Valletta’s Grand Master’s Palace restored to its former glory

After years of unprecedented logistical and restoration works, the Grand Master’s Palace – a gem in the heart of Valletta that can be considered the cradle of our nation – is once again welcoming visitors. This after the restoration phase of the interior of this historical and architectural site was inaugurated on Friday evening.

The Armoury has taken back its original place of 1605, in the former Parliament Chamber; the Piano Nobile corridors were restored; as was the Uccelliera, where there was the office of the Speaker; and a visitor centre was completed in the area known as Palazzo del Monte and the Orangere (which was the office of the Attorney General) and the place where in the past there was a small orange garden. Moreover, the courtyards of the palace, as well as the State Halls, were also restored.

In total, the restoration project of the Grand Master’s Palace will be executed through an investment of more than €40 million, financed by the Maltese Government with co-financing of 18 million by the European Union as part of the European Regional Development Fund.

In a speech during the inauguration ceremony, the President of Malta George Vella expressed the hope that this evening’s celebration is another chapter leading to a path of renewing knowledge and sustainability of the Maltese cultural heritage, of which this Palace is such an important part.

President Vella recalled that at the beginning of his Presidency he had to relocate his office, including all the staff, to Sant’Anton Palace. “Looking back, I do not regret the sacrifice that my staff and I had to make because over time I recognised the urgency for the restoration of this jewel that had significant damages,” stated President Vella

Referring to his regular visits to the Grand Master’s Palace during the works, the President thanked and saluted all those whose big or small contribution led to the execution of such a big and complicated project.

For his part, Prime Minister Robert Abela, in a speech during the inauguration ceremony, expressed the Government’s desire for this Palace to be more beautiful so that we can ensure that future generations, like our ancestors and ourselves, can enjoy it as well. He recalled his visit in 2020, when the world was facing a pandemic, and that on that day his message to the Heritage Malta management was one of courage, but also a message about the need for more work and investment so that once we overcome that difficult period, the world will find us ready to not only continue with our lives, but to be at the forefront in various fields.

“For us, culture and the protection of national heritage was not an exception. Instead of reducing investment, we increased it. Instead of slowing down, we increased speed. Today we are here in this transformed gem, a beautiful project that we also delivered. A gem among the many in this capital city that we are so proud of. We are dedicating national funds to such projects as the result of wise economic management. Because the economic results we achieve give us the power so that as a country we have the necessary resources to invest in all areas.”

Over forty artists, personalities and children took part in the reopening ceremony of the Grand Master’s Palace with works, some of which commissioned, for this evening.

The Palace will be open every day between 09:00 and 17:00. For more information visit: https://heritagemalta.mt/explore/grand-masters-palace/.

Read the full article here: https://president.gov.mt/en/the-grand-masters-palace-reopens-its-doors-to-visitors-after-an-extensive-restoration-with-an-investment-of-more-than-e40-million/
9th annual Hosts Global Forum – Malta

Valletta included amongst National Geographic’s top 30 exciting destinations to visit

When describing Valletta, journalists Rory Goulding and Connor McGovern suggest to their readers to visit Valletta because it is a “UNESCO World Heritage Site” and has a “skyline of battlements and cathedral domes” which were shaped by “multinational order of knights who ruled Malta from the 16th to 18th centuries”.

“Scenic terraces are set above a glittering waterfront, where wooden townhouse balconies overhang the narrow streets — add in year-round warm weather and it’s not just filmmakers who should be inspired to visit in 2024”, they continued.

They go on to describe how it is of “little surprise that filmmakers would be impressed by Valletta” as they mention how Gladiator was filmed right here in Malta and its sequel is now filming here yet again.

“And, just as with the original, director Sir Ridley Scott has used the Mediterranean light and golden rock of Malta as his canvas for recreating ancient Rome and its arenas”.

Some of the other destinations mentioned in the article include the Atacama Desert in Chile, Nova Scotia in Canada, Sierra Leone and Sikkim in India amongst many others.

Article credits: A prestigious list! Valletta included amongst National Geographic’s top 30 exciting destinations to visit (guidememalta.com
Five Intriguing Facts About Malta’s Historic Capital

Valletta, the capital of Malta, is a picturesque location that skilfully combines history, architecture, and culture. To truly comprehend the essence of this city, we will delve deeper into its interesting characteristics and peel back the curtain on its extraordinary history. Valletta’s continued attraction is impacted by its identity as the 2018 European Capital of Culture, its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its association with Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette, its strategic importance, its cultural variety, and more. Consequently, OhMyMalta has compiled five interesting facts, delineating Valletta’s brilliance, and uniqueness.

