Best Things to Do in Valletta, Malta on Cruise Day in Port

What are the best cruise excursions to do in Valletta, Malta with only one day in port?  Here are our recommendations to make the most of your cruise day in Malta, an ancient and fascinating port. 

Best cruise excursions in Malta begin right at the ship.

Best things to do in Valletta, Malta

Valletta Profile

Valletta, the capital of the small independent island of Malta, is one of three islands in the Maltese Archipelago.  Located in the western Mediterranean, Malta is only 52 miles south of Sicily. Your ship docks fairly close to the old walled city.  Even though it’s a short walk (about 20 minutes) keep in mind that Malta was inhabited over 5,000 years ago.  

English is commonly spoken on Malta mainly due to it being a British colony from 1813 until the end of World War II. Because of the island’s proximity to Italy, Italian is also commonly spoken and Catholicism is the major religion.

Currency in Malta is the Euro and yes, shopping in Valletta is excellent and pricey. 

Life on Malta dates back over 5,000 years to around 3000 BCE.  Ancient temple ruins dot the island and may be seen from some of the roads.  Shore excursions can take you around the island to view many of these megalithic sights as well as include a visit to Mdina, the historic Old Town of Malta.

Many of the sidewalks are ancient cobblestone, stairways aren’t always level and even the main shopping area is on somewhat uneven terrain. When you visit Valletta, you might want to arrange for a taxi from your ship or take one of the colorful horse and buggy rides to the interior.

Another walled city over 3,000 years old, you’ll want to pay a visit to Mdina Cathedral. The cathedral and cathedral museum house a collection of oil paintings and frescoes, wood cuts by Albrecht Dürer and beautiful inlaid marble floors.

View of the sea in Valletta malta
Kind of an odd place to find a gondola. Across the water are the other two islands in the Maltese Archipelago.

One of the best things to do back in Valletta, especially for art enthusiasts is to head over to St. John’s Co-Cathedral in the center of town.  Inside this cathedral is a small museum with several works by Caravaggio.  Many of the Knights of the Order of St. John of Malta are buried in this very important cathedral.

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Shopping in Valletta

Valletta Malta shopping in Old Town
In the Old Town in Valletta, there’s plenty of shopping including designer boutiques.

Shoppers will find delicately woven Maltese lace, blown glass and even brass door knockers sold throughout the island.  Silver filigree jewelry and locally made pottery is also popular among tourists.  The central shopping area in Valletta is located inside the walls, along Republic and Merchant Streets.  Many of the shops close between 1pm – 4pm and reopen until 7pm.  If you’re on a morning shore excursion, you may not have a lot of time to shop.

Valletta Malta side street
Take a break from wandering the Old Town and walk to the waterfront.

Best places to eat and drink in Valletta 

Restaurant in Valletta Malta
Stop in at a nice restaurant or sidewalk café for a local specialty.

Once again, because of the island’s proximity to Sicily, Italian fare rules the roost. Local specialities include bragioli – spicy beef and olive rolls and it’s common to find rabbit stew on the menu. Tourists tend to favor traditional pizza and pasta choices but shouldn’t miss a taste of the locally produced cheese, Gbejniet, usually served in soup.  Lampuki Pie (fish pie) and Kapunata, (Maltese ratatouille) are also good lunch choices.

Valletta Malta promenade
Cafés along the waterfront promenade provide shade for returning cruisers.

If you decide to walk back to the ship, waterfront cafés dot the promenade and make for a nice finish to your day. Taxis are also available for the short distance back to the ship.  Be sure to have Euros with you in case the taxi does not accept credit cards.  A 10% tip for taxi rides and restaurant servers is standard.

Places to see in Valletta, Malta

St. John’s Co-Cathedral

valletta malta st johns cathedral
Allow enough time to see the Caravaggio paintings inside St. John’s Co-Cathedral.

Also called the Church of the Knights of the Order of St. John, St. John’s Co-Cathedral is located on St. John Street. Completed in 1577 and dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the cathedral is one of the most significant buildings on the island.  The interior was decorated in the “new” Baroque style, ornate and similar to the palaces in Europe.  St. John’s is the owner of the largest collection and the most important work by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, on display in the Caravaggio Centre.

Upper Barrakka Gardens

Take a stroll through the beautiful grounds of what was once the private gardens of the Italian Knights. Overlooking the Grand Harbour, you can view the fortress towns of Cospicua, Senglea and Vittorosa.

Upper Barrakka Gardens Valletta Malta
A visit to Valletta almost requires a stop at Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Barrakka gardens Valletta Malta
Strolling through the Barrakka gardens and grounds with spectacular views of the sea from high above.
Knights of Malta
View from Upper Barrakka Gardens gives you an idea of how the Knights of Malta protected the island.

National Museum  of Fine Arts

Located downtown, this museum is housed in an 18th palace.  Inside you’ll find possessions of the Order of St John including furniture, sculptures and world-renown artworks of Carpaccio, Michelino and Tintoretto. Local Maltese artists also have their works on display.

Get your bearings…the open square is a good meeting place in downtown Old Town.
Old buildings in Old Town Valletta
Just looking up and out.

When you’re walking through the Old Town in Valletta, remember to pay attention to the architecture.

Old walls and fortress
Valletta is almost in a constant state of repair and upkeep. Some fortress walls are many hundreds of years old.

At the end of the day, especially in summer, the short walk to the ship can seem like miles.  Treat yourself to a horse and buggy ride back to the ship.

Valletta Malta horse and buggy
Horse and buggies are a fun way to get around the perimeter of the Old Town, to and from the ship.

Whether you choose your cruise shore excursion to tour the island or spend the day on your own in the Old Town, a cruise visit to Valletta, Malta takes you to one of the most unique ports of call in Europe.

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2 thoughts on “Best Things to Do in Valletta, Malta on Cruise Day in Port”

  • Hi Angus,
    Lucky you…on both counts…Viking Sun AND a visit to Valletta! Have a wonderful cruise. It sounds like you’ve been there before.


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