The best things in life are free, (especially when in Valletta). This fortified city is a bastion of fun. You can look forward to running into baroque architecture and exploring cobbled streets that offer breath-taking views. Plus there’s Valletta’s gorgeous gardens that you can wander around ( or relax in) without an entrance fee. Being a hub of culture, you may even catch a free festival or three!
Valletta is an open-air museum and will have you out and about, discovering Malta’s historical capital city. Whether you live here, are passing for the day, or enjoying a weekend city break, there’s plenty to see and do all without breaking the bank. So, here is a guide on the best free things to do in Valletta.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
If you’re looking for some tranquility with a slice of beautiful views, then head to Upper Barraka Gardens. Entrance is free and you can enjoy panoramic views over the city, like The Three Cities and the Grand Harbour, which did you know is the oldest marina in the world?
The Upper Barrakka Gardens also overlooks the saluting battery, which is “fired” daily at noon and 4pm sharp. (More on this below).
Founded in 1661 Upper Barrakka Gardens originally served as the Knights of St Johns private gardens, but was opened to the public in the early 19th Century. Both the Upper and (Lower Barrakka Gardens) are beautifully maintained. So, just find yourself a spot and have a picnic. Or if you’re an early riser, you’ll be pleased to know Upper Barrakka Gardens are open everyday from 7am to 10pm. So, come for the peace and stay for the sunrise.
Lower Barrakka Gardens
You might prefer The Lower Gardens, where it is more serene, greener and has far less people. But, certainly ranks as one of the top free things to do in Valletta.
What’s more, the Lower Barrakka Gardens give you access to the Siege Bell Memorial, another historical monument to check out. Like, the Upper Barrakka Gardens, the Lower Barrakka Gardens were also the private gardens of the Knights of Malta. From here, you have uninterrupted views of the Grand Harbour and breakwater. Further out you’ll see Kalkara. Stop here and you can also watch all the huge cruise ships rolling in and out of the Grand Harbour. Best of all entrance to the Lower Barrakka Gardens is free and opens from 7am to 10pm daily.
The Siege Bell Memorial
The Siege Bell Memorial was erected in 1991 by the late Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate those who lost their lives during World War II and the Siege of Malta. There are hundreds of bells ringing across the island but not all have such awesome views. As well as the huge bronze bell sitting in the belfry you can also spot The Three Cities that seemingly leaps out of the water and into view.
Nowadays you’ll find Valletta Waterfront lined with upmarket restaurants, beautifully restored baroque buildings and swaying palm trees. But, during the 18th Century, the buildings were commissioned for the sole purpose of storing food. Colour was used as a means to indicate what went where. Valletta Waterfront is less popular with tourists. So, if you want to experience Valletta like a local…take a leisurely stroll along the promenade of the Marsaxmett Harbour. Or better yet enjoy a spot of people-watching from the waters edge.
In Maltese, the Door of the City is called “Bieb il-Belt”. This modern entry was finished in 2014, making it, Valletta’s fifth one. If you’re into things all things architecture, then you may already know that the architect behind the city’s gate is none other the Renzo Piano (the guy behind The Shard, London). The original one, called Porta San Giorgio, was finished in 1569. As you’ll come to discover, architecture and history are part of the parcel, where Valletta is concerned. So stopping here is one of the best free things to do in Valletta.
Perhaps among the top free things to do in Valletta is to see the Saluting Battery. Every day at noon and 4pm on the dot, you can see am enthusiastic re-enactment of a 500 year old tradition. Twice daily a restored gun is fired by the military and worthy of stopping to see, if you’re around. What started out as a tradition to alert of naval ships visiting is now a main attraction enjoyed by everyone, young and old.
Church of Our Lady of Victory
Did you know that in Malta, there are over 350 churches?
There are 28 churches in Valletta alone!
However, what makes Church of Our Lady of Victory special is this church was the very first one! It has the notable distinction of being the first completed building in Valletta under the Order of St. John. It’s another honorary nod in the direction of the great siege of Malta, and surprisingly completely free to visit!
Valletta’s open-air market not only gets you closer to the culture but also another great to stretch your legs. If you’re in Merchant Street, you can’t miss it. Browsing is free and here, you’ll see souvenirs, local produce, clothing, and much more. As you take a stroll through Valletta Market, see your visit as initiation into living like a local as you get a glimpse of life in Malta.
Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck
Another recommendation (and church) for free things to do in Valletta is…to see the Church of St Pauls. Named after Saint Paul the Apostle who I must say, made quite the impression on the Maltese islands. According to the New Testament, Paul wrecked his ship in Malta (or Melite the name in the Bible). He stayed here for three months and took the opportunity to bring Christianity to those who lived here. Today, over 95% of the residents identify as Catholics. This church is full of fascinating relics including a gilded statue of Saint Paul and bones from his wrist.
Alongside Valletta’s stunning architecture and historical monuments, the capital city is well known for its festivals. You’ll likely to catch one because these vibrant events run throughout the year. The good thing is that many of Valletta’s festivals will allow you to experience Malta’s culture at its finest. By the way, not all the festivals hosted here are free. But you can still catch some of the best when considering free things to do in Valletta!
Here are a just a few festivals for you to enjoy:
- Independence Day Celebrations
- Malta International Fireworks Festival
- Notte Bianca
- Valletta Green Festival
- Victory Day
- Rolex Middle Sea Race
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