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Valletta
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Valletta

Valletta, population 9,129 (1994), is the capital of Malta. Valletta is a 16th century site, with many buildings from the time of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller, or Knights of Malta), the long-time rulers of the city and the island. It is named after the founder, Grandmaster Jean de la Vallette. In Maltese it is colloquially known as il-Belt, simply meaning "the city". The city was damaged by air raids in World War II, notably losing its majestic opera house constructed at the city entrance in the nineteenth century.

Valletta is built on a peninsula, which is fed by two natural harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour, Malta's major port. It was founded in March, 1566, with the laying of the first stone of a church.

The city contains several buildings of historic importance; the most noteworthy being St John's Co-Cathedral, formerly the Knights' church; the fortifications built by the Knights to protect the city from attack, the former Grand Master's Palace (now the Maltese Parliament), and the National Museum of Fine Arts. It is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The population of Valletta has steadily decreased over the years, and is now reduced to about a third of its peak. This process was heavily accelerated after World War II as new development in outlying suburbs marked a shift of the population away from the capital city, but it continues as the center of Malta's commercial activity.

Malta's buses operate mostly on routes to or from Valletta, with their central terminus just outside the city's entrance. Traffic within the city itself is restricted, with some principal roads being completely pedestrianised.