Welcome to Birgu,
Malta! This historic town is full of charm and beauty, making it the perfect getaway. Whether you’re looking for a day exploring the ancient sites or just want to relax in one of the cafes, there’s something here for everyone. Let us show you the top things to do in Birgu – from wandering around Fort St. Angelo and venturing into Inquisitor’s Palace to seeing the old gates and visiting churches – you won’t be disappointed with what this town has to offer. So come on down and explore this unique destination; you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience! General information about Birgu
Nestled in the heart of Malta’s Grand Harbour, Birgu is an ancient and vibrant city steeped in a rich cultural heritage that’s sure to captivate any visitor. Once known as Vittoriosa, this fortified city was once the capital of Malta during the rule of the Knights of St. John in the 16th century. Nowadays, Birgu is one of the Three Cities, a group of fortified cities on the Grand Harbour which are also known as Cottonera. It offers unparalleled waterfront views and fascinating architecture that will keep travelers busy for days. This comprehensive Birgu travel guide includes all you need to know about exploring this charming destination so you can make your trip even more memorable! From things to do in Birgu to getting there, use this guide to plan your perfect getaway!
History of Birgu
Step back in time and explore the centuries-old history of Vittoriosa, formerly known as Birgu. The port town has a long and storied past that dates all the way back to the 9th century when it was first fortified by the Arabs. Not only was this one of the first two parishes on Malta’s islands, but it also became an important base for both Spanish mariners and later, the Knights of St John. During their rule between 1530 and 1800, they made Birgu their capital city – earning it its alternative name of ‘Città Vittoriosa’ or victorious city.
Birgu played an important role during World War II when it successfully defended itself against 69 air bombing attacks by the Ottoman Empire. After undergoing extensive restoration work, Fort St Angelo is now open to visitors who want to uncover the secrets of this historic site. From discovering its primitive chapel dedicated to San Lorenzo-a-mare to learning about its time as a British protectorate base, there’s much to explore in Birgu:
Dive into its 9th-century roots Uncover Maltese maritime culture Explore Fort St Angelo Find out about its WWII defense Learn about its time as a British protectorate How to get there
Grab your bus ticket and get ready to explore Birgu — it’s only a few stops away! Taking a bus from Valletta is the easiest way to get there, so hop on either bus number 2 or 3 and you’ll be in the charming walled city in no time. Enjoy the stunning views of Grand Harbour and its fortifications as you make your way there; this trip will give you a taste of what awaits when you finally arrive. With an atmosphere rich with history, culture, and picturesque scenery, Birgu is sure to delight. So make sure to take advantage of this incredibly convenient transportation option and enjoy the journey! And when you’re ready to explore even more, wander around Fort St. Angelo for an unforgettable experience.
1. Wander around Fort St. Angelo
Immerse yourself in history and explore the grandeur of
Fort St. Angelo – it’s truly a sight to behold! Built by the Order of Saint John during the 1500s, this bastioned fort was originally a medieval castle and played a key role during major wars like the Great Siege of Malta. Today, you can wander around its walls and soak up its rich past while admiring breathtaking views of Grand Harbour and surrounding towns. And when you’re done, venture into Inquisitor’s Palace – it’s an experience not to be missed! 2. Venture into the Inquisitor’s Palace
Discover the secrets of Malta’s past as you explore the Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu! This imposing building was originally built to serve as the Civil Law Courts of the Order of St John, but later on, it became a prison complex and private residence for the inquisitor. Nowadays, visitors can take a journey through history by stepping into the room that once served as the private chambers of the inquisitor and exploring its beautiful architecture. You can also visit its tribunal chamber, torture chambers, and small prison cells if you’re feeling brave. This is an experience like no other – uncovering Malta’s past with every step you take! When you’ve finished exploring this remarkable palace, make sure to check out its old gates – another piece of Malta’s history waiting to be discovered.
3. See the old gates
Take a walk through history and explore the old gates of Birgu. The Couvre Porte Gate, the Advanced Gate, and the Gate of Provence will transport you back in time with their interesting engravings and Latin inscriptions. Here are some things to do at these sights:
Admire the intricate stone carvings on the archway frames Take in views of the harbor from atop one of the towers Check out interesting ancient artifacts on display nearby Read about Malta’s maritime history inscribed on nearby walls Try your hand at deciphering any Latin inscriptions. Experience an authentic slice of Maltese culture as you explore these majestic gates that have stood for centuries! From here, you can take a step into Malta’s past by visiting the Malta Maritime Museum. 4. Visit the Malta Maritime Museum
After exploring the old gates of Birgu, take a step back in time and explore the
Malta Maritime Museum. Housed in the former Royal Navy Bakery, this museum traces the island’s naval history from prehistoric times to today. It houses an impressive collection of over 20,000 artifacts, including a 1950s marine steam engine, the figurehead of HMS Hibernia, and even the largest known Roman anchor in the world! Visiting here is like taking a tour through Maltese maritime history – so don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to learn more about Malta’s past. After you’re done at the museum, it’s time to continue your adventure and explore Birgu’s quaint alleys. 5. Explore Birgu’s quaint alleys
Wander through Birgu’s picturesque alleys and uncover a wealth of history! From traditional Maltese houses to colorful balconies, windows, and walls lined with flower pots, you’ll find endless photo opportunities. The Knights of St. John added to the cityscape by building several auberges representing a linguistic division of their order. These buildings have been preserved and are open to the public today; for instance, the Auberge de France serves as the town hall while the Auberge d’Angleterre is now home to the local health center. Discovering these historical sites will give you an insight into Malta’s heritage:
Explore: The winding streets that makeup Birgu’s heart Traditional Maltese houses adorned with colorful balconies and flower pots The auberges were built by the Knights of St. John Enjoy: Capturing unique photos in this quaint setting An insight into Malta’s rich cultural history Create: Lasting memories from your time in Birgu
As you explore this charming area of Malta, pop into the Sicolo-Norman House for an even deeper look at Maltese culture and architecture!
