Overlooking one of the most buzzing squares in Valletta, the Grandmaster’s Palace is an imposing building that dominates many a guidebook, not least because it has hosted not only the heads of the Knights Hospitallers, but also the Governor during the time Malta was under British rule. Since Malta’s first president was appointed in 1974 it became the official seat for the President of Malta.
However, the Grandmaster’s Palace also hosted parliamentary sessions up until 2015, when Renzo Piano’s Parliament House was completed. The building has seen considerable turmoil, especially during the political tensions of the 70s and 80s, when parliamentary sessions would get considerably more lively than we’re used to nowadays.
The interiors of the palace house the State Rooms and the Armoury, which are certainly worth a visit with a good guide. When you’re done enjoying the immersive stories, take a moment to chill in Neptune’s Courtyard, with the eponymous statue standing guard in the centre.
The Grandmaster’s Palace – an outside look
But as locals in the know will tell you, there’s one part of the Grandmaster’s Palace that is just as worth photographing as the amazing historical collections inside the building. And it’s guaranteed to raise a few laughs, too.
Stand outside on the corner of Republic Street opposite the red phone box (another Valletta attraction, incidentally, dating back to British times). All you need to do is look up towards the beautifully-restored wooden balconies and you’ll notice some very intricate stonework adorning each balcony. One in particular stands out, for a very cheeky reason. We won’t go into too much detail – suffice it to say that it’s not just the baroque statue’s tongue that sticks out! Many visitors forget to look up and miss this lighthearted addition to Valletta’s architecture.
When done pointing your camera, make sure to nip across the square for a coffee or a snack al fresco. It’s a great spot for people-watching and most of the small bars and restaurants in the area do a mean cocktail.