Malta's top 10 historical sites

Marvel at the baroque beauty of the cathedral, feel the cool air of an ancient underground burial chamber, or meet a soldier on a live re-enactment of military cooking; there are so many historical sites to be found in Malta that you will struggle to fit them all in. So whether you are new to the history of Malta or more versed in the culture, lose yourself in the past with our list of the top ten historical locations in Malta.

1. Ggantija Temples

This ancient site has found its way onto the UNESCO World Heritage list and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Malta. Located in Xaghra, Gozo, the two temples date from between 3600 and 3200 BC and are among some of the oldest of their kind in the world, they are even older than both Stonehenge and the pyramids in Egypt. Despite their antiquity they are fantastically well preserved and very highly rated by travellers.

2. Hagar Qim & Mnajdra Temples

This Neolithic temple complex was constructed around 5000 years ago and is one of the most fascinating in Malta. It is thought to have been used for fertility rituals although very little is known about what happened here. The temples are around 500 metres apart and there is a steep hill between the two, unfortunately a roof covering has been added to protect the ruins but it is still possible to walk among the stones and the roof does not detract from its historical significance.

3. Grandmasters Palace

Also known as The Palace, you can find this impressive building in Saint George’s Square, Valletta. Built in 1571, The Grandmasters Palace is a place where you can walk through the political history of Malta as this building has always been the seat of government.  Among the other stunning rooms you can visit the Palace Armoury, which holds weapons from the period of the Knights of Malta, and it is recommended to take a look at the spectacular Throne Room.

4. St John’s Co-Cathedral

Commissioned in 1572 but it wasn’t until the 17thcentury that the distinctive redecoration of St John’s Co-Cathedral was ordered and it became the Baroque beauty that you find today. Anybody with an interest in the Knights of St John should visit the St John’s Co-Cathedral as it is steeped in the history of the Knights. There is much on offer from this stunning structure and, aside from the beautiful baroque architecture, you can also see works of art by Caravaggio among the numerous fine art pieces. The museum also houses some exquisite 16th century illuminated manuscripts.

5. Fort Rinella

Situated in Kalkara, Fort Rinella was built in 1878 and is the world’s first mechanical fort. A vestige of Malta’s British Colonial past it is a testament to the mechanical advancements of Victorian industrialisation. The fort has recently undergone a restoration programme and there are animated tours available that have live re-enactments such as military cooking or bayonet practice among others.

6. Hal Saflieni Hypogeum

There are three levels of rock-cut chambers in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, which is an ancient underground burial site. The earliest remains found at the complex were dated to around 4000 B.C. and this is one of the few ancient burial chambers that it is possible to visit. Because of this it is very popular with visitors. Bear in mind that for preservation purposes only 10 visitors are allowed into the Hypogeum per hour so book ahead.

7. Auberge de Castille

Another link to the Knights of St John, the Auberge de Castille was built in 1574 as a residence for the Knights and it can be found at the highest point in Valletta. Although it was damaged quite badly during World War II it has been carefully restored and the architecture remains spectacular.

8. The National Museum of Archaeology

The National Museum of Archaeology is situated in Republic Street, Valletta and is a great place to start your historical journey through Malta. With artefacts dating back to around 5200 B.C., many of the most important finds from around Malta are held here. Many of the sites on this list have contributed some artefacts to the National Museum of Archaeology, which has sculptures, pottery and many other important exhibits, including some from the Hypogeum, Hagar Qim and Tarxien temples. For a fascinating look at ancient Malta, look no further.

9. Valletta

As the capital city of Malta, Valletta is steeped in history despite being no more than one square kilometre in size. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in itself because of its rich and fascinating past from Byzantine and Roman through to military and the Knights of St John. Valletta is described by UNESCO as one of the most concentrated historical areas in the world. While you can find the St John’s Co-Cathedral here and the National Museum of Archaeology there are numerous other museums as well as the fortifications, historic Manoel Theatre and the Grand Harbour, which has been central to Maltese history for centuries.

10. Mdina

Mdina was the medieval capital of Malta and is a fantastic example of an ancient walled city; it is a must for history buffs. Throughout the Old Town there are guided tours available and even self-guided audio tours to make sure that you don’t miss any of the history that surrounds you. The narrow stone paved streets, elegant churches and palaces, and the restriction on cars within the city make it a peaceful walk through history, almost as if you have taken a step back in time.