The National Museum of Archaeology is housed in the impressive Auberge de Provence.
The Museum exhibits a spectacular range of artefacts dating back to Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). On display are the earliest tools used by the prehistoric people to facilitate their daily tasks and representations of animal and human figures; elements which not only show the great artistic skills of the first dwellers of the island but also gives us an insight of their daily lives.
Highlights include the ‘Sleeping Lady’ (from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum), the ‘Venus of Malta’ (from Ħaġar Qim), bronze daggers (recovered from the Bronze Age layers at Tarxien Temples), the Horus & Anubis pendant and the anthropomorphic sarcophagus, both belonging to the Phoenician Period.
The Museum provides the visitor with a good introduction to the prehistory and early history of the Maltese Island and acts as a catalyst to the other archaeological sites in Malta. Works are currently in progress to include another hall dedicated to the Punic period and others dedicated to the Roman and Byzantine periods in Malta.
Reasons to visit
- Unique display of renowned valuable artefacts such as the Sleeping Lady, the Venus of Malta and the Horus and Anubis pendant.
- Serves as a good introduction to prehistory and early history in Malta.
- Puts Malta’s archaeological sites in context.
- Housed in one of the most elaborately decorated Baroque buildings in Valletta.
The National Museum of Fine Arts is located at the lower end of South Street (Valletta) within an area including other fine historical palaces dating from the times of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The area is also well known for its wine bars and cafes and offers little-known breathtaking views of the city’s grid-shaped streets which visitors usually explore on their way to the museum. Set in a complimenting historic building, the museum presents a multifaceted overview of art and artistic expression in Malta from the late medieval period to the contemporary.
Highlights from the collection on display include paintings by leading local and internationally acclaimed artists, precious Maltese silverware, statuary in marble bronze and wood, fine furniture items and splendid maiolica pieces.
Housed within the Old Naval bakery, the Malta Maritime Museum charts Malta’s maritime history and lore within a Mediterranean context. The museum houses numerous artefacts highlighting the different epochs of Malta’s history that is inadvertently tied to the sea.
The Museum aims at illustrating Malta’s maritime history from prehistory to the present day and to illustrate the fascination of the sea within a Mediterranean context, without neglecting the overall global nature of seafaring. These aims are achieved by the constant search for, identification, and acquisition of artefacts related to the museum’s mission.
Nowadays the museum is proud to showcase some unique artefacts including the largest known roman anchor in the world, the earliest known ex:voto on the island, the largest ship model belonging to the Order of St John, the largest collection of cannons on the island, the Napoleonic figure head of the 110 gun ship HMS Hibernia, a 1950s working marine steam engine, and a collection of 60+ boats.
Today the museum houses a unique collection of over 20,000 artefacts belonging to Malta’s Maritime past. The Malta Maritime Museum at the Marina Grande helps visitors chart 7,000 years of history under one roof.
Reasons to Visit
- Malta’s largest museum, housed in Malta’s first ever industrial revolution building.
- Stunning exhibits, including the largest Roman lead anchor in the World weighing 4 Tons.
- Awe inspiring artefacts, such as a large working 18th century ship of the line instruction model.
- Unique collections synonymous with Malta, such as the 60+ full size traditional Maltese boats.
Guarding the entrance to both Marsamxett and Grand Harbours is Fort St Elmo, named after the patron saint of mariners. Although now much altered, this fort was built by the Knights in 1552 in a mere four months to guard the harbours on either side of the Sceberras Peninsula, and was the fort that bore the brunt of Turkish arms during the Great Siege of 1565. After restoration and renovation, the fort opened to the public in 2015, containing the stunning National War Museum.
The courtyard outside the entrance to the fort is studded with the lids of underground granaries. You can visit the parade ground, and the 1559 chapel where Knights fought to the death during the siege trying to protect the altar, as well as the later 1729 church.
In Guardia is a colourful and photogenic military pageant in 16th-century costume, which includes a cannon-firing demonstration. Check upcoming dates at the tourist office.
The Lascaris War Rooms consist of 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.
