Fort St. Elmo

This battle-scared fortress has stood watch over Malta’s capital city for more than 400 hundred years. Learn about the historic sieges that took place here through dramatic reenactments.

Visit the star-shaped 16th-century Fort St. Elmo, the scene of one of the biggest battles on the island. Learn about its role in World War II, see historical reenactments and explore the military museum.

The fort was constructed in the middle of the 16th century by the Knights of Malta. They built it on the site of an old watchtower. In the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the massive stone fortification withstood attacks from the forces of the Ottoman Empire for several weeks. It eventually fell and more than 1,000 knights were killed. The fort also suffered heavy bombardment during World War II.

Survey the massive defensive walls by walking around the exterior. Another good way to see the stronghold and appreciate its scale is with a boat tour around the harbor. Then take one of the guided tours of the structure’s interior. As you approach the main entrance, see the lids of the fort’s subterranean granaries.

Once inside, go to the lower part of the fort, which served as the Turkish prison in the 1978 movie Midnight Express. View medals, weapons and other artifacts from military campaigns at the Military History Museum.

Turn up on a Sunday to watch the historical reenactments. They feature actors in period costumes who dramatize key moments of the siege against the island. The drama includes a cannon-firing demonstration.

Fort St. Elmo is open for tours on most Sundays and there is a fee for admission, although children get in for free. Contact Heritage Malta in advance to find out on which Sundays tours are held.

Fort St. Elmo overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and is situated at the northeastern point of Valletta. The castle is about a 15-minute walk from Valletta’s bus station. On the eastern side of the fort, you can walk along a bridge to the St. Elmo Lighthouse.


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