Malta is an archipelago between Sicily and the North African coast in the central Mediterranean. It consists of three main islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta is famous for its sun-kissed beaches and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the historic capital city of Valletta. The country's economy is primarily based on tourism, financial services and manufacturing and the government has made significant investments in infrastructure to support these industries. The island has several buildings and structures that reflect the country's varied history and influences. From the medieval city of Mdina to the Baroque splendor of Valletta, Malta‘s architecture is a must-visit to the island's rich cultural heritage.
Listed below are interesting facts about Malta.
- Malta has two official languages. Maltese is the national language with Semitic roots, while English has co-official status due to the island's British colonial history. The bilingual environment has shaped Maltese culture and most citizens speak both languages fluently from an early age.
- Valletta was Europe's first planned capital city. Valletta, the capital city, was the first planned city in Europe, designed in 1565. It was constructed to improve fortifications and was created on a grid system by Francesco Laparelli. The orderly grid allowed for efficient circulation and incorporated advanced public health features like fresh water and sewage systems.
- Malta was heavily bombed in WWII, with over 3,300 air raids. The Axis powers attacked Malta in an attempt to neutralize its military threat and turn off its critical ports. The geography of Malta made it an invaluable launching point for Allied naval operations and supply lines across North Africa and southern Europe. The Axis bombing campaign was ruthless, with over 3,300 air raids across two years. Cities and towns faced constant air attacks and civilian areas and infrastructure were heavily impacted.
- There are over 300 churches in Malta. Over 300 churches packed into Malta's small archipelago. These religious structures are a part of the island's urban and rural landscapes. The grandeur and density of these churches reflect the central role of Catholicism in Maltese culture and identity since the 1st century AD.
- Springtime hunting in Malta. Malta permits it under a contested derogation from the EU Birds Directive. This exception allows for limited takes of turtle dove and quail based on Malta's particular circumstances. The annual spring season sees thousands of Maltese hunters taking to the countryside with guns, which poses a threat to the already declining bird populations.
- 1. Malta has two official languages – Maltese and English
- 2. Valletta was Europe's first planned capital city, designed in 1565
- 3. Malta was heavily bombed in WWII, with over 3,300 air raids
- 4. Malta was awarded the George Cross for bravery during WWII
- 5. Driving is on the left side of the road, a British influence
- 6. There are over 300 churches in Malta
- 7. Springtime hunting is still legal in Malta, an exception in the EU.
- 8. Malta has been a popular filming location for many blockbusters
- 9. Malta has been ruled by many empires over its history.
- 10. There are more tourists than residents
- 11. The Maltese islands have 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- 12. There is an extensive underground tunnel network below Valletta.
- 13. Traditional Maltese cuisine features rabbit stew and local honey.
- 14. Roman Catholicism is the main religion – 98% of Maltese.
- 15. Malta enjoys over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.
- 16. The seas surrounding Malta are crystal clear blue and green.
- 17. Malta's traditional breakfast is Eggs and Tomatoes (Balbuljata).
- 18. The Maltese language sounds like a blend of Arabic and Italian.
- 19. Over 20% of Malta's land is protected nature reserves.
- 20. Malta has its endemic plants, animals and bee species.
- 21. Gozo is home to the Ggantija Temples, older than Stonehenge.
- 22. Valletta was named after the knight Jean Parisot de la Valette.
- 23. Malta enjoys the best climate in the world
- 24. Malta's Car Obsession
- How did Malta get its name?
- Why should you visit Malta?
1. Malta has two official languages – Maltese and English
Malta is a bilingual country with two official languages – Maltese and English. Maltese, known locally as Malti, is a Semitic language developed from Sicilian Arabic spoken on the islands between the 9th and 14th centuries. It incorporates many loanwords from Sicilian, Italian, French and English due to Malta's complex history of domination by foreign powers. Maltese is spoken natively by around 90% of the population and is the national language of Malta. It is the only Semitic language to use the Latin script in its written form. English has co-official status in Malta due to British colonial rule between 1800 and 1964. The British helped establish an English-based education system, which led to widespread fluency.
English remains vital in government and business, with over 95% of Maltese being proficient. Maltese English also emerged as a unique dialect during British rule and retained features like Italian phonology and vocabulary. Code-switching between English and Maltese is very common. A third language, Maltese Sign Language, needs more official recognition. It is used natively by around 4,000 deaf Maltese citizens. This unique bilingual environment has shaped Maltese culture and society. Individual bilingualism is very high, with most citizens speaking both Maltese and English fluently from an early age. People switch languages depending on context – using more English in formal settings like education or office work while using Maltese socially and at home. Some linguists describe Malta as a “functional bilingual” society. There are certainly challenges to bilingualism, too.
2. Valletta was Europe's first planned capital city, designed in 1565
Valletta holds the distinction of being the first planned city in Europe. Its construction was commissioned in 1565 by Jean Parisot de Valette, the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, shortly after the Great Siege of Malta. The Knights emerged victorious but recognized the need for improved fortifications to defend against future attacks. Valette chose the Mount Sceberras peninsula between two natural harbors to build a new fortified capital city. The city was designed on a grid system by Francesco Laparelli, a military engineer hired by the Pope and King Philip II of Spain, who financially supported the project. Laparelli's orderly grid organized the city into parallel streets for efficient circulation. The design also incorporated advanced public health features like fresh water and sewage systems. After Laparelli died in 1570, Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar took over construction based on the original plans. Buildings like the Co-Cathedral of St.John and Grandmaster's Palace were erected within the city walls. By 1571, the city was complete and deemed defensible enough for the Order of St. John to make it their new capital.
