"Come for the weather, stay for the history." Top 5 Page for this destination Malta by antistar

Malta Travel Guide: 257 reviews and 709 photos

From temples to tourism, Malta's history stretches back thousands of years. Its location, slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, has dragged the island into the influence of every regional power, and some of those beyond. First the Greeks and Phoenicians of the Levant, then the Romans, then the Vandals from East Europe, then the Byzantines from Turkey, then the Islamic Fatimids from North Africa, then the Normans who rented it out to the Germans, French and Spanish among others.

But it was the Knights of Malta and the British who left the biggest imprint on the islands. The Knights created urban Malta. The area which spreads out around Valletta and forms an urban "city" is officially a patchwork of small towns, but in reality a city of around 200,000 people with Valletta as its old town centre.

The Knights came to Malta to halt the spread of the Ottoman Turks. They built a fortress city on Birgu, one of the Three Cities that overlooks the Grand Harbour. It was a perfect spot to defend the island from. But the Ottomans landed on the peninsula opposite and proceeded to lay siege to the Knights. The Knights were successful, but once they had cleared out the Ottomans they built a new fortress city on that peninsula so they could never be attacked in that way again. This city became Valletta, the new capital of the island.

After a brief rule by Napoleon, Malta voluntarily became a member of the British Empire. This was a double-edged sword for the Maltese, for while it brought them protection from hostile neighbours, like Italy, it also made them a target for the enemies of Britain. During World War 2 Malta nearly starved to death, and had more bombs dropped on them in 12 days than all of Britain during one month at the height of the German Blitz.

Malta almost became a part of Britain, an actual part like Cornwall or Wales, not an overseas territory like Gibraltar. But this opportunity was narrowly voted down and instead Malta became an independent country. Despite this the British influence remains to this day. English is a national language spoken by all in addition to Maltese. Many shops and companies are recognizably British, like British Home Stores and Arriva Buses. They drive on the left and even keep their red post and telephone boxes long after Britain replaced them.

Today Malta is a mecca for sun worshipers, but it's much more than that. The compact nature of the island, about the same size as your average city, makes it easy to see all the treasures it has to offer. With so many empires and so much history, you can see everything from neolithic standing stones to some of the most sumptuously decorated churches in Christendom. Malta was, and still is, a vitally strategic rock in the Mediterranean: a staging ground for invaders of Europe and European invaders of the Holy Lands.

If you want to come to Malta and sun all day and drink all night there are places for that: Paceville is party central. But you could easily spend a week just visiting the most important historical sights, and you'd only then just be skimming the surface. And once the island of Malta is done, you've still got Gozo to explore.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Weather, history, architecture, cost, friendly locals.
  • Cons:Food and tourist crowds.
  • Last visit to Malta: Dec 2012
  • Intro Updated Dec 9, 2013
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antistar

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