Malta is considered to be one of the cradles of Mediterranean civilization, the earliest traces of which date back to over 4000 BC. It therefore goes without saying that the Maltese Islands have a large historical heritage.
You can find museums related to a wide range of subjects and periods, from pre-history to the Second World War. For instance, Malta was one of the most bombed countries during the latter, and that period has been extremely well documented.
The Knights of the Order of St John, who were settled in Malta for over 250 years, are also a big part of its history!
Most of the museums are located in Valletta and on the island of Gozo, and offer audio guides in most spoken languages.
Museums in Malta
National Museum of Archeology
The National Museum of Archeology is located in Valletta, in the Langue de Provence auberge, which was the home of the Knights of the Order of St John. This was built in 1571, at the same time as the construction of the capital Valletta.
Here you will find different collections dating from 5000 to 2000 BC. There is a complete exhibition of prehistoric artefacts, with grey and red ceramics, typical of this period.
On display are the oldest ceramic figurines of the Mediterranean, from after the period of temples.
You will also have the opportunity to enjoy many examples of architecture dating back to this time, with human figurines and vestiges of the prehistoric period. These temples are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are thought to be the oldest man-made monuments on the planet.
One floor is dedicated to temporary exhibitions. We advise you to contact the museum beforehand to find out about the topics covered during your visit.
Auberge de Provence, Republic Street, Valletta
+356 2122 1623
The Grandmaster’s Palace
The Grandmaster’s Palace is an historic monument in Malta. Built in the 16th century by the founder of the capital of Malta, Jean de Valette, it was used as the official residence of the grand masters of the Order of the Knights of St. John.
It now hosts the Parliament of Malta and the President’s Office. You can watch the changing of the guard every half hour.
The floors display the crests of the various masters who lived in the palace. The Tapestries room is a must-see, containing works of art dating from the 18th century.
The armoury of the Palace is an essential part of this museum. It houses a huge collection of armour, helmets and weapons belonging to the Knights of the Order of St John.
You will also find a large collection of cannons and artillery, some of which belonged to the great Ottoman Empire.
St George’s Square, Valletta
+356 2124 9349
National War Museum
The National War Museum is mostly representative of the two world wars. In fact, Malta was frequently, and sometimes unwittingly, involved in the Great Wars, because of its location and dependence on British rule at that time.
It should be noted that Malta was one of the most bombarded countries during the Second World War.
The museum is located in Fort Saint Elmo in Valletta. This Fort was built by the Order of St-John in 1552. The museum opened its doors to the public in 1975.
Also on display are some famous vehicles, such as the Willys Jeep used by General Eisenhower and President Roosevelt, and also German and Italian shipwrecks recovered from the bottom of the sea.
Fort St Elmo, Valletta
+356 2148 1305
National Museum of Arts – MUZA
The MUZA Museum (created following the nomination of Valletta as European capital in 2018) has an important collection based on 4 main themes: The Mediterranean, Europe, the Empire and the artist.
It is located in the former seat of the Italian Knights of the Order of St. John, an historic site in itself.
It was named one of “The Guardian’s “13 Must-See European Museums”, and one of Architecture Digest’s “Top 15 World Museums of 2018”.
The museum is very atypical; you can walk around and discover very old works of art among much more contemporary ones. You can also enjoy learning about different techniques from video screens and interactive experiences that complement the various works of art on display.
The most famous works are those of Italian artist Mattia Preti, British artist Victor Pasmore and Maltese sculptor Antonio Sciortino.
Interesting fact: THE MUZA Museum is a zero-carbon footprint building! In fact, it generates its own power through photovoltaic cells and has low-power consumption through optimized thermal management and a LED lighting system.
Auber d’Italie, Merchants Street, Valletta.
+356 2122 0006
Manoel Theatre Museum
The Manoel Theatre Museum owes its name to the great master of the Order of St John, Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. It was built in 1731 and is one of the oldest theatres in Europe still in operation. Works of theatre and music are still performed on stage today.
The theatre was created as a tribute to three centuries of theatrical history in Malta, and features a wide range of memorabilia relating to Maltese theatre.
Much of the exhibition represents a fascinating part of the history of the Manoel Theatre and the Royal Opera, which was unfortunately destroyed during the Second World War.
Manoel Theatre, Old Theatre Street, Valletta
+356 2124 6389
Museum of Natural History
Located in the former capital of Malta, Mdina, the museum is an integral part of the 18th century Magistral Courthouse. In the past it mainly served as government offices and a temporary hospital.
The museum contains many biological specimens found in Malta. You can find more than 10,000 types of endemic rocks and plants, 3,000 types of birds, and several thousand insects and shells, along with a huge fossil collection.
You can also find much related to human evolution and the marine ecosystem, by visiting the palaeontology and geology exhibitions.
2 dedicated sections have been created in the museum, one for the national bird – Il-Merill (blue thrush), and Widnet Il-Bahar (Maltese knapweed).
