4 Days in Malta Itinerary: The museum Edition

4 Days in Malta Itinerary: The museum Edition

mdina

karl paul baldacchino

Neolithic habitation on the island dates back around 8,000 years, and the remains of the first settlers may still be observed. Large Neolithic temple buildings may still be seen in Gozo and the southern part of Malta. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that Malta has a tonne of interesting and distinctive museums. We at OhMyMalta are prepared to educate ardent museum-goers and lead them through the greatest and most intriguing museums on the island.

Day 1: Valletta and birgu

grandmaster's palace

photo credit: Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Malta’s museums are easily accessible and reasonably priced to visit. Valletta, the capital of Malta, is unquestionably the place to go if you’re in a hurry and wish to see a variety of museums in one location.

Valletta is sometimes referred to as ‘one giant museum’. The Local World Heritage Site houses over 20 museums, so it will be quite a strenous task to encompass every single museum you should visit when you’re in Valletta. We will, however, highlight the most sought-after sites and what they mainly provide.

The Grandmaster’s Palace is one of Valletta’s most spectacular structures. The palace was built during the 16th and 18th centuries to serve as the residence of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John. The Grandmaster’s Palace’s courtyard is home to a separate door that leads to the Palace Armory, which holds the biggest collection of weapons and armour still kept in its original home in the whole globe. The collection offers an interesting look at some of the tangible remnants of earlier eras and waged wars.

While in the capital, you should wend your way to the National Museum of Archeology. This museum offers visitors a magnificent collection of artefacts from Malta’s several ancient eras, starting with the Għar Dalam phase (5200 BC) and continuing through the Tarxien phase (2500BC).

Fort St Elmo

photo credit: CatHouseProduction

The majestic Fort St. Elmo is one of the most beloved hotspots in Valletta. This consequential fort has been keeping watch over the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour for centuries. It was restored to its former splendour after playing a significant part during the Great Siege in 1565. Inside the Old Drill Hall of Lower Saint Elmo is where one can find the Malta’s National War Museum. The museum showcases antiquities from the Bronze Age all the way up till the Second World War, albeit the most significant collection of the museum is related to World War II. Various photographic panels document wartime life in Malta, highlighting the challenges encountered by civilians and the destruction wrought by aerial bombardment.

The most recently established museum you can visit in Valletta is ‘MUŻA’. The museum’s moniker,‘Muża’, is an abbreviation for the Maltese translation of the National Museum of Art, ‘Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arti’. By reconsidering a museum’s function and value in the community, MUŻA aims to stretch the bounds of what is deemed to be a ‘conventional museum’. The museum is housed in The Auberge d’Italie, where the Italian knights of the Order of St. John once had their headquarters. It was initially built by 1629 and had several alterations to accommodate its many shifting uses throughout time.

Pro tip: Do take the ferry and head to Birgu if you have some free time. A must-see attraction, the Inquisitor’s Palace captivates tourists with its well-preserved artefacts and offers a fascinating window into the past. Additionally, one of Grand Harbour’s principal bastioned forts, Fort St. Angelo is situated near the point of Birgu and faces the eastern side of Valletta.

inquisitor's palace

day two: temples

Ħaġar Qim

photo credit: Elisabeth Ertl

The Maltese temple complexes were built over a considerable amount of time and at a number of different locations. While each site has unique characteristics, they all share a rather common architectural style. Big limestone blocks were used to construct the megalithic temples of Malta and Gozo, thus the term “megalithic” (Latin for “large stone”). They often have what have been referred to as “apses,” which were discovered to have included carved female figures.

The two temples Mnajdra and Ħaġar Qim, which are situated on Malta’s south-eastern shoreline within 500 metres of one another, are by far the most well-known by both locals and tourists.

Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum

The Tarxien Temple is a lesser-known but no less stunning temple. The Tarxien Temple is a collection of Neolithic structures that was subsequently utilised as a Bronze Age cemetery, and it is located back on Malta’s more populated eastern side.

The Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum, an underground rock-hewn burial complex unearthed in the early 20th century, is only a short stroll from the Tarxien Temples. A stone mason who was constructing the foundation for many houses in 1902 unintentionally discovered it. Unforunately, most of the houses had been built by the time the discovery of the Hypogeum was disclosed. Consequently, the monument’s upper level suffered permanent harm. The site was public property by the end of 1903, and excavation continued there until 1911.

The discovery of these temples greatly enhanced Malta’s sense of national identity by firmly establishing the existence of a vibrant ancient civilisation on the island. Additionally, the discoveries sparked a widespread interest that led to a first-time public concern for the preservation of Malta’s historical riches.