Valletta officially succeeded Mdina as the capital of Malta. As one of the first examples of urban planning on a blank canvas, Valletta demonstrated visionary city design. Cassar's adherence to Laparelli's grid system allowed logical growth. The city has retained its original street layout over 450 years later, though it endured massive bombing in WWII. Valletta's Baroque architecture and concentration of historic sites led to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. Its early adoption of planned city principles was an influential model, shaping urban design globally.
3. Malta was heavily bombed in WWII, with over 3,300 air raids
As a substantial strategic naval and air force base for the Allies during World War II, the islands of Malta were subjected to intensive and relentless bombing campaigns by the Axis powers. From 1940 to 1942, Malta endured a staggering number of over 3,300 air raids as both the German and Italian air forces attempted to neutralize the island's military threat and turn off its critical ports. The geography of Malta, located in a prime central location in the Mediterranean Sea, made it an invaluable launching point for Allied naval operations and supply lines across North Africa and southern Europe.
The Axis bombing of Malta was relentless in its frequency and destruction. Cities and towns across the islands faced near-constant air attacks, with German Stuka dive-bombers and Italian fighters pounding targets like airfields, harbors, ships and military installations. Civilian areas and infrastructure were also heavily impacted, as homes, hospitals, churches and water and power facilities bore the brunt of the bombing just as much as military sites.
The capital city Valletta and the critical port area Grand Harbour were struck countless times. Across two years, many towns and cities were leveled. Fires, rubble, craters and ruins became tragically familiar sights across Malta during this devastatingly intensive bombardment campaign. The volume of explosives dropped on the islands was massive, with over 6,700 tons unleashed. The courage and tenacity of the Maltese people continuing to endure and resist despite the catastrophic destruction is remarkable. The over 3,300 unrelenting air raids and heavy bombing Malta absorbed in WWII stand as devastating testaments to the hellish maelstrom of aerial warfare seen in the Mediterranean theater.
4. Malta was awarded the George Cross for bravery during WWII
Malta was awarded the George Cross for bravery during World War II in recognition of the fortitude and courage displayed by the people of Malta during the heavy bombing and blockade they endured from 1940 to 1942. It is located in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and North Africa and Malta was a substantial naval and air force base for the Allies. This made it a significant target for attacks by the Axis powers as they sought to disrupt Allied shipping and supply lines. For over two years, Malta was subjected to relentless bombing by the German and Italian air forces. The islands' critical infrastructure, like ports, cities and airfields, were repeatedly struck and heavily damaged. Vital food, fuel and other necessities also dwindled dangerously due to an Axis naval blockade cutting off regular trade routes.
The people of Malta refused to submit or surrender. Outgunned and outnumbered, they defiantly resisted with their limited air and naval resources. Maltese civilians showed remarkable courage and resolve as they endured significant hardship and deprivation while continuing to provide support to the Allied forces operating from the islands.
In recognition of this remarkable demonstration of collective bravery and resilience by military and civilian populations under highly adverse conditions, King George VI awarded the entire island nation of Malta the George Cross in April 1942. The George Cross was formally presented to Malta on September 13, 1942, after the heaviest air attacks had declined. It is now displayed at the National War Museum in Fort Saint Elmo, Valletta, for the public to view. In 1943, the George Cross was also incorporated into the flag of Malta in the upper hoist canton. To this day, it remains there as an ongoing mark of pride and recognition for Malta’s sacrifices in WWII.
5. Driving is on the left side of the road, a British influence
Driving on the left in Malta dates back to British rule over the islands. As a former colony and current member of the Commonwealth, Malta adopted many British customs and systems, including driving on the left. This sets Malta apart from most of continental Europe, where going is on the right side. The British initially brought left-hand driving to Malta when they seized control of the islands in 1800—over 150 years of colonial administration left an indelible imprint on Maltese infrastructure and institutions. Roads were constructed under British surveyors accustomed to left-side traffic. Generations of Maltese learned to drive on the left under the British road rules and regulations model.
The British also introduced their system of road signs to Malta, which utilizes shapes and colors similar to those in the UK. Even after independence in 1964, the left-hand system persisted due to long-established habits and compatibility with vehicle imports from the UK. Tourists are advised to remain vigilant, use caution when overtaking and consider an orientation drive before venturing far from their hotels. Locals are also generally aware and accommodating of unfamiliar motorists on their roads. So driving in Malta on the left takes some reorientation; prudence and common sense make it easy for visitors.
6. There are over 300 churches in Malta
The dense population of churches is one of Malta's most distinctive features. It has over 300 churches packed into the archipelago. From Baroque cathedrals to tiny medieval chapels, these churches are embedded in Malta’s urban fabric and rural landscapes. Tradition holds that Christianity first reached Maltese shores with Saint Paul, who converted the Roman governor Publius after being shipwrecked here. Malta became one of the first Roman colonies to adopt the faith. Over 300 churches have since arisen to serve generations of Maltese Christians and preserve the memory of the early Church.
Architectural styles range from Malta’s unique “temple” style inspired by its prehistoric past to Romanesque, Sicilian, Norman and ostentatious Baroque. Each church has its foundation myth and patron saint, celebrated in local fiestas. Beyond their architectural and historical significance, these churches are social and communal pillars. Their facades and domes dominate town squares and village centers. Sundays and holy days still see Maltese flocking to mass or gathering for celebrations of the parish’s patron saint. Church-based groups and activities also retain an essential role in community life. This presence testifies to the lasting legacy of Catholicism despite Malta’s modernization.
