Malta is a Mediterranean Sea island that is small, serene, and full of unexpected surprises. With a legendary history, a unique mix of population, and cultural richness, it comes as no surprise that Malta houses some of the best places with a colorful history.
Here is a post that explores all the interesting facts about Malta related to its history, culture, and tourist destinations.
Also Read: Hiking in Malta – The Best Trails To Explore
Malta was ruled by several empires in the past, making it a historically-rich place with colors from all around the world. Here are 10 interesting facts about Malta concerning its history.
1. Malta used to be a part of Europe
The Maltese islands were formerly a single landmass that connected modern-day Malta to Sicily and maybe mainland Italy about 17,000 years ago.
2. The Megalithic temples of Malta are older than Stonehenge
Megalithic temple ruins can be found in Malta and they are thought to be older than Stonehenge a pre-historic monument that was built 5000 years ago. The megalithic temples are assumed to be built between 3600BC and 3000BC, which puts them behind the Stonehenge era. It is believed that Stonehenge’s construction was inspired by these Megalithic temples of Malta.
3. The word “Malta” comes from the Greek dictionary
Malta comes from the Greek word called Malta Melite (honey-sweet), a probable allusion to the honey made by the endemic kind of bees found in Malta. However, it is not known with absolute certainty where the term Malta originated.
4. The Knights of St John ruled Malta
Charles V of Spain gave the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem command over Malta in 1530. They managed to defend the island from the Ottomans during the Great Siege in 1565, leaving a lasting impression on Maltese history.
The Maltese cross was eventually used to refer to the eight-point crusade cross that was connected to the Knights. They were ultimately forced to leave Malta with the arrival of Napoleon.
5. Christian Legacy
Malta has a long history of Christianity with Catholicism recognized as the main religion in Malta.
6. St. Paul’s shipwreck
The list of interesting facts about Malta can’t be complete without the shipwreck of St. Paul. The incident happened on the island in 60 A.D., according to the New Testament. As per legend, St. Paul was stranded in a big storm while en route to Rome to stand trial for being a rebel.
He swam to shore and sought shelter in a cave when the wreck happened at St. Paul’s Bay. After St. Paul healed the governor’s father of a fever, the Maltese people treated him well. From that moment forward, Malta became a Christian nation, and St. Paul continues to be regarded as its national emblem.
7. 11 foreign rulers ruled Maltas in the past 2000 years
In the past 2,000 years, Malta has had 11 different foreign rulers, who have left behind various artifacts that can be seen and appreciated all around the Maltese islands. The Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, Normans, Spanish, Sicilians, Knights Templars, French, and lastly the British all had empires that reigned over Malta at various times in history.
But now, Malta is a sovereign republic that separated itself from the British Empire in 1964. The country continues to be a member of the British Commonwealth.
8. The Mosta Dome survived World War II
One of Malta’s biggest churches, the Mosta Dome is noted for having the third-largest freestanding church dome in Europe. It remarkably survived the German bombing during World War 2.
A bomb weighing about 500 kg was dropped on the Mosta Dome on April 9, 1942, as 300 people were waiting for service. Despite having broken through the ceiling, it did not explode when it touched the ground. Even today, you can see a fake bomb in the back of the church.
9. Malta Houses 3 World Heritage Sites
Despite its small size, Malta is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Valletta, the al Saflieni Hypogeum, and the Megalithic Temples of Malta. The Coastal Cliffs, Victoria Citadel, Dwejra, Knights defenses around Malta’s harbor, Maltese Catacombs, Mdina, and the Victoria Lines fortifications are the seven sites that are now on the tentative list.
These locations are safeguarded by international law, preserved for the benefit of all nations, and regarded as being extremely important to humanity.
10. Home to Queen Elizabeth
The then-princess Elizabeth and her husband resided in Villa Guardamangia, an elegant mansion outside of Valletta, between 1949 and 1952. Since it was the only time during her marriage that Queen Elizabeth thought they could live as a “regular” couple, albeit in beautiful surroundings, she often speaks fondly of this period.
The home is not too far from the city’s center, but if you’re a Royalist with a few million dollars to spare, you can do even better because the house was put up for sale in 2019. So Malta is the ideal location if you want to live like a prince or princess.
If you are traveling to Malta, you are sure to come across these interesting facts about Malta.
1. Underground tunnels of Malta
Valletta has beautiful streets, but did you know that there is an extensive underground network of tunnels? It all began in 1565, during the Great Siege of Malta.
Both the Ottoman attackers and the Knights of St. John were creating tunnels to enter the city from below. After that, the Knights carried on digging tunnels for protection and creating freshwater cisterns below ground.
