View of Valletta cruise port as a ship is sailing into the harbour

Valletta Malta Cruise Port: Your Ultimate DIY Excursion Guide

The City of Valletta, the capital of the island nation of Malta, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I woke up early to see us sail into Valletta cruise port and it was absolutely worth it! Due to Malta’s relative size, doing a DIY excursion from Valletta cruise port is super easy!

Founded in the 16th century by the Knights of St. John, Valletta is perched on a rocky peninsula, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

With 320 monuments, Valletta feels like an open-air museum full of Baroque churches, grand palaces and narrow winding streets. For this reason, Valletta prides itself on being one of the most popular film locations – Gladiator (2000), Munich (2005), World War Z (2013), Assassin’s Creed (2016) and Napoleon (2023) are all filmed in Valletta.

Seen Valletta? Then read my guide for a DIY excursion to the Three Cities (Birgu, Senglea, Cospicua) – it’s a popular alternative itinerary! My guide has tips on how to get there via direct ferry, 5 minutes’ walk from the cruise port.

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Valletta Malta Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Easy-Peasy)

If your cruise is calling on Valletta Malta cruise port, then you’ll be happy to know that exploring on your own at Valletta couldn’t be any easier. Here’s why I rated it Easy-Peasy ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž:

  • Skip the Hill: Easy walk from Valletta cruise port to old city via the Barrakka Lift – no need to walk up that hill you see when you exit the cruise terminal!
  • Location, Location, Location: Walking distance from Valletta cruise port to many of Valletta’s top attractions & excellent bus network for the island of Malta if you want to venture further afield.
  • Ferries to Islands: Fast ferry service a few minutes’ walk from the cruise terminal makes it easy to do DIY visits to Blue Lagoon and Gozo

Valletta Cruise Port Essentials: What You Need to Know

  • Valletta Malta Port Schedule: VallettaCruisePorts.com
  • Valletta Malta Cruise Port Address: Pinto Wharf Valletta, FRN 1913, Malta – see this marked in my Valletta Malta cruise port map below๐Ÿ‘‡
  • Currency: Euro
  • Language: Maltese is the national language but English is an official language in Malta too.
  • Official Tourism Website: Visit Malta’s website
  • Recommended Transport App: I used Google Maps while I was in Malta and the public transit directions were correct and up-to-date. Alternatively, you can use the official Malta public transport app or home page. I used buses to get around and you can pay using a contactless card or cash on the bus.
  • eSIM for roaming in Malta: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when you’re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout

Valletta Malta Cruise Port Map

  • On Desktop | Laptop? Use buttons on bottom left to zoom in/out. Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version.
  • On Tablet | Mobile? Pinch your screen to zoom in/out and use two fingers to move map around. If you have Google Maps installed on your tablet/mobile, my map will open in your Google Maps app if you click on the upper right hand corner.
  • If map is not loading correctly, click here to see it directly on Google Maps.

Valletta Cruise Port to City Centre: How to Get There in 5 Mins

When you disembark from your cruise ship and walk through the cruise terminal, you’ll immediately see lots of taxi drivers offering you rides to the city centre. Many cruise ship passengers do jump into a cab quickly, once they see the big hill in front of them! So here’s how to get from Valletta Cruise Port to Valletta’s city centre without hiking up that hill! You can also enjoy some stunning views of Valletta from the Upper Barrakka Gardens as well.

  • Find Barrakka Lift Archway: Once outside the cruise terminal, keep walking along the main road (Xatt Lascaris) for about 2 minutes. You’ll walk past the hop-on-hop-off bus stops. Then you’ll see an archway labelled “Barrakka Lift”. It looks like this ๐Ÿ‘‡
  • Find Ticket Seller: Walk under the archway and you’ll soon encounter the friendly ticket seller, selling a return ticket on the Upper Barrakka Lifts for โ‚ฌ1 (cash only). The lift is 58 metres high and the journey up into the city is only 25 seconds long. Don’t forget to keep your ticket stub for your return trip later!
  • Upper Barrakka Gardens: Once you exit the lift, you’re at the Upper Barrakka Gardens. There’s plenty of scenic viewpoints over Valletta’s Grand Harbour. Most days at 12 noon, you’ll see the firing of cannons in the Saluting Battery below. Don’t miss the Movie Trail plaque, pointing out the locations seen in many famous movies!

From Upper Barrakka Gardens, most of Valletta’s main attractions would be within easy walking distance. The bus station is also nearby if you’re visiting some attractions further afield.

Things to Do in Valletta Malta from Cruise Ship

Here’s my list of top things to see and do on your port day in Valletta, Malta.

1. St John’s Co-Cathedral

Inside St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta Malta
Image courtesy of St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta

Built in the 16th century, the St John’s Co-Cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe. Despite the rather plain exterior, the interior is richly decorated with elaborate frescoes and intricate carvings.

