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Info on Towns & Villages in Malta

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13 July 2017 Category: Info on Towns & Villages

Birkirkara is the largest population centre on the Islands and has been so since the Middle Ages.

Birkirkara was listed as one of the original 12 medieval parishes in 1436. It continued to flourish until it splintered into separate parishes. Today, the parish church is still known as `Matrici' which means it is the mother of the other neighbouring parishes. Another interesting church is the old parish church dedicated to The Assumption of Our Lady.

Most of present-day Birkirkara is modern, though the town retains a traditional core characterised by alleyways, narrow streets and houses typical of small villages. The larger town houses tend to be used as headquarters for band clubs or political parties.

A tiny garden separates the town's older area from the new quarters. Here you can see one of the old railway stations on the commuter line that ran from Rabat to Valletta.

Apart from the churches, the oldest buildings in the town are the windmills. One is a private residence, the other, at the heart of the town, is an art gallery. Known locally as `Ta' Ganu' it hosts exhibitions by local and foreign artists.

Birżebbuġa is a quiet fishing port and small resort on the western side of Marsaxlokk Bay.

Its population has swelled with the influx of workers employed at the nearby Malta Freeport and container terminal.

The village is perhaps best known for the important archaeological sites on its outskirts. Għar Dalam caves provides evidence of the earliest human activity in Malta, dating back to the Neolithic Period around 5000 BC. The caves also revealed fossilised bones of numerous animals such as dwarf elephants. This suggests that the Islands were once a land bridge to continental Europe. Other remains include those of a prehistoric temple or settlement, Borġ-in-Nadur, which date from the Bronze Age. The settlement was fortified with a large stone wall which is still visible today.

Cospicua is the largest of the Three Cities on Grand Harbour opposite Valletta.

It is known to many by its earlier name, Bormla. The city was renamed by the Knights of St. John because of the brave ('conspicuous') role played by its people during the Great Siege of 1565.

Most of Cospicua's shoreline is taken up by the older dockyard - an area now being restored and developed as a marina. The city suffered extensive damage during World War II and although rebuilt, it has fewer inhabitants than in the pre-war years.

Modern Cospicua is an important market centre in the heart of the docklands. The main building of cultural interest is the Collegiate Church of the Immaculate Conception, which is rich in exquisite works of art. The Firenzuola Fortifications, built in 1638, and Margherita Lines, part of the inland defences the Three Cities, are major landmarks. The Margherita Lines are in fact the only part of old Cospicua which survived World War II.

Discovering Malta & Gozo Through its People & Culture

A project initiated by the Ministry for Tourism, the Environment and Culture in 2011 has led to the development of a number of itineraries for villages and towns which are considered to be on the periphery with regard to mainstream tourism, but which nonethelss showcase the real and authentic experience of the Maltese Islands.

Bormla was one of the localities included in the first set of itineraries and maps developed for this project.

Cospicua is the largest of the Three Cities on Grand Harbour opposite Valletta.

It is known to many by its earlier name, Bormla. The city was renamed by the Knights of St. John because of the brave ('conspicuous') role played by its people during the Great Siege of 1565.

Most of Cospicua's shoreline is taken up by the older dockyard - an area now being restored and developed as a marina. The city suffered extensive damage during World War II and although rebuilt, it has fewer inhabitants than in the pre-war years.

Modern Cospicua is an important market centre in the heart of the docklands. The main building of cultural interest is the Collegiate Church of the Immaculate Conception, which is rich in exquisite works of art. The Firenzuola Fortifications, built in 1638, and Margherita Lines, part of the inland defences the Three Cities, are major landmarks. The Margherita Lines are in fact the only part of old Cospicua which survived World War II.

Discovering Malta & Gozo Through its People & Culture

A project initiated by the Ministry for Tourism, the Environment and Culture in 2011 has led to the development of a number of itineraries for villages and towns which are considered to be on the periphery with regard to mainstream tourism, but which nonethelss showcase the real and authentic experience of the Maltese Islands.

Fgura, on the surface, appears to be a new town built in the 1960s. But its outward appearance belies ancient origins. The town has prehistoric roots.

There are several tombs in the area - and there is evidence to suggest it was a settlement in Phoenician times. Fgura, lying inland from the Three Cities, was influenced by the growth of the dockyards. Its northern fringes are bordered by the Cottonera Lines of fortifications while it merges with Ħaż-Żabbar to the south and Ħal Tarxien to the West.

Today, Fgura is the residential area with perhaps the highest density population in the country.

Floriana is a suburb of Valletta and shares with it the impressive harbour fortifications.

It also lies within the capital's landward fortifications which reach as far as the Portes des Bombes on the main Valletta approach road. Floriana is named after the 17th century military engineer Pietro Floriani who was commissioned by the Knights in 1636 to extend Valletta's fortifications. Floriana was conceived as an entire fortress city in front of Valletta. The town is characterised by open spaces, gardens and some fine patricians' houses.

Highlights include the elegant St. Publius Church, overlooking Granaries Square and the Argotti Gardens on St. Philip's Bastion. The vast flag-stoned Granaries Square hides a number of deep silos which were built in the late 17th century to ensure food supplies for Valletta in times of war.

Also of interest is the Mall; today a garden but once an area where the Knights played a kind of tennis. This narrow strip of greenery is dotted with statues and plaques commemorating events and personalities of Maltese 20th century history.

Gudja can claim to be the `mother parish' of nearly all the surrounding southern villages and hamlets.

The chapel of St Mary Ta' Bir Miftuħ now stands alone in the countryside near the airport, but it was the seat of one of 12 medieval parishes on the Islands. Restored in recent years, Bir Miftuħ is an important historical and architectural site of the pre-baroque period. It contains a series of frescoes. Nothing remains of the earlier surrounding village except for the base of a stone militia cross.

`Modern' Gudja is typical of southern Maltese villages but perhaps unusual in that it has three baroque churches; one is a fine example of the work of Maltese architect Tumas Dingli (1591-1666). This parish church dominates the tiny village of barely 3000 inhabitants.

On the outskirts of Gudja, is a lovely country house known as Casa d'Auriel or Casa Bettina, with an ornate folly in its gardens.

