From megalith temple complexes and mystical caves to intricate catacombs and medieval dungeons, Malta is filled with a curious mystery that visitors will want to uncover during their vacation. The island has an intriguing history that takes visitors back in time in terms of architecture, beauty, art, and flair. Here are the best things to do in Malta.
1.Casa Rocca Piccola
© Courtesy of PackShot - Fotolia.com
Casa Rocca Piccola is the result of the Knights of St. John attempting to build a city beautiful enough to rival Venice and Paris. The 16th century palace was designed with aesthetic appeal in mind to beautify the streets of Valletta. The result is something that visitors today still view in awe; the house has over fifty rooms comprising interconnecting bedrooms, two dining rooms, two libraries, many drawing rooms, and its own chapel. Visitors will also come across stunning furnishings from all over Malta and Europe including a collection of paintings, silver antiquities, and furniture. They can also view one of the largest private collection of antique costumes in Malta as well as a large collection of Maltese lace.
74 Republic St, Valletta, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-22-14-99
© Courtesy of Anibal Trejo - Fotolia.com
The ruins of Domvs Romana, a museum run by the Heritage Malta, is dedicated to the findings from a site that was once a Roman-era house built in 1st century BCE. In the 11th century the site was also used as a Muslim cemetery, and it wasn’t rediscovered again till 1881 when archaeological excavations found a number of tombstones, artifacts, statues, and Roman mosaics. There are guided tours of the museum that give visitors insight into the many pieces that are seen there as well as the history of the site and its surroundings.
Gheriexem, Ir-Rabat RBT 1202, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-45-41-25
© Courtesy of Yory Frenklakh - Fotolia.com
Fort Rinella, or the Rinella Battery, was built in 1878 by the British to contain a single Armstrong 100-ton 450 mm gun that was to be used to protect the route to India through the Mediterranean from other countries. In 1996 the fort was restored and reopened as an open-air museum. In addition to the gun, which still works and is shot once a year, visitors can also see a steam engine and hydraulic machinery. There are full-scale military reenactments throughout the year with soldiers in attire and live firings. Visitors can either use an audio guide or go on a guided tour to better experience Fort Rinella.
Kalkara, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-80-09-92
4.Fort St. Angelo
© Courtesy of Andrey Shevchenko - Fotolia.com
A large bastioned fort that can be found in the middle of the Grand Harbour, Fort St. Angelo was originally built to serve as a castle and was called Castello al Mare or Castrum Maris. The Order of Saint John rebuilt it as a fort, and it is best known for being the Order’s headquarters during the 1565 Great Siege of Malta. Visitors can go on a guided tour and explore the many aspects of the fort, including the main gate and the Chapel of the Nativity of Our Lady. Those who love the supernatural can ask their guide to tell them about the many ghost stories affiliated with the fort, including that of the Grey Lady and Ottoman soldiers who were executed during the Great Siege.
Birgu Waterfront, Il-Birgu, Malta, Phone: +3-56-22-95-40-00
© Courtesy of PackShot - Fotolia.com
Ghar Dalam, which translates to the Cave of Darkness, is a cave that contained the skeletal remains of animals that were stranded and then became extinct in Malta during the Last Glacial Maximum. The remains, which belonged to dwarf elephants, deer, bears, and hippopotamus, were excavated and gave insight to Malta’s history; the cave also had evidence of the first human settlement in Malta. The cave’s interesting history also shows that it was used as an air-raid shelter during World War II. Visitors can now explore the cave as well as the on-site museum to learn about its past and get up close and personal with the animal bones and human artifacts.
Ghar Dalam Cave, Triq Ghar Dalam, Birzebbuga, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-65-74-19
6.Gozo Museum of Archaeology
© Gozo Museum of Archaeology
Having opened in 1960, the Gozo Museum of Archaeology was the first public museum in Gozo. The museum can be found in a 17th century house called Casa Bondi, which is listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. Visitors can observe the many exhibits that focus on archaeological relics and artifacts from the Island of Gozo, starting from present day and going back to the prehistoric era. One of the most popular exhibits at the Gozo Museum of Archaeology is the Majmunah Stone, a 12th century marble tombstone that is said to be the biggest and only visual relic of Islamic presence in Malta. The stone put the museum on center stage, and visitors flock to its exhibit throughout the year.
