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Welcome to Underground Valletta

Welcome to Underground Valletta

A newly-launched Heritage Malta site offers guided tours of the island’s subterranean mysteries

Underground Valletta, a newly-launched Heritage Malta site sheds light, figuratively and literally, on the forgotten passageways beneath the Maltese capital city. Guided tours of the tourist attraction have commenced, acquainting visitors with the different uses of the tunnels over the centuries and letting them marvel at the engineering ingenuity of the builders of this stone-clad city.

Water cisterns and bomb shelters  

According to the Heritage Malta website, the subterranean spaces now open to the public consist mainly of the tunnels that provided sanitary facilities for the new city built by the Knights of Malta on Mount Sciberras; the wells and cisterns used to store water hundreds of years ago; and the bomb shelters dug out in the Second World War to provide a temporary hiding place for thousands of Valletta residents during the Nazi air raids.

The Knights used Valletta’s underground spaces for military purposes and for grain storage. But, historically, the tunnels served a more vital purpose, ensuring the city’s water supply both under siege and in times of peace.

Interestingly, Valletta’s water reservoirs were used only once during a siege and... by the enemy at that. During the Seige of Malta (1798-1800), a French garrison was besieged inside the city by the British and the Maltese. They promptly cut off the water supply from the aqueduct but were powerless to prevent the French from using Valletta’s underground cisterns holding millions of gallons of water.

More comprehensive experience

During the launch of the new site, the Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, José Herrera, said that Valletta cannot be fully appreciated as a World Heritage Site without experiencing that which lies beneath it.

Mario Cutajar, Heritage Malta’s Executive Director, said that Heritage Malta is giving new meaning to accessibility by putting within reach what was previously out of reach. Accessibility is not just ramps and exhibitions but also delving behind the scenes of Maltese history to make it available for all, Cutajar said. He emphasized that the builders of the capital city wasted no resources but created cisterns and passageways out of quarries. These became the foundations of a city destined to be a world heritage site.

The entrance to Underground Valletta is in St John Square. Tours of the site will be conducted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. For opening hours and ticket sales you can access the Heritage Malta website.

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