Malta

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Malta - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Catacombs

    Catacombs run under much of Rabat. Up Saint Agatha Street from Parish Square, the Catacombs of St. Paul are clean of bones but full of carved-out burial troughs and feature the most comprehensive information on the rituals of the city's underground world, including why each tomb is a different shape. St. Agatha's Crypt and Catacombs, farther up the street, were beautifully frescoed between 1200 and 1480, then defaced by Turks in 1551. Back on the square lies arguably the most impressive surviving tunnel area, the Wignacourt Complex, which includes St. Paul's Grotto—believed to be the site where the apostle St. Paul lived during his time in Malta. This labyrinthine network of burial chambers here dates from Punic times and holds one surprise: just below it are a series of World War II bomb shelters (some 50 rooms) carved by hand from an existing water cistern dug centuries earlier by the Knights of the Order of St. John. The Wignacourt museum upstairs houses reliquaries, relics, and paintings by Mattia Preti.

    St. Agatha St., Rabat, N/A Malta, RBT 2013, Malta
    21-454–562 (St. Paul's)

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6 St. Paul\'s; €6 St. Agatha\'s; €6 Wignacourt Complex
  • 2. Fort St. Angelo

    Vittoriosa's headland has always been hot property. Before 1530, when the Knights of the Order of St. John first landed and set up base here, it had been home to castles and temples dating from the Phoenecian era. When the Knights were later ousted in 1798, it became HQ for Napoleon's invading French army, and then later the British Navy—it was the last piece of Malta to be handed over by the Brits, who retained a naval base here 15 years after independence was declared in 1964. Today's layout owes much to its strengthening in 1690 by the engineer Don Carlos de Grunenberg. So successful was his design that, some 250 years later, it was able to withstand 69 direct hits by World War II bombers. Nazi propaganda even famously claimed it had "sunk HMS St Angelo" (as the fort was then known by the British) despite it not being a ship. But its starring moment was during the Great Siege of 1565, when it repelled wave after wave of Ottoman Turks over three long, hot summer months. Following extensive renovations, completed in 2016, it reopened as a museum, narrating tales of wartime heroics and ghosts, all woven through a series of thrilling rooms and interactive exhibits spanning its long history.

    Vittoriosa Waterfront, Birgu, N/A Malta, Malta
    25-401–800

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €10
  • 3. Fort St. Elmo–National War Museum

    Built in 1552 by the Knights of St. John to defend the harbor, this fort was completely destroyed during the Great Siege of 1565 by the Ottoman Turks and was rebuilt by succeeding military leaders. Today, some parts are still off-limits to visitors as restorations continue, but it has both fantastic views and is also now home to the excellent National War Museum. Malta's history is one of invasion, and the museum charts this in gripping detail through the ages. It is particularly strong on the reign of the Knights, who, when kicked out of Rhodes in 1522 by the Ottoman Turks, resumed their struggle for religious hegemony in Malta over countless battles, sieges, and raids. It also delves well into the tug of war between Napoléon and the British, as well as the island's fate during World War II, offering easily the most comprehensive historical overview of Valletta. Its audio-visual tales are also often nail-biting, particularly the tale of "Operation Pedestal," in which the Allied forces sought to squeeze a supply ship through enemy lines to Malta in 1942 and, in doing so, changed the course of the war. Alongside this are a collection of rare military objects, including President Roosevelt's Jeep, "Husky," and one of the Gloster Sea Gladiator biplanes that defended the island so stoutly.

    St. Elmo Pl., Valletta, N/A Malta, VLT 1725, Malta
    21-233–088

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €10
  • 4. Lascaris War Rooms

    Back in 1943, this underground tunnel complex arguably decided the course of World War II. It was then that President Eisenhower and the Allied commanders were plotting the invasion of Sicily (known as Operation Husky)—one of the first major assaults to retake Europe from the Axis powers. The site of this top-secret British HQ has been carefully restored (it was later used by NATO to track Soviet subs up until 1977) to its heyday, and hourly guided tours take you through the intricacies of planning such a game-changing operation long before computers were able to plot each movement—complicated military coordination was done with phones, string, and a chalkboard. The entrance is up at the Saluting Battery, with steps leading down from there. Exclusive guided tours of the rooms and tunnels are available at 10:30 and 1 pm.