This secret complex contained operations rooms for each of the fighting services from where not only the air defence of Malta was coordinated, but also some of the greatest battlesfought in the Mediterrean during the war. Lascaris was the advance Allied HQ from where General Eisenhower and his Supreme Commanders Admiral Cunningham, Field Marshal Montgomery and Air Marshal Tedder directed Operation Husky – the Invasion of Sicily in 1943.
In 2009, Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna – the Malta Heritage Trust – undertook the challenging task of restoring this historic complex. As a result of this work visitors can explore and enjoy one of Malta’s best kept wartime secrets.
The Malta Toy Museum displays a large collection of toys that have been collected over several decades. The Toy Museum is located in the capital of Malta, Valletta, opposite Casa Rocca Piccola and spreads over three floors.
The Toy Museum houses a very large and impressive collection of toys from the 1950s onward including model planes, boats, Matchbox cars, farmyard animals, trains and dolls.
This museum was opened by Vincent Brown in 1998 after Brown’s visited a very similar museum in England and actually displays his personal collection accumulated over 30 years. Vincent Brown strongly believes that toys help to recapture memories of childhood, adventures and fun. The unique collection is mostly displayed in glass cabinets and is more suited to nostalgic adults than children who wish to play with the toys.
The Malta Postal Museum, located at 135, Archbishop Street, Valletta right next to The Palace is one of Malta’s newest heritage attractions. Within this museum’s walls, we explore centuries of Maltese and Postal history starting early in the 16th century and moving on towards the present day. Located in a large restored town house and spread over four floors, the museum brings to life Maltese history and the important role played by the Post over the years.
From wafer seals and stamps to uniforms and bicycles, the Museum’s collection marks historical milestones. It also tells the stories of the many individuals who played a part in the development of the Islands’ history and communication. Documents and artefacts, stories and experiences have been painstakingly collected and carefully displayed to offer the visitor an insight into the rich and fascinating history of Malta and the Post. Do keep an eye out for the collection highlights. The museum hosts Malta’s first stamp – the Halfpenny Yellow, a signed letter by Lord Nelson, a shiny red James ‘Captain’ 200cc motorbike and the most touching love letter of all – written by an Italian Prisoner of War. The Museum also serves as an arts hub.
Don’t miss the much loved museum mascot, ‘Peppi il-Pustier’ (Postman ‘Peppi’) designed and made exclusively for the Malta Postal Museum.
The Grand Master’s Palace has been the administrative centre of Malta for almost three and a half centuries. The original palace, built in 1571, was the seat of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitalliers of St John and later, during the British colonial period, served as the Governor’s palace. Today it is home to the House of Representatives of Malta and the office of the President of the Republic of Malta.
The State Apartments
When not hosting functions of state, the magnificent halls at first floor are open to the public. The Council Chamber is home to a rare collection of exotic Gobelin tapestries depicting hunting scenes from different continents. The State Dining Room is adorned with portraits of the Presidents of Malta and one painting of Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta. The Supreme Council Hall is decorated with a cycle of twelve frescoes by Mattia Perez d’Aleccio depicting the Great Siege of 1565. The Ambassador’s Hall and main corridors are lined with portraits of European monarchs and Grand Masters of the Order.
The Palace Armoury
The Age of Chivalry comes alive in one of the most prominent arms collections, with weapons and armour that provide a human context to the Great Siege of Malta, and the military provenance of the Knights of St. John. Highlights include the personal armour of Grand Master La Valette, the dazzling parade armour of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt, and a collection of weapons used by the Ottomans during the Great Siege of 1565.
- The extraordinary Gobelin tapestries in the Council Chamber, a personal gift of the Spanish Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Rocaful.
- The frescoes in the Supreme Council Hall, by Mattia Perez d’Aleccio, depicting the Great Siege of Malta of 1565.
- The courtly and lavish parade armour of the Knights of Malta.
- The Turkish Armour in the Islamic and Ottoman displays.
Described as the first complete example of the high Baroque anywhere, St. John’s Cathedral epitomises the role of its original patrons, the Knights of St. John.