Gżira is an urban locality between Sliema and Msida on the western side of Marsamxett Harbour.

It has a seafront promenade with views over Manoel Island to Valletta. The only landward access to Manoel Island is the bridge from the Gżira strand. This small island lies in Marsamxett Harbour between Sliema Creek and Lazzaretto Creek. The Knights of St. John realised the potential of the Island as an isolation enclave against the plague and other infectious diseases and built a quarantine hospital here in 1643. In 1722, Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena began to appreciate the value of the Island for the defence of Valletta and commissioned the fortress which bears his name, Fort Manoel. Completed in 1726 in baroque style, it is a remarkable military building. The fort was badly damaged in World War II, but is being restored as part of the development of the Manoel Island and nearby Tigne' as a residential and commercial area. The Island has boat repair yards and winter berthing facilities. Gżira shops include numerous yacht brokers and chandlers which serve the nearby Ta' Xbiex and Msida Marinas.

Ħad-Dingli is a village that lies on a plateau some 250 metres above sea level just in land from the spectacular Dingli Cliffs.

The area provides not only open sea views over the tiny, uninhabited isle of Fifla, but also an excellent vantage point over Malta. From the cliffs there are views inland of nearby Buskett Gardens and Verdala Palace. The countryside here is ideal for walking.

Ħad-Dingli today is a quiet, rural area though in late medieval times it was one of Malta's largest parishes. The parish church of St. Mary, originally built in 1678, dominates the skyline. The streets around it are narrow and winding and typical of an old agricultural village. Perched on the cliff top is the smaller wayside chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, dating from 1646.

Within the limits of Ħad-Dingli are several prehistoric sites: the so-called `cart ruts', unexplained parallel tracks hewn in the rock; and several megalithic structures.

Ħal Balzan is one of the so-called Three Villages, along with neighbouring Ħal Lija and Ħ'Attard, that lie at the heart of Malta.

Many wealth families built summer residences here in the early years of the 20th century, and the Three Villages are still considered an exclusive urban area.

Lying in the sheltered interior, Ħal Balzan was ideal for fruit growing and is still characterised by walled gardens. The most impressive is at nearby San Anton Palace, built by Grand Master Antoine de Paule in the late 16th century. It is now the official residence of the President of Malta and used for state functions. The gardens, open to the public, are a baroque masterpiece and oasis of green and calm.

A stroll through Ħal Balzan's old village core reveals its other architectural gems - from grand villas to old chapels.

Ħal Għargħur is perched on a steep peninsula on the Great Fault which run across Malta east-west.

It is another village on the Victoria Lines, the 19th century British fortifications that run along the top of the ridge. Ħal Għargħur was small farming community, and although it lies near the modern urban areas of central Malta, it retains a rural tranquillity. The village core itself is charming and picturesque with its ancient farmhouses, a windmill and a typical parish church. The church, designed by Maltese architect Tumas Dingli, houses several valuable artworks including a 13th century titular painting and a tryptich dated 1587. A short walk from the village centre brings you to some beautiful countryside with superb views.

Near the village, lies Fort Madliena, one of four forts built along the Victoria Lines. Guided tours are being provided by voluntary members of the St. John Rescue Corps solely on Satuday afternoons at 1430hrs and 1530hrs.

Ħal Għaxaq lies among the villages of the south-eastern corner of Malta near the airport.

It is a quiet village comprising mainly of farmhouses, some of which date back 300 years or more. The small streets behind the parish church are the most charming, and typical of old Maltese villages. Ħal Għaxaq, lying in a predominantly agricultural area, has a timeless atmosphere. The parish church, dedicated to teh assumption, a huge baroque structure built in 1756, dominates the skyline. It contains works of art collected over some three centuries.

In a street close to the church, one can see a curious house with shell and pebble decorations and paintings on its facade. It is a special feature in this village and unique in Malta.

Ħal Kirkop is a quaint village typical of the ancient settlements of the South. Despite its proximity to the airport, it still retains a rural charm.

By the late 15th century it was large enough to warrant two churches; both were rebuilt and embellished in the 17th century. It became a separate parish in 1592 when it split from nearby Gudja, one of the ten original parishes formed in the early 15th century.

From prehistoric times, it is has a Menhir, one of the few that still stand in Malta, and the only one on the Island christianised - as indicated by the cross on its top.

Ħal Lija is one of the so-called Three Villages along neighbouring Ħ'Attard and Ħal Balzan.

Many wealthy families built summer residences here in the early years of the 20th century, and the Three Villages are still considered an exclusive urban area. Ħal Lija has a charming village core of narrow, winding streets lined with large villas, most with mature gardens.

Ħal Lija was once known as the orchard of Malta: the village emblem, with three oranges in the centre, recalls that fact. Ħal Lija has many architectural gems. There are ancient chapels, an old parish church considered a masterpiece of early Maltese architecture, an elegant belveder or tower, once part of a formal villa garden, and several old windmills. The present parish church was built by Giovanni Barbara in 1691.

A small chapel dedicated to the Holy Virgin is nicknamed Tal-Mirakli, which refers to a miraculous happening when, according to tradition, tears were shed by a picture of the Virgin.

HAL LUQA - The village is in one sense the gateway to the Maltese Islands. It gave its name to Malta's sole airport situated nearby, which for many years was known simply as Luqa Airport, before being named Malta International Airport.

Ħal Luqa's proximity to the country's airfield led to its near destruction in World War II, but luckily the village's two 15th century churches survived. The parish church of St. Andrew, patron saint of fishermen, contains an original altarpiece by the Calabrian Knight, Mattia Preti.

Ħal Luqa is also near the sea - as indicated by its choice of patron saint - and to Malta's large, modern Freeport.

Ħal Qormi is the second largest town on the Islands. It is has both residential and light industrial areas, but the town's core is still characterised by alleys and narrow streets.