The Co-Cathedral is also famous for two Caravaggio paintings inside including the Beheading of St John the Baptist, Caravaggio’s largest and only signed work. Caravaggio arrived in Malta in 1607 after fleeing Rome to escape a murder charge but only lived in Malta for about 18 months.

If you plan on visiting, I would highly recommend that you buy your tickets online on the official website (โ‚ฌ15), as soon as your cruise ship docks. There can be long queues if you purchase your ticket at the main ticket office. Note the tickets are for specific dates and times.

As this is one of the most popular sites for cruise excursions with many large groups visiting, I would recommend that you either make it your first or last stop of the day, so you can avoid most of the group tours.

How to get there: From the Upper Barrakka Lift and Gardens, St John’s Co-Cathedral is approximately 5 minus walk on relatively flat ground.

Hidden Gem nearby: If you fancy visiting another church, I would also highly recommend the St. Paul of the Shipwreck Church about 3 minutes on foot. St. Paul was shipwrecked in Malta around 60AD while being transported to Rome for trial. The church houses two notable relics associated with St. Paul: a portion of St. Paul’s right wrist bone and part of the wooden column on which St. Paul was supposedly beheaded in Rome.

2. Grand Master’s Palace

Inside Grand Master's Palace in Valletta, Malta
Image courtesy of the President of the Republic of Malta Official Website

Around the corner a block away from St John’s Co-Cathedral is the Grand Master’s Palace. This magnificent palace was the seat of power for the Knights of St. John, who ruled Malta from 1530 to 1798.

The State Rooms, once the private domain of the Grand Masters, showcases a dazzling display of opulent rooms from the Supreme Council Hall, the Tapestry Rooms and the Armoury.

Today, the Grand Master’s Palace serves as the official residence of the President of Malta and the seat of the House of Representatives.

How to get there: Walk from St. John’s Co-Cathedral. You can purchase tickets online (โ‚ฌ12); tickets once purchased are valid for the next 30 days and are not timed.

If you’re interested in history and archaeology, you may be interested in the Valletta Combo Ticket, which can also be purchased online giving you access to the Grand Master’s Palace, the National Museum of Archaeology and Fort St. Elmo.

3. National War Museum at Fort St. Elmo

Aerial view of Fort St. Elmo National War Museum in Valletta Malta
Image courtesy of Visit Malta

Fort St. Elmo, located at the tip of the peninsula of Valletta, is about a 10 minute walk from the Saint-John Co-Cathedral and the Grandmaster’s Palace.

If you had watched your cruise ship sail into Malta, you would seen it on the starboard side just past the breakwater, just before the ship docks at Valletta cruise port.

Built by the Knights of St John in 1552 in a matter of months, there are panoramic views of Valletta and the Grand Harbour.

How to get there: I would recommend walking. There are shops to purchase drinks and snacks on the way, if needed. There is a bus (Bus #133) that does a loop around Valletta that stops a block away from the Grandmaster’s Palace.

As many streets in Valletta are pedestrianised with no car traffic allowed, the Bus 133 does quite a loop around the island. So waiting and catching the bus actually takes more time than to do the walk.

4. Malta at War Museum & War Tunnels

Entrance to the Malta at War Museum in Malta
Entrance to Malta at War Museum

The Malta at War Museum tells the story of Malta’s role in WWII, from the first air raids in 1940 to the island’s surrender to the Allies in 1943. Don’t confuse this museum with the National War Museum at Fort St. Elmo and the Lascaris War Rooms, close to the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

While I found the exhibits interesting, I thought the War Tunnels were the highlight of this museum. I joined the guided tour (1 hour+) but any visitor is free to roam the former air-raid shelter on their own, with hard hats provided.

The tunnels weren’t just a few long tunnels but an entire labyrinth of rooms used as communal refuge rooms, supply rooms, private bomb shelter cubicles, first-aid station, surgery and even a birth room.

The tunnels and connecting passageways are very narrow and some are low, requiring you to bend down to access. So this is definitely not the place to visit for those suffering from claustrophobia or have trouble bending down.

Also, no large bags are allowed inside the tunnels for obvious reasons; I would recommend not bringing any at all. There were some lockers near the ticket office but strangely enough, the attendant insisted that I give them the key after locking my bag inside!

Valletta Cruise Port to Malta at War Museum

How to get there: To get to the Malta at War Museum, take the Barraka Lift to the Upper Barraka Gardens. From there, the Valletta Bus Station is a 5-8 minute walk away. This walk will also let you take a glimpse of the San ฤ orฤก Preca, the City Gate, the Parliament of Malta and the Triton Fountain.

Once at the Bus Station, go to stand A2 & A3 near the big “Malta Public Transport” cubicle. You can either take Bus 2 or 3. There are electronic bus timetables indicating the next departure times or you can look them up for Bus 2 or Bus 3 here. There is no need to pre-purchase bus tickets, just use your contactless card to tap as you hop on the bus. It’s โ‚ฌ2 each way.