7. Springtime hunting is still legal in Malta, an exception in the EU.
Malta is the only EU member state that allows recreational spring hunting of migratory birds like quail and the declining European turtle dove. This exception dates back to Malta's 2004 accession negotiations when it secured a contested derogation from the EU Birds Directive's general ban on spring hunting. The derogation permits limited takes of turtle dove and quail based on Malta's particular circumstances. The spring season sees Malta become a deadly gauntlet for birds migrating north to breed after overwintering in Africa. Hunters argue spring is the only viable season to hunt quail and turtle dove locally.
Since 2013, the EU Commission has issued Malta multiple warnings and legal notices for allowing the hunting of protected species, excessive takes and inadequate enforcement. A 2015 national referendum saw a slim majority of voters reject abolishing spring hunting. Malta banned spring turtle dove hunting the subsequent year due to its dire conservation status but retained quail hunting. In 2022, this moratorium was lifted despite turtle dove numbers plummeting 60% across Europe since 1980. Annually, from mid-April to early May, thousands of Maltese hunters take to the countryside with guns as birds pass overhead. Conservation groups meticulously document the widespread illegal shooting of protected species like kestrels, marsh harriers and storks. They argue that the spring hunting derogation drives systematic non-compliance with the Birds Directive and undermines continent-wide conservation. Malta remains pressured to align with EU environmental standards and end spring hunting.
8. Malta has been a popular filming location for many blockbusters
Malta's landscape was a filming location for major Hollywood blockbusters and prestige productions. Its landscapes have stood in for ancient Troy, Rome, Israel and beyond, while its baroque architecture epitomizes the Mediterranean. Over 200 international film and TV productions have utilized Malta as a filming location due to financial incentives, excellent weather, experienced crews and the islands' visual malleability. Over the years dating back to the 1960s, many famous blockbuster movies like The Silent Enemy, Midnight Express, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Gladiator, Munich, World War Z, Captain Phillips, Game of Thrones and more have had crucial scenes filmed in different iconic spots across Malta.
The former capital and current UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mdina have been featured as backdrops for historical or medieval-themed productions from Troy to Assassin's Creed. The Saint John's Co-Cathedral in the capital, Valletta, makes regular cameos in religious or European political thrillers. Scenic beaches and coastal fortifications are reimagined as tropical islands or Napoleonic Empire landmarks. Grand Harbor's extensive shipyards and warehouses lend themselves as soundstages recreating labyrinth urban cityscapes. Maltese islands like Comino and Gozo have even stood in as desolate planets in major sci-fi franchises from Star Wars to Jupiter Ascending.
9. Malta has been ruled by many empires over its history.
Malta has been conquered and colonized by a succession of regional powers. Each left enduring cultural, linguistic and architectural imprints on the islands. Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, the Knights of St John, French and British have all called Malta their own. These layered influences make the archipelago a microcosm of the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians founded the first settlements on Malta around 800 BC, drawn by its strategic location and sheltered harbors. The Romans followed them in 218 BC, introducing laws, infrastructure and Christianity. Arab rulers conquered Malta in 870 AD, imparting new agricultural techniques and vocabulary while Islamizing the populace. The Arabs were ejected by Count Roger of Normandy in 1091, leading to Christianization policies and the establishment of Norman governance. After another Arab occupation, Swabian and Angevin rule eventually gave way to the Knights of St John in 1530.
The famed crusading order Malta, its iconic fortifications and Baroque character. Napoleonic forces ousted the Knights in 1798 before Britain seized the islands in 1800, securing naval dominance of the Mediterranean. Britain expanded the dockyards and modernized institutions and heavily influenced Malta's development up to independence in 1964. This continuous churn of civilizations ruling Malta has spawned an exceptional fusion of cultural influences. Hybrid architecture combines Arab and Norman design features. The Maltese language melds Arabic and Romance elements. Cuisine, festivals and place names all bear imprints of this complex past. Centuries of conquest and exchange between more considerable powers have molded Malta's identity. It is a proud amalgam of history and heritage from Europe and North Africa.
10. There are more tourists than residents
Malta's size and population are popular as a tourist destination. The Mediterranean archipelago welcomes over 2 million visitors annually—nearly five times its resident population of under 500,000. This influx descends primarily between April and October when travelers flock to Malta to enjoy 300 days of sunshine, beaches, heritage sites and nightlife. During peak season, tourists can outnumber locals by ten or more in popular resort towns like Sliema, St. Julian's and Bugibba. The sheer volume of tourists cramming onto Malta has given rise to “over-tourism”. Limited infrastructure struggles to keep pace with visitor numbers, especially regarding roads, waste management and water supply. Popular sites like Mdina, Valletta and Gozo face chronic congestion from tourist crowds and tour groups. The overdevelopment of hotels and apartments catering to tourists has impacted the community's character and increased housing costs.
Tourism has fueled prosperity in Malta, but its unchecked growth increasingly impacts residents' quality of life. Locals compete with free-spending foreigners for everything from restaurant tables to beach space. Community events and heritage sites become backdrops for visitor selfies rather than living culture—some question whether Malta may be loved to death by its popularity. Ongoing efforts to spread tourism across seasons, promote cultural authenticity and focus growth outside congested hotspots remain vital to ensuring tourism sustainability and respect for this small island's inherent limits.
11. The Maltese islands have 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Malta packs an outsized cultural heritage into its small archipelago, as demonstrated by 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the sublime underground cemetery of the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, the monumental megalithic temples dating back over 5,500 years and the magnificently fortified capital Valletta—each representing Maltese ingenuity. The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum provides a window into Malta’s mysterious prehistory. This labyrinthine complex of rock-cut burial chambers reaching three underground levels was hewn out of the limestone over 2,000 years from 3,600 BC onwards. The interconnecting halls, nooks and passages create an astounding underground temple housing the remains of over 7,000 Stone and Copper Age people.