Because of its low-lying position near Grand Harbour, Ħal Qormi played a distinct role throughout its history. At one time, parts of Valletta, Marsa and Ħamrun depended on it as an administrative and parish centre. Ħal Qormi traditionally provided a workforce of stevedores for the harbour. The town became the first place where imported goods were stored. Wheat was one of the staple imports. Over the years, windmills sprung up in the town and it soon developed a thriving break-making industry. Ħal Qormi has been known as the centre of bread-making since the time of the Knights of St. John. They named it `Casal Fornaro', the bakers' village, and it still is today.

Modern-day Ħal Qormi carries on the tradition as the centre of the Islands' baking industry. The town today is divided into two parishes - St. George's and St. Sabastian's. St. George's Parish Church, completed in 1684, is an imposing structure. Apart from the festa on the last Sunday in June, an unusual event in the parish is the Good Friday procession - a traditional affair in which participants wear Biblical costumes. The Church of St. Sebastian, completed in the 1980s, is in neo-Romanesque style and carries a distinctive huge, white dome.  The festa of St. Sebastian is celebrated every third Sunday of July also on Easter Sunday a procession held with the tradition of running with the statue of Risen Christ in various roads in the parish. 

Ħal Safi is a small, ancient parish nestling among larger village neighbours in the vicinity of the airport.

Its name means `pure' and as if by design rather than coincidence, the villagers here managed to avoid succumbing to the various epidemics that swept the Island from medieval times to the late 19th century. Ħal Safi's origins are straight from antiquity. The village has some fascinating examples of Moorish-style architecture.

Within the village limits are remains of what may have been a Roman villa. More discernible is the Roman watch tower of Ta' Gawhar.

Ħal Safi, although small, became a separate parish in 1598. Its church, dedicated to St. Paul, was built in 1744. The titular painting in the church is the work of Stefano Erardi, a well-known Maltese artist working at that time.

Hal Tarxien - The town is known mostly for its prehistoric temple complex dating back to the copper age, which gives rise to the distinct Tarxien Phase of megalithic building on the Islands.

The temples and their artefacts provide some of the best insights into the rituals, beliefs and building skills of these prehistoric peoples. Several huge statues, known as the `fat ladies', today housed in the National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta, come from Ħal Tarxien.

The town itself was important in later centuries, particularly in Roman times, but it remained more or less a backwater over the millennia although it is one of the older parishes of Malta. Like nearby Paola, the town began to develop in the early 20th century with the growth of the dockyards.

Ħal Tarxien is home to one of the Islands oldest surviving parish churches, Tar-Rokna, dedicated to the Annuniciation of Our Lady.

Ħamrun is a bustling, urban area that developed from fragmented villages. It is a popular shopping town with a lively atmosphere.

Ħamrun's rapid development from the mid-19th century was the result of the building of the railway, though the population had already swelled with the overspill of dockyard workers from Valletta and Floriana. The railway lasted only five decades until around 1930, but by then Ħamrun had became a major centre. It was granted parish status the late 19th century.

The early baroque parish church, St. Mary of Porto Salvo, built in 1736, developed like the town itself from smaller beginnings: it was probably once a village chapel. Today's main parish church is dedicated to San Gaetan.

Also of interest is the small chapel of Tas-Samra. It houses a small icon brought to Malta from Spain by a wealthy 16th century merchant. The icon, a depiction of the Madonna, was much revered and was unusual for the dark complexion of the Madonna.

Ħ'Attard is one of the so-called Three Villages, along with neighbouring Ħal Lija and Ħal Balzan.

Many wealth families built summer residences here in the early years of the 20th century, and the Three Villages are still considered an exclusive urban area. Ħ'Attard lies almost halfway between Malta's medieval capital Mdina and the Knights' `new' capital Valletta. Its position meant the village was always the centre of transport and communication projects between the two. First was the Wignacourt acquaduct, completed in 1615, built to solve the problems of Valletta's drinking water supply. In the late 19th century came the railway, a service which lasted only until the 1930s.

Ħ'Attard today is still characterised by large villas and gardens, the most impressive of which is San Anton Palace built by Grand Master Antoine de Paule in the late 16th century. It is now the official residence of the President of Malta and is used for state functions. The gardens, open to the public, are a baroque masterpiece and oasis of green and calm. The village has many architectural gems, but the highlight is the Parish Church of St. Mary (1616) designed by Maltese architect Tumas Dingli. It is regarded as the best Renaissance monument on the Islands.

Near Ħ'Attard is the Ta' Qali Crafts Village, located on the old wartime airfield, and the National Stadium.

Ħaż-Żabbar lies just inland from the Three Cities and shares a common history.

The Cottonera Lines of landward fortifications reach the outskirts of Ħaż-Żabbar. The town was used as an encampment by the Ottoman armies at the outset of the Great Siege and later as a base by the Maltese insurgents against French rule in around 1800. Ħaż-Żabbar was granted city status by the last Grand Master on Malta, Ferdinand de Hompesch, in whose name the population built a triumphal arch on the main approach road from Paola. While Ħaż-Żabbar today is a large town, the old centre, with its narrow alleys and small square, is characteristic of Maltese villages.

The historical highlight of Ħaż-Żabbar is the Parish Church of Our Lady of Graces, which has one of the most monumental and ornate baroque exteriors on the Islands. The Ħaż-Żabbar Sanctuary Museum under the church houses an interesting collection showing the link between the Order of St. John and the institution of the church. It is open every Sunday 0900hrs till 1200hrs.

Ħaż-Żebbuġ has a village-like atmosphere although it has been a large residential area for centuries.

It was elevated to 'city' status by Grand Master de Rohan in 1777. Its city status is marked by the monumental arch on the main approach road. Ħaż-Żebbuġ was for centuries the main agricultural village of Malta and the centre for the cash crop, cotton. Ħaż-Żebbuġ houses some magnificent patricians' houses and palazzos and fine examples of 16th to 18th century domestic architecture. The name 'Ħaż-Żebbuġ' means village of olives. In times past, it has seen olive oil production as well.

Ħaż-Żebbuġ is also renowned for the great and the good of Maltese history. It has produced more distinguished Maltese - artists, poets, sculptors, composers and notable priests - than any other village on the Islands.

