The Three Cities in Malta

Celebrating The Feast of Saint Dominic with music and dancing in Vittoriosa (Birgu).

Celebrating The Feast of Saint Dominic with music and dancing in Vittoriosa (Birgu).

The Three Cities is a unified narrative of the fortified cities of Vittoriosa (Birgu), Cospicua and Senglea (Isla). To get an idea of where the three cities are located in Malta, it is imperative to have a bird's eye view from the Upper Barrakka Gardens in the capital city Valletta. From there you can spot Birgu in an inverted 'U' shape, with Senglea on the exact opposite side in the shape of a lower-case 'L' and the 'U' shaped Copiscua just behind both cities. The Three Cities are surrounded by a series of fortifications known as La Cottonera, which Fort St. Angelo at the tip of the Birgu Peninsula has engaged in much of the shaping of Malta's fate. 

All three cities have provided a home to almost every people who settled on the island; Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and Normans, who were responsible for completely re-Christianising the Maltese people. We recommend visiting Malta around the time of religious celebrations during the summer months to experience the island's culture, traditions and celebrations.

We based our stay in beautiful Vittoriosa (Birgu), around the same time The Feast of Saint Dominic was going on. During this period the picturesque town is serenaded with colourful lights, statues, flags and ornaments. From the rooftop of our 16th century apartment stay at Indulgence Divine, we could watch some of the processions passing through the narrow streets and hear the brass bands playing in the distance. The night normally ends with traditional fireworks, and during the celebration, you'll find outdoor entertainment on Torri Ta' San Gwann street. Most impressively is the facade of the main church in the village covered in hundreds of light bulbs which makes it look stunningly breathtaking.

Malta has a diverse cuisine culture due to its long list of historical influences. Spoil yourself at some of these favourites from the locals themselves: Tal Petut for its no-menu, overwhelming variety of Maltese dishes from a most passionate and entertaining chef. Don Berto on Vittoriosa's waterfront is great for freshly caught fish on the day. Our favourite restaurant Osteria VE was literally in front of our boutique apartment. This intimate restaurant is where two lovely Venetians serve up an inspiring selection of delicious food. If you wish to cater for yourself and buy local products, we recommend visiting the farmer's market on Il-Fortini where you can buy your fresh fruits and vegetables on Saturday mornings only. The Tuesday market on St. Edward Street also caters to your shopping needs as there is everything from vegetables to household items.

Cospicua (earlier name Bormia) is the largest of the three cities on Grand Harbour opposite Valletta. Baroque buildings are plentiful here with the likes of the old city of Medina. The quaint alleys surrounded with traditional Maltese houses provide a romantic and peaceful atmosphere. Expect to see dozens of Maltese figures on buildings, charming balconies and a special warm feeling from the locals.

Senglea is the smallest city in Malta. Located on a small peninsula overlooking the port of Valletta, the main attraction of this city is precisely the panoramic view of the Maltese capital and its port. Approach Gnien il-Gardjola, the Garden of the Vigilance Post to watch the boats cross the blue waters of the Mediterranean. This city also has few tourists, so if you feel the need to escape the cookie-cutter tourist side of the island, we recommend having a stroll through Senglea. We loved the ambience around the waterfront and would most recommend Enchante for the best ever seafood pasta!

The Three Cities are a symbol of Malta because of its historical importance, charm and authenticity. They all have something to offer culturally and are do-able in a day out. 

Baroque interior of San Lawrenz church in Vittoriosa (Birgu).

Baroque interior of San Lawrenz church in Vittoriosa (Birgu).

A statue at the cloister of the Annunciation in Vittoriosa (Birgu).

A statue at the cloister of the Annunciation in Vittoriosa (Birgu).

Cospicua is spoilt with magnificent houses with character, from the religious symbols to the decorated balconies.

Cospicua is spoilt with magnificent houses with character, from the religious symbols to the decorated balconies.

Osteria VE has antipasto options such as veal, beef carpaccio, homemade porchetta and other Italian classics.

Osteria VE has antipasto options such as veal, beef carpaccio, homemade porchetta and other Italian classics.

Indulgence Divine is a 450 year old traditional Maltese house, once part of an eminent merchant’s home with its own private chapel which is the bedroom area now.

Indulgence Divine is a 450 year old traditional Maltese house, once part of an eminent merchant’s home with its own private chapel which is the bedroom area now.

We especially love how the plants hang on the walls of this traditional home in Cospicua.

We especially love how the plants hang on the walls of this traditional home in Cospicua.

Fresh fish and pasta with plenty of wine options can be devoured at Osteria VE.

Fresh fish and pasta with plenty of wine options can be devoured at Osteria VE.

MaltaJeremy J.