Top historic sites in Malta

Grandmaster's Palace

The Grandmaster"s Palace was built in the 16th century as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who ruled Malta, and was also known as the Magisterial Palace. It currently houses the Office of the President of Malta, and part of it is open to the public as a museum. The Grandmaster"s Palace was originally built in 1569, as the palace of Eustachio del Monte. It was purchased by Grand Master Je ...
Founded: 1569 | Location: Valletta, Malta

St. John's Co-Cathedral

St. Johns Co-Cathedral was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578, having been commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière as the conventual church of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, known as the Knights of Malta. The Church was designed by the Maltese military architect Glormu Cassar who designed several of the more prominent buildings in Valletta. The church is considere ...
Founded: 1573-1578 | Location: Valletta, Malta

Valletta Old Town

Valletta, the capital of Malta, is inextricably linked to the history of the military and charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem. It was ruled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St John. Valletta’s 320 monuments, all within an area of 55 ha, make it one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. The city was officially recogn ...
Founded: | Location: Valletta, Malta

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul"s Cathedral in Mdina was built on the site where governor Publius was reported to have met Saint Paul following his shipwreck off the Maltese coast. According to tradition, the first Cathedral of Malta was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God but, having fallen into ruin during the Muslim period, it was rebuilt following the Norman conquest and re-dedicated to St Paul. The old church was modified a ...
Founded: 1697-1702 | Location: Mdina, Malta

Saluting Battery

The Saluting Battery is Valletta"s ancient ceremonial platform from where gun salutes are still fired regularly. Equally, the passage of time is marked twice daily from her with gun fire at noon (12:00) and sunset (16:00). The battery itself is located at one of the capital"s highest vantage points from where splendid vistas of the Grand Harbour and its surrounding towns can be enjoyed. Its origins go back to t ...
Founded: 1566 | Location: Valletta, Malta

Manoel Theatre

The Manoel Theatre is one of the oldest working theatres in Europe. Constructed in 1731 by the Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena the theatre is a baroque gem with a wonderful acoustic and a full calendar of events populated by local and international performers, with productions in English and Maltese. The theatre is located on Old Theatre Street in Valletta. It considers itself as the country"s national theatr ...
Founded: 1731 | Location: Valletta, Malta

Fortifications of Mdina

Mdina, the former capital of Malta, has been fortified since antiquity, but the majority of the present fortifications were built by the Order of Saint John between the 16th and 18th centuries. The city walls have survived completely intact except for some outworks, and are among the best preserved fortifications in Malta. Mdina has been on Malta"s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1998. In around ...
Founded: 700 BC-1746 | Location: Mdina, Malta

Casa Rocca Piccola

Casa Rocca Piccola is a 16th-century palace in Valletta and home of the noble de Piro family. The history of the building goes back over 400 years to an era in which the Knights of St John, having successfully fought off the invading Turks in 1565, decided to build a prestigious city to rival other European capitals such as Paris and Venice. Palaces were designed for prestige and aesthetic beauty in most of Valletta"s str ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Valletta, Malta

Cittadella

The Cittadella is a small fortified city and citadel which lies in the heart of Victoria on the island of Gozo, Malta. The area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, and in the Medieval era it was known as the Gran Castello. The Cittadella has been on Malta"s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1998. Archaeological remains show that the area presently occupied by the Cittadella was first inhabited ...
Founded: c. 1500 | Location: Gozo, Malta

Ggantija

Ġgantija is a Neolithic, megalithic temple complex on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. The Ġgantija temples are the earliest of a series of megalithic temples in Malta (older than the pyramids of Egypt). Their makers erected the two Ġgantija temples during the Neolithic Age (c. 3600–2500 BC), which makes these temples more than 5500 years old and the world"s second oldest manmade religious structures ...
Founded: 3600-2500 BC | Location: Gozo, Malta

