Once inside the gateway you are now in a large open square, with Republic Street (once the Kingsway), immediately in front of you.
At a slight angle to your right, is what remains of the old opera house and beneath it is a collection of small jewellery and watch stores. Malta is renowned for lace and silver filigree jewellery, and the prices vary from place to place, so try to avoid the heavy tourist traffic area's and go to
some of narrower back streets or towns and villages outside of the city. We found a great store, which is actually nothing more than a booth in Queens Square. It is tucked away at the back right hand corner, near the Malta experience and sells everything from silver and gold jewellery, to lace items, you will also get a good price from the owner on multiple purchases.
Valletta has several cruise ships arrive throughout the week and when they disembark their passengers, the narrow Republic street is packed. Curiously the stores in Valletta close at about the noon hour and do not reopen until 4PM. It doesn't seem to make a lot of difference whether a new boat load of tourists turns up or not. I guess tradition is tradition.
I really like Valletta, I find its myriad of small stores and narrow streets a labyrinth of places to explore, the only negative lies in the fact that you need to be a mountaineer, or goat, to negotiate some of the steep side streets.
I am not going to make the mistake and trying to make this website a travel brochure of all the historic sites you should visit in Valletta, for that I would recommend "The blue guide of Malta and Gozo" by Geoffrey Aquilina Ross ISBN 0-393-32136-3, but from Republic to Merchant Street with its outdoor market, Valletta is alive with colour, culture and a history ranging back over hundreds of years, and it is here on Republic Street that you should visit St John's Co Cathedral with its magnificent interior going back to its foundation in 1573 (a must visit).
At the end of the street is Victoria Square, now called Queens Square, used by several restaurants as a large outdoor bistro. Believe me, there is nothing more relaxing than
sit with a cappuccino and watch the world go by at about 10:00 o'clock
in the morning. One of these cafe's is the famous Cordina and I suggest
you take a moment and go inside the cafe itself and look at the ceilings
and décor, a truly elegant and stylish cafe to spend a quiet moment
While prices at the Cordina are rather expensive, and the cheesecakes (pastizzi's) are not made in the traditional Maltese style, tucked away at 29 Old Theatre Street (tel 21237827). just a few hundred yards from Queens Square you can find one of the best little bar/café's in Valletta. If you are looking for good basic Maltese food at very fair prices, then we suggest you visit the “Still Alive” Bar, owned and operated by Mr Anthony Zammitt, offering some of the best food (home made) and prices (pastizzi’s
are a specialty) to be found anywhere on the island. Another good place is a small cafe near the parking area outside of Mdina (on St Pauls street). I suggest a bottle of a local beverage called “Kinnie’ to wash them down.
If you visit, ask to meet Tony he is a very friendly guy and never seems to stop from the moment he gets up in the morning until he closes the restaurant.
visiting Europe, we fly
While you are in Queen Square, the only public washrooms located at this end of Republic Street are toward the back of the square. If you ask a waiter or waitress at one of the outdoor bistro's, you will be given a cursory nod followed by "Over there" and that’s it, but I could not see a single sign indicating a public washroom. If you look toward the back of the square, under the covered walkway you will see
large wooden doors with the word "Premier" painted
onto the glass over the top. (on the left of "The Maltese Experience")
this is where the public washroom is located, and please note there
is a resident washroom attendant in place and you are expected to
tip them on your way out, or receive a stern frown of disapproval,
if you leave without doing this.
you look around at the gardens, you will find the walk up the long
hill is well worth the effort. The scenery from here is another one
of those spectacular views that Valletta is full of. The Grand Harbour
lies at your feet and from here you can see the enormous size of this
natural harbour and realize why so many nations fought for control
of the island. Across the harbour from left to right is the fort of
Ricosali, Vittoriosa and Senglea, each one magnificent in their
own right. A harbour boat cruise is well worth the money and allows
you get a different perspective of the imposing defences these cities
offered. My last memory of Malta was of seeing Grand Harbour
full of Royal Navy ships, as operation Musketeer was about to get
underway. Now I think the view is better, tranquil waters and cruise
ships, and while Malta has probably suffered economically from the
loss of the RN and other British units on the island, I think it has
found its niche as a major tourist attraction for Europeans in the
summer and winter.