Marsalforn was for many years a small fishing village on the Northwest coast of Gozo, that has developed into a popular seaside resort with many tourists' facilities, Gozo’s largest. Marsalforn lies between Xaghra and Zebbug, and for administrative purposes it forms part of Zebbug. The name is a composite word; ‘Marsa’ means port in Arabic, while ‘forn’ translates to a bakery in Maltese. However, it is unlikely that a bakery has anything to do with it – the village’s population was too small to have its own bakery. It is more likely that the name, like that of other ports, refers to a vessel type. In that case, Liburna (an Illyrian kind of vessel), or ‘lifurna’ in Arabic, seems to provide an adequate derivation.
According to the legend, when St. Paul left the Maltese Islands after the shipwreck, he embarked to Sicily from Marsalforn. This legend presents itself in the coat of arms, consisting of a viper encircling a sword, referring to the incident when St. Paul was bit by a viper and remained unharmed. The village church is also dedicated to St. Paul, and the feast is celebrated annually on 10th of February. In the bay, there are a number of hotels, shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and SCUBA diving centres located along the seafront.To the Northwest, there are the lesser known bays of Qbajjar and Xwejni, much quieter, but not less scenic. The salt pans present here date back to 1740 and are still being used, yielding quite a lot of tons of sea salt annually. A panoramic view of the whole of Marsalforn can be seen from the top of il-Merzuq; a volcano-like hill a few hundred metres away hosting a massive 12-metre statue of Christ.
Marsalforn has a history that dates back to Roman times, in fact, until the sixteenth century, the port was the most significant one in Gozo, where imported food supplies from Sicily were unloaded here, and passengers could also embark to travel to other ports. The importance of the port was such, that the Knights of St. John considered abandoning the Citadel in Rabat to build a new town overlooking the port. However, the Gozitan people did not like the idea, so the plans were never realised. With the development of Mgarr harbour, Marsalforn lost its importance and remained a quiet fishing village. However, the growth in tourism in Malta throughout the 20th century, the village’s economic role moved away from fishing, and tourism became the dominant source of income and employment for locals. In the last decades, the village saw considerable urban expansion spurred by the growth in tourism, which meant that several accommodation buildings, bars and restaurants had to be built. Tourism is very seasonal, and while the village is buzzing with activity during summers, throughout winter the village regains a quiet and calm atmosphere.
Things to see and do:
Marsalforn Bay: Marsalforn beach provides an ideal site for swimming, snorkelling, diving, and relaxing in the sun.
Climb the il-Merzuq hill and see enjoy the beautiful views from the top.
Go for a dive.
Bus number 310 from Victoria, Gozo