Ħaż-Żebbuġ's parish church, dedicated to St. Philip, was built in the early 17th century. It is attributed to the son of Gerolamo Cassar, the Maltese architect of St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta. The interior is lavish baroque and the side chapels have fine example of Maltese scenography. Ħaż-Żebbuġ is also home to numerous early chapels: the oldest is the Chapel of St. Roque (1539) which is open the first Sunday of the month from 9.30 am till noon; the most ornate is the small church Tal-Abbandonati (1758), a short walk to the right of St. Philip's.

L-Iklin - The locality of L-Iklin with a population of around 3,200, is situated on a hill upon which in-Naxxar is built. On the south it borders with Birkirkara and Ħal Lija while on the east it borders San Ġwann.

The first house in this locality, Dar il-Lewża, was built in 1954 by Dr. Zammit and is found in Triq in In-Naxxar. For fifteen years this house was the only building in Iklin. During the sixties and seventies a number of luxurious villas were built on the hill which leads to In-Naxxar (on the side of Triq il-Wied in the area known as Upper Iklin).

Towards the end of the seventies as well as during the eighties buildings started to crop up everywhere. On the lower side of the valley, which was a green area a bypass was built which begins near the university and ends at L-Iklin. This bypass has served to separate L-Iklin however tumoli of fertile land were lost in the process.

The population is relatively young with about a third below the age of eighteen years. Those above the age of sixty have increased due to an increase in life expectancy.

The name of this locality comes from the aromatic herb rosmarinus, L-Iklin in Maltese. It is thought that this grew in the valley however this cannot be found today as everywhere has been taken up by buildings.

In L-Iklin two archaeological sites have been found, one from the Bronze Age and the other with Punic and Roman remains.

The village is known for the chapel of San Mikiel Arkanilu (St. Michael) built in 1615. Mass is celebrated once a year, on the day the feast is celebrated on the 29th of September. Near the chapel there is also the fireworks factory of Ħal Lija.

The coat of arms depicts a shield on a blue background with Saint Michael in the centre and, the six roses of Iklin on the borders.

Imqabba is one of the South's ancient villages. It is also at the heartland of Malta's limestone quarries.

Some are active quarries while others are now disused and filled with fields and orchards. The village is also the site of some of the Islands' most interesting early Christian tombs, the Tal-Mintna Catacombs, which are decorated in relief carvings. Some houses in the village core have fine examples of stone-carved facades and balconies, reminiscent of Moorish and Spanish style.

Since the village is near the airfield, it suffered severe damage in World War II. But two of Malta's older churches survived: the Chapel of St. Basil, possibly the oldest medieval church in Malta; and the adjacent church of St. Michael, first built in 1550.

Another site of key historical interest is the Roman round tower, Torri Wilga.

Imsida - The name Imsida comes from the Arabic msayda, meaning `a fisherman's dwelling'.

Today, it is known for boats of a different kind as the creek houses the modern Msida Yacht Marina with its 250 or more yacht berths. Msida began to take on the vestiges of a town in the late 18th century when a leading German Knight of the Order of St. John had a house here. He funded the building of a washing place for local people. The vaulted building still stands today.

Apart from pleasant marina-side walks and views, Msida highlights include one of Malta' unique cave chapels and an elegant baroque church, St. Joseph's, built at the turn of the 19th century.

Kalkara is an unofficial fourth member of the so-called Three Cities, nestling inside the creek on the eastern side of Vittoriosa.

Although excluded from the Cottonera group of cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua), it shares the same historical and economic background, a dependence on all things maritime and an important role in wartime. Kalkara has its own strongholds. Nearby Fort Ricasoli, a massive fortress at the entrance to Grand Harbour, was built in 1670. The smaller Fort Rinella is a late 19th century British addition to the harbour's fortifications. The area between the forts houses the Mediterranean Film Studios. At the head of Bighi Peninsula is the old British Royal Naval Hospital, used today as a school for restoration studies.

Kalkara Creek is also known as 'English Creek', a link which dates back to the time of King Henry VIII. Kalkara itself retains the air of a sleepy, picturesque fishing harbour. Behind the small boat yard at heart of the creek, is an entrance to the Great Ditch in the Three Cities' fortifications. From here, a path winds through an olive grove up to Vittoriosa.

Manikata is a small village in the limits of Mellieħa in the northwestern part of Malta.

The main industry of Manikata is farming. The valleys around this village are rich in produce. All year round the fields are tended and the produce is enjoyed by many. Grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, melons, water melons. apples, oranges, pomegranates, strawberries and many other crops are commonly grown in the fields surrounding Manikata. The area is also renowned for the quality of its honey.

The church dedicated to St. Joseph is by renowned Maltese architect Richard England.

Marsa - The town of Marsa, situated in the innermost creek of Grand Harbour, is the nerve centre for the Islands' shipping and engineering industries.

The name Marsa means harbour in Arabic, and there have been port facilities here since Phoenician times. It was in use too in Roman times. Roman baths and catacombs have been found in the area.

Today, Marsa is home to Malta Drydocks, Malta Shipbuilding and an industrial estate. But it is also synonymous with sports. The Marsa Sports Complex houses a modern horseracing course, the Marsa Sports Club with its 18-hole golf course, and the National Athletics Stadium.

Marsaskala (a.k.a. Wied il-Ghajn) has developed only in recent years from a small fishing village into the popular southern resort it is today.

The harbour is still used by a few fishermen, their colourful Luzzu sharing the moorings with pleasure craft. Life here is centred on the long harbour promenade with its many open-air cafes and restaurants. For much of its past the village was a tranquil backwater, though it has seen its share of the Islands' main historical events. Marsaskala Bay made easy landing for Barbary Corsairs and Ottoman Turks who raided the Islands from the Middle Ages to the late 17th century.

After a large Ottoman fleet landed here in 1614, the Knights set about improving the bay's defences, building the imposing Fort St. Thomas in nearby St. Thomas' Bay. Locals built their own domestic versions. The Mamo Tower on the road to Żejtun, now fully restored, is a fine example of a fortified farmhouse. It was built in a unique shape - the cross of St. Andrew. It is open to the public from Thursday to Sunday from 9am till noon.

