Is a late-16th-century town, planned according to Ranaissance ideas. Disraeli wrote that “it equals in its noble architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe”. It was created as a completely-new town and now stands complete with bastions and powerful cavaliers, still in the state that Francesco Laparelli left them, defying the passage of time.
Was a focal point during the Great siege of 1565 and also during World War II. This historic port has been the economic lifeline of Malta ever since the awn of history
Is historically and artistically one of the most important monuments of the islands: “the most striking interior I have ever seen” declared Sir Walter Scott. The building of the Conventual church began in 1573 by Grand Master Jean l’Eveque de la Cassiere. Four hundred memorials slabs cover the floor, all inlaid with soft coloured mosaic or marble. The Beheading of St John the Babtist by the mercurial Caravaggio can be seen in the Oratory, as well as a set of 28 Flemish tapestries woven in Brussels.
The Grand Master’s Palace
It is sited half way down Republic Street. It has two lovely courtyards. There is also the armoury of the Knights where arms and armour of various periods are displayed. In the Tapestry Chamber can be seen the priceless Gobelian tapestries.
The National Museum of Archeology
In the Auberge de Provence, in Republic street, was one of the inns of the knights. the museum contains several excellent collections of objects found at the main Neolithic and prehistoric sites on the island (pottery, sculpture, statuettes…).
The National Museum of Fine Arts
This museum is in South Street just off Republic Street. It is housed in the former Admiralty house. Although modest in size it offers the visitors an interesting collection of paintings of such masters as Guido Reni, Jusepe Ribera and Mattia Preti together with a selection of the foremost schools from the 14th century to the beginning of the 20th century.
The National War Museum
It Is located in Fort St.Elmo, Valletta. The fort itself played a significant part in the Great Siege of 1565 as well as against an Italian E-boat attack in 1941. The museum has exhibits relating mostly to World War II, including weapons, uniforms and war vehicles. You can also see a large selection of war relics from the plane “Faith” to the George Cross, awarded to the Maltese in recognition of their bravery in the Second World War. Also, In Guardia! are historical re-enactments at Fort St.Elmo, spectacular military parades dating back to the times of the Knights of St. John.
The National Library
This library is housed in the colonnaded and classical building dominating Republic Square. It is the depository of the original documents dating from 1107 recording the administration of the Order of St. John over the first seven centuries of its existence up to 1798 – some four million documents.
Is Malta’s National theatre, built by the Portuguese Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena “for the honest entertainment of the people”. The first-ever public performance took place on January9, 1732, making the Manoel one of the oldest functioning theatres in Europe. Performances are held regularly. Just sitting in the theatre for a live performance is an experience in itself.
Were designed by the brilliant Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar. In Valletta one can still see the Auberge d’Aragon, Auberge de Castille et Leon, Auberge d’Italie (now the general post office) and Auberge de Provence (national museum of Archeology).
There are the most prominent of Maltese architecture. The main ingredient used is a soft limestone. Mile upon mile of fortified curtains and bastions rise solidly from the ground and seem an integral part of the scene. One can see them in Valletta, the Three Cities and Mdina.
Is the Valletta open market which sets up for trade in St.James Ditch on Sunday mornings and in Merchant street during the week. Its name is derived from the Monte de Pieta – an official pawn broking house whose proceeds went for the ransom of slaves during the rule of the order.
The Mediterranean Conference Centre
Or the Sacra Infermeria, referred to in the past as the Knight’s Hall, is a good example of the Renaissance architecture in Valletta. The original nucleus of the Sacra Infermaria became operative in 1578 during the reign of Grand Master La Cassiere. The Sacra Infermeria was restored in 1979 and has since been housing the Mediterranean Conference Centre. The conference and exhibition facilities of the centre have hosted a wide variety of international meetings and events. The Malta Experience an excellent multi-vision show introducing visitors to Malta and its people, can be seen in Fort St Elmo just across the street from the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
For a memorable view of the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities go to the upper Barracca, or the lower Barracca Gardens with its well-known monument to Sir Alexander Ball. Hastings Gardens are set on the bastions overlooking Floriana. Before entering the upper Barracca visit The Sacred Island the latest multi vision show at Dar l-Emigranti, Valletta. This gives an insight into the folklore and culture of the Maltese in six different languages. The Argotti Botanical Gardens are also worth a visit, as are the historical Sa Maison Gardens. Near Verdala Palace, outside Rabat, are the Buskett Gardens.
