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Valletta: A capital idea

The Maltese capital is in the spotlight as one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2018 and is reeling in travellers with a slew of cultural celebrations and new openings

Valletta: A capital idea

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Get the party started
Get 20 January in your diaries — the year of festivities kicks off with gusto. Four of Valletta’s public squares will be transformed into open-air, Baroque stages for La Fura dels Baus, an out-there urban theatre group from Barcelona that blurs the lines between artist and audience. Elsewhere, the city will come to life with acrobatics, video art, music and contemporary dance performances from ŻfinMalta, with storytellers and travelling bands completing the line-up.

Carnivalesque capers
Elaborate, exuberant and all-out extravagant, the technicolour Maltese Carnival is one of the island’s oldest and most flamboyant festivities. For four days (9-13 February), the winding stone streets will heave with marching bands, dancers clad in gaudy get-up and a spectacular stream of off-the-wall, handmade floats.

Works of art
MUŻA is the new National Museum of Art in Malta and Heritage Malta’s flagship project for 2018. When it opens its doors in mid-2018, in Auberge d’Italie — a palatial 16th-century inn built for Malta’s knights, set around an arcaded courtyard — it will exhibit Renaissance drawings in collaboration with Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.

To market
The three-storey Victorian-era market Is-Suq tal-Belt, will be brought back to life for the New Year following a huge regeneration project. Discover fresh food stalls and a food court abuzz with tasting kiosks, and keep an eye out for cultural happenings in the upper tiers.

New rooms
The Saint John boutique hotel threw open the doors of its 17th-century former merchant house in September — now with modern interiors and a laid-back vibe. It’s only a stone’s throw from historic sites like the Grand Master’s Palace and St John’s Co-Cathedral, complete with its spectacular Caravaggio painting, The Beheading of St John the Baptist.

Modern touch
When Renzo Piano first unveiled his designs for a bold new city gate, there was uproar; residents felt the dramatic structure wasn’t in keeping with the Baroque vibe of the city. But since opening in 2014, it’s become a tourist hotspot, offering views across the city’s moat and butter-hued stone bastions.

400 events and exhibitions make up the 2018 cultural programme, which culminates on 15 December with the closing spectacle.

More info: valletta2018.org visitmalta.com

Published in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)