Birgu, or Cittá Vittoriosa is one of the oldest city on the Island, and it played an important role in the Siege of Malta in 1565. 2,633 people inhabit the 0.5 km2 city located on the south side of the Grand Harbour. Birgu was once a main city and has a long history of military and maritime activities. Birgu’s position in the Grand harbour was of great importance and several military leaders wanted to take over the city. Therefore, the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and the Aragonese all shaped and developed Birgu. Yet, no one did more for the city than the Knights of St. John, who arrived to Malta in 1530 and made Birgu the capital of Malta.
Birgu is a unique city surrounded by fortified walls, ancient history, monuments and places that one can visit. The entrance to Birgu is via the Couvre Porte, while the parish church is dedicated to St. Lawrence, whose feast is celebrated annually on the 10th of August. Brass bands clubs, processions and fireworks are among the attractions in such festivities. There is another church dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation and is run by the Dominican Order. It is also known as St. Dominic Church, and a smaller feast is celebrated every last Sunday of August.
Things to see and do:
The Parish Church: The parish church of St. Lawrence was the Conventual church of the Knights of St. John.
Inquisitor’s Palace: The Inquisitor's Palace was the seat of the Inquisition in Malta from 1571 to 1798. The Palace has now been converted into a museum but before, it had its own chapel, library and rooms. However, once can still see the dungeons and the courtyard. The Museum is open every day and houses the national museum of ethnography collection.
Malta Maritime Museum: Exhibits maritime history from ancient to more recent times. The collections are unique and outstanding, especially those concerning the warships of the Knights of St John. There are also paintings, weapons, uniforms, anchors, maps and models dating from 1530 to 1798.
Notre Dame Gate: Grandmaster Fra Nicola Cotoner built this historical gate in Birgu in 1675. At the time it was built, it was the highest building in the region and from its terrace and roof there was an excellent view of a good part of the island. Today Notre Dame Gate houses the headquarters of Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna – the Malta Heritage Trust.
Malta at War Museum: The Museum holds an exciting exhibition about the II World War in Malta, with an underground air raid shelter. There is also a viewing of a 30-minute original wartime documentary. The museum exhibits a collection of wartime mementos, underground tunnels and audiovisuals. Open daily between 10:00 and 16:00.
Fort St. Angelo: After the Knights of Malta chose to settle in Birgu they made Fort St Angelo the seat of the Grand Master. This is a historical piece of military architecture with its fortified walls. Some parts of the fort were leased to the Order of the Knights of St. John, forming an independent state over which Malta has no jurisdiction over. Other parts of the fort were trusted in the hands of Heritage Malta, who plan its restoration in the near future.
Bus number 2 from Valletta