The Megalithic Temples of Malta showcase the advanced engineering capabilities of Malta’s early inhabitants. Built between 3,600 and 2,500 BC, these freestanding stone complexes feature elaborate stonework, astronomy-based alignments and oracular chambers. With construction predating even the Egyptian pyramids, the temples of Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra and Tarxien rank among the most ancient freestanding structures worldwide. Valletta represents the apogee of 16th-century military architecture. Built by the Knights of St John after the Great Siege of 1565, this fortified city is one of the finest examples of Baroque urban planning anywhere. Its 320 monuments make it one of Earth’s most historic-dense urban areas. Malta’s three World Heritage Sites encapsulate 7,000 years of Mediterranean history, architecture and spirituality into a visitor experience as concentrated as it is unforgettable.
12. There is an extensive underground tunnel network below Valletta.
Valletta sits atop a vast hidden maze of tunnels, shelters, vaults and passageways – a literal “underground city” serving defensive, logistical and civilian functions for over 450 years. The first tunnels were dug in 1565 during the Great Siege of Malta, enabling troop movements and munition/food storage. As Valletta developed, an advanced sewage system was built underground along with water cisterns and grain silos essential for sustaining the population during sieges. Sections of this network date back to the 16th-century Knights of St John. Successive generations expanded Valletta's subterranean spaces for new needs. The British added an underground railway in 1883 to transport goods and commuters. Most crucially, during WWII's heavy bombing, Valletta's tunnels sheltered around 40,000 civilians.
Some residents even dug personal bunkers under homes that remain today. Thousands of carved graffiti, sacred images and artifacts in these tunnels and shelters testify to the community that endured years underground. Valletta's multi-level maze encompasses natural caves, aqueducts, wartime bunkers, rail tunnels, barracks and more – all weaving an astounding underground city within a city. The total tunnel length is unknown but likely exceeds many kilometers. Discoveries still occur periodically. Heritage Malta offers public tours of restored areas like the Lascaris War Rooms.
13. Traditional Maltese cuisine features rabbit stew and local honey.
Maltese cuisine is a reflection of the island's rich history and cultural influences, with traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations. One of the most iconic Maltese dishes is the rabbit stew, locally known as “Stuffat tal-Fenek”. This dish is deeply rooted in Maltese culinary tradition and is often considered the national dish of Malta. The preparation of rabbit stew involves a slow-cooking process that tenderizes the rabbit meat and melts the flavors of the various ingredients. The hash typically includes a base of onions and garlic, which are sautéed until fragrant and then the rabbit pieces are browned in the mixture. Red wine is a crucial ingredient, adding depth and richness to the sauce, while a bay leaf, beef bouillon, nutmeg, tomato paste and a touch of sugar contribute to the complexity of the dish's flavor profile. Potatoes and carrots are common additions, providing substance and sweetness and peas are often included for color and texture. The result is a hearty and comforting stew traditionally enjoyed with crusty Maltese bread or fried potatoes, making it a staple at family gatherings and local fiestas.
Maltese honey is another culinary treasure with a history that dates back to ancient times. The name Malta is believed to have originated from the Greek word “Melite” or the Roman “Melita”, meaning “honey-sweet”, a testament to the island's long-standing association with honey production. Maltese honey is unique due to the diverse flora of the islands, which imparts distinct flavors to the honey produced at different times of the year. Beekeepers in Malta harvest spring Multi-flora Honey in May, Wild Thyme Honey in July and autumn honey from Carob and eucalyptus by the end of November 2. The Maltese Queen Bee, Apis Mellifera Ruttneri, is an endemic species that evolved in isolation from mainland Europe, contributing to the distinctive characteristics of Maltese honey. This honey is a sweetener and an integral part of Maltese gastronomy, used in various dishes and pastries, such as the delicate Zeppoli Ta' San Guzepp. It is also valued for its healing properties, particularly in treating colds. The honey production in Malta is a craft that reflects the island's biodiversity and the skill of its beekeepers, making it a sought-after product among locals and visitors alike.
14. Roman Catholicism is the main religion – 98% of Maltese.
Catholicism's roots in Malta stretch back to the 1st century AD when St. Paul brought Christianity to the islands after being shipwrecked here. Maltese remains among the most devoutly Catholic societies globally, with 98% of the population identifying as Catholic per the country's 2021 census. Roman Catholicism is also constitutionally enshrined as Malta's state religion, granting the Church extensive privileges and influence. This Catholic identity permeates Maltese culture and daily life. Over 90% of Maltese children attend Catholic schools, with religious classes compulsory. Church attendance rates still top 35% weekly, far exceeding most European countries. Each town celebrates an elaborate feast for its patron saint, blending sacred and folk traditions. Malta's calendar revolves around Catholic holy days like Christmas and Easter. Even secular events often incorporate religious elements – for example, village fiestas feature elaborate church decorations and processions with saint statues despite their carnivalesque atmosphere. The prominence of
Catholicism also impacts Malta's politics and social policies. Divorce and abortion remain illegal, reflecting Church stances. Catholic morality shaped past censorship and blasphemy laws, which were only repealed recently. Malta has pioneered LGBTQ rights, support for same-sex marriage and similar liberal reforms split heavily along religious lines. An increasingly secular youth challenges Church conservatism on issues like birth control access.
15. Malta enjoys over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.
Malta enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Over 75% of Malta's annual rainfall occurs between October and March. Summers in June, July and August are usually quite dry. Malta receives ample sunshine at this time, averaging 11-12 hours per day in July. Daily temperature ranges are limited and extreme hot or cold temperatures are rare. The Maltese landscape is dominated by low hills with terraced fields on the slopes. The western side of the main island of Malta consists primarily of steep, rocky cliffs up to 243 meters (800 feet) high, indented by bays and capes, while the eastern side slopes more gently to the sea. The island's highest point, Ta' Dmejrek, reaches only 252 meters (830 feet).
