Malta’s marvellous museums
The ancient island of Malta lies in the centre of the Mediterranean, and for at least 7,000 years has played host to a plethora of different visiting cultures.
All these colourful civilisations have left their mark on the island, leaving in their wake the contents of some of the most fascinating museums in Europe.
The island has stunning sights around every corner, but it’s really not that large – at 122 square miles it’s one of the world’s smallest states – making it an excellent destination to drive around at leisure, exploring the rich culture and absorbing the natural beauty, not to mention enjoying a bit of sunshine.
The Palace State Rooms
One of the most beautifully decorated museums on the island is The Palace State Rooms, in Valetta. This former palace was constructed in the 1570s and was originally the residence of Eustachio del Monte, the nephew of the Grandmaster of the Knights of St John.
The Palace is still in use as the office of the President of Malta. Seventeenth century tapestries and stunning ceiling paintings adorn the palace and it is well worth taking the time to explore.
Gozo Folklore Museum
The neighbouring island of Gozo is the place to discover more about Malta’s folklore and history. The Folklore museum in Victoria, Gozo’s capital, will introduce you to the history of the island, and is situated in a cluster of medieval houses within the Citadel. The museum is well laid out with each room dedicated to a different aspect of everyday life; you’ll even be able to discover how food was once prepared on the island, and then go and sample a traditional meal in a small neighbouring restaurant.
Although these are not, strictly speaking, classified as museums, anyone who wishes to learn more about the ancient history of the island should go and visit these sites. The ‘Hal Salffieni Hypogeum’ is an underground place of worship in the town of Paola, southwest of Valetta and is believed to be globally unique - it will give you ample opportunity to take a walk back to 2,500 BC.
Another important temple is the Gganitja site on Gozo, which dates back to 3,500 BC. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a short distance from the port of Xaghra - and there are many other ancient temples spread across the whole of Malta and Gozo.
National Museum of the Arts
Based in Valetta, this splendid museum is home to works by local and international artists. There is a stunning painting by Turner, as well as numerous fine examples from the Italian baroque. Many globally renowned artists, including the British artist Victor Pasmore, have had exhibitions here, and the museum has a fine display of Maltese paintings. Silver enthusiasts will enjoy the museum’s collection - look out for the 15th century French silver chalice.
Valetta itself is also a UNESCO World heritage site, so a trip to the city will introduce you to the palaces of the Order of St John, the city’s founders, as well as many other superb cathedrals and museums.