    Lascaris Ditch, Valletta, N/A Malta, Malta

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €12
  • 5. St. John's Co-Cathedral

    What appears a rather functional-looking building from the outside is deceiving. Inside, this is one of the world's most lavishly decorated Baroque cathedrals. The discrepancy between its exterior and interior reflect the different eras through which it has stood. It was completed in 1578 by the Knights of St. John as their own church. In the 17th century, the order's mounting treasures from the Holy Land and the desire to build a cathedral to rival those of Rome saw it get a spectacular makeover. A floor made up of a patchwork of colored-marble tombstones (the final resting place of some 375 knights and officers of the order) shines beneath a breathtakingly intricate arched ceiling largely decorated by the Calabrian artist and knight Mattia Preti. In the Oratory is Caravaggio's only signed work, the dramatic and unsparing Beheading of John the Baptist (1607), which hangs above the very spot where the rogue artist was defrocked and deknighted following a brawl (he had already fled to Malta to escape punishment for murder). Also hanging here is another of the artist's works, the touchingly frail image of Saint Jerome Writing (1606), which found infamy after it was stolen from the Co-Cathedral in 1984 and held hostage. The cathedral museum is currently being extended (work is set to be completed in 2021) to include a special area dedicated to Caravaggio and its collections of silver, tapestries, and vestments, set to be completed in 2021. The entrance fee includes an audio guide. Public access (main ticket office) is on Republic St. Narrow heeled shoes such as stilettos are not allowed, but slippers can be purchased at reception; women in short skirts will be given coverings.

    St. John St., Valletta, N/A Malta, VLT 1156, Malta
    21-239--628

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10, Closed Sun.
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  • 6. Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary

    What was once a tiny chapel servicing an equally miniscule village found fame in 1883 when a local woman was said to hear the voice of the Virgin here. Pilgrims flocked to it, overwhelming the chapel, so a wealthy local man paid to build what is now Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary around it in the 1920s (the chapel still exists in part behind the altar, along with the tomb of the woman who heard the "miracle"). It's an impressive building, constructed in soft Maltese stone, which meant they could carve intricate Romanesque flourishes. Perhaps the most remarkable sight is the votive offerings in the rear, left by visitors who have experienced "miracles" of their own and who wish to thank the Virgin. From broken bicycle wheels to plaster casts, all manner of personal memorabilia is strewn across the walls, with written stories accompanying each and making for fascinating reading.

    Triq ta' Pinu, Gharb, N/A Malta, Malta
    21-556–187
  • 7. Blue Grotto

    The turnoff for the Blue Grotto, a dazzling series of sea caves off Qrendi's coast, is 1 km (½ mile) beyond the lookout on Triq Wied Iz-Zurrieq road, which offers parking and fine views. From there, a steep road takes you down to a rocky inlet and harbor where noisy boats (€8) leave for the grottoes and the stained-glass-blue waters that splash their walls.

    Coast Rd., Zurrieq, N/A Malta, Malta
  • 8. Buskett Gardens

    Get your tree fix at Buskett Gardens, a short drive (or 40-minute walk) south of Rabat. This pleasant stretch of woodland was a former hunting ground for the Knights of St. John, and, as such, is one of few surviving patches of forest on Malta (trees cover barely 1% of the islands) after the Knights cut down the rest to build their warships. It surrounds Verdala Castle, a 16th-century hunting lodge that is now used by the president of Malta to host distinguished visitors and is sadly not open to the public. Just up the road are the prehistoric "Clapham Junction" cart ruts, a dense collection of V-shape gouges (some up to 60 cm-deep) thought to have been used for transportation, and the il-Kbhur cave complex, which was inhabited up until 1835.

