The islands of Malta have a deep history just waiting to be discovered! On our recent visit, we found out so much information that it was almost overwhelming. How could so many interesting things happen in one small country?! With its strategic location between Europe and Africa, the Maltese culture, facts, and historic landmarks are endless. So how many of these wild and fun facts about Malta do you know?
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Malta Travel Inspiration
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25 Wild & Fun Facts About Malta
1. St. Paul Shipwrecked in Malta
The story of Malta can’t be told without St. Paul’s shipwreck. In the New Testament, the event took place on the island in 60 A.D. Legend has it, St. Paul was on his way to Rome to be tried as a rebel when he was caught in a giant storm.
The wreck happened around St. Pauls Bay where he swam to shore to take refuge in a cave. The Maltese people showed him great kindness after St. Paul cured the governor’s father of a fever. From this point on, Malta converted to Christianity and St. Paul still serves as their defining symbol.
2. Ocean Filtered Water
One of the most interesting facts about Malta is that they filter their drinking water straight from the ocean. Due to the country having no surface waters like lakes, rivers, or reservoirs they have to use the ocean as their source for freshwater.
Malta uses reverse osmosis to filter the ocean into safe drinking tap water. For this reason, some travelers do not like the taste. However, this Malta fact didn’t bother us!
3. Kinnie Drink
This soft drink made of orange and bitters is a national favorite in Malta. Everywhere you look at restaurants or the beach people are out enjoying a Kinnie. Our only recommendation is to drink it as cold as possible. If it’s even slightly warm Kinnie becomes a lot less appetizing!
4. Maltese Language
A Maltese fact you should know is that the language is one of the most diverse in the world. If you can believe it, it’s a mixture of Italian, Arabic, French, and English!
For example, you might hear Bongu (like Bonjour in French) for a good morning greeting or Ciao (Italian) for a goodbye. The language perfectly exemplifies their unique culture, and how the country has evolved over time.
5. Underground Tunnels of Valletta
You may be impressed by the stunning streets of Valletta, but did you know there’s actually a network of tunnels underground? It all started during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
Both the attacking Ottomans and Knights of St. John were digging tunnels to get underneath the city. Afterward, the Knights continued to build tunnels for defense purposes and created underground cisterns for fresh water.
The drainage systems were also seen as far more advanced than anywhere in Europe at the time. Once the British took control in the 1800’s they added a subterranean railway running from Valletta to suburbs outside of the city. This and other underground tunnels would eventually be used as air-raid shelters during WWII.
6. National Dish is Rabbit Stew
Rabbit anyone? Otherwise known as Stuffat tal-Fenek, the national dish of Malta has been enjoyed for centuries. In fact, Phonecians are said to have introduced rabbits to the island over 3,000 years ago!
The rabbit is prepared by simmering it in a tasty wine and tomato sauce. Typically it’s accompanied by potatoes and various vegetables. Although it’s not as popular these days, you can still find it at traditional restaurants around the country. And don’t worry, this won’t be the last fun fact about Malta and its food!
7. Malta was a British Colony
From 1814 to 1964 Malta was under the British Crown. It was an important colony for Great Britain as it served as the main command post for its navy in the Mediterranean. Nowadays, that’s the reason for driving on the other side of the road, an abundance of English pubs, and even bright red telephone booths scattered around Valletta.
8. Most Heavily Bombed Place in WWII
One of the not-fun facts about Malta is the terrible atrocities that took place during WWII. Due to its strategic location, Malta was one of the most bombed places on earth during this time. The relentless air raids happened from 1940-1942 at the hands of the Germans and Italians. There were over 3,300 air raids on Malta and more than 30,000 buildings destroyed.
At one point, Malta was bombed for 154 consecutive days and nights. Unfortunately, many of their most sacred churches and historical sites were destroyed. The fighting stopped in 1942 in Malta, but it would take them years to recover from the destruction.
9. Malta Has 3 Main Islands
Malta is not just one, but three different islands. Gozo has a population of around 32,000 and Comino is mostly uninhabited. Both places are popular day trips from Malta and present a different experience than the main island.
On Gozo, you’ll find some of the nicest swimming spots in the country and amazing local food. Comino has the Blue Lagoon and is surrounded by epic sea caves. So as you can see both of these islands are more than worth a boat trip!
10. Gozo Has 5,600 Year Old Ruins
Yes, you read that Malta fact right! Malta has a temple complex dating back to the Neolithic period on the island of Gozo. The Ggantija Temples get their names from the massive stones that make up their walls. When the locals discovered them they could only imagine the structures were built by giants!
Today you can visit the two temples and walk through ruins from 3,600 B.C. Still not impressed with these Maltese facts? This makes the Ggantija temples older than Stonehenge and even the Pyramids of Egypt!
11. Maltese in Australia
After the destruction of World War II, there was a great migration from Malta. Australia being part of the British Crown made it a much easier passage. The fact that it was English speaking and had a need for labor also played a huge part.
This migration boom resulted in a Maltese population down under that rivals even that of actual Malta. Today there are almost 200,000 people of Maltese descent in Australia.
12. Knights of St. John
Although these islands have been inhabited for thousands of years, what really brought Malta to prominence was the Knights of St. John. Once they were forced to leave Jerusalem and the island of Rhodes, they made a new home in Malta.
The Knights were given the land in 1530 by the King of Sicily (Charles I of Spain) and ruled it for over 250 years. They repelled many attacks from foreign powers but eventually fell to Napolean in 1798. The old cities are still filled with architecture from one of the world’s oldest religious orders.