Get off at stop “Riche” and the entrance to the museum is about a minute’s walk away. On the way back, the bus stop is opposite the road from where you got off. Stops are announced on the bus but ask the driver if you’re not sure.

View of the City Gate, from San ฤ orฤก Preca.
View of the City Gate, from San ฤ orฤก Preca. Image by Michael from Pixabay

Beyond Valletta: Day Trips from Your Malta Cruise

1. Blue Grotto

Blue Grotto in Malta during sunset
Blue Grotto, Malta. Image by Jean Vella on Unsplash

The Blue Grotto, is a complex of six caves, located in the southeastern coast of Malta, near the village of Qrendi. The caves are known for the vibrant blue hues and stunningly clear waters. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Malta, but don’t confuse this with the Blue Lagoon near the island of Comino (see below).

Boat tours into the caves are in small boats (about 8-10 people in a boat) with frequent departures during the day, weather permitting. If you’re into history, you can combine the Blue Grotto with the ฤฆaฤกar Qim archaeological site – a hilltop temple dating back from 3200BC.

Most cruises will offer this as a half-day excursion or a full-day excursion including other attractions. But it is possible to do a DIY tour but I would only recommend the following route via public transit, if you’re not by fazed by some steep uphills and downhill walking. If you prefer to keep walking to a minimum, I would recommend taking the hop-on-hop-off bus from Valletta.

How to get to the Blue Grotto

  • Bus Route: The most direct route from Valletta is on Bus #74 from the Central Bus station. See above on how to get to the bus station via the Barraka Lifts from Valletta cruise port.
  • Bus Journey Time: The bus journey takes about 40 minutes to stop “Panorama“. From the bus stop, the viewpoint is only a few minutes walk away.
  • Bus Timetable: Click here to see timetable on Malta Public Transport website; use drop down box to select weekend bus times. Note that bus only runs every hour.
  • Blue Grotto Boat Trip: To get onto a boat trip, walk down the hill for about 15 minutes towards the main parking area. From there, you’ll find the jetty where the boat trip leaves from, restaurants and a public WC. Boat trips cost around โ‚ฌ10.
  • Return trip to cruise port: There is a bus stop for Bus #201 at the bottom of the hill but this bus is infrequent, so don’t count on it to get you back up the hill! If you do catch the #201, it stops at the airport. From the airport, you can easily change buses back to the main bus station. Transfers are free on the bus, so do keep your bus ticket to show the driver!

If you’re tight for time, then take a taxi instead. The drive is about 15 minutes each way.

2. Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon Malta during summer with people swimming
Photo by Sergey Konstantinov on Unsplash

The Blue Lagoon is a small bay nestled between the islands of Comino and Cominotto, known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters. The shallow waters make the Blue Lagoon a great spot for swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing. There are also nearby caves and rock formations to explore.

During the summer months, the Blue Lagoon gets very busy, so if you’d like to visit, consider heading there in the morning, followed by a DIY tour to see the architecture and main attractions in Valletta.

How to get to the Blue Lagoon

For a DIY excursion to the Blue Lagoon, the quickest way is to hop onto a privately-run ferry boat. Once out of the cruise terminal, instead of walking up the hill, continue walking along the main road, past the archway marked “Barraka Lift” on your left.

You’ll see signs advertising ferries and cruises to the Blue Lagoon. Return ferry tickets start from โ‚ฌ10 and there are also full day cruises visiting the Blue Lagoon, Gozo and other islands.

3. ฤฆal Saflieni Hypogeum and Tarxien Temples

For history buffs and archaeology fans, there are many templates and archeological sites in Malta to explore. While many of these sites are on UNESCO World Heritage listed, you’ll find that they won’t feature on most organised group tours or excursions in Malta, due to their relative niche interest. However, if you’re interested in seeing some of them, a DIY excursion is relatively straightforward.

The ฤฆal Saflieni Hypogeum is a massive three-story underground cemetery dating back to 4,000 BC. Only discovered in 1902, it is incredibly well preserved. Due to the site’s microclimate, access is strictly regulated and only 80 visitors can access the site each day. A group of 10 people are admitted to each tour. If this is on your wishlist to visit in Malta, I would recommend pre-booking tickets on the website, especially during the high season. Tickets are dated and timed.

The Tarxien Temples is nearby and dates back to Neolithic times, somewhere between 3,600 and 2,500 BC. There are three separate, but attached, temple structures. The Tarxien Temples were discovered a year after the discovery of the Hypogeum, a few hundred metres away. There are no strict visitor number restrictions for the Temples, so there’s no need to pre-book tickets.

Both structures and their contents confirm a thriving ancient culture on the island of Malta.

How to get there: From the main bus station, take Buses 81, 82, 84, 85 and 88 to stop “Ipogew“. Use the journey planner on Malta Public Transport’s website to get live departure times.

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Hope you’ll have a most wonderful day at port in Valletta, Malta. Let me know if you have any questions by dropping a comment below.

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