Valletta, Malta
Photo by Infinite Ache  –  Link

Valletta

Malta

For a capital city that's so tiny - it occupies just 0.8 square km in its entirety - Valletta, Malta, sure has a lot to offer. As well as being the European Capital of Culture for 2018, it is certifiably one of the world's most historically packed cities, boasts numerous museums covering everything from archaeology to the postal system, and is set to open a brand spanking new art gallery by the end of the year. If that wasn't enough, it was also a filming location for Game of Thrones. Built from the seeds of a 16th century fortress, to walk around Valletta is to soak up the past, to catch glimpses of the sea between steep narrow streets, to stroll through beautiful public gardens, and to stumble upon delicious and diverse eats. It makes sense then, that locals simply refer to it as "the city" - there's nowhere quite like it.

History

As the historical and cultural centre of this island nation, one of Valletta's claims to fame is that it was among the first places on the planet to be granted UNESCO World Heritage List status. This honour it received owing the fact that it's one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world, with 320 monuments tracing many of its major moments, across civil society, religious life and military battles.

First formally established by the Order of St John following the Siege of Malta, many of the buildings that acted as founding blocks for the city are still visible, including its churches and palaces. Later, 18th century additions, such as the stunning Manoel Theatre are also still in use today - if you have the chance to see a show, do. Even if you don't go inside a single one of Valletta's buildings, a walk around the city is still tantamount to visiting an open air museum.

Things to see

St John's Co-Cathedral - Lavishly decorated cathedrals may normally be associated with cities such as Rome, but this magnificent building is regarded as one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in the whole of Europe. Built between 1572 and 1577, on the site of an earlier church, no surface inside has been left untouched, ungilded or unpainted.

Upper Barrakka Gardens - These gardens, which sit atop Valetta's St Peter & St Paul bastion and are the highest point on the city wall, provide stunning panoramic views over the Grand Harbour.

Maltese Parliament House - For something totally different, amble over to the Parliament building, which was erected in 2014. It's sleek and very modern, which caused some controversy back when the original designs were laid out, but actually fits in oddly well.