It may be a small island, but there are many things to do in Malta. Among the multitude of attractions, you’ll find several amazing Malta museums to explore. Begin your sightseeing and discovery adventure with some of the best museums Malta and Gozo have to offer.
Malta Museums: What To Expect
Take a voyage through Malta’s intriguing history: the mystery of its prehistoric times; the grandeur and opulence that pervaded the Knights of St John period; and the dreadful ordeal suffered during World War II. Or simply marvel at masterful works of art or the contents of several peculiar and unconventional museums. Here’s a guide to the best Malta museums; a good start to your quest to discover the fascinating Maltese Islands.
Catch A Glimpse of Malta’s Prehistory
1. Follow The Sun At Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples
Just outside the village of Qrendi, find the remains of the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra temples. Admire the monumental stones that make up these megalithic structures dating between 3600 and 3200 BC. These are among the oldest man-made freestanding structures in the world and make the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Tip: Visit at sunrise on the equinox or solstice, when the sun’s rays effectively mark the calendar by illuminating the stone slabs within.
2. Delve Deep Underground At The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a unique series of underground rock-cut chambers in the town of Paola. The large number of human remains found suggest it was a prehistoric burial site — archaeologists estimate over 6,000 people were buried here. This UNESCO World Heritage site lay undiscovered until 1902, yet the earliest remains date back as far as 4000 BC. That’s older than Egypt’s Giza Pyramids. Or the UK’s Stonehenge. Marvel at the impressive subterranean architecture and the only prehistoric paintings on the Maltese Islands.
Tip: Less a tip and more a necessity: book well in advance as visitor numbers are limited to preserve the site. In case of no pre-booked ticket, you can take a virtual tour at the Visitors’ Centre.
3. Meet The Sleeping Lady At The National Museum of Archaeology
The National Museum of Archaeology is housed within Valletta’s Auberge de Provence of the Knights of Malta, so a visit offers you a two-in-one experience. Get curious about the museum’s vast range of artefacts dating from Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) to the Phoenician period (400 BC). Among its most beautiful exhibits is the tiny but significant Sleeping Lady, a statuette unearthed from the Hypogeum.
Tip: Visit this museum as an introduction to Malta’s prehistory – it puts sites such as Ħaġar Qim and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum into context.
Experience The Living Legacy Of The Knights Of Malta
4. Marvel At The Extraordinary Artworks Of The St John’s Co-Cathedral & Museum
Built as the conventual church for the Knights of Malta, St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta remains a living embodiment of Baroque art and architecture. Inside you’ll find a priceless collection of masterworks by renowned artists such as Caravaggio and Mattia Preti as well as a plethora of rococo tapestries, tombs and other period artefacts. The cathedral is currently extending its museum as to feature even more pieces from its historic hoard.
Tip: Take an exclusive audio tour for greater insight into the Cathedral’s history and its many artistic wonders.
5. Understand Malta’s Structural Defences At The Fortifications Interpretation Centre
Enter an impressive 16th-century warehouse near the Biagio Steps in Valletta to find the Fortifications Interpretation Centre. Here you can explore all that is known of Malta’s many fortifications. Discover Malta’s Bronze Age structures, the defences built by the Knights of Malta and the military architecture of the British period.
Tip: Visit this centre for an excellent overview of Malta’s complete history as told by its surviving monuments.
6. Feel Your Skin Crawl At The Inquisitor’s Palace
In the heart of Vittoriosa, you’ll find the only Inquisitor’s Palace open to the public in the world. Explore the kitchens, private quarters, prison and even the torture chamber. The palace is reputedly haunted; see if you can catch a glimpse of the ghost!
Tip: Purchase a combo ticket for the Inquisitor’s Palace plus the Malta Maritime Museum (see below) and Fort St Angelo.
7. Discover 16th Century Warfare At The Palace Armoury Of The Grandmaster’s Palace
Built just after the Great Siege of 1565, the Grand Master’s Palace was one of the first buildings in Valletta. The Palace’s grandeur is owed to its many important residents across history, from the Grand Masters to the British Governors; it is today the office of the President of Malta. It also includes a huge exhibition of armoury and weaponry.
Tip: Take some time to admire the frescoes by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio in the Throne Room; these offer Malta’s most comprehensive depiction of the Great Siege of Malta.
Discover Malta During World War II
8. Immerse Yourself In WWII Strategy At The Lascaris War Rooms & War HQ Tunnels
Of all Malta museums, this one most closely resembles walking into a time warp. The ultra-secret network of rock-hewn tunnels and chambers housed Britain’s War Headquarters in Malta. The Lascaris War Rooms are located deep underground, below the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Great care has been taken to preserve their authenticity, creating a fantastic, evocative atmosphere.
Tip: Book into one of the highly informative guided tours for a deep immersion into the activity in these rooms during war time.
9. Experience Common Life During WWII At The Malta at War Museum & Air Raid Shelters
The 18th-century military barracks in Vittoriosa (Birgu) are the location of the Malta at War Museum focusing on Malta’s role in World War II. Watch original film footage and browse a wealth of original artefacts and memorabilia for a true sense of the great war-time ordeal suffered by the Maltese.
Tip: Take a tour of the authentic air raid shelters that lie forty feet beneath the barracks.
10. Discover Malta’s Lifelong Story With The Sea At The Malta Maritime Museum
The Old Naval Bakery in Vittoriosa is home to the Malta Maritime Museum, the largest of Malta museums. Dedicated to Malta’s long and varied maritime history, the museum houses over 20,000 artefacts, including the largest known Roman anchor in the world.