13. How Valletta Got its Name
The Great Seige of 1565 was the most ferocious attempt by the Ottomans to take Malta. During the attack, the Turks reportedly outnumbered the Knights of St. John by over 30,000 soldiers!
With the defensive mind of Grandmaster Jean Parisot de Valette, they were able to hold out for over 3 months. Thereafter, the great walled city was called Valletta in his name.
14. Unique Bakery Treats
Malta is known for its great food and the local bakeries play a huge part in that. While there were so many different breads and pastries to try the ones that truly stuck out were Pastizzi and Qassatat.
Pastizzi is cooked hot and fresh in the oven giving it a crunchy taste and is usually filled with ricotta cheese or peas. Qassatat is quite different from the pastizzi, but still incredibly delicious! It comes in pie form and mixes everything from spinach to peas and anchovies.
I bet you didn’t think you’d be learning this many mouthwatering facts about Malta!
15. Season One of Game of Thrones
If you’ve ever visited Dubrovnik Croatia then you know how big Game of Thrones tourism is. Yet, did you have any idea Season One was filmed in Malta?? We didn’t either! Some of the most iconic scenes from the popular TV show were shot in Malta.
Game of Thrones in Malta is not promoted anything like in Croatia. Still, it’s fun to take note of the scenes at Fort St. Angelo, Verdala Palace, and the Mdina Gate. What a cool way to experience the history of Malta!
16. Home of the Silent City
Mdina once served as the capital of Malta and was first fortified back in 700 B.C. Founded by the Phoenicians, the historic city is even mentioned in the bible in the story of St. Paul.
The walls and cathedral are so well preserved you may think you’re walking through a museum instead of a small fort. Over 200 people still live inside Mdina and it’s quite happening during the day. Yet, at night is when you’ll truly see where the Silent City gets its nickname.
17. Bush and Gorbachev Meeting to End the Cold War
The Malta Summit was a meeting in 1989 between the American president and Soviet Union leader to bring an end to the Cold War. Bush and Gorbachev met on a warship just off the coast and discussed terms for the 45-year long stalemate. Although it’s debatable if it was the official completion of the Cold War, it signified the beginning to the end of the conflict.
18. Blue Lagoon Paradise
Most of the water surrounding Malta is a typical Meditteranean shade of blue. Not completely transparent, but clear enough to enjoy a swim on any hot afternoon day. Still, there is one popular place on the island of Comino that has been drawing in tourists for years!
The Blue Lagoon is only reachable by boat and is a large patch of turquoise water that looks out of a dream. Boats and catamaran tours fill the area as swimmers get their taste of paradise.
19. The Three Cities
Looking across the Grand Harbour from Valletta you can see the three separate cities. Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua are just as much a part of Malta history as anywhere in the islands. Vittoriosa was the first home of the Knights of St. John and means “Victory” in English for its role in the Great Seige of 1565.
Cospicua is the largest of the three cities and home to the famous Church of Our Lady. Unlike the other two cities, Cospicua is set back behind the parallel peninsulas. Last but not least, Senglea features the forts of St Michael and St Angelo. A really cool way to see the three cities is by taking a traditional boat tour right from Valletta!
20. Every Kind of Beach
Malta has so many unique swimming spots! Despite some of the best places being difficult to get to, you can find every type of beach imaginable in Malta. From white sand to rocky cliffs and big blue swimming holes, this island has it all!
With its rocky exterior, there are only a handful of sandy beaches in Malta. Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha are two of the best and are centered around Mellieha in the North.
21. Malta is Just 60 Miles from Sicily
One of the most interesting facts about Malta is that it’s so close to Italy! On a clear day, you can even see Sicily from the shores of Gozo Island. A flight from Malta to the largest island of the Mediterranean is just 45 minutes and you can also take a ferry.
22. French Colony For Only 2 years
Malta was a French Colony for just two years! Napoleon invaded the islands in 1798, but his rule wouldn’t last long. He was initially well received by the Knights and locals. Yet within a few months of the French rule, they began to rebel against the new reforms.
This would be a thorn in the side of Napoleon’s larger strategy to conquer Egypt, India, and more of the British Colonies in the far east. In 1800, the British fleet came to free the Maltese islands from the French. Still, this would be the start of their own rule until Malta’s independence 164 years later.
23. Densley Populated Country
Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world, and also the most densely populated in the EU! It’s made up of 122 square miles of land of which its population of over 500,000 is spread across. This can be seen in the crowded streets of its cities, and in the sometimes heavy traffic throughout Malta.
24. Deep Arabic Influence
By now you know the history of Malta is deep and diverse, seeded with cultures from around the world. With it being just 300 miles from the coast of North Africa, the Arabs were one of the first occupiers of the islands starting in 870. After the Normans defeated them in 1090, Muslims and Christians lived side by side until Islam was expelled in the mid-13th century.
Aside from the actual language, there are many obvious Maltese facts and features of Arabic origin. Irrigation techniques, architecture, and many towns and street names are still Arabic. Also having a strong impact on their cuisine, the Arabic influence on Malta is undeniable.
25. Malta is 98% Roman Catholic
Even with so many cultures inhabiting Malta over the years, the religion is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. This is traced back to the arrival of St. Paul and only grew bigger by the religious order of the Knights of St. John.
There are around 365 Catholic churches in Malta, one representing each day of the year. Countless celebrations and feasts are held throughout the year in honor of the patron saints.
Have any questions about this article or want to share your own fun facts about Malta? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Malta Travel Planning
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. Even though Malta is small, you will want a car to get to all the best towns and beaches.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a trip to the Blue Lagoon on a Catamaran, go on a full-day quad bike tour of Gozo, or join a 3-Hour Walking Tour of Valletta.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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