Grandmaster’s Palace: Exploring Valletta’s Historic Gem

A hallway with sculptures on both sides at the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, Malta.

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I live in Malta and often visit Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage site built by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century. I recently returned to the renovated Grandmaster’s Palace, excited to explore newly opened rooms.

If you’re interested in Malta’s history, you’ll love visiting this palace. The detailed wall and ceiling paintings are impressive. The art collection is vast, and the courtyard is pretty.

In this post, I’ll share the key details for your visit. Firstly, I’ll explain why the Grandmaster’s Palace is a must-see. Then, I’ll guide you on how to get there and what to expect.

Why Visit the Grandmaster’s Palace?

Historical Importance

The Grandmaster’s Palace highlights the era when the Order of St. John ruled the island from 1530 to 1798. This palace served as the Grand Master’s home and office.

The palace holds a wealth of Malta’s history within its walls. You will learn the history of the Knights of St. John and their influence on Malta’s growth.

An opulent interior hallway with intricate ceiling frescoes, large arched windows, marble floors with an inlaid design, and elegant wooden doors in the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, Malta.
Hallway of the Grandmaster’s Palace

Architectural Beauty

The architecture of the Grandmaster’s Palace is stunning, showcasing the finest aspects of the 16th to 18th-century design.

Inside, the palace is breathtaking. It’s ceilings feature stunning paintings and decorations. They’re sure to captivate you with their intricate beauty.

An extravagantly decorated ceiling at the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, Malta.
Ornate Ceiling at Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta, Malta

The palace courtyard is also pretty. It has beautiful arches and a charming fountain.

Cultural Significance

The Grandmaster’s Palace is culturally vital to Malta. It played a crucial role in Malta’s cultural and political past. The palace was the seat of power for the Grand Masters of the Order of St. John. They greatly influenced Malta’s development during their rule.

Today, the palace is a key spot for Malta’s culture and politics. It hosts major events, banquets, and conferences, making it a landmark in Valletta.

he opulent interior with marble, gold, and paintings at the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, Malta.
Lavish Interior of Grandmaster’s Palace

Impressive Collections

One of the highlights of visiting the Grandmaster’s Palace is the incredible display of weapons and armour. The palace houses one of the best collections I’ve ever seen.

The armour room is well-organised. It presents the events chronologically and gives info in many languages.

A hallway lined with armour display cases at the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, Malta.
Armour Room at Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta, Malta

If you want to understand Malta’s history well, take a walking tour in Valletta. Look at my guide for the best Valletta walking tours.

History of Grandmasters Palace

The Grandmaster’s Palace has a fascinating history spanning centuries. It began in the 1560s with the Order of St. John constructing the palace. They’ve built it as a residence and office for the Grand Master.

Over time, the palace expanded from a decent-sized house to a grand structure. Additions included a tower, stables, and an armoury.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the palace changed again. A closed loggia was added, along with a clock tower. New portals and a wing for the library also appeared. But, French Republican forces halted construction during their 1798 to 1800 occupation of Malta.

During the British period, the palace underwent additions and alterations. They’ve enlarged the dining room and added rooms for the Governor’s staff. The palace was well-maintained and embellished then. Portraits of British monarchs and other paintings were also installed.

World War II damaged the palace with near misses and direct hits. Restorations occurred between 1944 and the mid-1950s. The palace then served as the Governor’s and Presidents’ residence. It also housed Parliament, the Attorney General, and other institutions.

The Grandmaster’s Palace remains a vital event hub today, hosting ceremonies and banquets, state conferences too. Since 2018, it underwent a restoration program, reopened in January 2024. The impressive restoration preserved the palace’s heritage with great care.

An ornate double staircase at the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, Malta.
Staircase at Grandmaster’s Palace

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Visiting the Grandmaster’s Palace

The Grandmaster’s Palace is open Monday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM with last admission at 5:30 PM.

Adult tickets cost €12, with discounts for seniors, students, and children. Kids under 6 years old enter for free.

Opening times:  Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee: €12 for adults, discounts provided for seniors, students and children (more details)
Location: Google Maps

Opt for a guided tour or audio guide to make the most of your visit. Guided tours, available in English, provide deeper insight into palace history and treasures. Check the ticket office schedule for the next tour start time.

Not a fan of guided tours? Rent an audio guide instead. Available languages include English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. The audio guide is included in your ticket, no extra cost.

Getting There

Grandmaster’s Palace is situated in the heart of Valletta, Malta’s capital. You’ll find it on Palace Square, also known as Pjazza San Ġorġ or St. George’s Square.

The exterior facade of the Grandmaster's Palace, a major landmark in Valletta, Malta, showing ornate balconies, columns and arched windows. Modern street lamps are in the foreground and people are walking through the square in front of the palace.
Exterior view of the Grandmaster’s Palace

Take the bus to “Valletta City Gate” and walk 10 minutes to the palace. Prefer a taxi? Download eCabs, Bolt, or Uber and book your ride. Driving? Park at the MCP car park near City Gate, then walk to the palace because parking in Valletta is tricky.

Grandmaster’s Palace: FAQ

What is the Grandmaster’s Palace used for?

The Grandmaster’s Palace serves as the office of the President of Malta. It also houses the House of Representatives and several state rooms. The palace is used for official state functions, ceremonies, and events.

Who is the current Grand Master of Malta?

There is no current Grand Master of Malta. The last Grand Master was Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim, who ruled from 1797 to 1798. After the Order of St. John left Malta in 1798, the title of Grand Master became obsolete.

Why are they called grandmasters?

The title “Grand Master” was used by the head of the Order of St. John, also known as the Knights Hospitaller. The title signified the Grand Master’s supreme authority over the Order and its territories.

Who was the first Grand Master of Malta?

A: The first Grand Master to rule Malta was Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, who took possession of the islands in 1530 on behalf of the Order of St. John. He established the Order’s headquarters in Malta after they were forced to leave Rhodes in 1522.

Do the Knights of Malta still exist?

Yes, the Order of St. John, also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, still exists today. However, it is no longer a sovereign state like it was during its rule in Malta. The Order is now a religious order of the Catholic Church and operates as a charitable organisation with diplomatic relations with many countries.

A framed list mounted on an interior wall of the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, Malta, showing the names and dates of Grand Masters who ruled over Malta from 1530 to 1798 under the Order of St. John.
List of Grand Masters on Display at the Grandmaster’s Palace

The Grandmaster’s Palace is a must-see in Valletta, showcasing grandeur and beauty. Here, you’ll learn about Malta’s rich history and discover incredible armour collections.

But don’t stop at the palace! Valletta is a city full of history and there so many things to do. Visit Casa Rocca Piccola or Underground Valletta. For more Malta history, look at my guide to top historical sites.

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