Fact 1: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
The fact that Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site acknowledges the importance of its architecture and history. Francesco Laparelli, a military architect, methodically planned out the whole town in the 16th century, blending Baroque construction, fortifications, and a grid system that is both practical and visually attractive. The construction of Valletta served a strategic purpose in addition to being an impressive achievement of architecture. Its construction was overseen by the Knights of St. John, who sought to build a fortress city that would protect the island and stand as a testament to their strength and dedication.

The defences of the city, including Fort St. Elmo and Fort St. Angelo, had seen better days, but the Great Siege of 1565 left its mark. The Ottomans, headed by Suleiman the Magnificent, attempted to conquer Malta during this famous conflict, but the Knights, led by Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette, valiantly resisted. The Ottomans had to contend with strong defences, and the city’s tenacity was crucial to the Ottomans’ final loss. This period in Valletta’s history provides evidence of the importance and tenacity of the city.

Fact 2: Valletta Is The Smallest European Capital
With a land area of about 0.55 square kilometres and a population of little over 7,000, Valletta proudly claims the distinction as Europe’s smallest capital. Valletta, however, has an exceptional collection of historical, religious, artistic, and military assets despite its small size.

The beauty of Valletta is revealed in its baroque buildings, stunning artwork, and winding lanes with distinctive inclinations. Visitors may find elaborate architectural wonders, Maltese balconies with beautiful decorations, niches containing renowned saint statues, and Valletta’s characteristic antique store signs while strolling its small streets. The clever shallow steps in the city, which were once built for warriors wearing armour, provide a look into its interesting past. Well-preserved palaces and auberges from the 16th century may be seen strewn over the cityscape, each adding to the attraction of this Renaissance city. The beautiful gardens that cascade over the magnificent walls and provide tourists unrivalled views of the gorgeous bay are also not to be missed.

Fact 3: Strategic Location And Historical Significance
Valletta’s strategic location at the Mediterranean’s crossroads has made it a prized possession throughout history. Its location gives it control over important maritime routes and acts as a powerful defence against possible attackers. The defences of the city, known for their impregnability, have a long and colourful history. Fort St. Elmo is one of them and serves as a symbol of the city’s tenacity and historical importance.

The Great Siege of 1565 was a spectacular and violently fought war that is forever associated with Fort St. Elmo. The Ottomans launched a relentless attack on the fort’s walls in an effort to take Valletta. This fierce battle resulted in severe deaths on both sides, making it an important chapter in the siege’s history. Fort St. Elmo eventually fell, but not before its tenacious defence exacted a heavy price on the invaders and marked a crucial turning point in the epic war for control of the city. The history of Valletta, which is intricately linked to such occurrences, highlights its continued relevance as a symbol of resiliency and strategic significance in the Mediterranean area.

Fact 4: Home To Remarkable Art And Culture
The numerous museums, galleries, and historical places of Valletta are evidence of its cultural diversity. Visitors may travel back in time and take in the splendour of the past at the Grandmaster’s Palace, a magnificent architectural wonder. The State Rooms provide an insight into the splendour of the Knights of St. John thanks to their beautiful tapestries and murals. For those who enjoy history, the Palace Armory’s vast collection of weapons and armour is a gold mine. The National Museum of Fine Arts, which displays the creations of Maltese artists from various ages, is also located in the city.

In addition to its museums, Valletta conducts a wide range of cultural gatherings and festivals to honour its history and originality. An annual highlight, the Malta International Arts Festival, presents a broad selection of performances, exhibits, and installations. With the help of this event, the city is transformed into a thriving centre of culture that welcomes both residents and tourists from across the world.

Fact 4: Home To Remarkable Art And Culture
The numerous museums, galleries, and historical places of Valletta are evidence of its cultural diversity. Visitors may travel back in time and take in the splendour of the past at the Grandmaster’s Palace, a magnificent architectural wonder. The State Rooms provide an insight into the splendour of the Knights of St. John thanks to their beautiful tapestries and murals. For those who enjoy history, the Palace Armory’s vast collection of weapons and armour is a gold mine. The National Museum of Fine Arts, which displays the creations of Maltese artists from various ages, is also located in the city.

In addition to its museums, Valletta conducts a wide range of cultural gatherings and festivals to honour its history and originality. An annual highlight, the Malta International Arts Festival, presents a broad selection of performances, exhibits, and installations. With the help of this event, the city is transformed into a thriving centre of culture that welcomes both residents and tourists from across the world.

Article credits: https://ohmymalta.com.mt/2023/11/06/valletta-unveiled-five-intriguing-facts-about-maltas-historic-capital
The Phoenicia Malta Among Top 3 Hotels in Southern & Central Europe by Prestigious Platform

Malta’s very own The Phoenicia has placed amongst the Top 3 Hotels in Southern & Central Europe on prestigious travel platform Condé Nast Traveler.

