Photo by Zammit (2016)

Photo by Zammit (2016)


Valletta is the capital city of Malta and serves as a governmental, a business and an administrative hub of the Maltese Islands. This fortified city is located between the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour. It includes numerous monuments and buildings which date back the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and which make Valletta a UNESCO World Heritage site. Amongst various monuments, the city has an extensive network of spaces below its surface. Most of these underground spaces were developed throughout the years for military and defensive purposes. However, the subterranean of Valletta has not been fully explored and requires further research, documentation and exposure.

The City and its Needs

Valletta is full of activity during the day with various commuters visiting the city for commercial, employment and cultural purposes. On the contrary, the historical city is less frequented at night. The main reason behind this situation is attributed to the fact that the city core has been left in a derelict state for various years. In the past years, much effort has been done to revitalise the city and the Grand Harbour area. Works include the restoration of monuments that lie both above and below the surface, improvement of amenities for tourists and locals and opening up of bars and restaurants for entertainment purposes. However, there is still much work to be done, especially when considering that Valletta will be the European Capital of Culture in 2018.

Apart from the rehabilitation of the existing cultural heritage, transport has always been a major issue. In Malta, there is still high reliance on the use of private transport for commuting purposes. In the last decade, policies for Valletta have been geared in the promotion of public transport, reserving space for residents’ parking, reducing car space for non-residents and introducing pedestrianised spaces (MEPA, 2002). However, transportation must be assessed from a wider perspective by taking also into consideration the cities surrounding the harbours. In fact, currently, the government together with the private sector is also considering the possibility of excavating a ferry tunnel linking the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour. This would facilitate travelling from Cottonera to Sliema and encouraging the modal shift to public transport (Projects Malta, 2015). Safeguarding the existing heritage and the infrastructure beneath the city are major challenges for the proper completion of such project.

City facts

  • Valletta covers a total area of 0.84 square kilometres.
  • Valletta has 5700 inhabitants (2013).
  • Population density is 6786 inhabitants per square kilometre (2013).
  • The number of residents in Valletta has been declining and there are a lot of vacant buildings.

Read more in the City case study of Valletta in report TU1206-WG1-016