10 Top Experiences in Malta
The Maltese Islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino - are located in the Mediterranean Sea between the northern African coast and Sicily. These idyllic islands are abundant with rich culture, history, magnificent landscapes and over 300 days of sunshine.
In other words, plenty of reasons to visit. Following are 10 top experiences not to miss.
Malta is home to 3 UNESCO sites, including the City of Valletta, Malta’s capital. A fortified city, it sits on a hilly peninsula between 2 natural harbors. Conceived and planned by the Knights of St. John, the city is home to over 320 historical monuments all within a 2 square mile area, making it the most concentrated historic city in Europe.
ST. JOHN’S CO-CATHEDRAL AND MUSEUM
St. John’s Co-cathedral, one of the world's great cathedrals, is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to St. John the Baptist, built between 1573-1578. In contrast to the austere facade, the interior is simply jaw dropping. The ceilings are filled with paintings depicting the life of St. John the Baptist; the walls have hand carved sculptural reliefs gilded in gold. The central part of the church contains almost 400 inlaid marble tombstones of the son’s of Europe’s noble families. Absolutely amazing.
UPPER AND LOWER BARRAKKA GARDENS
The Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens offer an ideal break from the bustling capital life. Open to the public, the gardens were originally the private gardens and exercise ground of the Knights. Today, visitors can enjoy some of the best views of the Grand Harbor and the three cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospcua. The gardens also host a variety of busts, statues and plaques relating to personalities and events significant to Maltese history.
FORT ST ELMO NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM
Fort St. Elmo is the last fortification in Valletta, a star fort that stands at the edge of the peninsula between the Marsamxett and Grand Harbors. The 16th century site was the scene of one of the island’s biggest battles, the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
Now simply known as the Palace, the Grandmaster Palace was originally built as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who ruled Malta between the 16th and 18th centuries. Today it houses the offices of the President. The rooms and passages contain amazing furnishings, including priceless, well preserved tapestries over 300 years old.
The Megalithic Temples, the second of 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Malta, are some of the oldest free-standing buildings in the world, believed to have been constructed between 3600 BC and 700 BC. The Ggantija Temples on the island of Gozo pre-date Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids by 1000 years.
HAL SAFLIENI HYPOGEUM
Located approximately 15 minutes from Valletta, the Fial Saflieni Hypogeum was a sanctuary and underground cemetery, used between 4000 BC and 2500 BC. This is Malta’s third UNESCO World Heritage site. First discovered in 1902, it appears that the natural cavities were initially used as a burial place. As the chambers filled up, new chambers were carved deeper into the rock. It is believed over 7000 bodies were buried here.
The Mosta Dome is known for a miracle during WWII. Due to its close proximity to a RAF airfield, the town of Mosta was regularly bomber during WWII. The miracle occurred when the Luftwaffe dropped three bombs on the church rotunda. Two were deflected and never exploded. The third pierced the dome and entered the church filled with 300 people awaiting mass. The bomb however bounced across the floor and also did not explode.
Mdina, located 8 miles from Valletta, is Malta’s medieval capital that dates back to 700 BC. The city is home to many impressive palaces, many of which today are private residences. Often referred to as the “Silent City”, the town is pedestrian only and is a fine example of an ancient walled city and mixture of medieval and Baroque architecture.
Maltese cooking is a unique blend of the many different civilizations who occupied Malta over 7000 years – Sicilian, Roman, Spanish, French. You’ll find a variety of foodie experiences, including ample seafood, the national dish, Fenek, a rabbit stew, the harvesting of salt (in the summer) and an emerging wine region (production is too small for export so you’ll need to try it while in the islands). Malta is also known for its honey and olive oil production.
Malta is a popular port call and start/end on a number of Mediterranean cruises.
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