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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Malta - Day 3: Floriana Walking Tour and Valletta

We had visited St. Peter´s Pool and Marsaskala already the day before, when we had spare time left. So we didn´t have any plans for another day in Marsaxlokk. But given how small Malta is, we decided to take a first look at Valletta already, Malta´s capital. It was just a bus ride of about 1 hour away, from the Xerriex Bus Station in Marsaxlokk, which is at the end of the street Sant Andrija, just a very short walk from the waterfront.

We used our convenient 7-day-bus pass, with which we could just enter every bus without additional cost. Soon we reached the main bus stop Valletta at the Triton Fountain. We had decided to do a self-guided Floriana walking tour and Floriana basically begins south of the bus station, while north of the bus station Valletta's old town begins.


From the busy bus station, we walked to the south and immediately reached the nice Mall Garden, a promenade, built in 1656 and home of some statues.


Next up was the St. Publius Church, an impressive building with the vast St. Publius Square in front of it. It honors Saint Publius, who played a big role in Malta´s Christianization and was the country´s first bishop. Unfortunately, it was closed. We slowly realized, that - different to other countries - most churches in Malta aren´t open to the public most of the time.


Just a few steps further we reached the Sarria Church, which we couldn't enter because a mass was taking place, and the Wignacourt Water Tower, which was just being renovated. We had more luck with the Argotti Botanical Gardens, with a history going back to 1740. While some of it was closed, we could walk through the park to an excellent viewing platform.


Back at the entrance of the park next to the Water Tower we used the public restroom (Malta has plenty of them) and walked past the fine Neo-Gothic church Robert Samut Hall. At the end of the street (Triq Sarria), we turned right to walk a bit to the big Porte des Bombes, built in 1721, which was once part of the outer defensive walls of Valletta.


With our Floriana tour basically finished, we wanted to walk to the Valletta Waterfront, but first ended up at some kind of bus cemetery. After some adjustments, we came to the street It-Telgha tal-Kurcifiss, which leads down to the water, where we were greeted by huge cruise ships. 


We postponed the plans for the waterfront, when we realized, that we were already at the lift up to Valletta's Upper Barraka Gardens. The lift is quite impressive and didn't cost much. We were up there in no time. While the historic garden is fine, the real draw is the spectacular view of the Grand Harbour. I met a nice Filipina there, who like many fellow Filipinos, worked on a cruise ship and now had spare time, to do some sight-seeing around Valletta. It was great to actually see actually Filipinos in Malta.



From the Upper Barraka Gardens, it was just a short walk to a square with the Auberge de Castille, where the prime minister of Malta has his office. We walked along the St. Catherine of Italy Church and the remains of the Royal Opera House, where now an open air theater resides, to a little cafe in the Triq Ir-Repubblika, the main pedestrian zone in the Old Town.



After coffee and some spaghetti, we decided to take a look at the nearby Malta 5-D theater, which was, unfortunately, already closed. But a few steps further, the National Museum of Fine Arts was still open, so we entered it. With our Malta Heritage Pass we didn't have to pay the entrance fee and set off to see the abundance of paintings from the late medieval period to the contemporary. We were pretty much the only visitors. The main focus was religious subjects and landscapes, depicting historical Valletta. It sets you off a bit into a different time, which was great.



When we were finished with the museum, we walked to St. George's Square and then back to the bus station, as most attractions were already closed. The main bus station in Valletta is well organized with several bus gates, which all have timetables attached, so it was easy to find the one going back to Marsaxlokk.



On our last evening in Marsaxlokk we, of course, went to the waterfront again and then packed, as we would continue our journey on the next day to Sliema, nearby Valletta.



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