2. Tap water is safe for drinking
The fact that Malta filters its drinking water directly from the ocean is one of the country’s most intriguing facts. Reverse osmosis is used in Malta to turn ocean water into potable water. Although bottled water is favored by most residents, tap water is generally safe to drink.
3. The 3 Main islands of Malta
Malta actually consists of three separate islands. Around 32,000 people live in Gozo, whereas Comino is largely unpopulated. Both locations are well-liked day getaways from Malta and offer something unique from the main island.
On Gozo, you’ll discover some of the best swimming sites on the island as well as delectable regional cuisine. The Blue Lagoon and magnificent sea caves surround Comino.
You can take a ferry to Gozo from the ferry terminal at Ċirkewwa. It takes around 25 minutes on the ferry to reach Gozo and the ticket price starts from €4.65. You can book tickets online from Gozofastferry in advance.
4. 5,600 years old ruins in Gozo
On the island of Gozo, there is a temple complex that dates back to the Neolithic era. The enormous stones that form the walls of the Ggantija Temples give them their name. When the townspeople came across them, they could only conclude that giants had built the structures!
You can go to the two temples now and stroll around 3,600 B.C. remains. You can rent a car from a local shop to get to the temples.
5. Delicious Bakery Treats
Local bakeries play a significant role in the delicious cuisine that is well-known in Malta. Even though there were so many distinct types of bread and pastries to sample, Pastizzi and Qassatat stood out the most.
Pastizzi are typically filled with ricotta cheese or peas and are cooked hot and fresh in the oven, giving them a crisp flavor. Even though Qassatat is very different from pastizzi, it is excellent! It comes in pie style and combines several ingredients, including spinach, peas, and anchovies.
6. Game of Thrones Season 1 was shot in Malta
7. Home of the silent city
Mdina was first secured in 700 B.C. and once served as Malta’s capital. The ancient city, which was founded by the Phoenicians, is even mentioned in the life of St. Paul in the Bible.
You might mistakenly believe you are strolling through a museum rather than a modest fort because the walls and church are so well maintained. More than 200 people still reside in Mdina, yet there isn’t much going on during the day. But at night, you’ll be able to clearly see why Silent City earned its name.
8. Blue Lagoon paradise
The majority of the water surrounding Malta is Mediterranean blue. Although not fully translucent, the water is clear enough for swimming on any hot afternoon.
The Blue Lagoon is a sizable body of turquoise water that appears to have come straight out of a dream. As swimmers experience paradise, the region is crowded with boats and catamaran cruises. You can take a 30-minute ferry from Malta for around €5 to Blue Lagoon. You can book your ferry tickets to Blue Lagoon from Bluelagoonferry.com.
9. Cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua
The three different cities can be seen from Valletta when looking across the Grand Harbour. The historical development of Malta includes Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua just as much as other parts of the islands. Because of its participation in the Great Seige of 1565, Vittoriosa, which means “Victory” in English, was the Knights of St. John’s first residence.
The largest of the three cities is Cospicua, which is also the location of the renowned Church of Our Lady. Cospicua, in contrast to the other two cities, lies tucked away behind the converging peninsulas.
10. All Types of Beaches
There are a ton of cool swimming holes in Malta! In spite of some of the best locations being challenging to get to, Malta has every kind of beach imaginable. This island has it all, from the white beach to craggy cliffs and deep blue swimming holes!
Here are some interesting facts about Malta related to its culture.
1. Food-shaped birthmarks
If you notice pregnant women clutching their noses at random, don’t be surprised. According to their tradition, pregnant women must consume a small amount of whatever food they smell, or else the unborn child would bear a birthmark in the form of that food.
2. Maltese Treats
In the weeks leading up to Easter, Figola, almond-flavored iced biscuits, start to appear freshly cooked in bakeries all across the island. They frequently take the form of Christian symbols like a cross, fish, or heart.
As an alternative, Maltese sandwiches are available all year long. On thickly cut Maltese bread, this mixture of tomato paste, tuna, onion, and Mediterranean fruits like olives and capers is typically spread. A tasty and healthful dish is prepared in homes and restaurants all around the island by adding a little goat’s cheese.
3. There are two clocks in churches in Malta
This list of interesting facts about Malta will not leave out the unique tradition of hanging two clocks outside the churches. There are many churches on the island, and the external belfries of many of them contain two clocks. It might be best to avoid depending on these clocks because only the clock on the right will show the actual time. This is done to prevent the devil from joining Mass and to confuse him.
4. Maltese Carnivals
Although there are carnivals in many villages, Valletta hosts the best ones. These carnivals are some of the oldest events on the island, dating back to the time of the Knights of St. John. The four-day festivities have no theme besides “the brighter the better” and fill the streets with vibrant processions of balloons, costumes, dancing, and music.