Marsaxlokk Bay is Malta's second largest natural harbour. It is the best place to see the colourful, traditional Maltese fishing boats, the Luzzus, with the mythical eye painted on their prows.

The village is the Islands' main fishing harbour; its Sunday fish market a fascinating insight into local life and a traditional industry. The stalls brim with the night's catch - fish of all shapes, colours and sizes. The village itself has many good fish restaurants. Marsaxlokk derives its name from the Arabic word marsa, meaning harbour, and Maltese for the south-easterly Mediterranean wind, the Xlokk (Sirocco in Italian). Marsaxlokk, with its sheltered habour, was an easy landing place for pirates and the Ottoman Turks. It was here that the Ottoman Turks landed for an attack which ended in the Great Siege of 1565. Napoleon's army landed here in 1798; and in recent times, the harbour was the scene of the Bush-Gorbachev Summit,1989.

The headland to the left of the Bay is Delimara Point. It has two attractive, secluded rocky inlets suitable for swimming: Peter's Pool; and the furthermost part of the headland. Fort Delimara, on the west of the peninsula, was built by the British in 1881 to guard the entrance to Marsaxlokk Bay.

Mdina - According to tradition it was here that in 60 AD that the Apostle St. Paul is said to have lived after being shipwrecked on the Islands. Furthermore it is said that St. Paul resided inside the grotto know as Fuori le Mura (outside the city walls) now known as St. Pauls Grotto in Rabat. Lamp lit by night and referred to as “the silent city”, Mdina is fascinating to visit for its timeless atmosphere as well as its cultural and religious treasures.

Mdina has had different names and titles depending on its rulers and its role but its medieval name describe it best – ‘Citta’ Notabile’: the noble city. It was home then, as now, to Malta’s noble families; some are descendants of the Norman, Sicilian and Spanish overlords who made Mdina their home from the 12th century onwards. Impressive palaces line its narrow, shady streets.

Mdina is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city and extraordinary in its mix of medieval and Baroque architecture.

Mellieħa was once an isolated 15th century hamlet perched on the ridge overlooking Għadira Bay.

It was abandoned for a couple of centuries because of its vulnerability to pirate and Saracen attack. Re-inhabited in the early 18th century, it has since developed into a flourishing town though it retains a quaint historic centre with narrow streets and stepped alleys. From the terrace of the Parish Church, there is a panoramic view over Mellieħa Bay and the surrounding countryside.

Beneath the church is the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin, a national shrine. A fresco of the Madonna and Child is said to have been painted by St. Luke. This legend has made the troglodyte chapel into a popular place of pilgrimage. The walls are lined with ex-voto offerings and paintings - a testimony to the devotion of the people.

Mellieħa today is a modern town noted for its large private villas and houses which have been built on land overlooking the bay. While the town has developed into a resort, it has managed to retain some of its rural character.

Mġarr is a typical rural village, and lies in one Malta's most isolated spots around five kilometres from the town of Mosta.

It is surrounded by rich farmland and vineyards and most of the local population is still engaged in agriculture. Mġarr's rustic environs embrace several picturesque spots - Binġemma, Wardija, Fomm ir-Riħ and Ġnejna Bay. The countryside is superb for walks. Here you are likely to come across examples of Giren, circular stone huts used by farmers, natural landmarks such as the characteristic flat-topped hills, ancient rubble walls and typical Mediterranean garrigue, or scrubland. Mġarr's parish church dedicated to St. Mary is a miniature copy of the Mosta Rotunda. It was built in 1912 with donations and voluntary labour from the locals. The church's elevated position offers open views of the fertile valleys and neighbouring villages.

Mġarr is also home to two of Malta's oldest prehistoric sites, Ta' Ħaġrat and Skorba. Ta' Ħaġrat, still in a good state of preservation, is the earliest standing temple in Malta and dates from the same period as Ġgantija on Gozo. Skorba is an important site as it provides evidence of a prehistoric village which spanned several millennia, from man's earliest times in Malta. The site is of specialist archaeological interest and is not accessible to the general public. Visits can be arranged by appointment. The village also houses a World War II air raid shelter which is of special interest.

Mosta lies at the heart of Malta, along the Great Fault that runs east-west across the Island.

The town's name derives from the Arabic 'musta', meaning centre. It was only a hamlet in medieval times, but began to develop at the turn of the 17th century after the Great Siege. Today it is a busy market town. At its centre is a magnificent domed church (completed in 1860), the Mosta Rotunda, said to be the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe. It was built to imitate the Pantheon in Rome, by Maltese architect George de Vasse. In World War II, the Church took a direct hit from a German bomb during mass. The bomb pierced the dome, but failed to explode. This event is now regarded as miraculous intervention. You can see a replica of the 200kg bomb in the sacristy. The building of the church was revolutionary in its day: the Mosta Rotunda was constructed over the old church which was only demolished at the last. Mosta is associated with several legends which inspired the building of small devotional chapels: the cave chapel of St. Paul the Hermit in a picturesque valley; and the Chapel of Our Lady of Hope, built as thanksgiving for the safety of a local girl attacked by pirates raiding inland from Salina Bay.

Within the limits of Mosta there are also prehistoric remains such as catacombs under Fort Mosta, and Bronze Age dolmens. Mosta also lies on the Victoria Lines, the British fortifications built along the Great Fault.

Naxxar has something of historical, archaeological and cultural interest from each period in Malta's past.

It has always been one of the main villages on the Islands and has played a role in major events in the Islands' history, from the arrival of Christianity to the defeat of the Ottoman Turks during the Great Siege of 1565. The British period also left its mark: Naxxar lies along the Victoria Lines, British fortifications built on the Great Fault. The town's name may derive from Arabic meaning a divide or cut, which would describe its geographic location. It may also derive from `nasra', meaning Christianity. St. Paul is said to have preached here after his shipwreck on the islands in AD 60. Naxxar's Latin motto translates as 'first to believe'.

Highlights in Naxxar are the Parish Church of Our Lady, one of the tallest baroque edifices on Malta, the church museum of processional statues, the town's many windmills, two round fortified towers, street niches, and the lavish Palazzo Parisio. Built by a 19th century Maltese entrepreneur, Palazzo Parisio is a stately home unique in Malta. Its magnificent interior and baroque gardens have been described as a miniature Versailles. The Palazzo has been carefully restored and is open to the public.

