The Three Cities is a collective description of Vittoriosa (Birgu), Cospicua (Bormla), and Senglea (Isla).  The first home to the Knights of St. John in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Maltese also call them Cottonera, a collective name for the three medieval fortified cities in the South of Malta.

As the first home to the Knights of St. John in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Three Cities’ palaces, churches, forts, and bastions are far older than Valletta’s. Their harbour inlets have been in use since Phoenician times. The Grand Harbour was what made the Knights settle in that area. Trade and controlling the harbour were tremendously important.

Individually, each of the Three Cities has much to offer

Vittoriosa

Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, the Angevines, the Aragonese, and the Order of Saint John all contributed to the development of Birgu. The city was fortified in the 1530s and strengthened in the 1550s in preparation for an attack by the Ottoman Empire. This included the construction of the Castle of St Angelo, a large fortification separated from the city by a narrow channel, instead of the ancient Castrum Maris. The castle was connected to the city using a drawbridge.

Birgu was the site of major battles between the Knights and the Ottoman Empire during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. After four months of successful defense by the Knights, the city was almost captured by the Ottoman army in August but was recaptured by the Knights under Grand Master Parisot de Valette. Reinforcements from Sicily arrived a month later, and the siege was abandoned by the Ottomans. After this, a new capital city was built on Mount Sceberras, bearing the name Valletta. In 1571, the Knights transferred their convent and seat to the new capital, and Birgu lost some of its importance. Despite this, after the Siege, Birgu was given the title Città Vittoriosa, Italian for “Victorious city”.

Interesting facts about

The Three Cities

Malta was one of the most intensively bombed areas during WWII

The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) flew a total of 3,000 bombing raids, dropping 6,700 tons of bombs on the Grand Harbour area alone, for a period of two years. 

Malta was one of the most intensively bombed areas during WWII

The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) flew a total of 3,000 bombing raids, dropping 6,700 tons of bombs on the Grand Harbour area alone, for a period of two years. 

Cospicua 

it has been inhabited since Neolithic Its maritime facilities started during ancient times around the Phoenician era c. 600 BC. Before the 18th century, it was known as Bormla, a name that is still in use. Its fortification walls, were constructed to protect the town and its neighbours, Birgu and Isla. Bormla, with its six kilometres of fortifications, is home to an impressive Parish church with an oratory full of works of art.

Senglea

is also called Civitas Invicta because it managed to resist the Ottoman invasion. The island on which Isla lies was joined by a land bridge to Birgu during the time of the Knights of St.John and as a result, it became peninsular in shape. During the Second World War Senglea suffered heavy bombardments which devastated most of the city and killed many of its citizens. Isla hosts two astounding churches (namely St Philip’s and Our Lady of Victories) and has a lovely garden at its tip overlooking Grand Harbour where you can find a great example of a Gardjola watch post.

Points of interest

Vittoriosa (Birgu) is the most popular and also the one boasting most attractions, such as the Malta Maritime Museum (right on the Waterfront), the Malta at War Museum the Inquisitor’s Palace, and of course Fort Saint Angelo.

Points of interest

Vittoriosa (Birgu) is the most popular and also the one boasting most attractions, such as the Malta Maritime Museum (right on the Waterfront), the Malta at War Museum the Inquisitor’s Palace, and of course Fort Saint Angelo.

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Points of interest

Bir Mula Heritage Museum artifacts and archaeological finds give a real insight into how people lived in the area before the Knights set foot here.

Points of interest

Bir Mula Heritage Museum artifacts and archaeological finds give a real insight into how people lived in the area before the Knights set foot here.

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