The Lascaris War Rooms: Discover Malta’s WWII War HQ
For all the history buffs that also enjoy recent history, the Lascaris War Rooms are a real treat.
Built and used during living memory, they’re a great monument to the complex military operations that were carried out during World War II and to the crucial role that Malta played during the war.
They used to be the British War Headquarters during the Second World War, which basically means that the important military heads of the time got together here to form all the important defence and offense plans for the island and other locations in the Mediterranean against Axis invasion.
However, apart from this role in the past, they had another crucial part to play in even more recent history. Read below to find out more.
Below Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta
Adults: €12, Seniors: €10, Children: €5
Partly wheelchair accessible
10 Interesting Facts about the Lascaris War Rooms
- The Lascaris War Rooms are a system of underground tunnels and chambers 150ft (45.72m) beneath the Upper Barrakka Gardens and the Saluting Battery.
- They were built between 1940 and 1943, so some of you may remember them coming around, or know someone that does!
- Their name is derived from the nearby Lascaris Battery – which itself was named after the Italian Grandmaster Giovanni Paolo Lascaris who had commissioned a garden on the site later occupied by the battery. See, how history comes full circle?
- Each of the fighting services had an operation room here:
– The Navy Plotting Room was responsible for the fleets
– The Anti-Aircraft Guns Operations Room led the air defence
– The Coast Defence Room devised defensive operations in case of amphibious
– The Filter Room communicated important data received from a variety of locations,
including the naval station in the Auberge de Castille
– The Combined Operations Room housed the encryption machines used to send
and receive secret communications and was heavily guarded.
- About a 1,000 people worked in the Rooms during the War, and they all breathed mechanically ventilated air (since the complex is underground). And guess what? This original feature still works today!
- In 1943, General Eisenhower and his Supreme Commanders (Admiral Cunningham, Field Marshal Montgomery, and Air Marshal Tedder) advanced and directed the Allied invasion of Sicily from these very Rooms – known as Operation Husky.
- When the War ended, the Lascaris War Rooms became the headquarters for the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet and played a crucial role during the Suez Crisis of 1956, as well as going on full alert for several days during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 (a Soviet missile against Malta was expected at the time).
- They were later taken over by NATO in 1967 and used for ten years as a strategic Communication Centre in order to intercept Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean.
- The Lascaris War Rooms are twinned with RAF Northolt, Ruislip, and Middlesex in the UK.
- It currently houses two war time tanks on display (a ‘Matilda’ and an “M3 Stuart’) from the small tank force of five different tanks that the British had during the Second World War.’
How to get to the Lascaris War Rooms
The Lascaris War Rooms are simple to find since they are in the capital, Valletta. All main bus routes from Maltese localities end their route at the Valletta Bus Terminus, so from there, it should be easy enough to make your way over.
The place is best reached by walking from the open space between Castille and the Upper Barrakka Gardens and taking the steps into Battery Street. If, on the other hand, you’ve just gotten off a bus at the terminus, you can walk to Battery Street directly. Signs are clearly visible in both cases.
Alternatively, you can go into the Saluting Battery in the Upper Barrakka Gardens and purchase your tickets from there and ask for directions.
If you depend on public transport I highly recommend taking an excursion that combines multiple places of interest in Central Malta. The Mosta Dome is a popular stop on various tours and excursions, though these are the options I recommend:
- Mdina & Malta Highlights full day tour, which offers good value for money with some of the best stops and views of the more rural side of Malta, including Mdina, Dingli Cliffs, San Anton Gardens, St. Paul’s Catacombs (underground) and of course, the Mosta Dome
- Half Day tour Mosta Dome, Ta Qali Crafts Village, Rabat & Mdina is a half-day tour for up to 4 people with a shorter itinerary focusing on the Mosta Dome, Mdina and Rabat
My tips for visiting
- Hungry visitors can fill up on food from the Victory Café
- Printed maps and brochures are available on site or can be printed before visiting
- Free audio guides are offered to guests for the whole duration of their visit. These are available in various languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Dutch, Maltese, Danish, Chinese, and Japanese
- Unlimited WiFi access is available throughout the site
- Baby changing areas are available
- Free lockers for large bags and backpacks are available
- Photography is permitted in most areas of the Lascaris War Rooms, but flash photography is not allowed in the galleries.
- Not every area is pram and pushchair-friendly due to restricted space. These can be left behind in the lobby area for the duration of the tour
- Toilets are fully accessible.