There are a few small seasonal rivers and streams but no permanent lakes or rivers. Some watercourses have fresh water flowing year-round. Malta has typical Mediterranean vegetation and wildlife. Forests were cut down long ago, but some stands of carob, olive and pine trees remain. Garigue, a low-growing Mediterranean scrub, blankets limestone plateaus. The coastlines are very rocky, with sandy beaches in the north. The surrounding seas host a variety of marine life. The Maltese islands have been inhabited since around 5900 BC. Their strategic central Mediterranean location has given them great historical importance, with many powers contesting and ruling the islands over the millennia. This has left a rich cultural legacy. Malta is a densely populated European nation heavily reliant on tourism, financial services and trade today.
16. The seas surrounding Malta are crystal clear blue and green.
The seas surrounding the Maltese islands are famous for their crystal clear blue-green waters and rich marine life. Malta boasts some of the cleanest seawater in the Mediterranean, with underwater visibility frequently reaching 50 meters (164 feet) or more. The islands' location in the center of the Mediterranean helps minimize runoff and pollution that can reduce clarity. The various seascapes around Malta and Gozo include sheer cliffs, underwater caves, sandy bays, seagrass meadows and rocky reefs. This diversity of habitats supports a mix of marine species. Brightly colored sponges, sea fans and soft corals cling to the cliffs and reefs while seagrass fields sway with the currents, providing shelter for fish. Octopuses, groupers, breams, wrasses, barracudas and tuna patrol the reefs while stingrays and eagle rays glide over the sandy bottom. Loggerhead turtles come ashore in summer to lay their eggs on Malta's beaches. Seabirds like shearwaters and storm petrels nest on Filfla and other uninhabited islets.
The clear waters provide excellent visibility for divers and snorkelers. St. Peter's Pool, the Blue Lagoon on Comino and the marine-protected Dwejra area on Gozo are famous snorkeling spots where visitors can observe the underwater scenery and marine life. Wrecks like the Rozi tugboat and the Um El Faroud tanker have become artificial reefs encrusted with coral, attracting fish schools. Malta's marine environment remains relatively healthy; climate change, pollution, overfishing and habitat loss pose threats. Conservation efforts aim to safeguard vulnerable species and habitats for future generations. Responsible tourism practices are also promoted to preserve the islands' precious natural heritage.
17. Malta's traditional breakfast is Eggs and Tomatoes (Balbuljata).
Balbuljata is a simple scrambled egg dish with eggs, tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs like parsley or mint. It is considered a traditional breakfast meal in Malta. To make balbuljata, tomatoes are chopped and cooked down with onions and garlic in olive oil until the tomato liquid evaporates. Beaten eggs are poured over the tomato-onion mixture, seasoned with salt and pepper and continuously stirred over low heat until the eggs are set but still moist. Parsley or mint is then stirred in before serving. Balbuljata is appreciated for its simplicity, flavor and quick preparation. The dish highlights Mediterranean ingredients like olive oil, tomatoes, onions, eggs and herbs. It can be made easily at home but is also commonly served at cafes and restaurants for breakfast in Malta, often accompanied by Maltese bread. Some variations on the traditional balbuljata recipe include adding diced potato to cook with the onions, using corned beef or bacon, adding milk or cream to the eggs and topping with local Maltese cheeses like ġbejniet or peppered cheeselets. But the basic scrambled egg and tomato combination remains at the heart of this beloved Maltese breakfast specialty.
18. The Maltese language sounds like a blend of Arabic and Italian.
The Maltese language is a linguistic hybrid, combining elements of Arabic and Romance languages like Italian and Sicilian. This fusion reflects Malta's complex history as a strategic Mediterranean crossroads subject to Arab, Norman, Spanish, French and British rule over the centuries. The core vocabulary and grammar of Maltese are derived from Siculo-Arabic, the Arabic dialect introduced when Arab forces conquered Malta in 870 AD. One-third of modern Maltese words trace direct Arabic roots related to basic concepts and ideas. This includes numbers, days of the week, colors, nature terms and more. The sound system also retains Semitic features like trilled /r/ sounds and emphatic consonants. An extensive Romance influence is superimposed on this Arabic base, chiefly from Sicilian and Italian. Successive waves of Italian and Sicilian rule, trade and migration have left an indelible imprint through vocabulary absorption. Over 40% of Maltese words are of Italian/Sicilian origin, spanning fields from governance to food, arts, fashion and daily life.
The languages share similar sounding words and phrases like “grazzi” (thanks), “bjon” (good) and “ġurnata” (day). Everyday exposure means many Maltese can understand and even converse in Italian. This influence also lent Maltese its alphabet, which is based on the Latin script instead of Arabic. English has also augmented the lexicon under British colonial rule. Maltese thus bridges Arabic and Romance traits in a unique blend. Its consonant-rich vocabulary and vocalic internal plurals reflect its Semitic origins. This singular encapsulates Malta's cultural fusion at the crossroads of Europe and North Africa. The Maltese language has become a proud testament to the islands' history.
