferreria.


Palazzo Ferreria

Palazzo Ferreria is where the foundry of the Order of St John was located (hence its name), but it was transformed in late 1800 into the second biggest Palace in the city, after the Grand Masters Palace.

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Luckily, Palazzo Ferreria survived WWII and today houses shops at street level and government offices on top.

Turn to your right with the Royal opera House. You are now standing at the back of the theatre in an open area with a monument dedicated to Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette, founder of the city and 46th ruler of the Order of Malta.


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La Valette, was a French knight, who became Grand Master (ruler of the Order)  and has gone down in history as one of the heroes of the knighthood, after commanding the resistance against the Ottoman Empire at the Great Siege of Malta of 1565.

If you would like information about this important and exciting event for the Maltese and the islands or the history (and secrets) of these Crusade knights who became the champions of Christendom don't hesitate to join us for a free tour.

La Valette laid the first stone of the city with his own two hands in 1566 but, unfortunately, died before the city was finished. In the monument, he is holding the plans of the city in one hand and the sword of victory in the other.

Valletta is one of the first planned cities built in Europe. Its grid-like layout facilitated moving troops and armament. This made the city one of the most modern in the world.

The Order of St John was administratively organised in langues (languages) even though we could call them kingdoms.

At their arrival in Malta there were eight of them: Italy, England, Germany, France, Auverrne, Provence, Castille and Portugal (1 kingdom back when the Order was founded), and Aragon. Only 7 remained when they built Valletta.

The Grand Master Valette ask from every “langue” to choose 2 locations: one for their Aubergue and one for their church, This explain why there are some many churches in the city

The knights of the Order of St. John had vows of chastity, poverty, service to the poor and the sick amongst others. Some juicy gossip of the period will be released during the free tour!

At the top of the square (it is a good time as any other to get acquainted to the ups and downs of the city) there are two churches. Our lady of Victories on the right and Santa Catherina of Italy on the left.


Santa Catherina Of Italy

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Santa catherina was the church of the Italian langue. It is a good example of the baroque evolution of the city, as the original building was little more than a small chapel, being enlarged later on and being added the impressive portico in a posterior addition.

Today it is used by the italian community and masses are in italian. Opens usually on Sundays for mass and entrance is free.


Church Of Our Lady Of Victory

It was the first church built in Valletta, commissioned by Valette himself to commemorate the victory over the Ottomans.

The Grand Master was buried under the crypt below, even though it was transferred to the Conventual Church of the Orden dedicated to St, John the Baptist (today the Co-cathedral of St John), as soon as this was finished.

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If you have the opportunity to visit the interior don't miss it. Recently restored by a local NGO, the small chapel decorated by Erardi has recovered the old esplendor.

The bust on the facade is of the Innocent XII, who served as Inquisitor in Malta for 3 years before being elected pope (1649-49).

  • Address: Victory Square, Valletta
  • Opening Hours: Monday - Friday 08.45 - 16.00   HOLY MASS 08.45
  • Saturday 10.00 - 16.00  HOLY MASS 19.00
  • Sunday 10.00 -13.00
  • Entrance fee: Donation

Walk straight crossing Merchant Street. You are now in Castille Square


Castille

 Valletta is not a very populated city because the administrative buildings of the Order, today belong to the government and are still in use as governamental buildings. Most of the private palazzos are still today in private hands.

This square receives the name for the spectacular building on your left: The Auberge of Castille and Portugal during the time of the Knights, and Office of the Prime Minister today.

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The building on your right as you enter Castille, is today a museum “Spazju Kreattiv” for modern temporal exhibitions and an alternative cinema, but as you can see it was built by the knights as the cavalier of Saint James, to defend the entrance to the city.

Castille Square is also one of those highlights you cannot miss when visiting the city at night, with its beautiful illumination.

Keep on walking in front of the Aubergue, cross the road in the zebra crossing and keep on going straight to the Garden opposite.


Upper Barraka Gardens

 You are entering the oldest and, for a long time, the only garden allowed in the city.

Remember that Valletta is a military fortified city, therefore water was an essential resource, not to waste in vanalities.

We move to the terrace at the end of the gardens, from where we can see the Great Harbour, considered the biggest natural harbour in Europe, and the reason for so many civilizations establishing in Malta: Phoenicians, Romans,Arabs, French, Spanish, British…They all have been interested in controlling the islands but, specially, the Harbour.

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From here you can see the Three cities, known as well as Cottonera, first settlement of the Order in Malta and for this reason, the area where the famous Great Siege of Malta mostly occurred.

The Three cities are the two peninsulas just in front of you. The peninsula on the left, with Fort San Angelo on the tip, and behind the city of Birgu o Victoriosa.

The peninsula on the right, with the small garden on top of the bastion, is Isla or Senglea.

Since both cities are walled, they overgrown out of their main gates into what today is Bormla or Cospicua, the city inside the creek between the two peninsulas that eventually was walled too. And yes, everyone of them has two names.

It is highly recommended to visit this area, especially the city of Birgu.

