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Valletta is one of Malta's most ancient and important cities - the capital of the country since 1571. Until it's construction in the middle of the sixteenth century it was preceded by Fort St Elmo, at the outer point of the coast's headland. The city was build up with bastions and defence walls which served it well over the centuries - allowing it to evade capture right up until the second world war.
Located on the harbour, Valletta was ideally situated to grow into a business centre and to attract tourists. Today it still manages to be a hive of industry, as well as an important destination for travellers - and yet it retains its sense of peace and tranquility after hours. The central bus station is the starting point for a number of sightseeing tours, however a lot of the city can be explored by foot, including the old defences and walls enclosing it. The views from the ramparts are incredible and the labyrinth of city streets and alleyways are an experience in their own right. Visitors love the beautiful balconies and high staircases and it's worth taking a tour with a local expert to hear exactly how the city's architecture helps to naturally regulate the air flow and circulation in extremely hot temperatures and protect against the fierce heat of the sun.
Other particular attractions in the city include the ancient fort of St Elmo - which now houses the War Museum - and St John's Cathedral which is splendid and welcomes visitors away from mass times. The Grand Master's Palace is also a fascinating visit with great history and artefacts on show.
Valletta doesn't have any sandy beaches, however there are rocks on which locals tend to sunbathe. The harbours and coastal areas are excellent for meandering along and there is a ferry which goes between Valletta town and Sliema. Here there is also a swimming pool and water polo pool together with a fish market. There are watersports in the area for those that are feeling energetic, including scuba diving and snorkelling. Newcomers will find that there are schools which specialise in teaching these skills to visitors.
The local food combines the best of Mediterranean cooking with elements that British travellers in particular are familiar with. Food is plentiful, healthy and features the freshest of local ingredients. Often heavy on meat and vegetables, there are plenty of excellent local restaurants which offer hearty meals combined with good local wines and ports. Food is competitively priced and taken at leisure.
Take time to enjoy the cafe and bar culture too - lovely on a hot day or at night, there are many picturesque small places on the edges of the town squares. Although the town is very busy and lively in the day, it tends to feel more relaxed at night - so those seeking a buzzing nightlife should head to St Julians, Sliema or the Paceville part of St Julian's for clubs and livelier bars. There are plenty of taxis for making trips to and from these places.
As well as taxis, Valletta Bus Station is just outside the city gate and is the hub of the transport system, with the majority of buses leaving and returning to this station. There are information kiosks from which you can obtain route maps and timetables. Alternatively you may find that your hotel puts on a bus to the most popular local destinations for its residents.
Maltas climate has always made it very popular with tourists - the temperature barely falls below fifteen degrees and rain is only common between the November and February months. This makes it popular with British tourists in particular, especially during out of season months. High summer can be rather too hot though for those that aren't a fan of 40 degree temperatures, although the sea breezes can make it feel slightly more bearable. If visiting in summer be sure to follow local customs: siestas when it's too hot, plenty of cold drinks - and lots of sun protection!
For British travellers, Malta is an excellent destination because English is one of its official languages, along with Maltese. Italian is also widely spoken. Most of the residents are Catholics and there are over 350 churches on the pretty island, many of which are worth a visit. The local currency is the Euro and tipping is comparable to England, with 10 to 15% being usual for restaurants and taxis.