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History - Historical Tourist Attractions in Malta and Gozo

By far the largest number of tourist attractions fall under this category. Malta has been populated since the dawn of civilisation, and both man and beast have left their mark. From the fossils of long-extinct animal species at Ghar Dalam, up to the shell-scarred gunposts of World War Two, each period in between has contributed to the vast record of events that is called “Malta – the Island of History”. Where possible these attractions have been listed in a geographically sequential order, to aid the planning of your tour.

South of Malta

Mnajdra and Hagar Qim Temples, Qrendi****

The temple of Hagar Qim, excavated for the first time in 1839, dates from the Tarxien phase (c.3200-2500 BC). It stands on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Fifla and lies some 2km south-west of the village of Qrendi. Adjacent to Hagar Qim, further towards the cliff face, lies another remarkable temple site, Mnajdra. The surrounding area is designated a Heritage Park.

Also See – “Xarolla” Windmill, Zurrieq.

Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum, Birzebbugia****

Sediments found in this cave, laid down when the valley was actually a river bed, are rich in remains of extinct prehistoric animal species.

Also See – Borg In-Nadur Temple, Birzebbugia; St Lucian Tower, Marsaxlokk; St. Thomas Fort, Marsascala; Salt Pans, Marsascala

Tarxien Temples, Tarxien****

Megalithic Temples of an elaborate construction. Tarxien gave its name to the last temple period, which was from 3000 to 2500 BCE. The Tarxien temple complex turned out to be the richest deposit of prehistoric art objects on the Maltese islands. It was left untouched for thousands of years.

Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Paola****

A Unesco World Heritage Listed Site, the Hypogeum is a subterranean structure excavated c. 2500 B.C., using cyclopean rigging to lift huge blocks of coralline limestone. Perhaps originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times.

Fort Rinella – 100 Ton Gun***

Fort Rinella is one of a series of four coastal batteries built by the British in Malta and in Gibraltar between the years 1878 and 1886, for the purpose of housing a massive Armstrong 100-ton gun.

Also See – Fort Ricasoli; Kalkara Naval Cemetery; Zabbar Gate; Zabbar Church Museum

City of Birgu (Vittoriosa)***

This historic “city”, with its multitude of buildings dating to the 1700’s and picturesque, meandering streets, is well worth a visit.

Fort St Angelo, Vittoriosa****

Fort St Angelo in Vittoriosa is a beautiful fort and was the headquarters of the Knights of the Order of St John.

Also See – Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa Seafront; Folk Museum, Inquisitor’s Palace, Vittoriosa.

City of Senglea**

Senglea got its name from the man responsible for its fortifications, Grand Master Claude de La Sengle. Senglea was very badly damaged during WW2.

Also See – Senglea Point Lookout (Gardjola); Fortifications around the Three Cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea, Cospicua); Kalkara; Churches in the Three Cities

Central Malta


Mdina is known to many as a medieval, walled city. Its history, however, dates back more than 4000 years. Rabat can claim the origins of Maltese Christianity, the Apostle St Paul is said to have lived here after being shipwrecked on the Islands. Both Mdina and Rabat are fascinating to tour for their cultural and religious treasures.

Roman Villa, Rabat***

The Roman Villa is situated just outside Mdina, and was excavated in 1881.

St. Agatha’s and St. Paul’s Catacombs, Rabat***

These catacombs are underground burial places, hewn out of the solid rock, and date to the 4th and 5th century.

Also See - Verdala Palace, Buskett Gardens; “Cart Ruts”, Clapham Junction, Limits of Buskett Gardens; Laferla Cross, limits of Siggiewi.

Mosta Dome***

The third largest unsupported dome in the world.

Wartime Shelters, Mosta**

Provided cramped living quarters and shelter to the families living in the area, from the aerial bombardments of World War Two.

Also See – Cumbo Tower, Mosta; St. Paul The Hermit Chapel in the Cave, Mosta; Speranza Chapel, Mosta; Fort Mosta; Victoria Lines.

Wartime Shelters, Mgarr**

Provided cramped living quarters and shelter to the families living in the area, from the aerial bombardments of World War Two.

Also See – Fort Bingemma; Watchtowers along the coastline

Palazzo Parisio, Naxxar***

An opulent Palazzo built in 1773 by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena.

Also See – Parish Church, Naxxar; Fort Madliena, Limits of Naxxar; Captain’s Tower, Naxxar; Gauci Tower, Naxxar; Restored WW2 Pill-Box, Targa Gap, Naxxar; Parish Church, Gharghur; 1935 Acoustic “Radar”, Maghtab; Coastal Watchtowers, Bahar Ic-Caghaq.

San Anton Palace and Gardens, Attard***

Built by Grand Master Antoine de Paule, and currently the official residence of the President of Malta, San Anton Gardens are a haven of tranquillity and feature some very old, large tree species, large ponds and fountains among other features.