Triq Bieb l-Imdina, Ir-Rabat Ghawdex, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-55-61-44
7.Gozo Nature Museum (Natural Science Museum)
© Gozo Nature Museum (Natural Science Museum)
The Gozo Nature Museum highlights many of Gozo’s natural resources and how they were used in the past. The museum can be found in a group of houses within the Cittadella in the oldest part of Gozo. Visitors will come across many artifacts that display the island’s minerals, geology, insects, marine life, habitats, ecosystems, and human and animal evolution. Some of the more popular displays are of the marine organisms that were deposited on the seafloor over 35 million years ago, a tiny specimen of a moonstone, and fragments of fossil bones from the Maltese Islands.
Triq il-Kwartier San Martin, Ir-Rabat Ghawdex, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-55-61-53
8.Gran Castello Historic House
© Gran Castello Historic House
Formerly known as the Folklore Museum, the Gran Castello Historic House is a historic museum that can be found within several 16th century houses in the Cittadella. The museum has exhibits dedicated to the Gozitan folklore, and the collection has many artifacts from rural and traditional households on the Maltese Islands. Some of the most popular exhibits include those dedicated to agriculture, which can be seen in the reconstructed mill room, the cotton industry with the spinning wheel and cotton gin, and the room that showcases local crafts such as weaving and lace-making.
Triq Melite Bernardo de Opuo, Ir-Rabat Ghawdex VCT 1860, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-56-20-34
© Courtesy of Anibal Trejo - Fotolia.com
Hagar Qim, which translates to “standing/ worshipping stones,” is a megalithic temple complex that dates back to the Ggantija phase from around 3600 to 3200 BCE. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most ancient religious sites in the world and is considered a unique architectural masterpiece. The temple is constructed from globigerina limestone, the second oldest rock in Malta. The temple complex has one main temple and three additional structures; visitors can explore these as well as the dedicated sections for offerings, animal sacrifices, and other rituals within these.
Triq Hagar Qim, Il-Qrendi QRD 2501, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-42-42-31
10.Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
© Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
The Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni was discovered in 1902 by accident when workers were doing construction for a new housing development. The Neolithic subterranean structure has since then been excavated and identified as a sanctuary dating back to the Saflieni phase from 3300 to 3000 BCE. Visitors can explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site from which archaeologists uncovered the remains of over 7,000 individuals. Designated areas include the main chamber, the oracle room, a snake pit, and the Holy of Holies. Because the hypogeum is a popular attraction and only a limited number of visitors are allowed per day, visitors are urged to book tickets in advance.
Triq Ic Cimiterju, Rahal Gdid PLA 1116, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-80-50-19
11.Malta Maritime Museum
© Courtesy of Sibel - Fotolia.com
The Malta Maritime Museum is the largest museum on the island and can be found in the former Royal Navy Bakery. The museum was established in 1992 and has over 20,000 artifacts that illustrate Malta’s maritime history. There are a number of items including paintings, uniforms, weapons, cannons, documents, anchors, boats, ships, and models. Some of the most popular exhibits include a large model of an 18th-century third-rate ship of the Order of Saint John, a 1950s steam engine, and the largest Roman anchor found thus far weighing in at four tons.
Ex-Naval Bakery Vittoriosa Waterfront, Birgu BRG 1721, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-66-00-52
© Courtesy of Jaroslav Moravcik - Fotolia.com
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mnajdra is a megalithic temple complex that was built around the fourth millennium BCE. Architecture aficionados and history buffs will love exploring the structure, which was built using large slabs of coralline limestone. Visitors can go on a guided tour or head to the visitors’ center, which is filled with information on the structure’s history. Interestingly enough, the South Temple of the Mnajdra is aligned in a way that it marks the position of the sunrise on the first day of each season, the Summer and Winter Solstices, and the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. Mnajdra is near the Hagar Qim megalithic complex so visitors can make a day of exploring these historic structures.
Qrendi QRD 2502, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-42-42-31
13.National Museum of Archaeology
© National Museum of Archaeology
Managed by Heritage Malta, the National Museum of Archaeology was established in 1958 by the then Minister of Education, Agatha Barbara. The museum exhibits prehistoric artifacts from the Maltese Islands, and visitors will come across various pieces from the Ghar Dalam phase and the Tarxien phase dating back to over 5200 BCE. There are rooms dedicated to the early Neolithic period, the temple period, as well as a number of alternating temporary and visiting exhibitions. Some of the most popular pieces in the National Museum of Archaeology include the Red Skorba figurine, which is the earliest representation of a human figure in Malta, and altars that were used for animal sacrifices, which were excavated from the Tarxien Temples.
