The 16th-century, star-shaped Fort St Elmo stands at the northeastern tip of Valletta's fortifications and has been extensively renovated, now hosting Malta's National War Museum. Showcasing centuries of Maltese history from the Bronze Age right through to Malta joining the European Union, the museum makes clever use of video clips, interactive exhibits and colorful multimedia displays to enliven and simplify its story.
Each of the seven chronological displays is introduced through a short movie providing historical context for travelers before they move through each vital stage in the island's history. Numbered rooms showcase the medieval armor of the Knights of St John, who ruled Malta from 1530 until 1798; the Great Siege by the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1565; the arrival of the English in 1800 and Malta's pivotal role in both world wars.
A museum highlight is the extensive World War II collection, which includes guns, heavy weapons, military vehicles, tanks, airplanes, gas masks and Nazi uniforms. Flickering black-and-white films highlight the 1940s Maltese struggle against constant German aerial bombardment, while the George Cross medal for bravery presented to the entire island by King George VI of England is exhibited along with the presentation letter signed by the king.
Fort St Elmo is set in a pedestrianized area of the city, but there is designated parking outside the City Gate. The National War Museum is open daily from 9am to 6pm, and admission costs €10 for adults, €7.50 for seniors, students and children between the ages of 12 and 17. Young children between 6 and 11 enter for €5.50. All exhibits are clearly labeled in several languages.