Valletta city was made for walking and socialising. Valetta’s original city planners back in the 16th century ensured that the foundations of the city contained spaces within which the people could congregate outside on a hot summers’ day or night. The elegant squares of Valletta are part of the fabric of the city, part of its culture, providing residents and tourists alike space to breathe and to enjoy life in vibrant Valletta.
Republic Square – Home of the cafés
We’ll start in Republic Square which was originally called the Piazza dei Cavallieri, since the treasury of the Order of Saint John was originally located here. Under the rule of the British empire a statue of Queen Victoria was installed in the square to look down on the citizens of Malta, at this point the square became known as the Queen’s Square. Today it is very easy to miss her as there is so much life going on in this space, though you will often hear locals still call it the Piazza Regina. Modern life here will take you from the café culture of some of Malta’s most famous spots to sit and people-watch to a favourite shopping mecca. Café Cordina is a must when visiting Republic Square. This family business founded in 1837, can most probably be found on every tourist map of Malta that has ever existed. It is not a tourist haunt, as you will always find many locals there to enjoy their delightful pastries and scrumptious ice-cream.
St. George’s Square – Where the Grandmaster lived
Then we’ll move on to St. George’s Square. This square is graced with the main façade of the Grandmasters Palace, which was built between the 16th and 18th centuries as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John who ruled Malta at this time. It is also home to the stately Main Guard which formerly housed the guards of the British Governor of Malta. Both buildings are still put to work, the office of the Attorney General being housed in the Main Guard and the office of the President of the Republic in the magnificent Grandmaster’s Palace. You can enjoy the spectacle of the changing of the guard ceremony which takes place here on the final Friday of the month. After all this history, one can enjoy a bite to eat and a glass or two, in any one of the many gastro pubs, bistros or burger bars that surround this grand space. However, the centre of this stunning square is a central attraction on a hot day as water jets spurt up and soak all those that want to cool down – Not to be missed!
St. John’s Square – Location of the stunning Cathedral
St. John’s Square is found in front of the stunning St. Johns Co-Cathedral. Although this piece of architecture dates to the 16th century, the origins of the square itself are much more recent, as it did not form part of the original plans for the city as drafted by the Knights. However, with its bustling outdoor lounge bars and stylish dining venues it has become a fashionable spot to see and be seen by tourists and locals alike. A shopping arcade also frames the square so there is the enviable combination of retail therapy as well!
Triton Square, Freedom Square, Castille Square & Independence Square
There are several other beautiful squares to enjoy in Valletta worth mentioning too.The first of which is Triton Square which stands near the city gate of Valletta. Standing imposingly in the centre is the newly restored Triton Fountain, which is one of Malta’s most important modernist landmarks created by the celebrated Vincent Apap and Victor Anastasi back in the 1950’s. The fountain consists of three bronze Tritons holding up a huge basin, this landmark stands as a testament to the capital’s unconquerable spirit.
Then we move onto Freedom Square, the architecture here is far more reminiscent of the Communist period of the 1970s. At the head stands the very ambitious Parliament building, just inside the City Gate. As you walk up from the open-air theatre you enter the new Piazza Jean de la Vallette which is named after the founder of the capital, the legendary Grandmaster who sadly never lived to see the city which he envisioned with such passion. His statue is situation beside the beautiful 16th century church, St. Catherine of Alexandria on Merchants’ Street.
From the top of Merchants’ Street, you will find Castille Square which overlooks the stunning Grand Harbour and the Auberge de Castille, which today is the Prime Minster’s Office.
Finally, we make our way to a charming little square, Independent Square, which is without doubt one the quaintest spots in Valletta. Independence Square is situated just behind the Manoel Theatre and St. Paul’s Anglican Church. It is surrounded by beautiful terraces and traditional Maltese homes where some of Valletta’s well-heeled residents live, this quality creates the feeling of a hideaway from the main city tourist thoroughfares.
Where to stop for lunch or dinner in Valletta?
Valletta is most definitely designed to be taken in by foot and the beautiful squares hold many a treasure for you to enjoy as you wander the sunlight streets. Risette set within the elegant boutique hotel Casa Ellul in the heart of Valletta is the ideal spot within which to enjoy lunch. Risette’s informal fine dining experience set under the iconic Lady of the Mount Carmel Church will ensure that you feel part of the city you are viewing whilst indulging in the most sumptuous lunch.
The kitchen headed up by renowned Chef Andrew Borg, offers not only exceptional service in the most stunning surroundings but the menu is truly innovative with dishes such as turnip royale with prawn and sturgeon caviar, shimeji mushroom and shellfish rarebit or seabass with jerusalem artichokes, fennel, mussels and morteau sausage. The desserts are also to die for too with treats such as quince, popcorn and goat’s milk caramel sundae. We look forward to seeing you at Risette after walking up an appetite around the beautiful squares of Valletta…