After a good night’s sleep we enjoyed a hearty breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant and then walked the short distance to the Bugibba bus station to catch a bus into Malta’s capital Valletta. It’s possible to take the 31, 45 and 48 buses and the journey takes approximately one hour on each service.
Valletta is located on a narrow headland surrounded on both sides by a stunning natural harbour. Alighting from the bus in the centre of Valletta we strolled the short distance to Freedom Square with its Renaissance sandstone facades of original Maltese style buildings glowing in the sunshine. On our right we viewed the modernist Parliament House, completed in 2013 adjacent to the ruins of the Royal Opera House which has now been transformed into an open air theatre venue. At least the new parliament building reflects the gold sandstone of its surroundings and doesn’t detract too much from the historic square.
Walking uphill we reached the city ramparts where we found attractive gardens with archways leading out onto the city wall and the Saluting Battery. From here we were rewarded with stunning views of Valletta’s grand harbour and the surrounding fortified towns.
The gun battery is reputedly one of the oldest in the world still in operation having protected the harbour against naval assault for almost 500 years. The guns were originally fired at noon each day to enable ship’s masters to calibrate their on-board chronographs, the ritual has now been restored to mark the passage of mid-day.
Next it was time to view the ceremonial Changing of the Guard outside the Grand Master’s Palace in St. George’s Square. We watched the Armed Forces of Malta put on a show of pomp lasting 45 minutes with spectators having good viewpoints at the sides of the square. Our guidebook indicated that the Changing of the Guard only takes place on the last Friday of the month at 10.30 a.m. but as we were there on a Wednesday at noon, I’m unsure why it was taking place then, but it was a bonus which we were happy to have seen.
Moving on, we continued exploring this delightful small capital with its steep narrow streets and its British style postboxes and telephone booths. Motorists drive on the left and it even started drizzling making it feel even more like home, apart from it being considerably warmer. Hopefully we’ll make a return visit to Valletta later in the week to take in more of its sights.
Returning to our hotel was easy as there was already a bus waiting to depart from the bus station. Tea and cakes followed in the hotel’s cafe before relaxing in the hotel’s spa awhile before dinner.