The ancient city of Valletta is teeming with historic monuments, churches and gardens. At just one-third of a square mile in area, Europe's southernmost capital is one of the easiest to explore on foot.
Given Malta's strategic location and succession of rulers including the Romans, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, it’s somewhat surprising to see Valletta so well preserved. The city dates back to the 16th century and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. Extensive restorations of historic buildings are underway, including the rebuilding of the city entrance to mark Valletta's recognition as the European Capital of Culture in 2018.
Decades of British rule mean that English remains an official language, along with the local Maltese language, plus a curious mix of Italian vocabulary and Semitic roots. As Malta lies just 50 miles south of Sicily, Italian influences dominate the cuisine and culture. Even so, the Maltese do value their own traditions, such as the folk music known as Għana, which features strong yet poetic male vocals over slow guitar music.