5. Houses have horns on them
Older traditional homes and barns may have horns above the entrance as a good luck charm. And if that weren’t bad luck enough, tradition also says that sweeping at night is unlucky. Any dust that was swept from a house should be brushed towards the center of the road and outside the house. Then the threshold is marked with a line of sea salt.
6. ‘Extending the olive branch’ might not mean the same in Malta
In the Tbair tradition, little olive branches or leaves are burnt all about the house to drive out any evil that might be there. Tal-aar ibaar, a proverb that roughly translates to “the last one out burns the leaves,” is frequently used to describe tiresome and lengthy practices.
7. A country of opposites
Many people think of Malta as being a country of disagreement and opposites. The Maltese are often warm and inviting, although the Mediterranean temperament may be shown in oppositional behavior, especially in sports, politics, and local band groups.
Disagreement and taking sides provide a sense of identity and belonging; this is evident in Maltese culture, where opposition occasionally degenerates into conflict.
8. Local band marches
Annual band marches are organized by Maltese band groups and are a significant part of the village’s fiesta celebrations. While larger cities frequently have competing band clubs that frequently split the local population into two opposites, smaller villages typically only have one music club. However, conflict is uncommon and typically arises over the holiday season as friendly competition.
9. Maltese Craft
Craftsmanship runs deep in Maltese culture. They are masters at everything, including glass blowing and lace weaving. For an authentic crafting experience, go to Ta’ Qali in Malta or Ta’ Dbiegi in Gozo. The finished goods make unique gifts for your loved ones.
10. Local Feasts
Festi are regional feasts that honor the patrons of the community. Statues of attendees are paraded across the bustling town center during a typical Maltese Festa. Traditional drapes and lights line the streets, while spectacular fireworks fill the sky.
10 Generic Interesting facts
Here are some generic but very interesting facts about Malta.
1. Malta is a common filming location
Believe it or not, this tiny island is a popular choice for high-end films, with large blockbuster productions filming in a variety of settings throughout the islands. Scenes from TV shows like Game of Thrones, as well as films like Gladiator, World War Z, and Captain Philips, are mostly shot in Malta.
2. You can visit a different church every day
On any trip to the island, it is impossible to miss Malta’s Christian heritage, and there often seem to be more churches than residents. Although not exactly true, the country is overrun with churches, with 359 to be exact, including chapels, cathedrals, and basilicas.
3. Malta houses some unique animals
Malta is home to many indigenous plant and animal species, particularly bugs and insects, despite the fact that an island without woods and lakes could seem to be poor in wildlife. There are many species of this flora and fauna that are indeed endangered, but there are also many that have yet to receive the proper taxonomic classification, so we may soon be looking at even more Maltese animals.
4. Maltese football fans tend to support either Italy or England
Most Maltese people will support either England or Italy in a football match, if you ask them. Malta actually splits in two during World Cup or Euro events; England supporters typically watch the game in Bugibba, while Italy supporters would head to St. Julians.
5. For a population of 450 000, Malta has more than 300 000 registered cars
Indeed, Maltese people adore their cars. It is difficult to imagine how so many cars might fit on a 316 km island. However, it is rather typical for practically every family member to own a vehicle. In fact, many families would give their children an automobile as a gift when they were 18 years old.
Maltese people are notoriously indolent as a whole, and not having a car makes life quite challenging for them.
6. Children living with parents until marriage is very common
Children do not have to relocate away from home when they attend universities or colleges because of how small the island is; the distance hardly changes.
7. Maltese people speak 3 different languages
The influence of foreign languages in daily life is commonplace because the island has been conquered by so many different countries. There were just Maltese and Italian television stations broadcasting in Malta up to the 1990s. As a result, watching Italian cartoons helped many Maltese learn the language. The first national language of Malta is Maltese, with English as the second and Italian as the third.
8. Malta voluntarily joined the British Empire
Although it may not have been as easy as it seems, Malta chose to become a British colony rather than being compelled to do so when it came time to pick who would conquer it.
9. Everyone knows everything about everybody
For Maltese, gossip is like gas for a motor. It is almost impossible not to know about each other, even if you don’t care to learn any rumors. Word gets around too fast in Malta.
10. No Forests in Malta
Regrettably, forests are the one aspect of nature that Malta lacks. There is only one little woodland, known as Buskett. The word Boschetto, which means “small forest” in Italian, is where the name Buskett actually originates.
These were some interesting facts about Malta that we thought we’d share with everyone in an effort to better understand what makes Malta so unique. With so many colors to explore in Malta, be sure to visit this lovely place before the year ends. Check out our itinerary here!