Bus Routes

Valletta to Tarxien: 82, 84, 85, or 88

Valletta ro Hypogeum Temples: 81, 84, or 88 

Valletta to Mnajdra (Ħaġar Qim Temples): 71, 74, or 73 

day three: gozo

the citadel

Photo credit: reuben farrugia

For such a small island, Gozo boasts a great number of museums with intriguing exhibits. The art shown at Gozo’s museums and galleries ranges from 5000-year-old statuettes to moon rock, historical graffiti to contemporary works of art. The Citadel is home to the majority of the museums, with the other ones scattered around the villages. They cover a wide range of topics, including archaeology, crafts, theology, science, toys, and jail cells, but all give insight into the heart and spirit of Gozo, both in the past and the present.

ta' kola

Victoria is where you can find the the Old Prison. While a separate block of six individual cells makes up the remainder of the prison, which was in use from the middle of the 16th century until the beginning of the 20th century, the entrance hall from today’s prison served as a communal cell in the 19th century and is now home to a permanent exhibition on fortifications. The Knights of St. John utilised this jail to house their noisy and disruptive members right away when they arrived in Malta.

One of the few windmills from the Knights’ Period still standing in the Maltese Islands is the Ta’ Kola Windmill in ix-Xagħra, Gozo. Dating back to 1720, Villagers used to bring their grain to be crushed into flour when the wind conditions were favourable. The top of the mill still has the large millstones attached to the main milling machinery, which is surrounded by the living and working quarters of the miller.

Behind the mediaeval Courts of Justice, in one of the twisting corridors of the Citadel, lies the Gozo Nature Museum, another attraction showcases the environmental history of the island, its natural resources, and how the island’s inhabitants utilise them.The museum is located in three adjoining homes from the first half of the seventeenth century. The structure was used as an inn in the eighteenth century and as a shelter for families fleeing aerial bombing during World War II. The displays on the lower level center on the island of Gozo in particular, geology, minerals, and the development of humans and other animals. The upper level displays the animals, plants, and ecosystems of the Maltese Islands. A little garden at the Museum’s back features a number of native and garigue species, including the Maltese Rock Centaury, which serves as the nation’s official plant.

day four

st paul's catacombs

Rabat and neighbouring Mdina, the ‘silent city’ are rich in history, packed with museums and enticing attractions that cater for all the family. For instance, the Wignacourt Museum stands out because it caters to tourists of all preferences. The museum presents an exhibition of numerous paintings, relics, and other religious artefacts in what was formerly the baroque home of the Chaplains of the Knights of the Order of St. John. Proceed to St. Paul’s Catacombs, a maze of underground tombs, underneath the museum. Interestingly, these catacombs are Malta’s earliest archaeological representation of Christianity.

The Mdina Dungeons are located beneath Vilhena Palace, just inside Mdina’s main gate. Explore the rooms and underground corridors while screaming your way through an immersive tour into the sinister past of the city. The different forms of torture that took place when Malta was a colony under the reign of the Romans, Arabs, the Knights of Malta, and even the French are recreated here by a variety of wax figures. (p.s this is a tad on the gruesome side. Thus, this is not recommended for the faint-hearted!)

palazzo falson

You cannot truly soak in Mdina’s beauty without visiting the Palazzo Falson. The two-story Palazzo Falson building was initially constructed in the Middle Ages and later enlarged. The museum has a number of displays of antiques and artwork in addition to housing its most recent occupant, who lived there permanently in the early 20th century, and his vast collection of historical artefacts. It belonged to Olof Frederick Gollcher, a descendent of a Swedish-Maltese family who made a fortune in Malta in shipping. Olof was an artist, a philanthropist and art lover who collected objets d’art, mostly from travels throughout his life. Olof’s house in Mdina is filled with antique furniture, silver pieces, oriental carpets, paintings, ship models, armoury, rare books, watches, jewellery and many other valuable artefacts.

Gustav Café is also open to guests for refreshments on the rooftop terrace of the museum.

malta aviation museum

The Domus Romana museum is situated halfway between Mdina and Rabat. These museums were unintentionally found to contain the ruins of an aristocratic Roman mansion in 1881.

Since then, the exquisite mosaics and the artefacts on show provide an engaging viewing of what is known about Malta during the Roman era.

The Malta Aviation Museum at Ta’ Qali, which covers everything about planes and the history of aviation, is just ten minutes away from Mdina. The museum, which is situated in three hangars, details the history of aviation on the island and has artefacts, particularly from the Second World War and the post-war eras. Some of the planes being maintained and restored by the museum are still in working order.

Bus Routes

Valletta to Ta’ Qali: 54 or 56 

Valletta to Rabat: 50

Valletta to Mdina: 51, 52, 53 

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