Timeless Wonders: Exploring Malta’s Historic Towns and Villages

Malta is a small island nation located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s famous for its crystal-clear waters, lovely beaches, and sunny skies. But Malta isn’t just about pretty views. It has a rich 7,000-year-old history and a mix of Mediterranean cultures.

In Malta, you can walk the same streets the Phoenicians once roamed. You can explore ancient Roman ruins and wander through medieval towns. The towns still bear the mark of the Arabs and the Knights of St. John.

This post lists historical towns and villages in Malta and Gozo. It includes popular towns and lesser-known authentic villages. These places feel like time stands still. You will learn about each town’s history, main attractions, and activities.

Valletta: Malta’s Baroque Masterpiece

Valletta, Malta
Photo Credit: [@Leonid_Andronov/DepositPhotos]
Valletta is Europe’s smallest capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea and historic fortifications.

Valletta was built in 1566 by the Knights of St. John. After surviving a siege by the Ottomans, they built a fortress city. The Knights named it after their Grand Master, Jean Parisot de Valletta.

Valletta’s grid-like layout was designed to protect against enemies, which is why there is a nice breeze in the city, even on a hot day.

The Knights also built tunnels under the whole city. These were used for safety and to store water and grain.

The streets in Valletta have beautiful Baroque buildings. St. John’s Co-Cathedral and Grandmaster’s Palace highlight knights’ lavish lifestyle. Sadly, many were destroyed in WWII.

Start your visit to Valletta at the Triton’s Fountain. It looks magical, especially at night. Be sure to visit the Upper Barrakka Gardens. They have unmatched views of the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities. Don’t miss the saluting battery and watch the gun salutes firing at noon or 4 pm.

Culture enthusiasts will love the Manoel Theatre, one of Europe’s oldest. Art lovers will adore the Co-Cathedral. It has Caravaggio’s masterpieces.

If you’re into war history, head to Fort St. Elmo. It’s full of knight stories and battle accounts. For WWII insights, explore the War HQ Tunnels and Lascaris War Rooms. Don’t miss the tours of Valletta’s underground.

Hanging out in Valletta at night is also great. Try local and Mediterranean restaurants with tasty dishes. Chill at rooftop lounges with sunset views. Don’t miss Strait Street, once a sailor hotspot. Now, it’s a lively nightlife hub with bars and live music.

The Three Cities: The Guardians of the Grand Harbour

Vittoriosa Harbor in Malta
Photo Credit: [@s4visuals/DepositPhotos]
The Three Cities—Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua—are just across from Valletta’s Grand Harbor. These three cities, surrounded by fortress walls, have a rich history and stunning architecture.

To reach the Three Cities, take a boat from Valletta. It’s convenient and allows one to admire the Grand Harbour’s beauty. You’ll see luxurious yachts and traditional Maltese boats.

These cities have unique names. Vittoriosa, or il-Birgu, means victory. Cospicua, or Bormla, resisted the Ottoman siege victoriously. It is known as the ‘conspicuous’ city. Its fortifications showcase its strength. Senglea, or L-Isla, honors Grand Master Claude de la Sengle.

These cities were crucial for Malta’s defense strategy. First, the Phoenicians settled there. Later, the Order of St. John made it their headquarters. Following a siege, they relocated their capital to Valletta.

In the Three Cities, narrow streets wind through old buildings. Waterfronts offer stunning harbor views, with no modern houses in sight. The authentic Maltese character sets these towns apart. Away from modern life, they give a glimpse of old Malta.

Start at the Fortifications of Senglea. Walk to Gardjola Gardens for breathtaking Grand Harbour views. It’s a must-see spot in Senglea. Don’t skip the marina with boats for a relaxing time. Enjoy the lively local vibe and unwind. There are plenty of restaurants and bars with marina views.

In Bormla (or Cospicua), you’ll find a charming waterfront. Recently renovated, it offers pleasant walks and harbor views. The streets there are lovely for taking picturesque photos. Make sure to visit the Bir Mula Heritage Museum. Housed in a traditional Maltese building, it showcases artifacts and religious practices. It even reveals secret Knights meetings.

In Birgu, start at St. Lawrence’s Church. Then, visit the Malta Maritime Museum to explore Malta’s maritime heritage. This museum is on Birgu’s Waterfront, blending modern yachts and traditional boats. It’s also nice to have a walk there.

Next, head to Fort St. Angelo. Explore its medieval beginnings and its significance in the Great Siege. Afterwards, check out the Inquisitor’s Palace. This museum reveals life and trials from the Inquisition. If you’re into WWII, visit the Malta at War Museum. It’s in an old barracks with underground shelters.

End your day at the peaceful Birgu Ditch Gardens. Wander the city’s quiet old streets or enjoy dining at Birgu’s Waterfront.

Mdina: The Silent City

Mdina City in Malta
Photo Credit: [@samr357/DepositPhotos]
Next is Mdina, Malta’s famous Silent City. Mdina is on the top of a hill in the island’s center. This town is so quiet. Most of its streets are car-free, with fewer than 300 residents. It feels like an open-air museum rather than a city.