The globally-renowned travel platform put one of Malta’s premier hotels in third place, with a score of 96.57, placing after Vienna’s Hotel Sacher and Park Hyatt, which placed in second and first respectively. Additionally, it was also named one of the Top 12 Hotels in the Rest of Europe by the publications Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2023.

This magnificent feat not only served as a first for the hotel and Maltese Islands, but was also called “the result of years of investment, not only in the property, but a substantial investment in The Phoenicia Malta team.”

In a recent statement, The Phoenicia Malta owner Mark Shaw stated the following: “We are deeply honoured to be included on this prestigious list, especially as it reflects the votes and feedback of our guests. At The Phoenicia Malta, we take great pride in providing warm, personalised hospitality, and it’s truly a source of pride to see valued guests returning year after year.”

The ranking comes after more than 520,000 readers submitted responses of their travel experiences across the globe, resulting in the results of The Readers’ Choice Awards.

An evening at the Phoenicia

Last night we spent an enchanting evening at Phoenicia Malta – the ideal setting for unforgettable moments. A big thanks to the exceptional team for their warm hospitality! Here’s to cherished conversations about business, current affairs, and building stronger connections.

Discovery of Neptune painting in National Museum of Archaeology

A painting discovered behind a blocked arch at the Gran Salon within the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta has been confirmed as an image of Neptune, the Roman God of the Sea, following a conservation project held by Heritage Malta with Bank of Valletta’s (BOV) support.

The painting, which sees the god hold a trident in his hand, was first discovered in 2021 during the project. It stands above what used to be a recessed arch with a fireplace that was blocked and redecorated.

As they were removing the pointing of the blocked-off access, conservators witnessed decorative elements completely different from the current decorative scheme of the Gran Salon, and a small opening was thus made, revealing details of a trident.

Following discussions of the findings with several professionals, the conservation team and Heritage Malta experts, with the approval of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, continued to meticulously remove stones blocking the archway to reveal a painting of Neptune that could possibly date to the late 17th or early 18th century.

Neptune is seated in the centre of a large seashell, resting his left hand on a jar with flowing war, while holding the trident in his right hand. He is depicted in a green colour, with the experts claiming it might have been done so he imitates bronze statues. As part of the decorative scheme there are also some architectural features among other shells and fish. They claim that to date, this is the only surviving element of the original decorative scheme of the Gran Salon, a majestic hall in the Auberge de Provence – now housing the National Museum of Archaeology – which was most probably fully decorated during the Knight’s period, yet was redecorated during the British Period.

The restoration of the hall commenced in 2017 through a partnership between BOV and Heritage Malta, with the bank’s participation in the project forming part of its commitment to “support and assist the community in which it operates”, going beyond the provision of financial services but as an “active citizen of this community”.

BOV CEO Kenneth Farrugia and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ernest Agius recently visited the Gran Salon to witness the discovery, and they were greeted by Heritage Malta COO Kenneth Gambin and the conservation team, who provided an update on the conservation process.

“As a bank celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, and with over 200 years of history in Malta, the local heritage is very close to our hearts and forms an integral part of BOV’s Community Programme,” Mr Farrugia said.

“We are indeed very excited to form part of this exciting discovery together with Heritage Malta and we are keen to follow any new information that this discovery will shed on the history of this magnificent hall,” he added.

Mr Gambin expressed his delight at the discovery of this early decorative scheme, which “further enhances” the Gran Salon’s value and beauty. He lauded the efforts of Heritage Malta’s conservators who had a crucial role in the project, and also thanked BOV for its “unwavering support”.

He remarked that Heritage Malta is eager to make this discovery accessible to the public, in line with its commitment to “bring Malta’s cultural heritage within the reach of the widest audience possible”.

Article credits: https://whoswho.mt/en/bov-and-heritage-malta-partnership-sees-exciting-discovery-of-neptune-painting-in-national-museum-of-archaeology
Is-Suq tal-Belt: A historic covered market at Valletta’s core

Valletta is routinely referred to as a highlight by tourists and foreign expats getting to know the island. The sheer number of architectural gems, rich history and way of life in the capital city is appreciated by locals and foreigners alike.

While there are worries that Valletta is losing some of the rich cultural value it once possessed due to the closure of generations old stores and establishments, certain structures are a sign that refurbishment and renovation that respect the urban context can go a long way towards preserving Malta’s heritage, one being Is-Suq tal-Belt.

