If you are thinking of a holiday this year, why not consider booking flights to Malta?
This small archipelago is a very popular destination. So much so that it attracts close to 2 million tourists every year. Malta is an island paradise featuring a gorgeous climate, amazing beaches, excellent food, and a laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle.
However, there are several other dimensions that have played a heavy part in its development of this island. The main, and in our view, the most crucial one is history.
In this article, we shall discuss the things to do in Malta, paying special attention to the historical attractions that exist in a number of localities in Malta and Gozo.
Spanning a tiny 1km long by 600m wide, this city is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe.
So it might be surprising to find that there are plenty of things to do in Valletta, Malta.
This is particularly true with respect to history, as there is an abundance of historical sites that are all within walking distance.
So much so that when UNESCO named Valletta a World Heritage site, it described it as ‘one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world’.
The first famous site in the beautiful Valletta is the fascinating and historic Manoel Theatre right in the heart of the City.
Commissioned in the 18th century by the man who it was named after – Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, this is considered one of the oldest theatres in the world! In fact, it is Europe’s third-oldest working theatre.
One of the most prominent features of it is its oval-shaped auditorium,which features three tiers of boxes composed of wood, adorned with gold leaf, and an elaborate pale blue ceiling. This, like a number of other features, is original and dates back to the time in which it was built
The Manoel Theatre was built throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries to facilitate the growing demand for operas, and theatrical productions which had previously been the entertainment associated with the nobility.
This theatre’s superb acoustics make for a magical experience which will not disappoint any interested visitors out there.
This is one of our favourite things to do in Malta.
Although there is a guided tour of this stunning place, we would really suggest that you attend a show in order to get the full experience of this fabulous hub of culture.
Natural Museum of Fine Arts
The building was formerly the residence of the knights of the Order of St. John, so it dates back to the 16th century.
The National Museum of Fine Arts presents a very diverse overview of art and expression in Malta from the medieval period to the contemporary era.
Works from a number of well-known artists feature in this museum.
These include works by renowned artists like Mattia Preti as well as Caravaggists such as Mattias Stomer, and Guido Reni.
It is also home to a number of impressive paintings.
These include Death of Dragut, by Maltese painter Giuseppe Cali and The Martyrdom of St. Agatha, by Giovanni Baglione, among others.
This museum is also placed in an area which features a number of wine bars and cafes which provide more things to do in Malta, while you are on your way to the museum.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
Once part of the italian artillery platform operated by the knights of St. John, the Upper Barrakka Gardens were initially set up by the knights as a private garden.
It was opened as a public park in the early 19th century.
This stunning garden features arcade terraces with spectacular panoramic views of the harbour.
There is also a stunning view of the Saluting Battery which is located on a lower level.
Along with a number of statues and memorials.
These include a bust of Winston Churchill, which was given to Mr. Churchill by Malta. There is also a sculpture of a group of ‘Les Gavroches’ which was created by the well-known Maltese artist Antonio Sciortino. This work of art depicts three poor children in tattered clothes, and was inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables”.
This is certainly a place to add to your list of things to do in Malta.
Lower Barrakka Gardens
The next on the list of things to do in Malta is the Lower Barrakka Gardens. These stand in stark contrast with the Upper Barrakka Gardens as they are much more quiet relatively uninhabited.
What’s special about them is that they provide a marvelous panorama which overlooks Fort Ricasoli, Rinella, Kalkara,as well as a number of other famous places.
Among the trees you can also see a monument built in commemoration of Sir Alexander Ball who was a politician, diplomat, military officer and the first British governor of Malta.
Among the many things to do in Malta, the low Barrakka gardens provides the perfect place to enjoy the silence and to contemplate by the sea.
The Saluting Battery
The origins of the Saluting Battery go back to the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 when it was constructed by the knights of St. John. Interestingly, during the siege, Ottoman forces used cannon on the very spot where this battery is located – the Sciberras Peninsula (now Valletta and Floriana), in order to bombard the Order of Saint John in Fort St. Angelo.
It is also perhaps the oldest saluting battery still in operation anywhere in the world.
This featured gun salutes which were fired to mark anniversaries and religious feasts, on state occasions, and also upon the arrival of dignitaries and vessels .
Throughout its history, the coastline of Valletta from the Grand Harbor’s side was a busy place seething with people and vessels day and night.
In fact, the deep harbor was ideal for port calls and many ships were operated there. In the middle of the 18th century, Grand Master Manuel Pinto de Fonseca ordered that the waterfront is landscaped, so a number of stores and a church were built.
