Malta’s Valletta may be one of Europe’s smallest capitals, but it was named Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2018. So just how does this tiny town hope to compete with the Old Continent’s cultural heavyweights?

To a rousing chorus from an orange-cloaked choir and two black-clad soloists, 7,000 years of Maltese culture ripples, splashes, folds, sweeps and dazzles its way in glorious technicolor projections across the façade of one of Europe’s most spectacular Baroque cathedrals.

Welcome to Valletta, Malta’s unsung—until now—cultural brightspot.

It’s the launch of Valletta 2018, marking Malta’s tiny UNESCO World Heritage capital’s year as European Capital of Culture (together with Leeuwarden in the Netherlands). With over 140 projects and 400 events planned, there’s also been, as you’d expect, plenty of local criticism: “Where’s the high culture?”; “Very flashy, but not enough of the real Malta”; “Why is it not more cutting-edge?”