Best known as a sun and sea destination, Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean, relatively unknown as a vacation destination outside of Europe. Nevertheless it is a place of surprising diversity and holds a history of remarkable intensity. This small island is packed with fascinating treasures such as prehistoric temples, glittering hidden coves and fossil-studded cliffs with breathtaking diving opportunities and other delights. Malta enjoys the reputation of having the greatest density of historic sites than any other country spanning millennia of heritage.  These include prehistoric temples, medieval towns, Roman catacombs and the extraordinary artistic and architectural legacy of the Knights of St John (aka the Knights of Malta) for starters. Here is a list of 6 historical places you must visit even if you’re there for the sun and the sand.

Photo: Julien Lozelli

St. John’s Co-Cathedral

The cathedral was built by the order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John (who ruled over the island for over two centuries).   Its architect, Girolamo Cassar is also credited for designing many other outstanding buildings in Valletta.  The artwork inside the cathedral is a world-class marvel that should definitely not be missed.

The Citadella

Fortified around 1500BC, the Citadella presents a stunning example of ancient architecture on the sister island of Gozo. It was the inhabitants’ main fortification for centuries. The existing structure invites you to explore through tunnels, store-rooms and savour local delicacies from the Sunday market.

Manoel Theatre

An 18th century theatre and Europe’s third-oldest theatre, yet still very much in working condition, with performances taking place all throughout the winter season. The acoustics in the theatre have received praise by many a musician of past and present.

Hypogeum

The Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world. The temple is carved out of rock a definite must.

The Malta War Museum

The Malta War Museum is located in the old Fort of St Elmo. The museum gives a glimpse of the long history of the island as a military station for the British. Malta was of great strategic importance in the Second World War and so it was also one of the main targets for the Germans and their allies.   If you really want to grab a taste of what the island has endured then this is definitely the place.

Photo: Michael Brys

Mellieha Bay

Mellieħa Bay is the longest and most popular sandy beach on the Maltese Islands and although not an historic place in itself holds the beautiful nearby attraction of St. Agatha’s Tower. A 25 minute walk from here will lead you up the steep hill to the nearby attraction includes Popeye Village.

So while you are here to enjoy the swimming, sunbathing and the Luxurious Hotels you will definitely have your hands full with other options irrespective of what time of the year you visit this beautiful island. To add on to that Malta is also home to some excellent restaurants specializing in mostly Mediterranean food much of which is delivered fresh from the surrounding seas and good sun-ripened vegetation.

6 must-do historical attractions of Malta