Nigret - An area on the outskirts of Rabat and Mtarfa, and also close to Mdina.

An ancient burial site, known as The Abbatija tad Dejr, is found in Nigert.  It is consistent with the other Christian tombs to be found in the Maltese archipelago being also an underground cemetery and has four chambers interconnecting. It features one room much larger than the others, sculpted scallop shells, arched pottery shelves, palm fronds, fish-scale and various other decorations. Attached to this catacomb, hewn from rock, is a very small church, with a painting of the Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel on each side. However, one would not be able to see this painting at the catacombs because it is presently to be found at the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Din L-Art Ħelwa and Heritage Malta have both agreed to liaise together to rehabilitate and ensure this site's preservation since it had suffered severely from both natural forces and the hand of human recklessness. Thus enabling the public to access this historic site and enjoy and appreciate better Malta's Paleo-Christian inheritance

Paceville, situated near St. Julian's is Malta's main nightlife area.

Paceville lies on the hill between Spinola Bay and St. George's Bay. It is the scene of Malta's year-round nightlife and offers leisure, entertainment and dining to suit all tastes. There is plenty to choose from: Paceville has the latest in club DJ music, as well as piano bars, an elegant casino and superb restaurants. The casino is in Villa Dragonara, once the private home of a 19th century Maltese aristocrat.

Picturesque St. Julian's Bay, still used by fishermen, is lined with bougainvillea-clad cafes and restaurants. The coastline of St. Julian's and Paceville is home to several of Malta's newest, five-star hotels and a deluxe leisure, residential and marina complex.

Paola is a 'modern' urban area on the hill overlooking Grand Harbour.

Surprisingly, Paola shares a common past with Valletta. It too is a 'new' town, designed by the Knights on a grid system like that of the capital city. The plan, devised by Grand Master de Paule, was for the town to serve as a summer resort taking advantage of the cooler breezes offered by its hilltop location. However, it did not succeed because the area lay near to what were then mosquito-ridden marshes near the harbour. It was not until the mid-to-late 19th century that Paola really grew. The town's population rose rapidly once the nearby dockyards expanded. Paola today has a landmark parish church. Built in the mid 20th century, the church is unusual for its unadorned and airy interior.

Within Paola's tight grid of streets lies Malta's most precious prehistoric site: the Hypogeum underground burial chambers and temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pembroke's origins are military. This residential area near Paceville started life as British barracks built in typical colonial style.

When the British forces left Malta in the 1970s, the area was used for local housing and has since expanded with the building of modern, spacious villas. Military history here dates back even early, to the time of the Knights of St. John. They built Madliena Tower as part of their line of coastal watchtowers. And it was the Knights who first devised the plan to build a line of fortifications along the natural fault running east-west across Malta.

The plan was enacted by the British in the late 19th century and resulted in the Victoria Lines. Fort Pembroke is the last of the four forts along these lines. Pembroke Battery, one of two from British times, still stands and is being restored. The roads in Pembroke bear names such as Anzio, Alamein and Normandy - all reminiscent of British military activity in World War II. The barracks which remain have a certain charm. Look out for the graceful Pembroke and Sandhurst Clock Towers.

Qawra, together with neighbouring St. Paul's Bay and Buġibba are Malta's largest seaside resorts.

They offer plentiful accommodation ranging from self-catering apartments to hotel complexes and a variety of nightlife and leisure options. The coastline here has some wonderful open seaviews and a vista across to St. Paul's Island, where, according to legend, the ship carrying the Apostle is said to have been wrecked. Standing prominently on the isle is a large statue of the Apostle commemorating this legendary event. The coastline promenade provides a long, though mostly level and easy walk from St. Paul's Bay all the way to Qawra Point, with its tower and views over Salina Bay. St. Paul's Bay started life as a small fishing village.

The parish church of Qawra, dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, was designed by Maltese architect Richard England.

Qrendi is a small village located in the southwest of Malta, near the villages of Mqabba and Żurrieq.

Qrendi was a habited site since antiquity. Within the bounds of the village one can find the magnificent temples (UNESCO World Heritage sites) of Mnajdra and Ħaġar Qim, which date back to about 3800 B.C. As with other Copper Age remains, these rank among the oldest free-standing structures in the World. Remains of shaft graves, field catacombs, and other archaeological evidence further testify to ancient habitation in the area.

During World War II, Qrendi and its surroundings hosted a number of garrisons of British forces in preparation for action against Rommel's forces in North Africa; Qrendi also became the site of an airstrip built for the Allied invasion of Sicily - this in now predominantly farmland, but some of the buildings and the line of the runway can still be found to the north of the village.

Qrendi chagned considerably in recent year, with modern housing rising round its outskirts. Nevertheless much of the "old" village core remains intact and is well worth a visit.

The little harbour of Wied iż-Żurrieq, from where one can take a short boat trip to the famous Blue Grotto, also falls within the confines of Qrendi.

Rabat - Like nearby Mdina, Rabat played a major role in Malta’s past and is a prime source of its cultural heritage.

This large provincial township was part of the Roman city of Melita, with the sites and archaeological relics found testifying to the town's importance during the Roman period.

For many centuries, religious orders have established themselves within the precincts of Rabat and Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians still flourish here in their spacious convents and monasteries, catering for the religious needs of parishioners in their churches.

The town is a commercial centre and acts as a market to its large agricultural hinterland. It is also well established on the tourist map due to its archaeological and historical sites: The Roman Domus (Villa), Catacombs, St. Paul’s Grotto and the fine churches and monasteries.

San Ġwann is a recent development which grew in the 1960s from several smaller communities.

It is a sought-after residential area lying just inland from Sliema. So rapidly have shops and cafes sprung up here in the past decade, that San Ġwann has become a busy commercial centre in its own right. Tucked away in the residential area are some of Malta's enigmatic cart ruts. Thought to date back to the Bronze Age, these curious parallel grooves cut in the rock have defied clear explanation. They may have been used for some sort of prehistoric vehicle, perhaps for the carrying of soil.