The Three Cities
Across the Grand Harbour, to the South of Valletta, are the three historic towns of Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea, commonly referred to as Cottonera or the Three Cities. When the Knights first arrived they chose Vittoriosa (Birgu) as their home because of its vicinity to Fort St Angelo. Valletta was built after the Great Siege of 1565.
The Maritime museum
This museum, once a bakery belonging to the Royal Navy, highlights the most important moments of Malta’s maritime history. Exhibits include two ceremonial barges (Wignacourt’s and Vilhena’s), several models of sailing ships and galleys of the Order, as well as a number of authentic guns and cannons.
Cospicua or Bormla
Here one can admire, among other landmarks, the Cottonera Lines (1670), the Santa Margerita Lines (1638) and the St Clement’s Retrenchment (1854). The magnificent Collegiate Parish Church and its artistic Oratory (1731) is full of unique masterpiece.
Named after Grand Master Claude de la Sengle, had to be most completely rebuilt after the Second World War Worth visiting are the Church of St.Philip and that of Our Lady of Victories as well as the vedette behind the church.
Fort St Angelo
At Vittoriosa, built around the 21st century AD, was enlarged and strengthened by the Knights who made it their headquarters. The Grand Master refashioned the residence to serve as his Magisterial Palace. It is very similar to the Knight’s Crusader Castle and the citadel they raised at Rhodes. The Fort is open to the public and guided tours are available.
The Folklore Museums
This museum is housed in the Inquisitor’s Palace in Vittoriosa, formerly the seat of the Inquisitor in Malta. A section of the building contains interesting specimens of tools and objects of devotion of a bygone age. Of special interest to visitors are the judgement hall, the private apartments and the dungeons.
It is the old capital of Malta and is a typical medieval town situated in the centre of the island. The “silent city” as it is known, commands a magnificent view of the island.
It was rebuilt on plans by Lorenzo Gafa following the earthquake of 1693 which considerably damaged the late medieval cathedral. The altarpiece and several other paintings are by Mattia Preti. Other treasures include the two chapels of the Blessed Sacrament and the Sculptures. The Sacristy door and the Baptistery. The Cathedral Museum is a fine baroque Palace (1743) with various works of art, including Durer woodcuts and a fine picture gallery.
The Museum of Natural History
Situated at Vilhena Palace, houses seven sections, comprising of both local and foreign collections, including skeletal anatomy, fish, insects, birds, shells and fossils alongside with a number of geology exhibits.
Norman House or Palazzo Falzon
Is the most complete of Mdina’s Medieval buildings. It stands at the end of Villegaignnon Street, named after the Knight of Malta Nicolas Durand, Seigneur de Villegaignon, who organised the defence of Mdina against a threatened Turkish attack in 1955. Norman house is a private house whose owner generously bequeathed it to the nation.
St.Agatha’s and St.Paul’s catacombs
These are typical of the underground Christian cemeteries which were common in the 4th century AD. The characteristic feature of the Maltese catacombs is the presence of “agape tables” hewn out of rock, on which mourners reclined to partake of the funeral wake.
St. Paul's Church and Grotto
St Paul’s Collegiate Church is one of the earliest parishes built in the form of a Latin Cross. It was designed by F.Buonamici and completed in 1683 by Lorenzo Gafa. The main altar piece is by Stefano Erardi. Beneath the sanctuary is the celebrated St. Paul’s Grotto, where St.Paul is reputed to have stayed in A.D. 60. Above the Grotto is a chapel dedicated to St.Publius, which houses various are treasures.
These austere cliffs in the limits of Rabat are as impregnable as the fortifications built by the Knights of St.John. As you stroll along them you will come across the most characteristic types of natural landscape. From here you can have a spectacular view of the tiny, uninhabited island of Filfla.
Is another legacy of the Knights and this was begun in 1586. a semi fortified villa, it was built by Fra Hugues de Verdalle on high ground as a summer residence for the Grand Master.
