Valletta, the capital city of Malta, is a jewel in the Mediterranean. Often referred to as ‘the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen’, Valletta is a testament to the architectural genius of the 16th century. While every corner of this city is steeped in history, certain structures stand out as truly iconic. Here’s a closer look at the top five buildings that define the architectural panorama of Valletta.
1. St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Standing at the heart of Valletta, St. John’s Co-Cathedral is an absolute masterpiece. It was built by the Knights of St. John between 1573 and 1578. On the outside, the cathedral exhibits austere military architecture, but step inside, and you’re greeted by an explosion of Baroque art and architecture. Notably, the cathedral houses two paintings by Caravaggio, making it an essential destination for art and history lovers.
2. The Grandmaster’s Palace
Once the residence of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, the Grandmaster’s Palace serves as the office of the President of Malta today. The Palace, located on Palace Square, is one of the city’s earliest buildings, dating back to the 1570s. It features a fascinating blend of Mannerist and Baroque architectural styles and is surrounded by two stunning gardens – Prince Alfred’s Courtyard and Neptune’s Courtyard.
3. Fort Saint Elmo
Guarding the entrance to Valletta’s two natural harbours, Fort Saint Elmo is a star-shaped fortress with a rich history. It played a crucial role in the Great Siege of 1565 and has since been an important military installation. Today, it houses the National War Museum. Its robust defensive architecture is a vivid reminder of the strategic importance of Valletta.
Known as the Bibliotheca, the National Library of Malta is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture. It was one of the last buildings to be erected by the Knights of St. John, with construction concluding in 1796. Apart from its stunning architecture, the library holds a wealth of historical documents, including the archives of the Order of St. John and several rare books.
5. Auberge de Castille
Located at the highest point of Valletta, Auberge de Castille was originally built in the 1570s for the knights of the Langue of Castille, León, and Portugal. The current building, a grand example of Baroque architecture, dates from the 1740s. Today, it serves as the office of the Prime Minister of Malta. Its intricately carved facade and richly decorated interiors truly make it one of Valletta’s architectural highlights.
These five iconic buildings provide a glimpse into the rich architectural tapestry of Valletta. They tell the tale of the city’s illustrious past, shaped by knights, sieges, and grandeur. A walk through the streets of Valletta, exploring these architectural wonders, feels like stepping back in time. So, whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or a traveller seeking unique experiences, Valletta’s iconic buildings are sure to captivate your imagination.