Why You Should Visit Valletta If You Love Architecture!

  • Apr 13, 2019

If you love architecture then you’re in for a real treat if you visit Valletta...

A nation’s history and spirit defines its architecture and well for Malta and its capital Valletta that has got to create something truly astounding. If you love architecture then you’re in for a real treat if you visit Valletta.

The most beautiful architectural buildings to visit in Valletta

1. Auberge de Castille

Today the Auberge de Castille is a government office and the seat of the nation’s Prime Minister. The palace was originally built by the order of St. John following the Great Siege of 1565. It was built out of war and opened in 1574, the style was certainly more practical as it was to be a military building under the Knights. However, in 1741 the façade of the Auberge was put in the hands of master builder, Domenico Cachia, whose signature is in the ornate baroque design that graces the building to this day. From the main central window which displays the Grand Master’s coat of arms and bust onwards you can pick out the symbol of the Grand Master and the crescent moon throughout the vastness of this building.

2. Grandmaster’s Palace

This architectural treasure located in the very heart of Valletta has also been at the political heart of Malta for 350 years. It was originally named the Auberge d’Italie and was designed by Glormu Cassar to be the formal residence to the Grand Masters of the Knights of St. John. The ornate state rooms house some of the most magnificent work of art, tapestries and frescoes, as well as priceless Armoury from Malta’s history. The beauty to behold does not stop with the architecture, as when you take a moment to sit within the gardens of the palace, you can reflect about Valletta’s past and beyond.

3. St.John’s Co-Cathedral

St. John’s Co-Cathedral was at the time of its inception the Knights’ main place of worship and when you set eyes on it you will understand why. The imposing church designed by the great Girolamo Cassar was built in just five short years between 1573 and 1578 and was dedicated to John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Order. Its interior underwent quite a baroque style make-over during the 17th century under the tutelage of Mattia Preti. The interior to this day is one of the finest examples of high baroque architecture in Europe. The cathedral, as home to an original painting of its patron St. John the Baptist, by the celebrated artist Caravaggio, attracts visitors from far and wide to enjoy the exuberant interior that sits behind its relatively plain exterior.

4. New Parliament

This part of Valletta’s evolution was designed by Renzo Piano as part of the new millenniums City Gates project.

Constructed from limestone, concrete and steel this modern building was completed in 2015, and up till this point the Parliament of Malta had been in the Tapestry Chamber of the Grand Masters Palace since 1921. This modern construction is befitting of its place in time, as it is a zero emission building – the architectural design results in heat energy being recovered from the mass of rock beneath its foundations, and converts that energy to either heat or cool air towards the building.

5. Is-Suq tal-Belt

Is-Suq tal-Belt is Maltese for “Valletta Market” though it is sometimes known as the Covered Market. This 19th century market hall is famous for being the first building in Malta to be constructed mostly from iron. The design of this market was inspired by the world-famous Covent Garden Market in London and the Halles Centrales Market in Paris. However, Is-Suq tal-Belt went on to be an architectural inspiration in its own right as other projects across the British Empire were founded on Valletta’s Market. Sadly, the original construction was damaged severely in WWII and the rebuilding of it was not to the standard of the original. A major renovation brought it back to its former glory and it reopened as a food market again in 2018.

6. Manoel Theatre

The construction of the Manoel Theatre was ordered in 1731 by the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller, Fra Antonio Manoel de Vihena, and so the Manoel Theatre was christened. The theatre grew in popularity with the public staging opera and drama productions. Prior to Manoel funding this project from his own coffers, to ensure “honest entertainment” for the young knights and the general populace, the theatre had been the preserve of the nobility. This revolutionary venture was built and opened to the public in only 10 months, however this architectural beauty is a Grade 1 listed building and defies this timescale with the attention of detail in its construction. From the oval-shaped auditorium, the three tiers of boxes built entirely of wood and intricately decorated with gold leaf, and a pale blue trompe-l’oeil celling that bears a resemblance to a round cupola. The first performance was held under its roof in January 1732 and is still in operation today as one of Europe’s oldest working theatres. A day of architectural wonders in Valletta can only be topped off with a luxurious stay at the stunning boutique hotel Casa Ellul. Sitting on Old Theatre Street in the shadow of the Manoel Theatre, it has soaked up the architectural soul of its surroundings. The inspiration of the theatre is felt from the many balconies of this neo-classical building. The shadow to the other side of Casa Ellul is the impressive dome of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that looks down upon this traditional Maltese palazzo. Spend some time in one of Casa Ellul’s suites, to truly appreciate the unique baroque architecture of this palazzo!