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Introducing the new European Capitals of Culture

2018 sees two new cities crowned European Capitals of Culture and so we’ve asked international travellers what they love most about Valletta and Leeuwarden. *

Valletta

Valletta, a European Capital of Culture in 2018

Valletta, a European Capital of Culture in 2018

The capital city of Malta was once described as “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen”. While Valletta retains much of the grandiose atmosphere and architecture from its early days, today the city is enjoyed by all sorts of travellers.

City walks

Find your own path through the city streets

Find your own path through the city streets

The peninsula Valletta is built on is only a few kilometres long, making the city easy and rewarding to explore on foot. Travellers looking for a well appointed place to stay adore the Palazzo Consiglia, which is just a short, scenic walk from the city harbours.

History

St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta in Malta

St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta in Malta

Valletta played a vital part in the Allied defenses during World War Two and remnants of this time are scattered throughout the city. The War HQ Tunnel is an underground path that was built in 1940 but was astonishingly kept secret until 2016.

Visitors interested in travelling further back in time can book a hotel overlooking St John’s Co-Cathedral. Which is give you a chance to admire the simple cathedral exterior and then wander inside to marvel at the ornate, Baroque interior.

Food

First buyers at Marsaxlokk market

First buyers at Marsaxlokk market

Maltese food is a mouth-watering mix of Mediterranean cuisines and they love their seafood. The Marsaxlokk fish market is where chefs from all over Valletta go to select the freshest catch of the day for their menus. To try making your own versions of local dishes (like Aljotta and Lampuki Pie) book a self-catered apartment in the city centre.

Leeuwarden

The centre of the Leeuwarden Old Town

The centre of the Leeuwarden Old Town

Leeuwarden is the capital city of the States of Friesland and birthplace of Mata Hari, the dancer who became an infamous wartime spy. We asked international travellers what they love about this new European Capital of Culture.

Shopping

Het Naauw in the city centre of Leeuwarden

Het Naauw in the city centre of Leeuwarden

Kleine Kerkstraat was recently voted the best shopping street in The Netherlands, thanks to its combination of big name stores and artisan boutiques. As Leeuwarden is only 90 minutes from Amsterdam it’s a popular day trip among North Hollanders, especially those on the lookout for local crafts.

Museums

Palace Prinsessehof in the historical center of Leeuwarden

Palace Prinsessehof in the historical center of Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden is also a great place to buy ceramics, with pottery studios clustered throughout the town and in the impressive Dutch Ceramic Museum. Housed in a 17th-century palace, the museum has examples of pottery dating back over two centuries. Stay nearby at the stylish De Rozenboom.

Cafés

Friesland on a spring day

Friesland on a spring day

The restaurants and cafés of Leeuwarden tend to favour seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, which makes autumn an especially good time to visit. September and October see the city’s terraced squares fill with residents, hoping to soak up the last of the summer sun. The Stenden Hotel is highly endorsed by travellers for its culinary options and also offers amazing views of the city.

** The data scientists at Booking.com looked at the activities most endorsed in Valletta and Leeuwarden by international travellers.