Malta Highlights, Summary of Where To Go - What To See
Valletta (Malta's Capital City)
Valletta is the capital city of Malta and has been given the well deserving status of World Heritage City. Valletta is a captivating, 16th century town, designed and planned according to Ranaissance ideas. Disraeli wrote that it equals in its nobe architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe. It was created as a completely new fortified town and now stands with bastions and powerful cavaliers, still in the state that Francesco Laparelli left them, defying tha passage of time.
St. John’s Cathedral
St. John's Cathedtral in Valletta, 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
The Grand Master's Palace is located half way down Republic Street in Valletta. 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
The National Museum of Archeology, in the Auberge de Provence, in Republic street, Valletta, 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 of pottery, sculpture, statuettes and much more.
The National Museum of Fine Arts
The National Museum of Fine Arts is sited in South Street just off Republic Street in Valletta. 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
The National War Museum 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
The National Library is housed in the colonnaded and classical building dominating Republic Square in Valletta. 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.
St Paul's Shipwrecked Church
St. Paul's Shipwrecked Church is a hidden gem and not to be missed. Entrance is through St Lucia Street or St Paul Street, Valletta.
The Grand Harbour
The Grand Harbour of Valletta was a focal point during the Great siege of 1565 and also during World War Two. This historic port has been the economic lifeline of Malta ever since the dawn of history.
The Manoel Theatre, iIs 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 January 9th, 1732, making the Manoel one of the oldest functioning theatres in Europe. Performances are held regularly.
The Auberges 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).
The Bastions are the most prominent of Maltese architecture. The main ingredient used is a soft limestone. Mile upon mile of impressive fortified curtains and bastions rise solidly from the ground and seem an integral part of the scene. They can be seen in Valletta, the Three Cities and Mdina.
Il-Monti, is the open market in Valletta 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
The Mediterranean Confrence Center, 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.
The Public Gardens of Valletta namley The Upper Barracca, or the Lower Barracca Gardens with its well-known monument to Sir Alexander Ball, offer a memorable view of the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities. 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
The famous Three Cities of Malta located 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
The Maritime Museum, was 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
Cospicua (Bormla) one of the Three Cities offers many landmarks such as, 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.
Senglea one of the Three Cities, 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 famous Vedette (ears and eyes tower) behind the church.
Fort St Angelo
Fort St. Angelo, at Vittoriosa one of the Three Cities, 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
The Folklore 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.
Mdina (the silent city)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.
The Cathedral 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 Baptistry. 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
The Museum of Natural History is 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
The 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
The St.Agatha’s and St.Paul’s Catacombs 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.
Dingli cliffs are austere sea 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.
Verdala Palace overlooking the Buskett Gardens, 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.
The Roman Villa
The Roman Villa is 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. Including beautifully preserved mosaics.
Mosta and the immediately recognisable Rotunda and it's dome, 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.
Ghar Dalam, 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)
The Hypogeum (circa 2400 BC)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
A Number of Megalaitic Temples can be found all over Malta 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.
The Ghar Hasan, can 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.
Cart Ruts 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.
Hagar Qim, 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.
The Mnajdra Temples 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.
Marsaxlokk, 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.
Wied iz-Zurrieq, is a 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.
The Blue Grotto is 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
Sliema, St.Julians and Paceville are lively 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.
The Sandy Beaches of Malta are largely concentrated in the northwest of Malta. Among the most popular are Ghajn Tuffieha, Mellieha Bay, Golden Bay, Paradise Bay and Gharmier. 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, that is 2km north of Mellieha is entirely suitable for children due to it’s shallow water and the large amount of sand.
Cirkewwa is a harbour situated at the northernmost part of Malta where there is a Ferry Terminal. Regular car ferries operate to the port of Mgarr on Gozo, "Gozo Ferry". In the summer, boat trips to Comino also operate, as well as organised diving excursions. Cirkewwa is one of the most visited scuba diving sites on the Maltese Islands. It has underwater cliffs, caves, tunnels and an arch down to the seabed at 27m. A short swim away is the wreck of the MV Rozi, an old tugboat sunk intentionally as an attraction for tourists aboard a tourist submarine that worked the area in the early 1990s.