As home to temples other than the great pyramids of Giza themselves, Malta is an absolute goldmine for the history buffs out there. Maltese summers are made for golden tans and lazy days at the beach, but the rest of the year is perfect for really digging into our island’s rich, diverse history. From the awe-inspiring megalithic temples, to the Phoenicians, Romans, Normans, Knights of Malta, two world wars and beyond – we’re about to dip into some of the sights you absolutely have to see if you’re living in or even visiting Malta.
1. Ħagar Qim and Mnajdra
Ħagar Qim commands a sweeping view of the sea, with the islet of Filfla clearly in its sights; Mnajdra is just a few minutes away, and both templates are nestled in rugged, Mediterranean countryside. Hagar Qim (c. 3600-3200 BC) means ‘standing stones’ and was first excavated in 1839; the site is made up of a big central building and two smaller structures, following a layout typical of the prehistoric structures found on the Maltese islands. Loads of amazing artefacts were found at the site, including statuettes of human figures, which can be seen at the National Museum of Archaeology. Mnajdra is made up of three temples, with one of them dating as far back as 3600-3200 BC. The site shows extensive use of the dot-pattern used for decorative purposes at other megalithic temples located on the islands.
2. The Hypogeum
The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is an incredible underground burial site dating back to the Neolithic period (c. 3300-3000 BC). The site was discovered completely by accident during construction work in 1902, and was excavated for the first time by Father Emmanuel Magri, and continued by Sir Themistocles Zammit. Holding the remains of over 7000 humans, the structure is thought to have been used as a burial ground and stands as one of the best and most well-preserved examples of the prehistoric temple-building that produced Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, and the Xaghra Stone Circle.
3. The Grandmaster’s Palace
Located in Palace Square right in the heart of Valletta (the 2018 European Capital of Culture), the palace is home to the Office of the President, the House of Representatives, and a fabulous armoury filled with artefacts from the Order of the Knights of St John’s glorious past.
4. St John’s Co-Cathedral
An absolute must-see if you’re exploring our stunning capital city, Valletta, St John’s Co-Cathedral is an exquisite example of baroque architecture built by the Order of the Knights of St John between 1573 and 1578. Everywhere you look in this majestic structure you’ll see breath-taking art and precision, from the marble floor populated with angels and skeletons to beautiful paintings across the ceiling and two Caravaggio masterpieces, you’ll be overwhelmed by the Cathedral’s lavish interior.
5. Lascaris War Rooms
Perfect if you’re interested in all things World War II, the Lascaris War Rooms are made up of an underground network of rooms that used to serve as the strategic headquarters during the Second World War. This place was of critical importance during the war, serving as the advance Allied HQ and seeing General Eisenhower direct the Invasion of Sicily in 1943.
6. Domvs Romana
The Domvs Romana was first discovered in 1881 and is located just between Rabat and the ancient walled city of Mdina. Here, you’ll find a Roman-era aristocratic house in ruins, dating back to around the 1st century BC. Countless well-preserved artefacts were found at the site, including statues, mosaics, tombstones and other remains.
You just can’t visit the Domvs Romana without hitting Mdina on the same day – they’re a short walk away from each other and the Silent City will have you enchanted from the moment you walk through its regal main gate. We’ve already talked about what makes this charming, typically-Maltese city special, so check out our earlier blog post about the Silent City for more info!
8. Fort St Elmo – National War Museum
One of the many impressive forts strategically dotted around the island, Fort St Elmo is located in Valletta and today serves as home to the National War Museum. The museum houses a vast and varied collection of war-related artefacts and curiosities dating all the way back to the Bronze age (c. 2500 BC).
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