Also See – Lija Belvedere Tower; Old Train Station, Birkirkara; Aqueducts, Santa Venera; “Ghajn Tal-Hasselin” (Public Clothes Washhouse), Msida.


So much to see, allow time to tour at a leisurely pace and take it all in. Some highlights:

St. John’s Co. Cathedral and Museum, formerly the Conventual Church of the Order of St. John built between 1573 and 1577. The “Beheading of St. John”, Caravaggio’s masterpiece, hangs in the Oratory.

The Armoury contains some fine examples of mediaeval armour and weapons used by the Knights of St John, including Grand Master La Vallette’s suit of armour.

Museum of Archaeology, features the many rich and varied archeological remains excavated from the important historical sites of the Maltese Islands.

The 18th century Upper Barrakka Gardens are the best vantage point to view the fortifications of the Three Cities across the harbour.

Lascaris War Rooms. In 1942 General. Dwight Eisenhower, USA, Supreme Commander of Allied Mediterranean Forces and Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, RN, C-in-C of Allied Naval Forces in the Mediterranean, used these rooms to conduct the war in the Mediterranean.

Valletta Waterfront – Pinto and Forni Stores. Very attractively restored trading warehouses and sea wall built by the Knights of St John.

The National Museum of Fine Arts, featuring works by many renowned artists, and a collection of coins from the period of the Knights of Malta.

Grand Master’s Palace, built between 1571 and 1574, holds a unique collection of Gobelin tapestries, frescoes depicting the Great Siege of 1565 adorn the Order’s Supreme Council Hall, other notable features are beautiful ceiling decorations and works by Ribera, Vanloo and Batoni.

The National Library. The 18th Century National Library, built by the Knights, houses many important and unique works, including chronicles of the Knights of St. John from 1113 to 1798.

St. Paul Shipwreck Church - this church contains impressive vault paintings by Attilio Palombi which portray episodes in the life of St. Paul. There is also a magnificent wooden statue of the apostle and, purportedly, a wrist bone of St. Paul and a piece of the column on which he was beheaded.

Manoel Theatre and Museum, one of the oldest theatres in Europe, built by Grand Master De Vilhena in 1731.

Casa Rocca Piccola, built in 1580, is a small Maltese palazzo, restored to reflect the lifestyle of Maltese upper class as it was centuries ago.

Sacra Infermeria. Now known as the Mediterranean Conference Centre, originally the hospital of the Order of St. John, built in 1574, one of the oldest buildings in Valletta. “The Malta Experience”, an audiovisual show, is screened daily and is a very professional photographic and narrated presentation of the history of the Maltese Islands.

The Siege Bell Memorial is a monument for those who fell during World War II.

Fort St. Elmo was built in 1488 and played a very important part during the Great Siege of 1565. Also see the underground grain storage silos.

The War Museum, just by Fort St Elmo, features many items and photographs from World War 2, including a Gloster Gladiator biplane.

Also See – Fortifications around Valletta; Argotti Gardens, Floriana; Sa Maison Gardens, Floriana; The Granaries, Floriana; Manoel Island and Fort, Gzira; Fort Tigne’, Sliema.

North of Malta

The North of Malta, being relatively difficult to defend from invasion and frequent raids by marauders, was never as populated as the central and harbour regions. Historical remains, in fact, are mostly connected with attempts to address this weakness, and are therefore not as rich as are found elsewhere on the Maltese Islands.

Also See – Mellieha Church and Sanctuary; Selmun Palace, Mellieha; Fort Campbell, Selmun; Red Tower, Mellieha; Mistra Coastal Battery - Mistra Bay; Coastal Entrenchments and Defences, L-Ahrax and Armier Areas, Mellieha


The Citadel, Victoria (Rabat). *****

The hilltop on which the Citadel was built has been settled since the Neolithic period. The Knights of Malta are responsible for much of the present defences of the Citadel. The magnificent Cathedral, was designed by Lorenzo Gafa', who was also responsible for the Mdina Cathedral. 360 degree views of Gozo are available from the Citadel's bastions. The Cathedral Museum, the Armoury and Archeological Museum are located in the Citadel’s walls.

St. George’s Church, Victoria (Rabat). ***

Built in 1678 and featuring a very richly decorated interior and artworks.

Ggantija Temples, Xaghra.*****

Gozo’s answer to Malta’s Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples. Dating to approximately 3500 BC, and still in an excellent state of preservation.

Kola’s Windmill, Xaghra.***

A restored windmill, equipped with period workshops and scenes from the time when the windmill was in active use.

Ta’ Pinu Basilica, Gharb.****

The large church building, completed in 1932, incorporates the original 16th Century chapel where a peasant woman allegedly heard the voice of the Virgin Mary in 1883. The church contains numerous votive offerings.

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