Malta is home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites. Malta’s World Heritage sites are an interesting mix of modern and prehistoric remains, and all three can be visited in just a couple of short days. Read on for our guide to the World Heritage sites of Malta!
1. Megalithic Temples of Malta
The first World Heritage site in Malta is a group of megalithic (giant stone) temples, dating from around 3600 BC. These temples are among the oldest still-standing buildings in the entire world. You can visit all seven of the temples, scattered across the main island of Malta and its sister island of Gozo. We visited four of them: two at Ġgantija, one at Ħaġar Qim, and another at Mnajdra. We don’t know much about the culture that built these temples, but they must have been avid star-watchers, since many of the temples line up precisely with sunrise on the solstices and the equinoxes. The temples were also built before wheels or metal tools were available on Malta, which is a staggering thought!
2. Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum
The next World Heritage site in Malta is a hypogeum (underground cemetery), and it dates from around 3000 BC. Only discovered in 1931 by accident, it was built in three stages, with each stage deeper underground than the last. The hypogeum is also an example of “negative architecture”, where structures and features are carved out of the rock. We had a great time here, exploring what must have been a very sacred place for the prehistoric Maltese people. You should book as early as possible if you want to visit, as tickets for the Hypogeum are very limited for conservation reasons. HeritageMalta kindly provided underground footage for this video.
3. Historic City of Valletta
Valletta is the capital city of Malta, and rounds out our tour of World Heritage sites in Malta. For a historic European city it’s surprisingly new, as it was only founded in the 16th century by the Knights of the Order of St John. It still has many traces of its fortress origins, but there’s also a lot of beautiful stuff to see as well! Particular highlights include the Co-Cathedral of St John, and the Governor’s Palace, as well as the wonderfully laid-out streets. You can also feel the influence of many different cultures, like British, French, Spanish, and North African.