For the duration of 268 years, the Knights of St. John were in Malta. They left behind them a great legacy of luxurious palaces, gardens, churches, fortifications, watch towers and various outstanding monuments.
Through their shear wealth, lavish architecture and dedication of rebuilding their base in Malta, their main objective was to prepare the island to withstand any attacks from the Ottoman Empire.
They completely transformed the islands from
its poor state to a time of great prosperity. This was reflected automatically
on the local population and across the Maltese islands.
Being at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, our islands have seen numerous battles fought by different foreign rulers but the unique legacy of the knights was the first of them all.
Today many of these prominent buildings are open to the public. The great majority are still standing. During the last 40 years there has been a big drive to revamp these buildings especially palaces which are used as government administration buildings.
The many kilometer length of fortifications which brought with them a greater pride to our local heritage and appreciation of what we have around us.
While visiting you have the opportunity to see many of what is mentioned in this page. We highlight the most important of their heritage.
This magnificent and beautiful building at the centre of the capital was the Grand Master’s official residence. The very central building of the order which is very richly embellished with works of art and continued to be embellished by successive Grand Masters. It was always destined to show the greatness of their legacy. Today it is the seat of the President of Malta.
Within you also find the armoury of the knights where they used to keep the numerous armour and weapons collection from the 17th to the 18th collection stored ready to be used during any attach. Today it is open to the public
Related Tour: Majestic Valletta Half Day Tour - The walking tour will help you discover something behind every corners of the capital. This is a great tour that is taken by the majority of tourists.
The theatre was the original idea of Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena, where by time it took his name as a tribute. He was concerned about the moral welfare of the knights and wished to provide them with decent leisure activities. It is a real jewel of beauty located in Old Theatre Street built in 1731 and still a unique one in Europe for being still in operation.
Today there are performances from October till May from plays, pantomimes, dances and music. A museum has been opened to the public to show the collection of memorabilia that shows the diverse history of this theatre.
The dream of the knights was to build a capital that will be talked about all over Europe for many years. The smallest capital in Europe with 330 monuments. It is called by many an open-air museum and in 1980 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The fortifications were designed and built by the best military engineers of the time. They also introduced modern services for sewers and later brought fresh water to the capital with great engineering feats by aqueducts and water culverts.
The co-cathedral guided with gold, marble and artworks from head to toe. The most amazing church within the capital Valletta. Included with your visit is the museums where you can see 29 colourful and dramatic tapestries that were made to line the nave of the co-cathedral.
In the side chapel you find the most famous painting the 'Beheading of St. John the Baptist' by the famous artist Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610), known as Caravaggio.
Visitors need to cover their shoulders and knees. A special requirement as heels are not permitted due to the intricate marble floor of the tombstones.
Once the fortifications were completed the Knights already had plans to move their administration and living quarters to the new capital. They planned eight auberges one for each langue as they were from different territories around Europe.
Today only five survived. Two of them are open to the public, The National Museum of Archaeology in Republic Street and the MUZA the National Museum of Fine Arts in Merchants Street.
The most impressive is the Auberge de Castille we have the offices of the Maltese Prime Minister. Built very prominently on the highest location of Valletta overlooking the Grand Harbour.
The new capital was to be built on the central peninsula to guard the two natural harbours where the knights had their fleet and headquarters at Birgu temporarily until Valletta was completed. The fortifications were top priority since, from experience of the Great Siege of 1565 just fought a few years earlier, these fortifications were very essential.
They were designed by the top military engineers
of the time with the most modern tactical designs to oppose any future attacks
by the Ottoman Empire. They took five years to build with a working force of
around 5000 workers.
The Knights of St. John had a mission of providing care for the sick, poor and injured pilgrims that visited the Holy Land from as early as 1099. This is shown by the incredible hospital built within Valletta very close to the port to give medical care to injuries of war and whoever was sick.
Today the building has been transformed as an international conference centre. It is possible to see parts of this 350 year old hospital through an augmented reality museum and The Malta Experience.