Hagar Qim

The temple of Ħaġar Qim stands on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Fifla. At the bottom of the hill, only 500m away, lies another remarkable temple site, Mnajdra found above the Southern cliffs. The surrounding landscape is typical Mediterranean garigue and spectacular in its starkness and isolation. First excavated in 1839, the remains suggest a date between 3600 – 3200 BC, a period known a ...
Founded: 3700-3200 BC | Location: Qrendi, Malta

Rotunda of Mosta

The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, commonly known as the Rotunda of Mosta, is the third largest unsupported dome in the world and the third largest in Europe. Built in the 19th century on the site of a previous church, it was designed by the Maltese architect Giorgio Grognet de Vassé. Its dome is among the largest in the world, with an internal diameter of 37.2 metres. the rotunda walls are 9.1 metres thick (nece ...
Founded: 1833-1871 | Location: Mosta, Malta

St. Paul's Church and Grotto

The Collegiate Church of St Paul is built on part of the site of the Roman city Melite, which included all of Mdina and a large part of present-day Rabat. There were numerous churches built on the site of the present church which dates from the 17th century. In 1336 bishop Hilarius refers to the church as ecclesia Sancti Pauli de crypta, and also mentions the cemetery and the Roman ditch. The present church was built to r ...
Founded: 1726 | Location: Rabat, Malta

St. Paul’s Catacombs

St. Paul’s Catacombs are some of the most prominent features of Malta’s paleochristian archaeology. The archaeological clearing of the site has revealed an extensive system of underground galleries and tombs dated from the fourth to the ninth centuries AD. Two catacombs are open to the public, but these are only a small part of the entire St. Paul"s and St. Agatha’s complex. St. Paul’s cataco ...
Founded: 300-400 AD | Location: Rabat, Malta

Domus Romana

The small museum of the Domus Romana is built around the remains of a rich, aristocratic roman town house (domus) which was accidentally discovered in 1881. Although very little remains from the house itself, the intricate mosaics which survived for centuries as well as the artefacts found within the remains are testimony enough of the original richness and story of this fantastic abode. The building housing the remains ...
Founded: c. 75 BC | Location: Rabat, Malta

Fort St. Elmo

Fort Saint Elmo is a star fort commanding the entrances to both harbours along with Fort Tigné and Fort Ricasoli. It is best known for its role in the Great Siege of Malta of 1565. By 1417, the local militia had already established a permanent watch post on the tip of the Sciberras Peninsula. In 1488, the Aragonese built a watchtower on Saint Elmo Point, and it was dedicated to Erasmus of Formia, better known as Sa ...
Founded: 1552–1570 | Location: Valletta, Malta

Tarxien Temples

The Tarxien Temples are an archaeological complex dating to approximately 3150 BC. The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta. The Tarxien consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures. The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored. At the same time, many of the decorated slabs discove ...
Founded: 3150-3000 BC | Location: Tarxien, Malta

Mnajdra Temple

Mnajdra is a megalithic temple complex built around the fourth millennium BCE; the Megalithic Temples of Malta are among the most ancient religious sites on Earth. In 1992 UNESCO recognized the Mnajdra complex and four other Maltese megalithic structures as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In 2009 work was completed on a protective tent. Mnajdra is made of coralline limestone, which is much harder than the soft globigerina l ...
Founded: 3600-3200 BC | Location: Qrendi, Malta

Fort St. Angelo

Fort Saint Angelo is a large bastioned fort in Birgu, located at the centre of the Grand Harbour. The fort was originally a castle, and its date of construction is not known. It definitely existed by the 13th century, and in the Middle Ages it was known as the Castrum Maris. It was rebuilt by the Order of Saint John as Fort Saint Angelo in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it played an important role in the Great Siege of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Valletta, Malta

San Anton Palace

San Anton Palace is the official residence of the President of Malta, and is surrounded by both private and public gardens. The San Anton Palace and its gardens owe their origin to the Knight Antoine de Paule, a French knight from the Langue de Provence, who was elected 54th Grand Master of the Order of St. John in 1623. As Grand Master, de Paule, who also founded Paola in 1626, acquired a sizeable plot of land near Atta ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Attard, Malta

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.