7 Sites that prove Malta is the Museum Island of the Mediterranean

Valletta Republic Street

Malta has an extraordinary ensemble of palaces, forts, and museums sprinkled over the archipelago. Furthermore, with 13 prehistoric temples and caves embedded in its landscape, along with several fortified cities, Malta doubles into an ‘open air’ museum where visitors can take a step back and learn from the past while living in the present.

To the beginning

Ghar Dalam, literally translated to “Cave of Darkness” is a prehistorical cul-de-sac located in the outskirts of Birzebbuga. It contains the bone remains of animals that were stranded and subsequently became –extinct in Malta at the end of the last Glacial Maximum.

Dwarf elephant, hippopotamus, deer and bear bone deposits found there are of different ages; the hippopotamuses became extinct about 10,000 years ago, whilst the deer species became extinct much later, about 4000 years ago during the Chalcolithic era. It is also here that the earliest evidence of human settlement on Malta, some 7400 years ago, was discovered.

A visit to the megalithic temples, scattered around Malta, is also imperative for any visitor who is interested in archeology and history. We suggest the Tarxien temples and the Ggantija temples (the latter found in Gozo).



By Jean-Christophe BENOIST

The Underground Necropolis

Although the Ggantija temples in Gozo and the Tarxien temples are a must see as indicated above, I want to draw attention to a less known site – one that most Maltese themselves haven’t been to (except perhaps in early school days). With remains dating back to c. 4000 BC, the Hypogeum an underground necropolis. It hosts the remains of more than 7000 individuals and, with three accessible levels, it is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world.

It was in the chamber found in the second level that the statuettes of the sleeping lady – the ancient goddess of fertility worshipped in this era – were found. Another captivating aspect about the hypogeum is the Oracle room – a place of study for students of acoustics that produces a powerful resonance from any vocalization made inside it.

The Hypogeum is a UNESCO World heritage site, and only allows 80 people a day. Booking well ahead of time is essential.


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A city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.

The only inhabited city in the world that is also a UNESCO world heritage site. The fortress city rises steeply from its two deep harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour. Walk through the city’s grid of narrow streets and look up to see some of Europe’s finest works of architecture and art, admire the churches, palaces, votive statues, niches, fountains, and coats of arms high up on parapets. Step into strait street to find a spring of tiny, warm, and intimate quaint shops and cafés, while Valletta’s main streets are lined with a number of museums, including the national museum of art and the national museum of archaeology, and larger international branded shops for fashion, music, jewellery and more. St. John’s co-Cathedral, Upper Barrakka Gardens, Hastings Gardens, and the Lower Barrakka Gardens are stops not to be missed on your tour.

For the ideal starting point of any journey around the Maltese islands, take the lift down from the Upper Barrakka gardens and walk towards the waterfront. Its nineteen historical 250-year-old warehouses, built at the height of the baroque period in Malta, stretch along the water’s edge and the historical Quay Wall, providing the perfect backdrop and location to enjoy the Maltese Grand Harbour.




Photograph taken by Sandra Sammut Alessi


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At the heart of Malta

Perhaps an obvious one, but nevertheless always essential to include. The massively fortified natural harbour has been used since Pheonician times. Enjoy the spectacular entry to the port on a yacht, where the Valletta Waterfront, the three old cities of Vittoriosa, Cospicua, and Senglea, the star-shaped fort of St. Elmo, and the large bastioned fort of St. Angelo all blend together to create a picturesque, awe-inspiring panorama. Dine at sunset with this ensemble of cultural bastions around you for a truly surreal experience.




The Citta’ Vittoriosa

Birgu, also known as the Città Vittoriosa, is the city that led Malta towards victory in The Great Siege of 1565. Its narrow streets and colorful houses make it one of the most beautiful cities in Malta. Birgu’s harbour has been revamped as a Marina with berthing facilities for yachts and motor vessels from all over the world, and going to Birgu is thus the natural step after a dinner or a trip on a yacht. One of the streets worth wandering around is Hilda Tabone Street, home to Auberge de France.  Along the breathtaking marina, several restaurants, and other attractions have transformed the city into a hub of culture, art, and entertainment. If inclined to spend the morning here, we suggest visiting the Malta Maritime Museum, the Inquisitors Palace, and the tower Fort St Angelo itself.


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Streets of Vittoriosa, taken from

The Citadel of Gozo and the Silent City

Known for its scenic hills, and rich in historical locations such as the Ggantija temples and the legendary Calypso cave (famed for its identification with Ogygia – the island home of the nymph Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey), and quiet, rural life, Gozo offers the perfect atmosphere for a step into the past. Visit its Citadel, the ancient fortress rising dramatically above the town Victoria, and home to a multitude of museums and historic artefacts. Over the last years, the Citadel has undergone a major revamp through restoration and rehabilitation projects, consolidating the fortified town.

Perhaps better known is the fortified city of Mdina in Malta, which served as the island’s capital city from antiquity to the medieval period. Over the centuries, Mdina has acquired several Baroque features that have blended with its strong medieval character. It remains the centre of the Maltese nobility and religious authorities. The city has its own cathedral, square, and a number of museums and palaces, the latter which have been revamped into restaurants and cultural halls.


Citadel of Gozo

Cittadella Street (Annabel Camilleri)

Cittadella Street, photo taken by Annabel Camilleri

Cittadella Moat (Annabel Camilleri)

Cittadella Moat, photo taken by Annabel Camilleri

St. Paul's Cathedral and city walls, Mdina, Malta

St. Paul’s Cathedral and city walls, Mdina, Malta

The Lascaris War Rooms

An underground complex of tunnels and chambers that housed the War Headquarters from where the defence of Malta was conducted during the Second World War. In its operations rooms were coordinated some of the greatest battles fought in the Mediterranean Sea during the war. It was the advance Allied HQ from where General Eisenhower and his Supreme Commanders Admiral Cunningham, Field Marshal Montogomery, and Air Marshal Tedder directed operation Husky – the Invasion of Sicily in 1943. It was later taken over by NATO to be used as a strategic communication centre.


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We have only endeavoured to pick some geographical locations that transmute Malta into a living, breathing space of archelogy, culture, and history. Managing to actually visit all of these locations, and others such as the Wignacourt Tower requires careful planning and expert guides. Talk to Colours of Malta, who will plan out and arrange the holiday in a manner that allows you to experience the best our island has to offer!


One Comment

  1. Marzia Vella says:

    interested to know more about Malta


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