To your left, protecting the entrance of the harbour you find fort Ricasoli, another fortification of the Order.

Even though you can not see it from here, at the tip of the peninsula where Valletta is located, we have Fort Saint Elmo. Together protected the Grand Harbour from possible enemies.

Malta is a well known paradise for film-makers, as many super productions have been filmed around and in the harbour some examples are “Gladiator”, “Troy”, “Agora” or “Games of Thrones”.

Over 200 have been filmed in Malta in the last 80 years.

On the right side from the Three Cities we can appreciate the dockyards of the Order, still in use, once they have been modernised into dry docks.

The three cities and Valletta are one of the most fortified areas in Europe. Something we can easily notice from this viewpoint.

Finally, if you look just to the terrace below there are some cannons, and maybe some British soldiers dress as coming from the Victorian era.

That is because this is the Saluting Battery, where every day at 12:00 and 16:00 a salva is shot, as used to happen during the British period in the island.

The gardens are free of charge and are open from 07.00 am to 22.00 pm in summer and to 20.30 in winter

Retrace your steps to Merchant Street and walk down the street.


Aubergue Of Italy, Muża 

Being the second most important street of the city, we can see here the monumentality of the administrative buildings of the order.

In the corner, as seen before, the church of St Catherine, the building next to it, the Auberge of Italy.

Today, it hosts the Fine Arts Museum, MUŻA, acronym for Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arti, in MAltese. MUŻA is also the Maltese word for inspiration.

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The collection is laid out in sections inspired by stories grouped into four main themes being The Mediterranean, Europe, Empire and The Artist

The display is surprisingly unusual as it juxtaposes old masters with contemporary artworks, groups artworks and objects in ways similar to contemporary art installations, presents techniques on videos and interactive experiences complement objects and artworks on display.

Key works include those by Southern Italian artist Mattia Preti, British 20th century artist Victor Pasmore and Malta’s own top 20th century sculptor Antonio Sciortino.

The building is the historic seat of the Italian knights of the Order of St John with a 500 year old history and is in itself a prime historic site, meticulously restored to expose historic layers.

Main historic features such as the main staircase have been rebuilt in contemporary material .

You can walk into the main courtyard, which is a public space in its own right, to discover the beauty of the building or explore the culinary experience at its bespoke cafeteria and restaurant serving dishes inspired by and branded to complement the collection on display. 

A tourist information office is also available on site and accessible through the main courtyard.

  • MUŻA is open from Thursdays to Sundays between 10:00hrs and 16:30hrs.
  • Due to Covid-19 opening times may change  and it is advisable to check prior to visiting.
  • Address: Auberge D'Italie. Merchant Street. Valletta
  • Entrance fee: Adults 5 Euros; Seniors/students 3.50€ Children 2.50

Opposite to MUŻA you find Palazzo Parisio.


Palazzo Parisio

Palazzo Parisio, one of the biggest palaces in the city on which used to live one of the principal families in the country.

Actually another Palazzo Parisio can be found in Malta, in the village of Naxxar, in the centre of the island.

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The Palace you are seeing is not accessible, as nowaday it is in use as the Ministry of foreign affairs (this probably explains the official cars you may be seeing!), but if you want to visit a traditional Maltese palazzo, the homonymous one in Naxxar is known as “the little Versailles of Malta”, and it is a memorable visit.

In this case, we are not standing here for the appearance of the palazzo but due to its history: this very same palace was the living quarters of Napoleon the seven days he spent on our islands after conquering them and kicking the knights off.

Commemorative plaque on the facade to the right on the entrance


Merchant Street

Keep on going down the street, and it seems as if you were in a different city.

Now you definitely can understand why the street is called “Merchants”: waiters calling you over to their restaurants, while on both sides of the streets, ground floors are full of shops.

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But do not let yourself be distracted by the movement of the street and its inhabitants, and look a bit higher.

For instance, the first building to your left on the corner is the Church of Saint James, built and used by the knights from Castille and Portugal, and another great example of Baroque.

As you keep walking down the street, you can see we still have some british memento, like the telephone boots and postbox.

Walk down the street to the next crossing.


Castellania

In the next corner, Merchant street with St John Street (Triq il Merkanti with Triq San Gwann), we have on our right, another baroque administrative building of the Order of Malta, “Castellania”, used as a Court of Justice.

Even though underneath is full of prisons, today these have been converted into archives and peculiarly enough, in an interesting revest, today houses the Ministry for Health, “Ministeru tas Sahha” in maltese, very important word, since Sahha it means health, it is used to say “bye” and to make a toast.

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The most stunning feature, without any doubt, is the marble facade. But the most interesting one is in the corner, where you will see a pedestal.

This simple structure was one of the most common ways of imparting justice.

One of our recommendations is taking the Tour of the dark side of the city, where you will be given more information about the punishments at the time.

The building on your left , crossing St. Gwann Street is the Cocathedral of Malta, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, and the exterior was built in a mannerist style.

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Keep on going down Merchant street and in the next corner we have on our left the street of the jewellers (St. Lucia´s Street), where you can easil

And much, much more

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