Valletta is the capital of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt (English: The City) in Maltese. It is located in the central-eastern portion of the island of Malta, and the historical city has a population of 6,966. Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as Knights Hospitaller.
The city is essentially Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture in selected areas, though World War II left major scars on the city. The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980. The city is named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, who succeeded in defending the island from an Ottoman invasion in 1565.
The official name given by the Order of Saint John was Humilissima Civitas Valletta — The Most Humble City of Valletta, or Città Umilissima in Italian. The bastions, curtains and ravelins along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches, led the ruling houses of Europe to give the city its nickname Superbissima — 'Most Proud'.
Valletta features a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Valletta experiences a lack of precipitation during the summer months and heavier precipitation during the winter months. Winter temperatures are moderated by the city’s proximity to the sea. As a result, Valletta enjoys mild winters. Average high temperatures range from around 15 °C (59 °F) in January to about 30 °C (86 °F) in August, while average low temperatures range from around 10 °C (50 °F) in January to 22 °C (72 °F) in August.
Our Lady of Victories Church was the first building completed in Valletta, built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578. The body of Jean Parisot de la Valette was entombed there until the construction of St. John's Co-Cathedral. It was commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière as the conventual church of the Knights of Malta. The Church was designed by the Maltese military architect Gerolamo Cassar, architect of the Knights of Malta.
Valletta contains a great number of palaces, as befits its Renaissance nickname, Superbissima (The proudest, the most illustrious). Some of these palaces served as the auberge for a particular langue of Knights, although some knights also had their own private residences. Other palaces were built by members of the nobility or foreign aristocracy.
The National Museum of Fine Arts is home to works of art that were originally displayed in buildings of the Order, such as the Grand Master's palaces and churches, as well as paintings by Mattia Preti and J. M. W. Turner. Prior to its conversion into a museum, it was a residence. The Order acquired the building in the mid-18th century and transformed it into a Rococo palace. After the departure of the Order from Malta in 1798, the State took over the administration of the building and its contents.
Manoel Theatre (Maltese: Teatru Manwel) is Europe's third-oldest working theatre. Located on Old Theatre Street, it is now Malta's National Theatre and home to the National Orchestra of Malta. The Manoel is a small, six-hundred and twenty-three seat venue with a lavish, oval-shaped auditorium, three tiers of boxes constructed entirely of wood and decorated with 22-carat gold leaf and a pale blue, trompe-l'oeil ceiling that resembles a rounded cupola.
The Upper Barrakka Gardens (Maltese: Il-Barrakka ta' Fuq) offer a panoramic view of the Grand Harbour. They were first constructed in 1661 for the private use of knights from the Italian langue. It was not before 1824 that the gardens were opened to the public. The garden suffered extensive damage throughout the Second World War.
Fort Saint Elmo (Maltese: Forti Sant’Iermu) stands on the seaward shore of the Sciberras Peninsula, dividing Marsamxett Harbour from the Grand Harbour. Since the mid-20th century, Fort Saint Elmo has housed Malta's police academy. The War Museum also occupies part of the Fort. It commands the entrances to both harbours and prior to the arrival of the Knights of Malta in 1530, a watchtower existed on this point. Reinforcement of this strategic site commenced in 1533.
Jazz music in Malta was introduced in the Strait Street area, frequented by Allied sailors during both World Wars. The Malta Jazz Festival took place here. Strait Street is also more commonly known as 'The Gut.' Today this area is undergoing a full regeneration programme.
Valletta is the scene of the Maltese Carnival, held in February leading up to Lent. Carnival in Gozo is celebrated in Victoria and parishes in both islands hold their own festivities.
The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated on 16 July
Saint Paul's feast is celebrated on 10 February
Saint Dominic's feast is celebrated in Valletta on August 4 or before
The feast of Saint Augustine is celebrated on the third Sunday after Easter
The city's residents also conduct an annual procession in honor of St. Rita
Valletta is served by Malta International Airport, which is located 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the city. Malta's public transport system, which uses buses, operates mostly on routes to or from Valletta, with their central terminus just outside the city's entrance. Traffic within the city itself is restricted, with some principal roads being completely pedestrian areas.