    Buskett Rd., Dingli, N/A Malta, DGL 2708, Malta
  • 9. Casa Bernard

    What began life as a medieval watchtower grew into a grand palazzo by the mid-16th century, and developed a few baroque flourishes as the centuries went by. These days a personal guided tour by the owners reveals how the Maltese nobles used to live, in what is still a family home, lovingly restored by owners Josette and Georges Magri.

    46 St.Paul's St., Mdina, N/A Malta, Malta
    21-451–888

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.
  • 10. Casa Rocca Piccola

    One of the last of Malta's patrician houses still to be occupied is the first to be opened up to visitors. The ninth Marquis de Piro and his family can trace their lineage back to when the Knights of the Order of St. John fled Rhodes for Malta in 1530, and you can see the family history laid out in their home's decor. The exquisite 16th-century house displays generations' worth of what the family calls "aristocratic bric-a-brac," including stools given to them for attending the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II; a beautiful, 18th-century, portable, Baroque chapel used for baptisms; and works by the artist Giuseppi Cali, the Marquis's great-grandfather and painter of the Rotunda at Mosta. Each charts the history of the family, the house, or Valletta itself, while beneath the house lies the remains of a vast World War II bunker, one of around 30 built across the city as the bombs started falling. It was dug from the quarry in which the stone for the house was cut some four centuries earlier. If you pay extra, you can get a personal guided tour by a family member, who can share some rather unique tales of Maltese history. Casa Rocca Piccola recently added B&B stays to its repertoire, with five rooms set aside for guests (doubles from €160), offering a taste of aristocratic life. Breakfast is taken in the exquisite courtyard, complete with the family parrot for company.

    74 Republic St., Valletta, N/A Malta, VLT 1117, Malta
    21-221--499

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €9; €200 per group for a personalized guided tour by the family, Guided tours Mon.– Sat. 10:00–5:00, Closed Sun.
  • 11. Church of St. Lawrenz

    Below Vittoriosa's main square, the Church of St. Lawrenz served as the Order of St. John's conventual church when the Knights landed in 1530, long before they relocated to Valletta. The present building dates from 1697, though its interior is scattered with artworks by 17th-century painter Mattia Pretti. A visit to the neighboring museum (open 9–noon) reveals a curious array of items, including Grand Master Jean de la Valette's kneeling prayer mat.

    Triq San Lawrenz, Victoria, N/A Malta, BRG 1386, Malta
    25-906–238
  • 12. Covered Market

    This mighty expanse of Victorian iron was once a bit of an eyesore, but the city's covered market has had a much-needed makeover. Built in 1860, and the first building on the island to be constructed out of metal, it now houses a bustling basement food market heaving with wines, oils, and gourmet tidbits, and a ground floor bustling with international and local street food stalls (tapas, grilled fish, pastizzi). Outdoor seating and an upstairs exhibition center complete the picture. Hours are daily until 10 pm.

    Triq il-Merkanti, Valletta, N/A Malta, VLT 1175, Malta
    22-103–500
  • 13. Fort Rinella

    Lying just to the east of Vittoriosa, this late 19th-century fort was built by the British to hold the world's largest muzzle-loading cannon, the 100-ton Armstrong gun. Exhibitions focus on the daily life of the Victorian British garrison that was stationed here, with live demonstrations and a firing of the cannon at noon. Guided tours (2–4 pm) include re-enactments and a film about the Victorian army, while free audio guides take you through a 3,000-strong collection of weaponry, uniforms, and equipment.

    St. Rocco St., Kalkara, N/A Malta, Malta
    21-800–992

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10, Closed Sun.
  • 14. Ghajn Tuffieha Bay

    Beach

    Malta's prettiest beach, also known as Golden Bay, is also it's wind and kite surfing center, with onshore breezes being particularly advantageous outside the main summer season. Between May and the end of September the beach is very popular with visitors, many of whom stay at the nearby Radisson Blu hotel. Weekends can be crowded with Maltese families who come to spend the day. The soft fine sand is some of the best on an island that has more rocky bays and inlets than sandy beaches. Shade is provided by rented sun umbrellas (summer only). Best for : swimming; wind surfing. Amenities : food and drink; lifeguards (summer only); parking (no fee); showers; toilets.

