Birgu’s Grand Harbour © www.viewingmalta.com
Positioned alongside the aptly named Grand Harbour, Birgu is the oldest of the Three Cities.
The oldest of the Three Cities, Birgu – or Vittoriosa – is a wonderful place to wander and has a few significant sights around which to plan a visit. When the Knights arrived in Malta in 1530, Birgu (or Il Borgo, meaning ‘the town’) was a fishing settlement and mercantile port with a fortress, Fort St Angelo, which the Knights regarded as thoroughly inadequate. It was, however, the main centre of population outside Mdina and its position next to the Grand Harbour made it the natural place for the maritime knights to settle, particularly as the Sciberras Peninsula on the other side of the harbour (where Valletta now stands) was at the time a barren hillside. The Hospitallers enlarged, embellished and fortified Birgu into their capital. Its layout remains largely unchanged with narrow streets radiating out from the central Victory Square, and there are many old buildings dating from the period between the arrival of the order (1530) and their post-Siege move to Valletta (1570s).