San Ġwann is the site of a remarkable troglodyte church, Tal-Mensija Chapel, dating back earlier than the 15th century. Its origins are shrouded in mystery and legend. Pope Leo XII granted the small church privileges in 1879 and it remains to this day a place of devotion.

Santa Luċija is a mid-20th century experiment in town planning.

In the 1950s, the dockyard towns of Paola and Ħal Tarxien needed to expand. A green-field site was found on adjacent agricultural land, and the Santa Luċija estate was built. With the Maltese islanders' deep attachment to their birthplace towns and villages, there was no way of knowing if the `new town' concept would succeed, but Santa Luċija has flourished, been granted parish status and is now home to a third generation of residents.

On the outskirts of the town is a quaint Chinese Garden, the Garden of Serenity, laid out in the early 1990s.

Santa Venera - Midway between the old and new capitals of Mdina and Valletta, Santa Venera grew in importance as a staging post en route.

Santa Venera's position meant the village was always the focus of transport and communication projects serving the two cities. First was the Wignacourt acquaduct, completed in 1615, built to solve the problems of Valletta's drinking water supply. The flat lands of Santa Venera posed a problem to the acquaduct builders who devised a system of arches to increase the gradient. You can still see large parts of the acquaduct here. The second project was the railway. Track-laying started in the late 19th century for a service that was to last only until the 1930s. Today, Santa Venera is an urban area comprising residential and industrial estates. It has several imposing villas, now government buildings.

Of special interest are Casa Leone, and the nearby Romeo Romano Gardens.

Senglea - This small city, one of the so-called Three Cities, stands on a narrow promontory jutting into Grand Harbour.

The land was fortified in 1551 by Grand Master Claude de la Sengle. The Maltese often use the area's earlier name, L-Isla, meaning the island or perhaps short for `peninsula'. During the Great Siege of 1565, Senglea was protected by Fort St. Michael on its landward side and by Fort St. Angelo on the tip of Vittoriosa across the creek. The heroic role played by its people led Grand Master Jean de la Valette to give the city the title of Citta' Invicta, the invincible city. Like its sister cities, Senglea suffered heavy damage during World War II. More than 75 percent of its buildings were destroyed. The parish church dedicated to the Nativity of the Madonna was rebuilt and retains its artistic heritage.

The city is noted for its superb harbour views across to Valletta from Safe Haven Gardens at Senglea Point. The stone vedette, known as Il-Gardjola, on the bastion-point served as a look-out post to guard the harbour entrance. The sculptured eye and ear above its windows are symbols of vigilance.

Siġġiewi lies in fertile agricultural land, the parish covering a central and western strip of Malta from picturesque coastline of Dingli Cliffs to Buskett Gardens and Verdala Palace near Rabat.

The area takes in some attractive and typical Maltese countryside. It includes charming out of the way hamlets, such as Fawwara and small wayside chapels such as intricate baroque Tal-Provvidenza, just outside the main village. The centre of Siġġiewi is dominated by the imposing baroque parish church of St. Nicholas. Designed by Lorenzo Gafa', who was also responsible for Mdina Cathedral, St. Nicholas' is one of the finest examples of a baroque parish church on the Islands. Its huge dome, visible on the skyline for miles, and the facade, are late 19th century additions by local architect Nicholas Zammit to the 1697 construction. The square in front of the church is remarkable for its size, its two chapels and huge statue of St. Nicholas.

The outlying countryside is ideal for walking tours. Places to look out for around Siġġiewi are: the Inquisitors summer palace in the Girgenti valley, which now serves as the Prime Minister's official summer residence; the 'Clapham Junction' cart ruts which date from Neolithic times; the Laferla Cross; and the picturesque fishing hamlet of Għar Lapsi - a favourite summer bathing place and beauty spot.

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St. Julian's is now a major residential and tourist centre, and home to some of Malta's newest hotels.

It is now an extension of Sliema although it started life as a small fishing port based on Spinola and Balluta Bays. St. Julian's merges with Paceville, Malta's main nightlife centre where there are clubs, casinos and numerous restaurants, cafes and bars.

Picturesque Spinola Bay is still used by fishermen whose traditional boats are housed just below the restaurants. The bay is particularly attractive at night and as a venue for open-air dining. The elegant Spinola Palace, built in 1658 by an Italian knight, Giovanni Spinola, is the landmark historic building on the bay. Another fine building with superb sea views is Villa Dragonara, now a casino, on the headland of St. George's Bay.

St. Paul's Bay and its neighbours Buġibba and Qawra are Malta's largest, seaside resorts.

They offer plentiful accommodation ranging from self-catering apartments to hotel complexes and a variety of nightlife and leisure options. The coastline here has some wonderful open seaviews and a vista across to St. Paul's Island, where, according to legend, the ship carrying the Apostle is said to have been wrecked. Standing prominently on the isle is a large statue of the Apostle commemorating this legendary event. The coastline promenade provides a long, though mostly level and easy walk from St. Paul's Bay all the way to Qawra Point, with its tower and views over Salina Bay. St. Paul's Bay started life as a small fishing village.

The parish church, built in 1617, was carefully restored after suffering heavy damage in World War II. Nearby is the Wignacourt Tower built in 1610 during the reign of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt. It served as Malta's northern-most defensive outpost until fort St. Agatha was built in Mellieħa in 1649. Today, it houses a small museum dedicated to Malta's rich military-architectural heritage.

Swieqi lies on the outskirts of Paceville, Malta's main entertainment and nightlife centre.

It is perched above the coast on the eastern stretch of the Victoria Lines, the British fortifications built in 1878 on the Great Fault running across Malta. Apart from the Victoria Lines, this locality boasts of another two heritage sites, Fort Madliena and Madliena Chapel. Fort Madliena, built in 1880, has an unusual feature - a revolving bridge instead of a drawbridge over its ditch. On the coastline below, is Madliena Tower, built by the Knights as part of a line of watchtowers.

