Let me introduce my new favourite destination for Temple Seeking – the small island nation of Malta. It’s position in the centre of the Mediterranean combined with its multiple invasions give it a rich ancient, medieval and World War history. This, combined with the influx of Catholicism with he Normans and richness of culture make Malta sightseeing perfect for anyone who enjoys visiting Churches and historical sites.
There are around 365 Churches on the island (around 46 are on Gozo, Malta’s sister island) and 13 prehistoric temple sites, 6 of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. The threat of invasion throughout history has also resulted in an abundance of forts, towers and citadels on Malta. Make sure that your Malta sightseeing includes the following Churches and Historical Sites of Malta, particularly the CoCathedral, the most beautiful Church in Malta.
Malta Sightseeing – Top 10 Churches and Historical Sites of Malta
#10 The Hypogeum
Malta is home to an underground temple built in around 800 BC called the Hypogeum. The walls of the Hypogeum were decorated with frescos. Skeletons found there were mainly female skeletons indicating a priestess hierarchy. Only 80 visitors a day are allowed in the Hypogeum, so be sure to book in advance. Some guided tours reserve last minute places.
#9 Gozo Citadella
The Castello or Citadella of Gozo is located in Victoria on Malta’s second island. On a hilltop in the centre of the island, this fortress was strategically positioned for its view for sea and dates back to Medieval times, but people have been known to inhabit this location from neolithic times. Head to Gozo on the ferry from Cirkewwa, Malta.
#8 Cathedral of the Assumption, Gozo
The Cathedral of the Assumption is a Catholic cathedral in the Cittadella of Victoria in Gozo. It is dedicated to the assumption of the virgin Mary and has been the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese since 1864.
#7 Fort Rinella
The Victorian battery of Kalkara is often referred to as Fort Rinella, whose main attraction is the two 100 tonne guns! Take the ferry from Valletta to the three cities to discover this 17th Century British built battery.
#6 Ta’ Pinu
The Basilica of the Blessed Virgin of Ta‘ Pinu is a Roman Catholic basilica and national shrine located approximately 700 metres from the village of Għarb on Gozo, Malta’s sister island.
#5 Stone Age Megalithic Temples
Between 3600 BC and 700 BC, a series of prehistoric temples were built in the form of megalithic (large stone) constructions. These temples of Malta are approximately 1000 years older than the pyramids of Egypt. This stone-age civilisation kept building more and more temples, and traces of 43 different temples can be found on the island. Malta hosts 13 megalithic temples, built by stone-age people from Sicily. The best preserved on the Maltese islands are the temples of Hagar Qim, Tarxien and Ggantija (the oldest on the island of Gozo).
#4 Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
This Roman Catholic Church is probably the second most famous after the CoCathedral of St John. Based also in Valletta, and you can see the dome from across the bay.
#3 Mosta Rotuna – Largest Dome Church in Malta
The Parish Church of the Assumption, known as the Mosta Rotunda has the third largest unsupported Church Dome in the world. In WW2, three bombs were dropped that landed on the dome – two bounced off and one didn’t detonate. The locals saw this as a miracle. You can see a replica of the Mosta Rotunda bomb in the sacristy – making it one of the best Churches and Historical Sites of Malta.
#2 Mdina Fortress
Built on high plateau in the heart of Malta, Mdina is known as the silent city, because it was abandoned in favour of Valletta. Mdina (so called due to Arabic influences) was the capital of Malta in medieval times, but then moved as Valletta was said to be better positioned on the coast. Highlights of Mdina fortress include the natural history museum, St Paul’s Cathedral and the catacombs.
#1 St John’s Co-Cathedral – the most Beautiful Church in Malta
St John’s CoCathedral tops the list as the best Church in Malta – it is one of the most beautiful Churches I have ever seen. It is referred to as the CoCathedral because St Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina was the original one. When restorations of the CoCathedral took place in 2011, approximately 2000 metres of gold foil was re-guilded. The Church is divided into side 8 chapels either side of the nave – one for each of the languages or people’s of the order of the Knights of St. John.
It’s possible to see these Churches and historical sites of Malta in 10 days, but I would recommend a full two weeks at least to see all of these without feeling rushed. Spend 7 days on Malta and 3 further days on the island of Gozo to explore the citadel, Churches and relax on the beaches.
Malta Sightseeing – Further Reading
If you enjoyed this article on Malta sightseeing, you might also like to read about St Pauls Cathedral in Mdina – another strong contender for the best Church in Malta!