The Cathedral is testimony to the talent of Maltese military architect Gerolamo Cassar, with Mattia Preti’s intricately carved stone wall designs, as well as the painted vaulted ceiling and side altars with scenes from the life of St John. The Cathedral also houses one of Europe’s most impressive and famous art works – Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John the Baptist.
The Cathedral was a shrine to the Knights, as many sons of Europe’s noble families from the 16th to 18th centuries lie buried here. Their intricate, marble-inlaid tombstones form a magnificently crafted pavimento. Also a resting place to the founder of Valletta, Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette, his tomb lies in the crypt, a quiet sanctuary and place of contemplation away from the busy streets outside.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
The Gardens constitute a splendid array of Romanesque arches, balustrades and promenades, and offer an unrivalled view over the Grand Harbour. Whether resting at the tranquil Upper Barracca Garden Café or strolling through the greenery of the gardens, this lofty idyll is most spectacular towards day’s end, when the setting sun paints the opposing Three Cities with an unworldly light.
The Garden was built by the Knights of St John in the 17th century, but its recreational intention typically provided a secondary military purpose, since it also permitted an unobstructed sea-view of the Knights’ galleys, and any looming naval threat; a view which, in turn, Napoleon’s army and the British Navy would eventually intrude upon.
At midday, guns are fired from the restored British Saluting Battery in the newly-revived “Noon Day Gun Ceremony”, and it’s possible to watch the fascinating process of this 19th century weaponry being loaded and fired.
- The spectacular view of the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities.
- The firing of the Noon Day Gun.
- A coffee in the quiet Upper Barracca Garden Café.
- The romantic view of the Three Cities from the Gardens as dusk turns to night.
Alternative and equally fascinating views of the Grand Harbour panorama can be found further along at the Lower Barracca Gardens.
The Knights Hospitallers in Malta is located within the historical Medirerranean Conference Centre (MCC) and takes you back in time with a multilingual walk through. Re-live history and learn about the Knights in Malta and their role as a Hospitaller Order of Chivalry in the medieval period in Malta. Life size figures portray the hard life of the people at that time tell you the history from the Crusades to the Great Siege of 1565.
The Knights Hospitallers is set in what used to be the Holy Infirmary and the historical hospital from where the Knights operated. The Knights Hospitallers were known for providing the best medical service available at that time and this brought a lot of injured and sick people to Malta in hope to be healed. Here you can discover the chivalrous world of the renowned Hospitaller Knights and learn about he development of surgery and the origins of modern day healthcare.
Malta was always given the key role in the development of the European history due to its geographical position at the centre of the Mediterranean, linking Europe with North Africa and the East coast (Asia). This advantage led her to be the main issue in territorial wars of several rulers.
The Fortress Builders Fortifications Interpretation Centre has most of these historical sites under one roof, displayed in a quite interactive way. The FIC was established on February 2013, to communicate and exhibit the history and significance of Malta’s military architectural heritage.
The FIC brings to light the architectural features of these fortifications surrounding the Maltese harbours and strategic cities, making Maltese citizens and foreigners appreciate and become more aware of the need of giving back to this unique heritage, its due importance. This Centre does not serve as another ‘museum’ to commemorate and glorify war, but it is a cross between a museum, an information point and a resource centre.
This beautiful Palace is the only privately owned property open to the public in Valletta and has a fascinating variety of different things to see.
Originally built in the 16th Century for Don Pietro La Rocca, a Knight of Malta, it is now the family ancestral home of the 9th Marquis de Piro and his family. On your visit you will be able to walk through twelve palatial rooms including the two Dining Rooms, (one for the Summer and one for the Winter!) as well as the Four Poster Bedroom and a private Family Chapel. There are literally hundreds of magnificent things to see and many visitors come back year after year. One of the most popular things to see at Casa Rocca Piccola is the network of underground passages and tunnels cut out of the rock over its 400 year history which provide a dramatic and exciting addition to the tours of the house. One particular tunnel takes you into a huge cavern that was used during the WW2 to shelter over 100 people from the heavy bombing and another tunnel takes you to a small room used as a private family shelter.
Casa Rocca Piccola also has a walled garden with orange trees and which serves as home to a number of house pets such as Vulcan the Red-eared Terrapin and April the Tortoise.