It is found in the vicinity and definitely worth a visit with its exhibits of Roman Malta. Evidence of Malta’s wealth and magnificence during the Roman rule (218 BC – 870 AD) may be seen here due to the fact that it contains many valuable remains, like lamps and glass and glass and gold objects. Look out for the beautifully preserved mosaics.
As you enter Mosta you immediately recognise the Rotunda the parish church dedicated to the Assumption of the Vitgin Mary. This church was built in the classical style in the middle of the 19th century mainly through the efforts, both technical and financial, of the villagers. It was designed by George Grognet de Vasse. His plan was closely based on that of the Pantheon, in Rome. The foundation stone laid on May 30th, 1933 and the church took 27 years to complete. Apart from the size of its dome, it is well-known because on April 9th, 1942 at 4p.m. the Rotunda’s majestic dome was pierced by a 500-lb enemy bomb whose shell is now exhibited inside the sacristy. The bomb fell in the centre of the church without exploding. Nobody was hurt
Is a 144m long natural cave located about 500m from St.George’s bay, Birzebbugia. The cave is a veritable depository of semi fossilised remains of a number of animals such as dwarf elephants and hippopotami. This proves that Malta was attached to Sicily and the European continent. This cave provided shelter to the island’s first inhabitants, when they landed here in 5000BC.
Hypogeum (Circa 2400 BC)
This is a fascinating prehistoric underground burial ground 12 metres below street level situated in Paola. It consists of a system of caves, passages and cubicles cut in the rocks, and considered to be an invaluable site within the framework of world archaeology. The famous “sleeping lady”, now exhibited at the Museum of Archeology in Valletta, was found in the Hypogeum.
Megalaitic Tarxien Temples
Malta can boast of a number of megalithic temples sited all over the island. The Tarxien complex consists of three linked temples. These temples were erected in the fourth and third millennium BC. Several decorate objects, statuettes, pottery items and bas reliefs were discovered there. The most striking are the superb spiral motifs. Professor Renfrew referred to the megalithic temples of Malta as “the earliest free-standing stone monuments in the world”.
Is to be found in the south of the island, near Hal Far. It is a huge cave with a large window in the cliff-face rising perpendicularly out of the water.
These are mostly found on the exposed surface of outcrops of the harder coralline limestone. The most widely accepted dating for our ancient cart cuts is the Bronze age, roughly between 1500 and 700BC. Some archaeologists tend to believe that they are intended for the transport of heavy rocks of stone from the quarry face.
It is unique among the Maltese temples because globigerina limestone was used throughout its construction. There are complicated decorations carved on some of the stones, an oracular chamber and altars and the massive walls are particularly impressive. It’s position overlooking the sea make it one of the most spectacular megalithic temples in Malta.
Is a short walk down the Hill of Hagar Qim, and like its twin temple occupies a site of exceptional beauty. Its circular spaces, chambers, pediments and passage-ways of pitted stone prove that the builders of these stones marvels left nothing to chance when they planned and built them in circa 3200BC.
Is Malta’s largest fishing village. You stroll here to watch the fishermen, their boats and nets or to have a meal or snack. On Sunday mornings there is a lively market.
This fishing village is on the southern shores of Malta and is a mass of formidable and unassailable cliffs, ravines and gorges. As far back as 1417 the promontory at Wied iz-Zurrieq already served as a lookout station.
Lying beyond the cliffs of Wied iz-Zurrieq, is compared to Capri’s Grotta Azzurra. The Blue Grotto can only be reached by sea either on a motor boat or a rowing boat. It is an attraction with locals and visitors particularly in the summer months when the sea is shimmering and still. The cavern is 40 metres in circumference and reaches a depth of 26 metres. The Blue Grotto faces east and in the early morning, the rays of the sun floodlight the entire grotto, revealing its incandescent beauty. There are stalactites on the roof and its clear waters are like an aquarium full of fish.
Sliema, St.Julians, Paceville
This is a lively area all year round but particularly in summer. With a wide promenade overlooking the seam in both summer and winter many come to breath the fresh air and watch the sea. Restaurants, snack-bars, pubs, pizzerias, and cafes are to be found in this pleasure centre of Malta. There are discos, comfortable cinemas, a bowling centre as well as a casino in a fairytale palace. Just walking around watching others is fun in itself.
