Malta is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. With a population of about 475,000 over an area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi),[ Malta is the world’s tenth smallest[ and fifth most densely populated country. Its capital is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area at 0.8 km². The official languages are Maltese and English. Malta has been inhabited since approximately 5900 BC. Its location in the centre of the Mediterranean[ has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British. Most of these foreign influences have left some sort of mark on the country’s ancient culture.
Malta became a British colony in 1815, serving as a way station for ships and the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet. The British Parliament passed the Malta Independence Act in 1964, giving Malta independence from the United Kingdom as the State of Malta, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and queen. The country became a republic in 1974.
Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni, Valletta, and seven megalithic temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.