The Manoel Theatre in Valletta

Valletta’s 288-year-old Crown Jewel


Situated on Old Theatre Street in Valletta, The Manoel Theatre is one of the city’s many beloved treasures – a beautifully adorned Baroque theatre built by the Knights of St John, and one of the oldest running theatres in Europe!


If you’re staying in Valletta – the Manoel Theatre is a must-see if you want to absorb the history, culture and artistry of the city all at once. The theatre is open to visitors during the week from 09:30hrs to 16:30hrs and on Saturdays from 10:00hrs to 14:00hrs. If you’d like to experience the theatre in action, then you could also take a look at the events programme. Being Malta’s National Theatre, you can expect to find many shows being staged throughout the year, ranging from genres of dance to drama, and opera to pantomime!


The History of the Manoel Theatre

Built in 1731 by the Knights of St John, the theatre was personally commissioned by Portuguese Grand Master Fra Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. The Grand Master’s intention was to provide honest entertainment to the public, as is evident from the phrase inscribed on the top of the theatre’s entrance: ‘ad honestam populi oblectationem’. From the outside, the façade to the theatre is modest and plain. Upon entering, however, the décor is rich and textured, with gold leaf, velvet and floral motifs lining the balconies and walls. The theatre was originally built with stone boxes, stone floors and stone benches.


But after the arrival of the British in Malta, the theatre was given a new look. The British changed the shape of the theatre into a horse-shoe, adding an aisle, two side passages, an additional floor and the Proscenium arch above the stage. The ceiling is, perhaps, one of the most exquisite features of the theatre. The atrium underwent restoration after the war, from the 22-carat gliding on the ceiling to the dozens of tiny panels and decorative tier boxes.

During this period, the British also built the Royal Opera House, which drew large crowds and left the Manoel Theatre in disuse. Between 1866 and 1873, the Manoel became known as a house for the homeless, with one night’s stay costing only a penny. Despite the troublesome times, however, the theatre was never closed – not even during the Second World War.


The Manoel is not a large theatre, by European standards. But, as a venue, it manages to create an intimate, cosy atmosphere that makes visitors truly connect with the performance they are seeing. Whether from the seats in front of the stage, or the balconies above, audiences are never too far from the individuals putting on the show. This magical feeling is one of the ways that the Manoel manages to spellbind its audiences. That, and, of course, the high-quality shows that play out on its stage throughout the year!


Experience the grandeur of the Manoel Theatre in Valletta, located down the road from Rosselli – AX Privilege.


Photo Credits go to Viewing Malta