This city cherishes its ancient origins. It all began in the 8th century BC with the Phoenicians founding Maleth. The Romans then changed its name to Melite. Ancient Melite surpassed today’s Mdina in size. It shrank during Byzantine or Arab rule in Malta.

Mdina’s architecture shows different historical influences. The Arabs shaped its narrow, meandering streets. They ruled for 221 years, starting in 870. Most buildings emerged under Norman rule from 1194 to 1530. Maltese Baroque style followed a massive 1693 earthquake. British rule from 1800 brought Neoclassical and Neo-gothic elements.

In Mdina, explore winding streets starting at Mdina Gate. This Baroque gem doubled as King’s Landing Gate in “Game of Thrones” episode #103, “Lord Snow.”

Don’t miss the Cathedral of Saint Paul. It’s a splendid example of baroque art. If you’re keen on history, the Mdina Dungeons Museum shows the dark side of Maltese history, from ancient times to the Knights of St. John.

Stroll through narrow streets and admire colorful doors and windows, animal-shaped door handles, and flowers. Take lots of photos and explore the hidden courtyards.

Locals love to relax at Fontanella Tea Garden, which is on the city walls and provides stunning views of Malta’s countryside. Pair it with a slice of their renowned cake.

As the sun sets, find a spot on Bastion Square’s fortifications. Enjoy the view as the light fades and the sky becomes orange and red. It’s a lovely way to end your day in the Silent City.

Rabat: A Suburb Town Beyond Mdina’s Walls

Rabat, Malta
Phtoo Credit: [@efesenko/DepositPhotos]
Rabat is located just beyond the ancient walls of Mdina. Once, It was part of Melita, the ancient Roman city. Its name comes from the Arabic word for ‘suburb, ‘ which hints at Rabat’s historical roots. It’s transformed into a lively town.

Rabat has charming, narrow streets with historic houses. Beneath Rabat lie many catacombs used for burials. They date back to early Christian times. The most renowned ones are the catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha.

In Rabat, you can visit museums to explore its history. The Wignacourt Museum displays artifacts from the Knights of St. John. Casa Bernard is a 16th-century palazzo. It showcases medieval, Baroque, and Rococo styles. The Domvs Romana displays mosaics and sculptures. It also has marble fragments, pottery, and tools from the Roman era.

Rabat is a well-known site for Christians. Under St. Paul’s Church in Rabat, you can find the historic St. Paul’s Grotto. St. Paul sought refuge here after a shipwreck on his way to Rome. He spent three months preaching and introducing Christianity to Malta. The grotto is significant as one of the island’s earliest Christian worship sites.

After sightseeing, head to Crystal Bar for delicious Maltese pastizzi. It’s a must-try local snack loved by many in Malta. Crystal Bar is the top spot for it!

Gozo’s Victoria: A Citadel Rising

Citadel in Victoria, Gozo
Photo Credit: [@Dudlajzov/DepositPhotos]
Victoria is located in the middle of the island of Gozo. It’s the liveliest town on the island. Narrow streets, busy squares, and beautiful churches characterize this medieval town.

In 1887, the town was named Victoria to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Back then, the archipelago was under British rule. Locals know it as Rabat.

At the heart of Victoria is the Citadel. This historic fortress has withstood time. It dates from the Bronze Age. It evolved from a Roman-era acropolis to a fortified castle.

Once conquered by Ottomans in 1551, the Citadel stands strong today. It’s a symbol of Gozo’s resilience, attracting many tourists. Recently restored, it now hosts museums, churches, and cultural sites. It also offers breathtaking views of Gozo, Malta, and Comino. The views are beautiful at sunset.

In Victoria, there’s more than just the historic Citadel. You can explore medieval lanes and visit St. George’s Basilica, known for its stunning baroque art and architecture.

Like St. George’s Square, Victoria’s town squares are vibrant gathering places. You can soak up the local atmosphere or indulge in drinks and Gozitan food. Independence Square, or It-Tokk, has a bustling morning market. Enjoy the local vibe and grab unique souvenirs there.

Historic Towns and Villages in Malta

Valletta, Malta
Photo Credit: [@GekaSkr/DepositPhotos]
When in Malta, explore its historical towns. Discover Valletta’s Baroque charm. Stroll through Mdina’s quiet historic streets. Admire the beauty of the Three Cities at the Grand Harbour. Visit Gozo’s Victoria with its majestic Citadel. Dive into history at Rabat’s catacombs and ancient alleys. You will be amazed by their beauty. Get ready to be wowed by the beauty of these historic towns and villages.


Timeless Wonders: Exploring Malta's Historic Towns and Villages
Laura Jasenaite

Laura is the founder and storyteller behind Travel2Malta. The blog is dedicated to the scenic islands of Malta, Gozo, and Comino. She is enthusiastic about sharing travel tips and local insights. She covers famous spots, activities and hidden treasures.