Situated right at the heart of the capital, the market, also referred to as the Covered Market, is a market hall that was first constructed in 1861 and is mostly constructed out of iron. Built in a Victorian style, the limestone exterior gives it a fine finish that fits perfectly with the rest of Valletta’s architecture.

Despite Is-Suq tal-Belt’s architectural beauty nowadays, the market and its building site have had quite a turbulent history, having previously been home to a square known as Piazza del Malcantone, which used to be part of a gallows parade of a guilty person, where they would be humiliated and tortured around Valletta, before being hanged in Floriana. Crops and goods were also sold in the square.

Afterwards, a marketplace in the Baroque style was constructed at some point during the rule of the Order of St John, yet this was demolished when the British took over Malta. Following that, plans for a covered market began in 1845, and the building was then constructed between 1859 and 1861, initially designed by Hector Zimelli, and completed by Emanuele Luigi Galizia.

The market then fell victim to bombs during World War Two in 1942, leaving a third of the building destroyed. While it regularly underwent repairs, including the construction of new floors, prompting it to thrive for a few more years, the building still fell into a state of decline.

However, after Valletta’s nomination for European Capital of Culture 2018, Government set out to regenerate a significant part of the capital city, including the market. Arkadia Co. Ltd was granted a 65-year lease of the building in 2016, and after around €14 million in investment, Is-Suq tal-Belt experienced heavy restoration, led by Italian architect Marco Casamonti.

Original elements of the building were preserved and restored, with sections of the building being converted into food markets, restaurants and stalls, leaving the upper level for cultural activities and events. Other parts which were added over the years were dismantled.

The market hall officially reopened to the public on 3rd January 2018, right on cue for Valletta 2018.

The building has a rectangular plan, featuring walls and arches made from limestone. On the other hand, the roof is comprised of cast and wrought iron decked in timber, supported with various iron columns. The basement and ground level of the market were inspired by the Mercado di San Miguel in Madrid, as well as the Boqueria market in Barcelona.

Its restoration has been applauded, however heavy criticism has been leveled against commercial tenants for putting up large signage blocking the building’s beautiful facade, while just last month the Planning Authority rejected plans for outdoor canopies.

Article credits: https://whoswho.mt/en/is-suq-tal-belt-a-historic-covered-market-at-valletta-s-core
Maltese Nights at Valletta Waterfront

The centre of Valletta turns very quiet when the last office workers and shopkeepers leave for the evening, and the only regular nightlife to speak of are events at the Manoel Theatre and St James Centre, plus a handful of bars.

However, one can take in the scenic Grand Harbour views and relive traditional Malta at the Valletta Waterfront every Thursday evening from 8pm.

The Valletta Waterfront combines food, retail and entertainment within a maritime hub, which for the past years has proved to be a highly popular destination.

For those in search of a relaxing time with good food and entertainment, the Waterfront’s many restaurants and bars cater for different tastes, with dining right by the water’s edge.

The establishments’ indoor dining areas are situated inside the tastefully refurbished, historical stores, originally constructed by Grand Master Pinto in 1752.

Today, ushering in a modern era, the iconic doors have been revived with an artistic impression of colour, representing the storage of goods from days past: blue for fish, green for produce, yellow for wheat and red for wine.

Patrons can go back in time through the Maltese islands’ history and experience traditional folk dancing, falconry displays, the terramaxka – a musical instrument which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Maltese games, as well as battles between the Knights of St John and the Ottoman Turks, among other activities. The small chapel of the Flight to Egypt by the Holy Family further creates a unique ‘village’ ambience.

Maltese nights will continue every Thursday through to the end of September.

Article credits: https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/maltese-nights-at-the-valletta-waterfront.726112
The In Guardia Parade at Fort St Elmo

If you’re planning to visit Fort St Elmo in Valletta, don’t miss the chance to witness the spectacular In Guardia military parade.During the parade, you’ll see re-enactors from the Malta Tourism Authority dressed in period costumes, as they carry out military exercises and demonstrate their pride and skill.

The parade is scheduled to take place at Fort St Elmo in Valletta on several dates throughout 2023, including March 26th, April 23rd, May 7th and 14th, and October 22nd and 29th, November 5th and 12th, and December 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 26th.

The In Guardia Parade is a captivating re-enactment that portrays the inspection of Fort St Elmo and its garrison by the Grand Bailiff of the Order of the Knights of St John, who was responsible for the military affairs. This authentic event used to take place regularly inside Malta’s major fortifications.

During the re-enactment, approximately 50 re-enactors dressed in their period uniforms demonstrate their military drills to the Grand Bailiff to showcase their preparedness in case of military threats. The performance lasts for about 40 minutes, and visitors with tickets are entitled to watch the re-enactment and explore the upper part of the fort.

Let's go that extra mile!