19. Over 20% of Malta's land is protected nature reserves.
Malta has designated over 92 square kilometers (35 square miles) of land across its islands as protected areas, representing 29.12% of the total land area. This includes 55 sites recognized as part of the EU's Natura 2000 network and over 200 nationally protected sites. Significant places like the Ramsar Wetlands Convention have also been designated under international conventions. The protected areas encompass diverse habitats – from coastal cliffs, garigue limestone plateaus, saline marshlands, dunes and forest remnants to freshwater pools and valleys. Many sites harbor unique endemic species of flora and fauna adapted to Malta's isolated island conditions. Examples include the national flower Widnet il-Baħar (Maltese Rock-centaury), the Maltese Pyramidal Orchid and the Maltese Wall Lizard. Key protected areas include the Majjistral and Għadira Nature Parks, Salina and Pembroke Coastal Wetlands, the Natura 2000 sites of Il-Ballut (Marsaxlokk), Il-Magħluq (Marsascala) and Il-Maqluba (Qrendi) and the island nature reserves of Filfla, St Paul's Islands and Fungus Rock off Gozo. Conservation aims to safeguard Malta's unique but threatened biodiversity. Pressures include limited land area, urbanization, tourism, pollution, invasive species and climate change; however, expanding protected areas, restoring habitats, managing visitor access and promoting sustainability help preserve these natural havens and genetic reservoirs for Malta's endemic wildlife. Public education also raises appreciation of this vital natural heritage.
20. Malta has its endemic plants, animals and bee species.
Malta's isolated island environment has given rise to several unique endemic species found nowhere else in the world. Over 20 endemic plants occur, like the national flower Widnet il-Baħar (Maltese Rock-centaury), the rare Ħabb il-Baħar (Sea daffodil) and species of sea lavender, orchids and alliums adapted to the coastal garigue habitat. Endemic fauna includes the Maltese wall lizard, door snail, freshwater crab, over ten insects like the Maltese ruby tiger moth and even a unique subspecies of a shrew. The endemic Maltese honey bee (Apis mellifera ruttneri) also occurs. It likely diverged from mainland honey bees after the last glacial maximum when Malta became isolated by rising seas. Uniquely adapted to Malta's increasingly hot, arid summers, it differs genetically and behaviorally from other Apis mellifera subspecies. The Varroa mite devastated Maltese honey bee populations in the 1990s, requiring imported bees and leading to genetic dilution.
Conservation efforts now aim to preserve this unique insect and its adaptations. These endemic species showcase how isolation and unique environmental pressures can drive evolutionary divergence, giving rise to novel forms. Malta's extensive urbanization also threatens its highly localized distributions. Expanding protected areas, habitat restoration, sustainable policies and public education are crucial to safeguarding these genetic treasures – living reminders of Malta's rich natural heritage. Their preservation allows us to understand evolution better while maintaining an ethical stewardship of the islands' unique biodiversity.
21. Gozo is home to the Ggantija Temples, older than Stonehenge.
Gozo has a rich history dating back over 7,000 years. Some of the earliest evidence of human settlement in the Maltese islands has been found in Gozo, with pottery fragments dating back to around 5,000 BC discovered in caves in the northwestern part of the island. Gozo is home to the Ggantija Temples, megalithic temples built between 3,600 BC and 3,000 BC. The temples are among the oldest freestanding structures in the world and provide insight into the cultural and religious practices of Gozo's early inhabitants. Gozo shares Malta's diverse cultural legacy shaped by the various civilizations that have ruled the islands over the centuries, like the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Knights of St. John, French and British. Traditional Gozitan cultural practices reflect the island's agricultural past and strong religious traditions.
Gozo is known for its springtime carnival festivals with colorful costumes, floats and street celebrations. The island also holds elaborate religious feast days dedicated to patron saints of local villages and parishes. These involve processions, fireworks displays, horse races and musical performances. Two longstanding rival band clubs in Gozo have run competing opera houses on the island since the 19th century. These opera houses host productions and arrangements for the local community. Crafts like lace making and glass blowing are important in Gozitan cultural tradition and remain actively practiced on the island today. Gozo's cuisine also reflects local history and culture, showcasing Mediterranean and North African influences and fresh local produce like seafood, cheese, tomatoes and wine.
22. Valletta was named after the knight Jean Parisot de la Valette.
Valletta was founded in 1566 by Jean Parisot de Valette, the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, after the Great Siege of 1565. De Valette realized that the Order needed a well-fortified base, so he commissioned the construction of a new city on the Sciberras Peninsula between two natural harbors. Valletta built on a grid system based on the plans of Italian military architect Francesco Laparelli. The town features impressive Baroque palaces, churches and public buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries when it was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller. As the Order's seat of power, Valletta attracted not only knights but also artisans, merchants and other workers. The city reflects the cultural exchange between the knights and these inhabitants. Valletta's architecture blends Mediterranean, North African and European influences. The town also became a cultural hub filled with palaces, theaters, schools and churches financed by the knights and wealthy inhabitants.
Valletta still hosts events showcasing performing arts, especially in historic venues like the Manoel Theatre, one of Europe's oldest working theaters. Valletta endured wars and sieges as European powers like France and Britain vied to control this strategic port. The city withstood heavy bombing in World War II. Valletta preserves its history as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With baroque architecture and a blend of Mediterranean cultures, it remains a popular tourist destination. Valletta also serves as Malta's administrative and commercial capital and is a cultural center for the arts.
23. Malta enjoys the best climate in the world
Malta enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Summers are very sunny, with 12 hours of daily sunshine on average. Temperatures frequently exceed 30°C (86°F) from June to September. The sea temperature reaches 27°C (80.6°F) in August, making swimming comfortable for much of the summer. There is little rainfall in summer. Winters see lower temperatures around 15-17°C (59-62 °F). Rain picks up during winter, especially from October to January. Winter days still average 5-6 hours of sunshine. Snow is rare in Malta, with the last snowfall recorded in 1962.