Tip: If you’re travelling to the museum from Valletta, take a water taxi and enjoy the magnificence of the Grand Harbour from the water.
11. Explore WWII Heights At The Malta Aviation Museum
This museum is spread throughout three hangars on the site of the former Royal Air Force airfield in Ta’ Qali. With around eighteen aircraft on display, as well as engines, equipment, uniforms and more, the Malta Aviation Museum focuses on World War II and the post-war periods.
Tip: Look out for the World War II Hawker Hurricane on display, which was recovered from the seabed in 1995.
Get Cultured At Malta’s Art Museums
12. Be One Of The First To Indulge In The New & Innovative MUZA Art Museum
The MUŻA Art Museum is a new addition to Malta museums as part of Valletta’s European Capital of Culture 2018 title. The MUŻA Art Museum is an art museum with a difference: its displays tell stories, making the appreciation of art accessible to all. The Guardian newspaper named it one of the top 15 must-see new galleries opening this year.
Tip: Take note to admire the beautiful Auberge D’Italie of the Knights of Malta, the new home of MUŻA.
13. Explore Historic Classics At The Mdina Cathedral Museum
The Mdina Cathedral Museum faces Mdina Cathedral in Archbishop’s Square. As well as a beautiful silver collection and an impressive coin collection, the museum has a wealth of exquisite paintings on display, as well as a complete collection of prints from the German painter Albrecht Dürer.
Tip: Look out for temporary exhibitions, which have in the past covered the cathedral’s 800-year-old archives.
Find Intrigue At Malta’s Quirky Museums
14. So Much More Than Boring Stamp Collections At The Malta Postal Museum
Of the many Malta museums in Valletta, this one is quite unique! The Malta Postal Museum houses an extensive collection of postal artefacts from the 16th century onwards. It even includes a fully operational post office!
Tip: Look out for the fascinating temporary exhibitions, such as a recent display of works by Emvin Cremona, arguably one of Malta’s best artists of the 20th century.
15. Discover, Admire & Dream Of Classic Motors At The Malta Classic Car Museum
The huge Malta Classic Car Museum in Qawra is home to a vast private collection of automobiles. From T-Birds to Spitfires and Fiats to Fords, all cars have been restored to pristine condition. In addition, the memorabilia creates an atmosphere evocative of the golden era of motoring.
Tip: Visit even if you are not a car enthusiast; the beautiful selection of cars, the movie theatre, the café and the peculiar collection of oddities – from gramophones to antique televisions doesn’t fail to capture interest.
16. Delight The Child Within You At The Pomzkizillious Museum of Toys
You’ll find ancient toys from all over the world in this quirky private museum of toys in Ix-Xagħra, Gozo. Its unusual name originates from the writer of nonsense-verse Edward Lear, who made up the word in 1866 to describe Gozo’s beautiful coastal scenery. Out of a matter of interest, there is also another, unrelated toy museum in Malta.
Tip: See if you can find the collection’s oldest object: a late 18th-century Maltese doll with a carved wooden head.
17. Open Up To Endless Intrigue At The Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum
Palazzo Falson in Mdina is one of the oldest buildings in Malta. It also boasts an extraordinary private collection of art and antiques, from paintings to furniture, armour to jewellery that belonged to Capt Olof Frederick Gollcher.
Tip: Head up to the roof-top café for stunning panoramic views across the island.
18. Take A Journey Through Gozo’s Rural Past At Ta’ Kola Windmill
In Xagħra, Gozo, you’ll find one of the few surviving windmills on the Maltese Islands. Dating to 1725, Ta’ Kola Windmill offers a glimpse into the traditional rural life of Gozo in bygone times through reconstructions of the miller’s living and working spaces.
Tip: Climb to the top of the windmill to admire the immense millstones that still link to the central milling mechanism.
19. Discover Local Life Of Old At Gran Castello Historic House & Folklore Museum
The Gran Castello Historic House, previously the Folklore Museum, offers more insight into rural life of the past. Situated within one of the finest surviving townhouse within the Citadel, Gozo’s old capital, an extensive range of objects tell the story of the domestic, rural and traditional ways of the Maltese people, from farming tools to beautiful lace crafted by Gozitans.
Tip: Head up to the first floor to find incredibly intricate model churches, the making of which was, and still is, a popular hobby in Malta and Gozo.
20. Check Out Ancient Graffiti At The Old Prison At The Citadel
In the Citadel, you’ll also find the Old Prison. It was operational from the mid-16th century until the early 20th century. Among its inmates, the prison has held Jean Parisot de Valette for four months for attacking a man in 1538, almost twenty years before he became Grand Master of the Knights of Malta.
Tip: Look out for the graffiti and carvings that cover the cell walls; they offer some fascinating insight into the lives of those incarcerated here.
21. Become Mesmerised By History, Art & Science At The Cittadella Visitors’ Centre
Two massive water reservoirs built in the Citadel in the 1870s house the Cittadella Visitors’ Centre. Another recent addition to Malta museums that includes interactive exhibits, it invites you to learn the fascinating story of the Citadel.
Tip: Don’t miss the captivating video of the Citadel’s history, which you can view in the dramatic space under the high arches of the former reservoir.
The Maltese Islands truly are brimming with fascinating museums and attractions, and these are just some of many for you to explore. Go forth and discover more about these incredible islands at these engaging Malta museums. And if you’re looking for even more great things to do on the island, be sure to check our list of Malta’s 25 most unmissable highlights.