Victoria is the capital city of Gozo, also known among the Maltese as Rabat. It includes both the old Rabat town and the Citadel – the antique city on top of the hill. In fact, Rabat means ‘suburb’ in Arabic, meaning that the town was a suburb of the Citadel. The town has a population of around 7,000, making it the most populated town in Gozo. The name Victoria was given in 1887 in honour of the famous British Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations, and the town was also raised to a city status. The Cittadella is located on a hill, in the geographical nucleus of the island, and has been called, appropriately, the Crown of Gozo. It seems that the Citadel had already been the centre of since prehistoric times, around 7000 years ago. However, it was first fortified during the Bronze Age approximately around 1500 BC, further developed by the Phoenicians and finalized into an Acropolis during the Roman Times. The massive defensive stone walls rising above the town were constructed by the Knights to shelter the villagers from attacks. There are many attractions in Victoria and a visit to the Citadel is a must.
The centre of Rabat is Independence Square, also known as it-Tokk, dominated by the Banca Giuratale, built between 1733 and 1738. This building was the seat of the municipal government of Gozo, while nowadays it hosts the Victoria Local Council. The square is buzzing with activity in the morning; a daily open-air market sells all sorts of tourist souvenirs, while a number of cafes surround the square, offering cold beverages and pastizzi to the visitors. The Grand Basilica dedicated to St. George is in the centre of the old town, just off Independence Square. The small streets surrounding the basilica are the oldest in town and are worth a walk around; you’ll be impressed by the local delicacies sold in the small shops. The main road, Republic Street, is the commercial heart of the city. A couple of shopping arcades, banks, band clubs and opera theatres dominate this street, while you can also find Villa Rundle Public Gardens for a relaxing time away from the noise of the city.
Things to see and do:
Visit the Citadel: From this fortified city, you can enjoy fantastic views of the whole of Gozo. Within the Citadel, you can find the Gozo Cathedral – a fine 17th century baroque building that is famous for its outstanding trompe l’oeil painting depicting a dome that was never there. You can also find the Cathedral Museum, the Law Courts, the Old Prison, the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, The Folklore Museum, the Citadel Armoury, and the Natural Science Museum. From time to time, there are art exhibitions in different areas of the citadel, ranging from paintings, photography and artistic fashion jewellery amongst others.
Villa Rundle: Villa Rundle public gardens were opened by the British in 1910. These gardens provide a space of calm and relaxation away from the noise and traffic of the town. These gardens are situated between Republic Street and the Main Car Park in Victoria. One can see in a bronze bust of the Gozitan 18th century historian and grammarian Can. Gian Pietro Agius de Soldanis and another of Gozo born French poet and writer Laurent Ropa.
Visit the shopping centres Arkadia and The Duke for some fashion shopping.
Take a walk around the old streets of Rabat and visit St. George’s Basilica and the open-air market in Independence Square.
Bus numbers 301, 303, 323 from Mgarr Harbour, Gozo