Republic St, Valletta, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-22-16-23
14.National Museum of Natural History
© Courtesy of robert lerich - Fotolia.com
The National Museum of Natural History was established in 1973 and can be found in a French baroque palace, the Palazzo Vilhena. The museum, like many others, is run by Heritage Malta and gives visitors insight into Maltese ecosystems, endemic flora and fauna, and the land’s geology and paleontology. Visitors of the museum are also able to see exotic mammals, interesting insects, and even exhibits dedicated to human evolution. There is an entire hall dedicated to the skeletal anatomy of vertebrates as well as a hall dedicated to Lewis Mizzi’s collection of minerals in the form of art and jewelry.
Pjazza Publju, L-Imdina MDN 1010, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-45-59-51
15.National War Museum
© Courtesy of GeniusMinus - Fotolia.com
Located within Fort Saint Elmo in what was once an armory, the National War Museum is one of the most popular museums in Malta. The military museum was established in 1975, and most of the collection is dedicated to artifacts collected during World War I and World War II. There’s also a fairly new addition of exhibits dedicated from the Bronze Age to 2004. One of the best exhibits in the museum is a panel of photographs that relay how life was in Malta during World War II; the photographs give insight into the hardships faced and the damage caused. Other artifacts include captured German machine guns, a Willys Jeep “Husky” used by Dwight D. Eisenhower, and a torpedo.
Fort St Elmo, Valletta VLT 1741, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-23-30-88
© Courtesy of Felix von Vietsch - Fotolia.com
Located in the Citadel of Victoria, the Old Prison can be found adjacent to the Courts of Justice that it was once connected to. The prison was originally used by the Knights of St. John to hold their own members, who were being disruptive or rowdy. Notorious inmates include the revered knight Fra Jean Parisot de Valette who later became the Grand Master of Malta. Even after the expulsion of the Knights of St. John, the prison was still in use until 1962. Even though it is the oldest surviving prison in Gozo, visitors will find that it is well preserved and allows them to see the actual living conditions in which inmates were kept.
Pjazza Katidral, Victoria (Rabat) VCT 104, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-56-59-88
© Palace Armoury
The Palace Armoury, which can be found in its original location in the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta, houses one of the largest arms collections in the world. It has a selection of firearms used for military as well as sporting purposes. Having been the main armory of the Order of St. John, it is also the last arsenal established by a crusader military order. The armory and its unique display of firearms, artillery, and suits of armor have been open to the public as a museum since 1860. Some of the more memorable pieces include suits of armor owned by Jean de La Valette, a Grand Master of the Order of Saint John.
Misrah San Gorg, Valletta VLT 1191, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-24-93-49
18.Saint John's Co-Cathedral
© Courtesy of Anibal Trejo - Fotolia.com
Saint John’s Co-Cathedral was designed by Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar and built by the Order of St. John between 1572 and 1577. The Roman Catholic co-cathedral is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and is considered to have one of the best examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe. Visitors are invited to come explore the architectural marvel’s exterior and interior, including its tombs, vault, and the chapel. One of the more captivating aspects of the co-cathedral is the artwork found within it, including the momentous altarpiece, statues, monuments, and stunning paintings such as The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Caravaggio.
Triq San Gwann, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta,
© Courtesy of eldeiv - Fotolia.com
Skorba is a prehistoric temple site in Malta that was excavated in the early 1960s. The site houses the remains of two temples, one built during the Ggantija Phase and the other during the Tarxien Phase. What really stands out between this temple site and the others throughout Malta are the domestic huts that were also discovered – the huts gave archaeologists and now visitors an opportunity to understand how these people, mostly the temple builders, lived. The UNESCO World Heritage Site gives extraordinary insight into Malta’s past, allowing visitors to see the uncovered temples in a rural landscape setting that nearly equal to the original.
Triq L-Imqades, L-Imgarr, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-58-05-90
20.St. Paul's Catacombs
© Courtesy of luigi nifosi` - Fotolia.com
Excavated in 1894, St. Paul’s Catacombs is one of the largest archaeological finds in Malta that shows an early presence of Christianity. The catacombs, which is a complex interconnected underground cemetery, was used around 4th century AD. Visitors are able to explore two of the catacombs, a small part of the extensive 24-catacomb complex, but one that still provides insight into this prominent site. The catacombs have interesting features that visitors can see, including baldacchino tombs, illustrations, written messages, and carvings. It also shows religious diversity in the Maltese Islands as Christian, Jewish, and Pagan burials can be seen side by side with no visible division.
