With a mere population of around 6,000, Valetta is the Capital city of the island country of Malta, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s foundation stone was laid in 1566, the site having been strategically chosen as a result of the Siege of Malta in 1565.
Valetta is built upon a rocky peninsula in the north-east coast of the island. The city is surrounded by two picturesque harbors, Marsamxett harbour and the Grand Harbor.
There are many fine structures and palaces in Valetta. Benjamin Disraeli described it as «a city of palaces built by gentlemen for gentlemen». Several architectural styles are present, such as Neo-Classical, Modern, and Mannerist, but the dominant style is Baroque. Maltese Architect Gerolamo Cassar is responsible for many of the most important buildings in Valetta.
Amongst the finest structures by Cassar is the Grandmaster’s Palace, built for the Knights of Malta, and now housing the House of Representatives of Malta. Also contained within is an armory featuring one of Europe’s finest collections of weapons from the Knights of Malta.
Another fine structure is St. John’s Co-Cathedral, which despite a relatively plain-looking exterior, is magnificently ornate within, with wonderful carved stone and painted ceilings. It also contains many fine works of art including the only signed painting by Caravaggio, «The Beheading of St. John the Baptist».
Another great attraction is the National Museum of Fine Arts, which is housed in one of Valetta’s finest Rococo palaces. It was built by the Knights of St. John in the late 1570s.
Another great building is the 1731 Manoel Theatre, which is the third oldest theatre in Europe that is still in use. This beautiful oval theater can be seen via guided tour. Also be sure to visit the Upper Barracca Gardens, where you will enjoy beautiful views of the harbor.
Valetta has a beautiful Baroque layout, with narrow winding streets, fountains and parapets with coats of arms. The city is fortified as well, and also has an original fresh water and sewage system that was designed in the 1500s.
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