Set at the tip of Valletta’s old town, where it guards Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour, the star-shaped Fort St. Elmo earned its place in history during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 when the Knights of St. John repelled Ottoman invaders. It withstood further attacks, notably during World War II, and now holds the National War Museum.
You can walk around the exterior and admire the sturdy bastions and defensive walls as you please, and there are also guided tours focusing on key points of the siege on Sundays. Inside, at the National War Museum, visitors can see displays recounting Malta’s wartime history. It holds an extensive collection of WWII memorabilia, including the George Cross medal, which was awarded to the entire population in 1942.
Fort St. Elmo is typically including on walking tours (private and group) of Valletta. It is also a designated stop on hop-on hop-off bus tours. Visitors with a particular interest in the Great Siege of Malta or in the Maltese experience of WWII can find a tour with a specific focus on those aspects of Malta’s history.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Fort St. Elmo is a must-see for history enthusiasts, especially for its WWII memorabilia.
- The National War Museum is filled with displays: Plan a half-day visit to thoroughly explore.
- Fort St. Elmo completed extensive restoration in 2015, which allows for display of a much larger collection.
How to Get There
Fort St. Elmo is just off Republic Street, about a 15-minute walk from Valletta City Gate. It is in a pedestrianized area of the city, so drivers should park in the designated parking zone outside the City Gate.
When to Get There
Fort St. Elmo is open every day except Good Friday, Dec. 24, 25, 31, and Jan. 1. On Sunday mornings from October through June, the colorful military parade In Guardia takes place around Fort St. Elmo, with local men dressed in period costumes and armor.
National War Museum
The seven galleries that make up the National War Museum display artifacts from throughout Malta’s history, from the Bronze Age through its years of being controlled by various rulers including the Romans, Arabs, Normans, and British and up until Malta’s 2004 entrance into the European Union.