Today, Swieqi is a residential area within striking distance of Malta's nightlife and entertainment centres, Paceville and St. Julian's. The Swieqi area includes several other communities - Madliena, St. Andrew's and Ta' l-Ibraġ. As Swieqi developed, its residential estates took over farmland. The town's name means water channels; a reminder of the region's past.

Ta' Xbiex is a peninsula overlooking the inner reaches of Marsamxett Harbour.

Its name means 'place for fishing nets' and may be one of only a few places that bear a name of Greek origin. Until the mid 20th century it was a small fishing port. The seafront is lined with large villas and offers fine views of Valletta's bastions across the Msida Creek yacht marina. Today, many of the villas are embassies and offices. Ta' Xbiex is known for its quiet, relaxed atmosphere and is a sought-after residential area. The marina not only brings business to Ta' Xbiex but also makes a picturesque place for enjoying the harbour views.

The promenade from Tal-Pieta'-Msida Creek to Gżira-Tas-Sliema makes a good walk.

Tal-Pieta' has two faces, the older town down by the water's edge and the newer development of Gwardamanġa on the steep hill between Tal-Pieta' and Msida Creeks.

Tal-Pieta' retains its charm and atmosphere as an inlet of Marsamxett Harbour. Colourful fishing boats sit alongside the ferries from Gozo. Tal-Pieta' takes its name from the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, a late 16th century Maltese village church which is tucked away close to the road leading to Tal-Pieta' Creek.

A highlight of Tal-Pieta' are the views of Valletta's fortifications. Opposite Tal-Pieta' are Sa Maison Gardens. Laid out in the early years of British rule, and nestling on the fortifications, they offer a shady haven in summer.

Tas-Sliema and the coastline up to neighbouring St. Julian's constitutes Malta's main coastal resort.

It is a centre for shopping, restaurants and cafe' life. Tas-Sliema is also a major commercial and residential area and houses several of Malta's most recent hotels. Tas-Sliema, which means `peace', was once a quiet fishing town on the peninsula across Grand Harbour from Valletta.

The town began to develop rapidly in the early 20th century as a summer resort for wealthier Valletta residents. Their elegant villas and town houses line the quiet, inland streets. The Tas-Sliema promontory offers on one side stunning views across to Valletta and on the other, open sea views. The promenade, which runs for several kilometres from Gżira just south of Tas-Sliema to St. Julian's, is ideal for walker and joggers. There are plenty of seats along the promenade and on summer evenings the seafront becomes a sociable meeting place for locals.

The coastline has two tower fortifications: a De Redin watch tower built in the 17th century; the other was built by the British in neo-gothic style in the 1880s.

Valletta, The Fortress City, Citta' Umilissima, “A city built by gentlemen for gentlemen”. These are some of the names given to Malta's capital city: a living, working city, the administrative and commercial heart of the Islands.

Valletta is named after its founder, the respected Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette. The magnificent fortress city grew on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply from two deep harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour.

Started in 1566, Valletta with its impressive bastions, forts and cathedral, was completed in the astonishingly short time of 15 years.
Valletta has many titles, all recalling its rich historical past. It is the “modern” city built by the Knights of St John; a masterpiece of the Baroque; a European Art City and a World Heritage City. Today, it is one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.

The city is busy by day, yet retains a timeless atmosphere. The grid of narrow streets boasts some of Europe's finest art works, churches and palaces.

Hosting a vast cultural programme, walking around Valletta you’ll come across an intriguing historical site around every corner: votive statues, niches, fountains and coats of arms high up on parapets. Narrow side streets are full of tiny quaint shops and cafés, while Valletta’s main streets are lined with larger international branded shops for fashion, music, jewellery and much more.

Vittoriosa, or Birgu, one of the Three Cities, lies on one of the promontories jutting into Grand Harbour, opposite Valletta.

At its tip is Fort St. Angelo, perhaps the oldest fortification on the Islands. The strategic position of both fort and city over the millennia has led some to call this area `the cradle of Maltese history'. Certainly settlers and rulers from the Phoenicians to the British all made use of the defences here. To honour the part played by the city of Birgu, Grand Master La Valette renamed it Civitas Vittoriosa, `Victorious Town'. Vittoriosa was the first home of the Knights when they arrived in 1530. As such, it contains many important architectural riches. The Knights `auberges' (inns of residence), palaces and churches here are older than those in Valletta.

Highlights include the Church of St. Lawrence, designed by Malta's most prominent baroque architect, Lorenzo Gafa', the Inquisitor's Palace, Fort St. Angelo and the Maritime Museum.

Żejtun's origins lie in antiquity judging by discoveries in the area of Punic tombs and the remains of a large Roman villa complete with cisterns and olive press.

Olive oil production here probably continued into Arabic times: the village derives its name from the semitic word `żejt' meaning olive. The nearby prehistoric site of Ta' Silġ suggests the area was inhabited even earlier. Żejtun was elevated to town status by the last Grand Master in Malta, Ferdinand de Hompesch, who named it `Citta' Beland' after his mother's lineage. Żejtun, lying near to Marsaxlokk and Marsaskala Bays, was easily open to attack from Barbary Corsairs and the Ottoman Turks. You can still see some fortified houses in the village core.

Żejtun today retains much of historical interest. The Parish Church of St. Catherine (1692), described as `the cathedral of the South', is perhaps the finest work of Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa'. The Old Parish Church of St. Gregory, dating back to 1592, is a fascinating church. In 1969, a secret passage was discovered in the church walls. Intended perhaps as a safe place for villagers when Żejtun was under attack, these passages revealed the skeletal remains of some 80 or so people.

Żurrieq is the largest village in the southern area, and one of the original medieval parishes.

Much of the village survives from the time before the arrival of the Knights and provides an insight into pre-baroque Malta. The village is near some spectacular coastline - the picturesque, tiny harbour of Wied iż-Żurrieq at the end of a rugged valley. From the harbour, you can take a short boat trip to the Blue Grotto, a series of natural, sea-level caves, and a local beauty spot. Żurrieq and the surrounding area are rich in archaeological and historic sites, including several ancient chapels, a Roman tower, Punic tombs and a strange, free-standing room with an Egyptian cornice - possibly part of a temple of M