They were designed in a Baroque style that was fashionable at the time and the waterfront gained a great deal of importance.
Unfortunately, during WWII, the waterfront area was badly damaged by German air bombings, due to its close proximity to the British naval base in Malta.
Some buildings were destroyed completely, while others were significantly damaged. Fortunately, after the war was over the least damaged buildings were restored to their original design.
By 2005, complete reconstruction of the waterfront was performed, when a new marina and modern Cruise Passenger Terminal were added.
A project completed in 2007 also transformed the abandoned warehouses. Hence, what was essentially an area composed of centuries-old warehouses where mariners of the past would moor their vessels became one of Europe’s most attractive cruise liner terminals. So much so that it went on to win a European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage.
Today, the Valletta Waterfront is a magnificent place made up of a mixture of new and historic buildings, and a vast array of things to do in Malta.
It is also a wonderful place to go for a walk, where tourists can enjoy eating at fancy restaurants, taking in the beauty of the Grand Harbor and also the occasional cultural events like the annual Jazz Festival race or Global Run Valletta.
Known as the Silent City, Mdina was the capital of Malta before Valletta was built.
This is a 4,000-year-old city which is a must-see when it comes to deciding on the things to do in Malta. This is a timeless city, and contains many beautifully preserved buildings which are surrounded by grand stone fortifications.
This small city composed of a number of narrow lanes was built by the Phoenicians and conquered by the Normans, who built the fortifications in the medieval period.
Interestingly, In the 1500s, the Knights of Malta arrived.
However, after the Great Siege of Malta, the Knights moved Malta’s capital to what is now known as Vittoriosa.
That may be how Mdina became known as the “Silent City.” This is because, once the capital left Mdina, it became a ghost town.
Carmelite Priory Museum
The Carmelite Priory is a religious monastery, but it is unique in that, over the recent years, its purpose has widened as it has welcomed the public.
This is a very interesting option in the list of things one could do in Malta.
The Priory has an impressive artistic value.
The highlight being the Refectory, as it is an illustration of a Baroque concept art, where paintings, sculpture and architecture come together to create a harmonious whole.
Mdina Dungeons Museum
This is not one for the faint of heart.
The Mdina Dungeons attraction is a haunted house/museum hybrid which works to fully immerse its visitors in a journey into the past. It gives a vivid and harrowing account of medieval events in Malta.
It is located under the Vilhena Palace just past the main entrance gate to Mdina, on the right.
These underground passageways, chambers and cells were home to some of the most brutal torture measures in maltese history.
This is one of the more interesting things to do in Malta as it depicts a number of characters from a number of different periods in history, and gives us a realistic account of their realities.
The Victoria Citadel in Gozo
Cittadella, Gozo’s ancient fortified city, stands out as Gozo’s major landmark, a beacon which can be seen from all over the island. This is because it is placed on a hill in the middle part of the capital of Gozo, Victoria.
After the Great Siege in Malta, the Knights set decided to continue to fortify the Citadel in case of any further attack.
This then led to the law placed on the Gozitan population making it illegal for them to spend their nights outside the Citadel for their own safety.
In later, more peaceful times, this restriction was lifted and people settled below its walls, creating the prosperous town of Rabat, now known as Victoria.
This should definitely be on the top of your list of things to do in Malta, especially after was restored and officially reopened in June 2016.
Cathedral of Gozo dedicated to Santa Marija
In the heart of the Cittadella, in the square there is a spectacular baroque Cathedral of Gozo dedicated to Santa Marija.
This cathedral is a beautiful baroque structure in the shape of a cross and is built on a plan by the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa’.
The interior is very beautiful and very well-proportioned.
It is definitely worth a visit, among the other things to do in Malta
This is situated at the Citadel in Victoria, Gozo, standing neighboring the Courts of Justice, to which it was originally connected.
Soon after the Knights of St John arrived in Malta, this was used as a prison that housed a number of well-known inmates.
These include Fra Jean Parisot de La Valette (later, Grand Master of Malta) who spent four months in this prison.
Currently, the prison provides tourists more things to do in Malta, and the entrance hall now serves as a permanent exhibition hall.
It is safe to say that there is definitely no shortage of things to do in Malta, and superb places to experience. One just needs to organize their points of interest and set a list of priorities depending on what one would like to see.
Book a room at our Hotel
The Be.Hotel is a 4-star hotel in Bay Street Shopping complex St. Julians which is only one stop away from the famous historical destinations mentioned above. Benefit from a number of offers, including a fabulous en-suite guest rooms with a view over the bay.