On an annual basis, Malta averages nearly 3,000 hours of sunshine. This makes it one of the sunniest places in Europe. Temperatures are also very mild year-round thanks to the moderating influence of the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. The average annual high temperature in Malta is 22.8°C (73.04°F). Winds predominately come from the northwest, as Malta lies in the westerly wind belt. Hot sirocco winds blowing from the Sahara Desert in Africa occasionally bring high temperatures and dusty conditions. The windiest months run from October to February, aligning with the rainy season.
24. Malta's Car Obsession
Malta has one of the highest car ownership rates in the world, with over 400,000 private vehicles registered on the islands. This obsession with cars has led to severe traffic congestion, especially around urban areas like Valletta. Limited road infrastructure and lack of public transport have exacerbated the problem. The islands host various classic car shows that attract experts locally and abroad. High car dependence has negative environmental and social impacts. Transport accounts for over 20% of Malta's carbon emissions. Noise and air pollution from excessive traffic affect the quality of life. Solutions lie in promoting alternative mobility options to shift car users' behaviors and perceptions. Expanding the public transport system with more routes and frequencies can make buses a viable everyday option versus private cars.
They share mobility services like car sharing, bike sharing and ride-hailing, which offer practical tools to discourage personal car ownership. Urban planning policies prioritizing walking, cycling and public transport over private vehicles can also help. Congestion charges, limited traffic zones and city parking restrictions reinforce the need to use alternative modes. Continued investment in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure will help Malta meet its climate commitments. A multi-pronged approach across policy, culture change and technology is imperative for Malta to curb its unsustainable car obsession in the long run. The government, businesses and the public must collaborate to integrate transport.
How did Malta get its name?
The origin of the name “Malta” is uncertain, with several theories proposed. The most common etymology suggests that the term Malta is derived from the Greek word μέλι, Meli, which means “honey”. The ancient Greeks referred to the island as Μελίτη (Melitē), meaning “honey-sweet”, possibly due to Malta's unique production of honey by an endemic subspecies of bees. Another theory posits that Malta comes from the Phoenician word Maleth, which translates to “a haven” or “port”. This theory is supported by the fact that the Phoenicians were known to be great sailors and traders and they might have named the island Malet, meaning shelter or haven. The island was a significant trading post linking southern Italy and Sicily to Tripolitania during the late 4th century BC, under the hegemony of Carthage, a Phoenician colony. The term Malta in its present form appears in the Antonine Itinerary, a famous Roman itinerary detailing the destinations along the Roman military road system. The Romans called the island “Melita”, a variation of the Greek “Melite”.The modern-day interpretation of the name is derived from the Maltese language, which was shaped mainly by Arabic, specifically Sicilian Arabic. The island's name is believed to be of Maltese origin, reflecting the linguistic and cultural influences of the various powers that have contested and ruled the islands throughout history, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French and British.
What language do they speak in Malta?
The primary language in Malta is Maltese, the national and official language. Maltese is a Semitic language derived from Siculo-Arabic that developed on Malta and Gozo between the 9th and 13th centuries when Arabs ruled the islands. It incorporated many words from Sicilian, Italian, French and English due to the influences of subsequent powers that ruled the islands, Maltese uses a Latin alphabet; about half of its vocabulary is derived from Sicilian and Italian. It also contains influences from English, French and other languages. Maltese is spoken fluently as a first language by almost all native Maltese people on the islands. The 2019 census showed that 98.9% of the population speaks Maltese. It is used in all official government business and documents alongside English. Maltese is also the primary language in the islands' education, media, literature and daily life. Efforts have been made to standardize written Maltese and dictionary compilation started in the 20th century. English is also an official language widely used as a second language in Malta. About 88% of Malta's population speaks English, which was inherited from British colonial rule between 1800 and 1964. English is used as a language of instruction at higher levels of education and international business. A unique dialect of Maltese English has emerged that contains influences from Italian vocabulary and pronunciations.
What is the symbol of Malta?
The most recognizable symbol of Malta is undoubtedly the Maltese cross. Introduced by the Knights of St. John (the Knights Hospitaller) when they took over the Maltese islands in 1530, the eight-pointed white cross on a red background remains closely tied to Malta's identity and is seen everywhere today. It appears on coins, the tail of Air Malta planes, the Maltese euro coins and various locations in Valletta's capital. The Maltese cross evolved from earlier crosses associated with Amalfi in Italy. It remains the enduring symbol of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the modern-day successor to the medieval Knights Hospitaller. The George Cross medal, instituted by King George VI, appears on the modern flag of Malta. It was awarded to the islands for heroism displayed during World War II. On the flag, the George Cross is depicted in gray edged with red and sits in the upper hoist (left) corner, with the red and white stripes making up the rest of the flag. Malta's national coat of arms consists of a shield with the George Cross on the same red and white striped background as the flag. The shield is topped by a mural crown and surrounded by an olive branch, a palm branch and a ribbon with the country's name. Other symbols associated with Malta include the Blue Rock Thrush (national bird), the Maltese Centaury flower (national plant), the Pharaoh Hound dog breed (national animal) and a Sicilian Fir tree (national tree). Saint Paul, Saint Publius and Saint Agatha are honored as patron saints. The country also has national colors (red and white) and a national motto, “Virtute et Constantia” (With Strength and Consistency).
Why should you visit Malta?
