Malta is a nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British.
It has numerous fortresses, megalithic temples and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean complex of halls and burial chambers dating to circa 4000 B.C.
Malta’s geographical location in the centre of the Mediterranean made it an alluring and much-fought-over prize, and the islands are full of majestic above- and below-ground defences. The capital, Valletta, built by the Knights of St John, is a harmonious grid, Mdina and Victoria are fortress-like hilltop towns, and watchtowers dot the coast. Even Malta’s fishing boats resonate with the past, their prows painted with eyes, just like the boats of their Phoenician predecessors. Following Valletta’s stint as a European Capital of Culture in 2018, the country’s capital is also a re-energised centre of contemporary design and architecture.
Being small, it’s easy to fit in a number of the best places to visit in Malta in a single day at an easy pace. With relatively short distances between the various sights, you get to see more than in most other travel destinations in Europe.
The Manoel Theatre is the oldest fully functional theatre in Europe. It can be found tucked away in Old Theatre Street, Valletta, a street named after the theatre itself. Although it may appear modest on the outside, stepping inside will leave you lost for words as you admire the theatre’s impressive interior, decorated in a late Baroque style. T
In addition to performances, tours of the Manoel Theatre are held on Mondays to Saturdays. Tours start from the museum, past the main entrance to the theatre on Old Theatre Street. Here you will be given the opportunity to learn more about the impressive history of the theatre, before stepping into the remarkable auditorium to admire the intricate and rich baroque décor for yourself.
Entrance costs €5 and includes an audio guide available in Maltese, English, Italian, French, German and Spanish.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
The Upper Barakka Gardens overlook the Grand Harbour. From the balcony one affords to see one of the most beautiful panoramic views in Malta as they command a unique view of the only natural harbour in the Mediterranean with the Three Cities as its backdrop.
It is the place which attracts so many Maltese and tourists all year round. The view is so breath taking that you will find yourself revisiting it several times. Sitting on a bench overlooking the view is something that cannot be missed and keeps you coming back for more.
The temple of Hagar Qim (c. 3600 – 3200 BC) stands on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Filfla. The temple itself consists of a single temple unit, although it is not clear if it was originally constructed as a four or five-apse structure.
Other temple ruins stand a few metres away from the main temple and the forecourt and facade follow the pattern typical of temples across the Islands. Particularly noteworthy are the larger orthostats at the corners, which are notched to take the second of the horizontal courses above.
Various items of interest have been unearthed at Hagar Qim, notably a decorated pillar altar, two table-altars and some of the ‘fat lady’ statues on display in the National Museum of Archaeology.
Mdina has had different names and titles depending on its rulers and its role but its medieval name describe it best – ‘Citta’ Notabile’: the noble city.
It was home then, as now, to Malta’s noble families; some are descendants of the Norman, Sicilian and Spanish overlords who made Mdina their home from the 12th century onwards. Impressive palaces line its narrow, shady streets.
Mdina is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city and extraordinary in its mix of medieval and baroque architecture.
Like nearby Mdina, Rabat played a major role in Malta’s past and is a prime source of its cultural heritage.
Built in 1979, Popeye Village was the film set for the 1980 Robin Williams film Popeye. The set was maintained and forty years later is still one of Malta’s biggest tourist attractions. It’s exactly what it says it is, a little village complete with characters’ homes, shops and municipal buildings. Since it’s largely aimed at the younger generations, the entertainment is kid-friendly but there are plenty of areas related to the film production itself for those interested.
The Mosta Dome
The Mosta Dome (aka Mosta Rotunda) has what’s believed to be the third largest unsupported dome roof in the world. Apart from its impressive architecture and interiors, its history could have unfolded very differently, had the 200kg bomb that was dropped by the German Luftwaffe in 1942 (during World War 2) had detonated. Instead, it pierced the roof and fell amid a congregation of some 300 people but failed to explode. Miraculously, no one was injured.