    Southwest of Mellieha town, Mellieha, N/A Malta, MLH 5510, Malta
  • 15. Grandmasters Palace

    From the time of Malta's independence in 1964 until 2015, this building doubled as the nation's parliament, and it still remains the official residence of the Maltese president. However, ongoing renovations over the next few years to the State Rooms and courtyards mean chunks will be off-limits at different times, and state visits also restrict what can be viewed, which is why the ticket price currently bundles in the city's new art museum, MUZA, as well. The palace, completed in 1574, has a unique collection of Gobelin tapestries; the main hall is decorated with frescoes depicting the history of the Knights and the Great Siege. Usually on view are works by Ribera, Van Loo, and Batoni, and at the back of the building is the Armory of the Knights, which is housed in what used to be the stables, exhibiting arms and armor through the ages; an audio tour taking you through it lasts about 45 minutes.

    Republic St., Valletta, N/A Malta, VLT 1191, Malta
    21-249–349

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €6, Daily 9–5
  • 16. Għar Dalam Cave

    The semifossilized remains of long-extinct dwarf elephants and hippopotamuses that roamed the island some 125,000 years ago were found in this cave, on the outskirts of the seaside town of Birzebbuga, next to Marsaxlokk. The fossils are now on display in the small museum.The earliest evidence of human occupation on Malta, dating from 7,000 years ago, was found in the excavated upper layer on the cave floor.

    Zejtun Rd., Marsaxlokk, N/A Malta, BBG 9014, Malta
    2165–7419

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5
  • 17. Inquisitor's Palace

    The displays in Birgu's Inquisitor's Palace reveal less-discussed aspects of less-tolerant times in Malta. The palace dates from the 1530s, and the first Inquistor General and Apostolic delegate to Malta arrived here in 1547.

    Triq Il-Mina Il Kbira, Birgu, N/A Malta, BRG 1023, Malta
    2182–7006

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6
  • 18. Malta at War

    There's no shortage of museums unraveling Malta's military history, but few are as intimate. Housed inside an 18th-century army barracks and labyrinthine, rock-cut, underground air-raid shelter, it focuses on the period from 1940 to 1943, when World War II and the Blitz came to Malta—then a strategically vital outpost for the Allied Forces and stepping stone to Fascist Italy. Through artifacts, newsreels, and a stirring propaganda documentary, narrated by Laurence Olivier and released by King George VI in January 1943 to pluck up the spirits of his battered Maltese subjects, it shows daily life as the bombs fell and hope was all but lost and then found again.

    Couvre Port, Birgu, N/A Malta, Malta
    21-800–992

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €14
  • 19. Manoel Theater

    If you are here in opera season, don't miss a show at the third-oldest theater in Europe, which had its opening night on January 9, 1732. If you can't make a show, you can still enjoy the baroque interior on a guided tour, which run every half-hour during the day (weekdays 9:30–4:30, Saturday 10–2). Intimate and splendidly decorated, it was designed after Palermo's theater at the time.

    Old Theater St., Valletta, N/A Malta, VLT 1426, Malta
    21-246–389 bookings

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5 tour, Closed Sun.
  • 20. Maritime Museum

    Housed in what used to be the British Navy's bakery, this comprehensive museum views the history of the islands through a nautical gaze, from its first settlers up to the British handover. It's particularly good on the history of the Knights of St. John, who legitimized "piracy" upon their arrival by enabling corsairs to sail under the Spanish flag—and taking a hefty cut of their booty. Tales of feared ships like the Santa Maria—which carried the Knight's treasures to Malta when they were ousted from Rhodes and which met its end when an errant ship-hand mishandled some gunpowder—refreshingly reveal both calamities and heroics. A vast, almost overwhelming, collection includes models of a caracca (galleon), prostitute licenses, Roman amphoras hauled up from shipwrecks, cannons, and all variety of maritime ephemera.

    Vittoriosa Waterfront, Birgu, N/A Malta, Malta
    21-660--052

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