Overview of the Old Town of Valletta Malta from the ship.

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

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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 Valletta, starting in this ancient and fascinating cruise port in the western Mediterranean

Overview of the old city in Valletta, Malta from the cruise ship.

Best Things to Do in Valletta, Malta

Getting Around in Valletta

Valletta, the capital of the small independent island of Malta, is one of three islands in the Maltese Archipelago. It is located in the western Mediterranean, 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 in Malta, mainly because it was a British colony from 1813 until the end of World War II. Italian is also commonly spoken because of the island’s proximity to Italy, and Catholicism is the major religion.

The 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 has 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, woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer, and beautiful inlaid marble floors.

Valletta, Malta harbor with the old fort across the water and a gondola crossing.
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, Malta, 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, Malta

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

Shoppers will find delicately woven Maltese lace, blown glass, and even brass door knockers throughout the island. Silver filigree jewelry and locally made pottery are 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 1 pm – 4 pm and reopen until 7 pm. 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.

Where to Eat and Drink in Valletta, Malta

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 specialties include bragioli—spicy beef and olive rolls—and rabbit stew.

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 dotted with cafés.
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

Front of St. Johns Co-Cathedral with two twin bell towers.
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.

An excellent way to see Valletta, Malta, and the St. John’s Co-Cathedral is on a city walking tour with the Cathedral included. We did it, and it was incredible.

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.

Fountain surrounded by shrubs at the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta Malta.
A visit to Valletta almost requires a stop at Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Archways at Barrakka Gardens open to the sea in Valletta, Malta.
Strolling through the Barrakka gardens and grounds with spectacular views of the sea from high above.
View from Upper Barrakka Gardens with a row of cannons pointing to the harbor.
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-century palace. Inside, you’ll find possessions of the Order of St John, including furniture, sculptures, and the world-renowned artworks of Carpaccio, Michelino, and Tintoretto. Local Maltese artists also have their works on display.

People walking through the open city square in downtown Old Town.
Get your bearings…the open square is a good meeting place in downtown Old Town.
View looking up at some of the old buildings in the Old Town.
Just looking up and out.

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

Scaffolding along the outside of some of the old walls under repair.
Valletta is almost constantly in need of repair and upkeep. Some fortress walls are hundreds of years old.

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

Valletta Malta horse and buggy with tourists riding through the Old Town
Horses 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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  1. 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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