Malta offers five reasons to visit the country. Firstly, Malta's warm Mediterranean climate is one of the main reasons it's a perfect year-round destination. It has around 300 days of sunshine annually and visitors can enjoy the sun, beaches and sightseeing anytime. The summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild, making the weather ideal for everyone. Secondly, Malta boasts a rich history and culture that spans over 7,000 years. Visitors can explore sites from the Neolithic period, Bronze Age temples, Roman settlements, medieval cities, Baroque architecture and British colonial influences. The capital, Valletta and several temples are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, offering visitors a glimpse into the country's fascinating past. Visitors can enjoy art, architecture and history while exploring Malta. Thirdly, Malta's unique cuisine blends Sicilian, North African and British flavors, making it a must-visit place for food lovers. Local specialties like rabbit stew, lampuki fish, pastizzi pastries and cheeses are mouthwatering. Malta also produces excellent wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, making it a perfect spot for wine lovers. Fourthly, Malta is an excellent diving spot that provides superb diving opportunities with excellent underwater visibility, wrecks, caves and reefs to explore. The clear blue waters also allow swimming, sailing and other water sports, making it perfect for anyone who enjoys water activities. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving and other water activities in Malta.
Lastly, the Maltese people are known for their hospitality and most speak English, making it easy for tourists to enjoy their stay. Accommodation and dining in Malta offer great value compared to other European destinations, making it a perfect spot for budget-conscious travelers. Visitors to Malta can enjoy their stay without breaking the bank.
Is the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum located in Malta?
Yes, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is located in Malta. It is in Paola, a town near the Grand Harbor of the capital city, Valletta, on the main island of Malta. The Hypogeum is an underground burial complex consisting of interconnected rock-cut chambers on three levels, carved out of limestone over 5,000 years ago during Malta's Neolithic period. It was discovered in 1902 and is believed to have been used first as a sanctuary and later as a necropolis from 4000 BC to around 2500 BC. The Hypogeum is considered a unique monument and one of Malta's most significant archaeological sites. Its labyrinth of halls, chambers and passages covers 500 square meters (5381 square feet). It also contains well-preserved pottery remains, human bones, personal ornaments and carved stone decorations.
In 1980, the Hypogeum was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which describes it as bearing “unique testimony to a civilization that has disappeared”. Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is considered one of the popular cultural attractions in Malta and a symbol of its rich prehistoric heritage.
Does Malta have beaches?
Yes, Malta does have beaches, although they tend to be rocky stretches of coast rather than long sandy beaches. The islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino in the Mediterranean Sea offer a range of beaches and bays for visitors to enjoy. The northern part of the main island of Malta has some of the most popular sandy beaches, such as Mellieha Bay, Għajn Tuffieha Bay (also known as Golden Bay) and Paradise Bay. These beaches have fine golden sand and gentle slopes into the clear blue sea, making them well-suited for swimming and sunbathing. They offer sunbeds, umbrellas, food kiosks and water sports rentals during summer. Beyond the main sandy beaches, Malta has numerous smaller rocky shores and bays tucked around its coastline. The islands have limestone cliffs leading to secluded rocky swimming spots like Fomm ir-Riħ on Malta's west coast and San Blas Bay on Gozo. These off-the-beaten-track pebble beaches have incredible azure waters and a quieter beach experience. The most famous beach in Malta is the Blue Lagoon on the small island of Comino, between Malta and Gozo. This stunning lagoon has bright turquoise waters, white sand and good tourist facilities. Boat trips regularly take visitors to enjoy the Blue Lagoon's beauty.
Does Malta have castles?
Yes, the most prominent castle is Fort St Angelo, located in Birgu. Initially built in the medieval period, it was rebuilt into a bastioned fortress by the Knights of St John to defend Malta, especially during the Great Siege of 1565. The fort has significant historical value and good views over the Grand Harbour. Other notable castles in Malta include the Citadel in Victoria, Gozo, which dates back to medieval times but was later updated into a gunpowder fort. There is also the 18th-century Castello Dei Baroni palace in Wardija and the 16th-century Verdala Palace near Rabat, although the latter is mainly used as the official residence of Malta's president. Several towers and relatively modern country houses are sometimes called “castles”, like the privately owned Zammitello Palace, the dilapidated Bubaqra Tower and the destroyed Chateaux Bertrand.
Is it expensive to visit Malta?
No, Malta can be affordable, depending on budget and preferences. Prices in Malta generally cheaper than many other European countries, though more inexpensive than some Eastern European destinations. Visitors can find budget accommodation options like hostels starting at €30 ($32, £26) per night. Simple Airbnbs and guesthouses are priced between €50 ($54, £43) to €100 ($109, £86) per night. Maltan foods like local Maltese street snacks like pastizzi cost €1 ($1, £0.87) each. Visiting Malta needs proper planning on accommodation and food. Budget-conscious travelers can still enjoy the city without breaking the bank. The expenses seem worth it to many visitors who want to see Malta's beautiful sites.
What are the most popular holiday dates in Malta?
Malta has the four most popular holiday dates. These are Christmas Day, Easter Week, the Feast of St Peter and St Paul and the Feast of the Assumption. Firstly, the Christmas period from late December to early January is a major holiday celebration in Malta, with Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day all being public holidays. Locals attend midnight mass, decorate homes, exchange gifts and celebrate family feasts. Secondly, Easter Week, spanning late March to April, sees notable religious observances around Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Malta's Holy Week traditions include solemn church services, religious processions carrying statues of Jesus and Mary and stations of the cross enactments. Thirdly, the Feast of St Peter and St Paul on 29th June honors Malta’s patron saints with a public holiday. The tradition celebrates the arrival of St. Paul in Malta after his shipwreck. Grand Harbor boat races, church services and fireworks mark this national feast day. Lastly, the Feast of the Assumption on 15th August celebrates the Virgin Mary’s ascent into heaven and is an essential date in the Catholic calendar. Locals observe the public holidays in Malta by attending mass, holding village festas and band marches, lighting fireworks and coming together with loved ones.
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