Malta is a dream destination for underwater photography. The extraordinary clarity of its deep waters is ideal for the observation of marine life. For more excitement try a night dive to discover something totally different. Colours appear to be much more vivid by torchlight. A unique experience, certainly worth trying, and one which most diving schools include in their programme.
Beaches in Malta
The Mediterranean has virtually no tide and the beaches are generally safe for children. The sandy beaches are largely concentrated in the northwest of Malta. Among the most popular are Ghajn Tuffieha, Mellieha Bay, Golden Bay, Gnejna Bay, Paradise Bay and Armier Bay. Armier Beach is situated in the extreme northeast of Malta with few facilities and occasional rough swells but lots of sand. Ghajn Tuffieha Bay is sandy and less crowded than Golden Bay Beach yet only a short walk away and reached by steps. Golden Bay is the most popular beach on the island after Mellieha Bay because of its extensive stretch of sand. Mellieha Bay, which is 2km north of Mellieha, is entirely suitable for children due to its shallow water and the large amount of sand.
Mellieha (Ghadira) Bay, Mellieha. Malta’s largest sandy beach, facilities for bathers and watersports options. Can get very busy, especially weekends, June – September. Good for children.
Mgiebah Bay, Limits of Selmun, Mellieha. A small secluded bay set in stunning natural scenery. No facilities at all, good for snorkelling.
Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay. Limits of Mgarr. Two very attractive, adjacent beaches set within the cliff face. Some more facilities at Golden Bay but both beaches are very popular. Great for snorkelling, exploring the little inlets and coves at the sides. Although illegal, a small inlet at the far left of Ghajn Tuffieha Bay seems to be frequented by nude bathers, but you are unlikely to notice as this is out of the way and quite a walk or swim. There is quite a descent (and obviously ascent) to Ghajn Tuffieha Bay via stairs, which may be worth noting. Again can get very busy on weekends, you may have to park your car quite some distance away. Good for children.
Gnejna Bay, Limits of Mgarr. Possibly not quite as nice as Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha, though you do get the option to choose a quieter spot at this beach. Again, a long and rough possibly dangerous walk along the right hand side of the beach takes you to an area popular with nude bathers. Good for children.
Paradise Bay, Cirkewwa. Limits of Mellieha. Possibly the most attractively set beach in Malta, set within a natural cove, which more than justifies the name. Some facilities for bathers available. The actual beach is quite small however. Good for snorkelling.
Armier Bay and neighbouring bays. Limits of Mellieha. Quite small beaches, but with some well known lidos and facilities. Weekends can be noisy, and a hot tip is to avoid Mondays in summer – Typically Monday is the post-village-feast outing day, and Armier Bay is a hotspot for the revellers, of whichever village in Malta whence they carcade with much noise and fanfare to Armier. Good for children.
Fomm Ir-Rih Bay, limits of Rabat. If you really want half the beach to yourself, even though the beach may not be that large, then Fomm Ir-Rih is a good choice. Be warned that the reason for this is that the walk down to the beach is a good 15-20 minutes via a tricky and sometimes steep and slippery pathway, so you have to be determined – especially bearing in mind the return climb in 30-degree-plus heat and sun. Absolutely no facilities for miles, as might be expected. Very good for snorkelling.
Bahar Ic-Caghaq. Along the coast road from Qawra to St Julian’s, are a couple of very small sandy beaches. Never so busy and parking is usually available close by, thus convenient to escape to from St. Julian’s. Good for snorkeling. Good for children. Splash and Fun and Meditterraneo.
St George’s Bay, St Julian’s. A recent major improvement on the previous tiny patch of sand that used to be St George’s Bay, this beach is now larger and properly managed. Facilities are available, and one is less than a minute’s walk from the restaurants, etc of St. Julian’s. Good for children.
Rinella Bay, Kalkara. A very small sandy beach, pretty but not always recommended due to possible pollution from ships.
St Thomas Bay, Marsascala.This beach is listed under “Sandy Beaches” but the actual sandy area out of the water is extremely small, about 20 meters – however flat rock, concrete platforms and seating by both sides of the beach explain its popularity. Facilities available. Good for children.
