Historic Cities

The Three Cities

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The Three Cities have fringed the Grand Harbour since Phoenician times. Predominantly maritime cities, they have been doorways to commerce, migration, encounters and cultural exchange in Malta’s long history. Today the cities’ atmosphere is captivating and transporting, with the people living within their city walls immensely proud of their heritage.

Vittoriosa (Birgu)

Here the Knights of St. John established their first capital, and held the legendary siege of 1565, during which fewer than 8000 men opposed a Turkish armada of more than 30,000 invaders for more than 4 months. The final victory inspired the renaming of Birgu in Vittoriosa and earned the Knights an honoured place in military history. Though the Order subsequently moved their base to Valletta, much of the architecture they established remains on view in the narrow and circuitous streets and thoroughfares. Birgu also boasts a resplendent and newly renovated marina waterfront with many cafes and restaurants.

Senglea (Isla) and Cospicua (Bormla)

The city of Isla commands inspiring views over the harbour towards Valletta, from Safe Haven Gardens at Senglea Point. The ample panorama also takes in Fort St. Angelo, a vigilant and imposing presence over nearby Birgu.The adjacent town of Cospicua, also known as Bormla, is restoring and developing its dockyard into a marina. Well worth a visit is the Collegiate Church of the repliki zegarków Immaculate Conception, and its extensive collection of exquisite art.

Don’t miss

  • A stroll through the narrow, winding streets of the Collachio, in Vittoriosa, where the Knights of St. John’s concentrated their most important buildings and auberges.
  • A visit to the Inquisitor’s Palace and the adjacent Church of St. Dominic in Birgu.
  • The Baroque church of San Lawrence at Birgu, designed by architect Lorenzo Gafà.
  • A sojourn in one of the cafés at the elegant Vittoriosa Marina waterfront, where some of the most luxurious yachts in the Mediterranean are berthed.
  • The fascinating Maritime Museum.
  • The awesome panorama of the Grand Harbour and Fort St. Angelo from the Gardens on Senglea Point.

Insider’s Tips

When in Valletta, take a typical Taxi Boat (Dghajsa) across the Grand Harbour to Birgu. This way you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Fort St Angelo and the bastions sorrounding the Grand Harbour.


Birgu local council, Auberge de France, Triq Hilda Tabone, Birgu BRG1252

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Public Transport

  • Bus 1, 2, 3 from Valletta Bus Terminus.







The Knights of Malta

Discover the 1000-year long epic history of the Order of the Knights of Malta from the words of the Keeper of Fort St Angelo.

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Movie Locations in Malta: Vittoriosa Marina, from Madonna to Geena Davis

How the Three Cities were used in the movies Swept Away, Cutthroat Island, the Count of Monte Cristo, U-571, Munich.

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