The Doors of Valletta, Malta


When I had my maiden visit to the Mediterranean nation of Malta in 2006, the island’s capital city, Valletta, was mostly a diamond in the rough. Countless old limestone palazzi were forgotten, shyly sporting boarded-up windows. Nestled among these once-noble structures were shuttered storefronts, many of which still wore vintage signs that showed what businesses were housed inside decades before.

I tried to imagine who passed through the doorway of a former ironmongers’ shop. I visualized sailors, in port for the day, buying their sweethearts something sparkly at the jeweler’s. I could almost hear the laughter and pleas of children, begging their parents to purchase them a sweet treat from the confectioner’s shop.

This ghost town atmosphere made tiny Valletta — the European Union’s smallest capital city — even more alluring, making me daydream about purchasing a neglected apartment for a song, even if it was only dollhouse-sized. I now wish I’d taken that risk because, a decade later, real estate values in this UNESCO World Heritage city have skyrocketed.

Returning (actually moving) to Valletta last September, it was like reuniting with a childhood friend about whom you only remember a few details.

Valletta is experiencing a renaissance, largely because of its designation as a European Capital of Culture for 2018. There are still a great number of empty ground-level shops, crumbling buildings awaiting make-overs, and a few vintage signs dressing storefronts, but now there is also the definite sense that the city is changing.

On the occasion of Valletta’s 450th birthday this year, I rounded up a few doorways from our current hometown. Most of the entryways featured in this collage wear fresh coats of paint, but there is at least one scruffy example, waiting for someone to recognize its potential.

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • If you are Malta-bound, peruse Malta’s Official Tourism Site for details about this delightful island, which has a plethora of cultural and historic attractions, despite being quite small.
  • Are you visiting or moving to Malta, and you need more planning inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Malta.
  • Do you fancy collages? From windows of the world, to brilliantly-coiffed German horse tails, and fanciful Moldovan water wells, I have more cultural offerings in my collage series.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

39 thoughts on “The Doors of Valletta, Malta

  1. Wow! Your photos are great! I also like photographing doors. I have full of doors of the Baltic States (Tallinn <3). It is as an obsession. You make me want to go to Malta. Thank you!

    1. Stephen, thank you. Of all the European cities in which I’ve ‘collected’ architecture, Valletta seems to have the greatest variety of doors, doorknobs and enclosed balconies. As the city’s buildings continue to be restored, it’s fun seeing the buildings go from drab to fabulous!

    1. Thanks, Kamal! It is fun that an island as small as Malta can offer so much in terms of culture and history. As for India, I wish I’d thought to do some sort of collage when I was last there (2012). That was before I started my series, but I can imagine a lot of collage potential: Kolams, regional food dishes, temple architecture, bangles, textiles, handicrafts, etc. I’m only brainstorming general ideas here; what am I missing? :)

      1. You didn’t complete the collage back in 2012 as you are destined to visit India again :) I should think that trying home stays in smaller towns in hinterland would be lovely for you. Every district, town village and area will be different from the other from North to South and East to West. Depending on how much time you have. Best wishes :)

      2. I suspect we would enjoy the home stay experience as well, Kamal. In fact, it was the bed & breakfast-type stays in Goa and in Agra that I enjoyed my first two times to India. I wish we had a few years to explore there, as the distances to cover are so great. Wish you a lovely weekend ahead!

      3. But if planned in advance it is possible to cover the distances. Most places well connected by air and rail. Or maybe you could do South India or the North East states :)

  2. We only had a morning in Valletta but loved it and want to return some day for a longer stay. I found the doors fascinating as well. Your photos are superb as always. Do you feel settled in Malta now?

    1. Hi Darlene, thank you for asking; that’s thoughtful. Actually, we are feeling much more established, though we continue to learn things about life here almost every day. (I’m sure you can relate to this feeling as well, since you’ve also made the move to a new country. It’s that learning that makes living in a new place rewarding for me.) Now that the more practical tasks are crossed off, I’ve been able to craft a Malta wish list, with the island’s many temple sites toward the top.

      Now that you’ve gotten a taste for what Malta’s like, perhaps you can come back for a long weekend? We often see the mammoth cruise ships in the harbor, then develop a bit of wanderlust ourselves. For now, I think we’d like to get back to Sicily as it’s not so far away. The Greek and Roman ruins are especially enticing.

    1. Lakshmi, Siddhi, and Rohan, doors do indeed have universal appeal! In the case of Malta, I am pleased that Malta’s doors have opened to us, allowing us to live here for a year. :) Here’s hoping your week is off to a splendid start!

    1. Peggy, as always, it was fun rounding them all up. I had had to be careful that I didn’t tumble into any of the below-ground cellars, because some of the grates are also ‘vintage’ and rickety.

      Have you been to Malta? If not, it’s not so far away from where you’ll be!

      1. I’ve always wanted to go to Malta! I just wrote a blog post starring a great American friend of mine that went to Malta when he was also living in Bologna and really had a good time. Maybe I can make it this summer! I’m leaving for Italy indefinitely in a week and a half, ah! :)

      2. Peggy, if you do make it here in the coming months, keep me posted. I’d be happy to show you some of the special spots we’ve discovered on the island.

        Enjoy your remaining days back home! I imagine it’s a hectic and perhaps bittersweet time, as you await the adventures ahead. :)

      3. Well said, as always. Yes, that’s exactly what it is like! Especially since I just found out a few days ago how soon I’m leaving. But I’d been preparing for a few months, thankfully, so all is well. :) I wouldn’t go to Malta without telling you, promise! I wouldn’t even book my ticket actually, until I made sure you would be there. :) As soon as I get a better grip on my summer schedule I’ll start looking into flights!

      4. Peggy, that sounds fun! I wish we had a place that was larger than a studio apartment so that we could host friends & family, but we’re still eager to show others around. :) If you haven’t already made it to this side of the Atlantic, I wish you safe travels, and smoothness in settling in to Italy.

      5. Ah, no worries! I totally get it. But I would love to visit. I’m in a holding period now, waiting to see how my contracts shape up for the next few months. Once I have a better idea I’ll start making more definitive travel plans. :) Thank you for all of your well-wishes, I think they are helping! :)

      6. Thank you! Wish me luck with my permesso…it is a bigger beast than I imagined!

    1. Belinda, thanks for your compliment! While many of Valletta’s buildings look stunning from afar, I do like honing in on the city’s delightful details sometimes too. We feel lucky to be calling this city home for at least the next few months.

      Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.

  3. Great series of photos ~ the top-middle would be my choice, somehow I imagine a great feeling of walking out that door and enjoying all Malta has to offer :-)

    1. Randall, that one makes a bold statement! Indeed, we love being able to step outside our door and feel centuries of history here in Valletta. Though we’re surrounded by buildings that are several hundred-years old, ours is really new – from the 1970s. I was initially dreaming of having a place with limestone interior walls and perhaps arched ceilings, but do now appreciate the minimalism and functionality ours offers. On a side note, I’m amazed at how susceptible limestone is to the elements; it seems as though it’d be an ongoing project to keep the exterior of these handsome buildings from crumbling. Surprisingly (since it is a dry island), humidity is a big challenge here.

    1. Cris, that’s nice of you to say; thank you. Incidentally, I see that you’re a musician. From band clubs in nearly every municipality of Malta, to a cultural renaissance in Malta’s capital city of Valletta, the Maltese are really passionate about music. :)

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