Guarding Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour is Fort St Elmo, named after the patron saint of mariners.
The fort was built by the Knights in 1552 in just four months to guard the harbours on either side of the Valletta peninsula, and bore the brunt of a Turkish attack during 1565’s Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
An imposing structure which served for many years as a stronghold of the Knights of Saint John of Malta, the fort stands on the site of a previous observation post.
Having survived various military skirmishes and foreign invasions, most recently from the Axis forces during the Second World War, the star-shaped structure has been renovated and enlarged over time.
After extensive restoration work, the fort reopened to the public in 2015, and now hosts the National War Museum which covers Malta’s wartime history.
The museum includes audiovisual displays, bringing history to life and illustrating aspects of war such as the struggle to get supplies through to the islands under German bombardment. Artefacts include the RAF Gloster Gladiator aircraft named Faith, the sole survivor of the three planes that so valiantly defended the island when Italy declared war in 1940.
Pride of place goes to the George Cross medal that was awarded to the entire population of Malta in 1942 by King George VI.
The courtyard outside the entrance to the fort is studded with the lids of underground granaries. You can visit the parade ground and the 1559 chapel where Knights fought to the death during the siege trying to protect the altar, as well as the later 1729 church.
Fort St Elmo is now one of the top tourist attractions in Valletta.