6. Pop into the Sicolo-Norman House
As you explore the narrow alleys of Birgu, take a moment to pop into the Sicolo-Norman House. This beautiful 12th-century building is one of the oldest standing structures in Birgu and it’s been lovingly preserved by its current owner. You’ll be taken aback by its Romanesque and Gothic elements that make this house stand out among all the other buildings in Malta. Get lost in time as you walk around this historic building, taking in its stunning architecture and artistry.
When you’re done exploring the Sicolo-Norman House, continue your journey through Birgu by walking along its seafront. From here you can enjoy views of Malta’s Grand Harbour, including forts St Angelo and St Elmo which are just a few steps away from the house. Take your time to soak up all that this medieval city has to offer and observe how locals go about their daily lives!
7. Walk along the seafront
Stroll along the waterfront and take in stunning views of Malta’s Grand Harbour, with Fort St Angelo and Fort St Elmo just steps away. As you approach Fort St. Angelo, a tiny alley leads to the other side of Birgu. This area is known as il-Mandragg, from which you can admire the neighboring town of Kalkara. Walk around and explore the traditional boats and local fishermen along the shoreline for a more authentic experience. After taking in all that beauty, move on to your next destination – visiting churches!
8. Visit the churches
Discover the beauty of centuries-old churches in Birgu, from St. Lawrence’s Church to the Oratory of St. Joseph and beyond. Step back through time as you explore these awe-inspiring places of worship with their distinctive artwork and architecture. St Lawrence’s Church is one of Malta’s oldest and largest churches, built in the late 1600s and featuring several paintings from different eras. Not far away you can also find two other churches – The Oratory of St Joseph and the Oratory of The Holy Cross – both well worth a visit! While exploring these beautiful churches, don’t forget to take a moment to admire their intricate designs and details – an experience that will stay with you forever.
Your journey continues as you check out the views from the ramparts – majestic yet peaceful scenes that stretch across Birgu’s rooftops all the way to Valletta’s harbor walls on one side, while on the other side lies Fort Saint Angelo looming over Grand Harbour.
9. Check out the views from the ramparts
Take in the breathtaking views from the ramparts, where centuries of history come alive in front of you. Wander down Triq Emanuel
Attard Bezzina and enjoy stunning panoramic vistas that stretch over the Grand Harbor. Stop to admire the beauty of Malta’s navy and merchant ships as they sail past in a sea of vibrant colors, making for a truly memorable experience. From here, you can also appreciate Birgu’s fortified walls which date back to medieval times; it’s an incredible sight! No matter how often you have visited this spot, it never fails to captivate your imagination. Get ready to be swept away by its charm and beauty – it will leave you with a feeling like no other. With this mesmerizing view, why not take a seat on one of the benches at Birgu Belvedere? Put your feet up and relax while taking in all these views – it is sure to be an unforgettable experience. 10. Enjoy a coffee at the square
Kick back and relax as you sip on a coffee in the picturesque Victory Square, surrounded by centuries of history. Nestled in the heart of Birgu’s old town, the square is full of cafes and bars where you can grab a drink or a quick bite to eat. Step into history as you admire the 18th-century monument that stands proudly in the middle of Victory Square – commemorating The Great Siege of 1656. On one side of this beautiful square lies an old crucifix, embedded in a small niche; it marks the place where prisoners were publicly executed during the rule of The Order of St John. Take your time here and soak up some Maltese culture over a delicious cup of coffee and perhaps even meet some friendly locals! Stroll around Victory Square and get lost in its beauty before moving on to uncover more about Birgu’s past.
So, what are you waiting for? Uncover the hidden gems of Birgu and explore its fascinating past. Whether you’re into history or nature, there’s something here for everyone. Take a stroll around Fort St. Angelo, admire the Inquisitor’s Palace, and take in the breathtaking views from the ramparts. End your trip with a cup of coffee at one of the quaint squares and be sure to take lots of photos as memories! There’s no doubt that uncovering Birgu will prove to be an unforgettable experience.