St George’s Bay, Birzebbugia. A small, pretty sandy beach. No facilities on the actual beach, but in Birzebbugia proper. Good for children.
Pretty Bay, Birzebbugia. Considering the actual expanse of sand, if not the length, this could be classified as a “medium” sized beach by Maltese standards. Lots of facilites, it being situated at the busiest part of Birzebbugia. Attractively landscaped too. Good for children.
~Malta - Rocky Beaches~Cirkewwa to Ahrax Point, Limits of Mellieha. Apart from some small sandy beaches, there are plenty of places where one may enter the water from the rocks or, in places, concrete bathing platforms.
Selmun, St Paul’s Islands. Accessible either strictly by Jeep or a 10 minute walk, thus no crowds guaranteed, and great view of St Paul’s Islands which are a few meters offshore. Excellent for snorkelling. No facilities, OK for families if you have vehicular access.
St Paul’s Bay, Bugibba, Qawra. The entire coastline boasts numerous places ideal for bathing, and is almost entirely open to the public. The inner harbour areas are less attractive however. Qawra Point (referred to as Ta’ Fra Ben) is particularly popular. Good for snorkelling.
Coast from limits of Salina Bay to St George’s Bay, St Julians. Again, the entire coast offers many entry points, which vary in suitability for families and ease of access. The sea water quality here also makes this a good area for snorkelling.
Paceville, St Julians. By the right hand side of the Casino, is a popular small rocky beach. Approximately 200 m offshore is a well known reef popular with divers, and thus the area is excellent for snorkelling. Facilities on the beach itself limited to the occasional ice-cream vendor, but you are never more than 300m from town.
Sliema. Sliema’s entire coastline with the exception of Valletta Harbour side is suitable for bathing. Sliema’s rocky beaches are very popular during the summer months, due to proximity to town and facilities available, easy access, plus plenty of flat space to lay down a towel. Sliema’s beaches have a wide appeal to all, you will find families with children, individuals having a dip during their afternoon work break, youths chilling out at a beach cafe’, and tourists from the nearby hotels. Suitable for snorkelling, too.
Valletta. Not that well known or popular, for this very reason, except with locals, Valletta Point beneath the bastions of Fort St Elmo is also a good place for bathing and snorkelling. Not very suitable for children, as there do not seem to be any shallow areas.
Marsascala – Zonqor Point to St Thomas Bay.Apart from the inner harbour area, all the area is suitable for bathing and snorkelling. Zonqor Point and the St Thomas Tower area are particularly good for snorkelling. There are some watersports facilites at the Jerma Palace Hotel, by St Thomas Tower.
Xrobb L-Ghagin Bay, a not very well signposted left turn from the road leading to Delimara Point, limits of Marsaxlokk, is a highly scenic area offering clear water of varying depth, a little island just 20 - 30 metres offshore, and the possibility for the more adventurous to go seriously off the beaten track. Access to the main beach is relatively easy, and families do frequent the place. Great snorkelling. No facilities at all.
St Peter’s Pool, Delimara, limits of Marsaxlokk, and nearby coves. Another area of natural beauty offering crystal clear waters. Popular, but never crowded and you can have as much space for yourself as you need. Also very good snorkelling, OK for families. No facilities.
Qajjenza – Limits of Birzebbugia, to Marsaxlokk,St Lucian Tower area. Some limited bathing areas available.
Zurrieq – Wied iz-Zurrieq (Zurrieq Valley).Just by the Blue Grotto (although the Blue Grotto is only accessible by boat), the area is quite popular with locals and visitors. Water is somewhat deep, therefore not so suitable for young children. Very popular with divers, thus also some excellent snorkelling. The bathing area is just a short distance away from the restaurants and snack bars and other facilities such as public toilets.
Ghar Lapsi (Lapsi Cave) – Limits of Siggiewi. A unique bay within a cave, OK for children, and clear water for excellent visibility while snorkelling. Facilites available, but not too much space in the main bathing spot so best to avoid weekends. Or walk a short distance and find your own secluded spot, but this option is not child-friendly.
Gnejna Bay. By the right side of the main sandy beach, there is also a stretch of flat rock ideal for bathing and sunbathing, if you prefer to avoid the sand. Some facilities available, and also watersports rentals.