The Knights of St. John became the toast of a grateful Europe after their triumph in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, in which they repelled Ottoman invaders. Valletta’s magnificent Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta reflects the knights’ heroic standing and the wealth lavished upon them. Construction began in 1571 on the palace to house the supreme head of the Knights of St. John.
Today the palace shares its space with the President's Palace and parliamentary offices, as well as the Palace Armoury in the lower floors of the building, which house one of the world’s finest collections of 16th- and 17th-century armor made for the Knights of St. John. Also open to the public is a series of richly decorated State Rooms in which the Grand Masters entertained guests. Highlights of a visit include the Neptune Courtyard designed by the Flemish sculptor Giambologna, the Gobelin tapestries, and a gigantic frieze depicting the Great Siege of 1565.
The Grandmaster’s Palace is generally included on private and group shore excursions and walking tours of Valletta, which also usually include a stop at the nearby Great Siege Monument. Guided tours offer background insight into the knights and the Great Siege, and some are especially focused on this aspect of Malta’s history.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Grandmaster’s Palace is a must-see for history and architecture enthusiasts.
- A joint ticket allows entry to both the Grand Armoury and Palace State Rooms.
- The State Rooms may be closed to visitors at short notice due to government activities.
How to Get There
The Grandmaster's Palace is a 15-minute walk from Valletta bus station in a pedestrian area of the city. If you drive, there is designated parking outside the City Gate. Located in the heart of the city, the palace is within a few minutes’ walk of other top sights including St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the National Museum of Archaeology, as well as many hotels.
When to Get There
The Grandmaster’s Palace is open every day except Good Friday, Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1. The State Rooms are usually closed on Thursday. Check opening hours before visiting as the palace sometimes closes due to special events or parliamentary sessions.
The Maltese architect and engineer Girolamo Cassar constructed the Grandmaster’s Palace. He was the Order of St. John’s resident engineer and was himself admitted into the order in 1569. Cassar left his mark throughout the city, having also worked on the Fortifications of Valletta, Verdala Palace, and St. John's Co-Cathedral, among others.