A very large library houses more than 4,000 books devoted to works from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Highlight: On Tuesday, May 18, 2004, the “Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock”, brought back from the lunar mission, was stolen from the Museum. The rock was valued at $5 million, and this was, in fact, one of the most significant thefts on the island of Malta.
Vilhena Palace, St Publius Square, Mdina
+356 2145 5951
Malta Maritime Museum
Located in the former naval bakery, the Maritime Museum of Malta will take you back through more than 7,000 years of maritime history, from prehistory to the present day. Its facade was inspired by Windsor Castle.
You can travel through the different eras and history of the islands of Malta and Gozo, over navigation in general and how it is linked to Malta.
The museum also offers you insights into the magnificence of the Mediterranean Sea.
It has a unique collection of over 20,000 artefacts from Malta’s maritime past, including the world’s largest Roman anchor weighing 4 tons, the largest ship that belonged to the Order of St. John, an incredible collection of cannons, amphorae, weapons, documents and paintings, and a collection of over 60 boats.
You can also see the figurehead of the Napoleonic-era ship HMS Hibernia.
Ex-Naval Bakery, Vittoriosa Waterfront, Birgu
+356 2166 0052
The Postal Museum of Malta was inaugurated on June 17, 2016. It is housed in a typical townhouse in Valletta, built in 1947, right next to the Grand Master’s Palace.
The postal service in Malta dates back to the 16th century, and the very first Maltese postage stamp was printed in 1860. It is known as “Halfpenny Yellow”.
The museum houses an extensive collection of postal memorabilia particular to Malta. Across 4 floors, you can stroll through centuries of postal history that dates back to the 16th century, at the time of the Knights of the Order of St John.
The collection tells in depth the stories of the many people who have played an important role in the development of communication in Malta.
Most of the objects on display are authentic and come from post offices across different eras.
Here you will find works by Emvin Cremona, Malta’s greatest stamp creator.
135 Archbishop Street, Valletta
+356 2596 1750
Museums in Gozo
Museum of Archeology of Gozo
The Gozo Archeology Museum traces the history of Gozo, from prehistory to the present day. Several topics are discussed, such as religion, art, daily life, and many others.
The exhibits were discovered at various archaeological sites in Gozo.
The museum is located in a 17th century house, which previously was the residence of the Bondi family. Unfortunately, it was abandoned and later restored by the Governor of the Maltese Islands in 1927, Sir Harry Luke.
The museum is divided into three main sections. The prehistoric period, the classical period and the medieval and modern period.
Prehistory offers an insight into natural resources, daily life, religious beliefs and practices and funeral customs of Gozo’s inhabitants during that period.
The classical period offers a large number of Phoenician and Roman artefacts that have been discovered all over Gozo and Comino. They mainly consist of objects associated with funeral rites and decorative arts.
The medieval and modern period is represented by an exhibition of artefacts, up to the arrival of the Knights of the Order of St. John.
Triq Bieb I-Imdina, Citadel, Rabat (Victoria)
+356 2155 6144
A visit to the old Gozo prison will give you a glimpse of incarceration in the 16th century.
The prison is located inside the citadel and was originally connected to the courthouse.
Much of the original graffiti etched by inmates are still visible on the walls, depicting ships, knights’ crosses, names, and handprints, as well as many other iconic designs.
The former Gozo prison was operational from the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Today, it is divided into two parts – the lobby and the cells.
When the Knights of the Order of St. John arrived, the cells were used to detain those knights who became a little too problematic. The most famous of them, Jean de Valette, was imprisoned there in 1538.
The entrance hall offers an exhibition of the existing fortifications on the island of Gozo. The individual cells are still in pristine condition and accessible via a narrow corridor.
Pjazza Katidral, Rabat (Victoria)
+356 2156 5988
The Gozo Nature Museum is located in the heart of Victoria’s Citadel. It consists of 3 main wings, the latter having been built in the 17th century.
On the ground floor, you can visit the section dedicated to geology on Gozo. Here you will learn about the layers of sedimentary rock that make up the Maltese islands, with some examples of animal fossils and plants dating from different eras. Most of these minerals were donated by the famous Gozitan traveller, Dr. Lewis Mizzi.
You can also learn of the marine ecosystems present in Maltese waters, as well as human and animal evolution.
On the upper floor, you will find a section devoted to the study of insects and plants. You can admire an impressive collection of exotic and local insects, butterflies and mites of all kinds.
Finally, in the garden at the back of the museum, you can find examples of typical native plants, including the famous “Rock Centaury”, the national plant.
Interesting fact: A tiny specimen of lunar rock accompanied by a small Maltese flag is on display in the museum. The lunar stone was brought from the moon’s surface by Apollo 11, and donated to Malta by US President Richard Nixon in 1973.
Museum of Nature
Triq Il-Kwartier San Martin, Rabat, VIC
+356 2155 6153
This list is obviously not exhaustive, but it is a good start for discovering the cultural wealth of the Maltese islands.
Take a look at the list of museums in Malta below:
If you feel like relaxing at the movies instead, have a look at our Cinemas in Malta page.