Older than Valletta, and as important to Malta’s history as Mdina, the Three Cities are often left unvisited by many!
With so many landmarks, places of historical interest and ancient temples dotting the island, it’s easy to miss a few of the most important sites when compiling your itinerary. So much so, that the Three Cities (Cottonera) remain one of the most unchartered places by tourists and locals alike.
Yet, they shouldn’t be. These three cities – Senglea (Isla), Vittoriosa (Birgu) and Cospicua (Bormla) – were called home by almost every people that conquered Malta through the ages, and they even helped us keep back the enemy during the Great Siege of 1565 and during WWII. But that’s not the only reason you should visit. These places offer a slice of authentic Maltese architecture, lifestyle and flair.
Inquisitor’s Palace, Birgu – The Inquisition made its way throughout Europe and South America back in the 16th and 17th centuries, but most of its palaces were destroyed by the French. Yet this palace survived, because the powers that be of every period of history over these past five centuries used it. Today, it is the only palace of its kind to be open to the public anywhere in the world, and hosts a permanent exhibition of Malta’s religious traditions, and includes historic reconstructions of the domestic kitchen areas and the private quarters.
Maritime Museum, Birgu – Being an island, it comes as no surprise that Malta’s history is linked to the sea. Situated within the Old Naval Bakery, the Maritime Museum is Malta’s largest and oldest industrialised building on the island. Among the exhibits, you can also see the largest Roman lead anchor in the world, weighing in at a staggering 4 tonnes, and over 60 full-size traditional Maltese boats.
Experience Malta of Yesteryear – Take a trip down the winding roads of Bormla and Isla to take in all the architectural features that once adorned most of the island. Notice the coloured doors, the iconic balconies, the Medieval street systems and the old signs that still hang on many walls. Make sure you spot the Gardjola lookout post at Senglea Point. Expect some fantastic views of the Grand Harbour and Valletta!
The Three Cities are a place where you can definitely wander without really being lost!
Above: Bormla Gate (Part of the Cottonera Lines)
Bir Mula Museum, Bormla – This place houses a treasure trove of of conspiracies, mysteries and historical evidence dating back to prehistoric times. It is situated on St Margerita Hill, a beautiful area to explore before or after your visit.
The Norman House, Birgu – Not many people know about this, and that includes the locals. The Norman House in Birgu is a 13th-century house which has been renovated and restored to its former glory. While here, make sure you look out for all the tiny details, including galleons and a Christ carrying the cross etched in the walls.
Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.com
Birgu Waterfront – To finish off your day, make sure you take a stroll down the uber-romantic Birgu seafront, where restaurants and bars sit opposite a stunning yacht marina. Sit outside for a drink, or go all out with dinner, and enjoy a spot of people-watching while basking in the beauty of the view! But, if you go in the morning, walk all the way to the end to get to Fort St Angelo – ‘the jewel in the crown of The Maltese Islands’ fortifications’, as it’s been called.
View of Senglea from the Birgu Waterfront : Image courtesy of flickr.com
Those are my top picks… But there are many other places to visit. Can you mention any?
Let us know in the comments section below!