Triq Sant Agata RBT 2013, Hal-Bajjada, Ir-Rabat, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-45-45-62
© Ta' Bistra
Ta’ Bistra is one of the best-excavated catacombs in Malta, and it is also the largest catacomb outside of Rabat. The new state-of-the-art canopy structure allows visitors to explore the catacombs comfortably, and it is the only catacomb that is wheelchair accessible, has ample parking, and a child-friendly zone. The interconnected underground burial sites and tombstones give insight into the processes and rituals that took place when a person passed away. Guided tours are filled with information, and guides can point out many interesting aspects such as carvings and paintings that visitors might otherwise miss.
Triq Francesco Napuljun Tagliaferro, Il-Mosta, Malta
© Courtesy of eldeiv - Fotolia.com
One of the most ancient religious sites in the world, the Ta' Hagrat temples date back to the Ggantija Phase and the Saflieni Phase going back to 3600 BCE. The structures were excavated between 1923 and 1926 and have been well preserved over the years. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest freestanding monuments on the Earth, and visitors can explore all its features, from its awe-inspiring facade and monumental doorway to the facade-length bench and courtyard. Archaeology aficionados and history buffs will love seeing how the Maltese megalithic construction was built entirely from Coralline Limestone during a time when tools were made from wood, bone, and stone.
Ta' Hagrat, L-Imgarr, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-23-95-45
© Courtesy of Geza Farkas - Fotolia.com
An archaeological temple complex in Tarxien, Malta, the Tarxien Temples date back to 3150 BCE. Comprising three separate, but attached, temple structures, Tarxien Temples is one of the most elaborately decorated temples out of all that were uncovered in Malta. Visitors can view many of the decorated slabs that were excavated at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. The rich stonework of the temple includes intricate patterns, spiral designs, and carvings of domestic animals. These allow visitors to view some of the best examples of prehistoric art that have survived over the years.
Triq It Tempji Neolitici, Hal Tarxien TXN 1063, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-69-55-78
24.The Palace State Rooms
© Courtesy of Serg Zastavkin - Fotolia.com
The spotlight of the Presidential Palace, the Palace State Rooms comprise the Throne Room, Tapestry Hall, the State Dining Hall, Page’s Waiting Room, and the Ambassador’s Room. Visitors will come across beautiful pieces when in the Palace State Rooms, some of which include the 18th century-style chandeliers and the original coffered ceiling in the Tapestry room. There are also some stunning works of art such as the wall paintings by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio that depict various aspects of the Great Siege of Malta. Visitors will also be able to see a painting by Giuseppe Cali of the coat-of-arms of Grand Master Jean de Valette.
Republic St, Valletta VLT 1191, Malta, Phone: +3-56-21-24-93-49
25 Best Things to Do in Malta
- Casa Rocca Piccola, Photo: Courtesy of PackShot - Fotolia.com
- Domvs Romana, Photo: Courtesy of Anibal Trejo - Fotolia.com
- Fort Rinella, Photo: Courtesy of Yory Frenklakh - Fotolia.com
- Fort St. Angelo, Photo: Courtesy of Andrey Shevchenko - Fotolia.com
- Ghar Dalam, Photo: Courtesy of PackShot - Fotolia.com
- Gozo Museum of Archaeology, Photo: Gozo Museum of Archaeology
- Gozo Nature Museum (Natural Science Museum), Photo: Gozo Nature Museum (Natural Science Museum)
- Gran Castello Historic House, Photo: Gran Castello Historic House
- Hagar Qim, Photo: Courtesy of Anibal Trejo - Fotolia.com
- Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Photo: Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
- Malta Maritime Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Sibel - Fotolia.com
- Mnajdra, Photo: Courtesy of Jaroslav Moravcik - Fotolia.com
- National Museum of Archaeology, Photo: National Museum of Archaeology
- National Museum of Natural History, Photo: Courtesy of robert lerich - Fotolia.com
- National War Museum, Photo: Courtesy of GeniusMinus - Fotolia.com
- Old Prison, Photo: Courtesy of Felix von Vietsch - Fotolia.com
- Palace Armoury, Photo: Palace Armoury
- Saint John's Co-Cathedral, Photo: Courtesy of Anibal Trejo - Fotolia.com
- Skorba, Photo: Courtesy of eldeiv - Fotolia.com
- St. Paul's Catacombs, Photo: Courtesy of luigi nifosi` - Fotolia.com
- Ta' Bistra, Photo: Ta' Bistra
- Ta' Hagrat, Photo: Courtesy of eldeiv - Fotolia.com
- Tarxien Temples, Photo: Courtesy of Geza Farkas - Fotolia.com
- The Palace State Rooms, Photo: Courtesy of Serg Zastavkin - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of cristianbalate - Fotolia.com