Valletta, located on the northeastern shore of Malta, was founded by the Order of Saint John after the Turks of the Ottoman Empire invaded the island in the 1565 Siege of Malta. Its official name, Umilissima Civitas Valletta, was supposed to reflect the city’s humility, but today Valletta is more commonly known as Superbissima by Europeans for its Old World splendor, genteel culture and magnificent Baroque architecture. The name of the city comes from Jean Parisot de la Valette, the Grand Master of the Order of Saint John in 1566, when Valletta was founded.

Within 15 years of de la Valette laying the first stone to mark the site of the future city, Valletta already had several completed structures, including bastions, forts, and a cathedral.

Valletta became a sizeable city, reaching nearly 30,000 inhabitants at one time as people from all over the island flocked to Valletta for the protection of the city walls. It was one of the first cities in Europe to use a grid street system.

During World War II, Valletta was heavily bombed, leaving much of the city in ruins. Thankfully, St. John’s Cathedral and a few other architectural masterpieces were left intact. However, after the war, much of the economic development occurred in the suburbs, leading to a population drain that has left Valletta with a population of fewer than 10,000 today. However, the small city remains the capital and administrative center of the island.