About Malta

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses | Malta

The Republic of Malta is a Southern European island country comprising an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km south of Italy, 284 km east of Tunisia, and 333 km north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2 with a population of just under 450,000 (despite an extensive emigration program since the Second World War), making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which at 0.8 km2, is the smallest national capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.

Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta and seven Megalithic Temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

 

  • Archaeological Sites

The Maltese Islands have three sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. These are Valletta, the Megalithic Temples and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum.

In all, seven megalithic temples are found on the islands of Malta and Gozo, each the result of an individual development. The two temples of Ġgantija found in Gozo are notable for their gigantic Bronze Age structures. The Ġgantija Temples are the oldest, free-standing monuments in the world, surpassing even the famous Egyptian pyramids of Giza.

The temples of Ħaġar Qim, Imnajdra and Tarxien are unique architectural masterpieces, when considering the limited resources available to their builders. The temples represent a unique architectural tradition that flourished on the Maltese Islands between 3600 and 2500 B.C.

The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a rock-cut underground complex that was used both as a sanctuary as well as a burial site by the temple builders. The monument is regarded as the epitome of prehistoric monuments.

The capital city of Malta, Valletta, is inextricably linked to the military history and charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem. Built after the Great Siege of 1565 and named after Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette, this fortified city has hundreds of monuments, all within a relatively small space, making it one of the richest historic areas in the world.

In 2018, Valletta will be the European Capital of Culture.

 

  • Fortifications

Malta has often been called the ‘Fortress Island’ due to the high concentration of military architecture. This is a legacy of the islands’ history which saw them being fought over, time and again, due to their strategic location and deep, safe harbours.

The withstanding fortifications were built during two distinct periods: under the rule of the Knights and those built during British colonialism. These are imposing reminders of military endeavours and a reminiscence of an age of chivalry, heroism and legendary battles. 

Whether taking a stroll along Valletta’s bastions or venturing along the Victoria Lines running along the Great Fault, you’ll find remnants of our glorious military past, from 17th century coastal forts and watch towers to World War II pillboxes.

Whether you’re wondering the streets of Valletta, or exploring other towns and villages across Malta and Gozo, you will come across a variety of historical sites from different eras, each one adding an individual piece to a historical mosaic that spans across the centuries.

 

  • Museums & Galleries

Discovering 7000 years of history is easier than you might think. The Maltese Islands are really one big heritage park. There are open-air sites and indoor museums dedicated to every historical era – ranging from Prehistory to World War II.

The Knights of St John were great patrons of the arts and during their 250 years rule, they left a legacy of masterpieces which can be found in museums, palaces and churches all over the Islands.

With their deep colours and rugged landscape, the Maltese Islands have long inspired local and foreign artists, photographers and sculptors. Some of them are exhibited in various galleries, including works by some excellent contemporary artists. The Spazju Kreattiv at St. James Cavalier in Valletta, showcases their work, whilst other venues, such as The National Museum of Fine Arts and the National Museum of Archaeology hold regular exhibitions of art, sculpture and ceramics. 

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  • Religious Sites

Malta is one of the oldest bastions of Christianity. St Paul shipwrecked as a captive en route to Rome in 60 A.D. and introduced the Christianity to the Maltese. His steps can be retraced in the shrines, grottos and catacombs of Rabat and in the ancient capital, Mdina.

There are over 360 churches and chapels scattered across the islands which form an integral part of the landscape and are at the heart of Maltese social and cultural life.

Many of these buildings are veritable works of art. They are adorned with intricate decorations and stone sculptures depicting saints, angels and sacred symbols.

Perhaps most intriguing of all religious sites are the small, wayside chapels. Some are excavated in the rock; others cling to cliffs. All are places of quiet contemplation.

 

 

Information provided by EURAXESS Malta