This page provides the visitor with
an overview of amenities in Birgu (Vittoriosa), ranging from restaurants and
wine bars to the Local Council and even one of the largest outdoor markets
on the island.
(Please refer to the companion directory page for web links (URLs) to the establishments mentioned below, and others.)
The development of the Marina waterfront has been accompanied by investment in a number of restaurants mainly in the Old Treasury Buildings. One can eat outdoors (as well as indoors), and admire the marina as well as the sea view. There is a choice of good restaurants along the Birgu waterfront including, 'La Marina', (Trattoria) Sottovento' (mainly lighter meals) and 'Tate' (vegetarian). Also along the Marina, but accessible by stairs or lift is Don Berto. The main courses here are very good though the desserts seem to come off a confectionery shelf. However other parts of Birgu are also enjoying this flourishing of places to eat. A recent addition to the waterfront is 'Cargo'- which sadly is architecturally out of keeping with the aesthetics of the Vittoriosa waterfront. At the end of the Marina, literally under Fort St Angelo, is Lupanara which is possibly the most expensive restaurant in Birgu, and arguably over-priced (with a number of the items of food and wine on the menu not actually available).
Slightly off the beaten track, Birgu boasts some of the best traditional as well as innovative Maltese cuisine, notably Tal-Petut which serves excellent food cooked by a dedicated chef-owner who invests both effort and originality in preparing the food and in explaining it to patrons. (The portions are generous and on the last occasion the 'doggie bag' served for lunch the next day.)
There are various wine bars elsewhere typically in the late medieval streets of Birgu, for example: Del Borgo, and il-Forn. Depending on the day of the week, time of day, and time of year they can be quite busy. Each tends to have its own style. Il-Forn provides both indoors seating and a courtyard full of artworks, and a genuine 'oven' (hence the name). It serves Maltese and Viennese food. On the other hand, the 'ambience' of Del-Borgo is much more like that of a wine-cellar with vaulted stone arches, and it has the most classical ambience, as well as good food. 'Lupanara' used to be a wine-bar which apparently changed hands more than once, but more recently has become a restaurant under completely new management.
Around the main square (Victory square) one finds BeBirgu in the St Lawrence Band Club, dCentre at the bottom end of Main Gate Street (just before the Main Square).and is a 'Café-Dine-Wine' (unfortunately with an internal smoking area where it has its wide screen which is great for watching sports - if you don't mind the possibility of being exposed to smoke). In fact, as regards snacks (rather than necessarily haute cuisine) there are about four establishments in or very close to 'Misrah ir-Rebha' (Victory Square) a good central location to see the world go by while enjoying a light snack, but without a view of the sea. Sapori del Sud makes excellent 'pastizzi', cakes and other snacks. The Cafe du Brazil - built on the old site of the Church of St Agatha, and subsequently St Nicholas ) had a major overhaul in 2007. If you don't mind spelling mistakes in the menu, and an anthropomorphically challenged midget knight outside the door, the food is wholesome. If you do there are other similar snack bars, a few metres away on either side. Saint Lawrence Band Club might be upgrading its bar into a bar and restaurant..
Outside or nearly outside Birgu,
a long standing
(about 80 years old) establishment for snacks is the Cafe Riche in Paul Boffa Street, just outside the fortifications of old Birgu - very close to the main bus stop and to the outdoor market mentioned below. The Olde City Pub in St Lawrence Street provides 'pastizzi' and other snacks.
Please refer to the companion
directory page for web links (URLs) to the above and other establishments.
Birgu Local Council has its office in the Auberge de France in Hilda Tabone street. The office sells some of the booklets and media described on a companion page in this website, as well as providing various services and advisory functions for residents and visitors.
There is a small public library in Birgu. It is now situated in the old Local Council offices in the 'Couvre Porte'.
It used to be in a better location - in Triq il-Majjistral (Mistral Street), in a historic building which had been the Auberge d'Angleterre during the mid sixteenth century. An image of a plaque on the library wall is shown alongside - commemorating also the residence nearby of Sir Oliver Starkey who was the Turcopilier (light cavalry commander).The building is unique since in Birgu it is a relic of an English Knight Hospitaller 'headquarters' but there is no comparable building in Valletta. Thankfully it was spared the ravages of the Second World War. The architecture of the building is typical of its time and therefore it is well worth visiting briefly.
The library is modestly stocked, with a reference section as well as books which can be borrowed (if you have the right card). The librarian is very helpful.
Although Birgu is proud to proclaim itself a city, its retail facilities are more in keeping with those of a small to medium sized Maltese village. This is part of Birgu's charm - long may it last.
There are at least a dozen shops (grocers or 'general stores') in which one can find staple food of some description. Do not expect a range of choice to rival Fortnum and Mason! The shops tend to be family-run; turnover in the shops is low, and opening hours sometimes erratic and unpredictable. However they provide the basics in a friendly environment and deserve the custom that they get.
One fairly typical example of a small grocer shop is the Malaya store (image alongside). It can be found on the left in Triq il-Mina l-Kbira (Main Gate Street) soon after old Birgu entering via the Main Gate and close to the band club associated with the feast and patron saint of the Dominican Church of the Annunciation. The visitor may well wonder what prompted the choice of name. The name 'Malaya' is not haphazard but has good historical, and probably economic reasons. It is named after the Royal Navy 'fifteen inch' battleship Malaya, one of five 'super-dreadnought' sister ships of the Queen Elizabeth Class. Malaya's history started in the First World War (including the Battle of Jutland) and ended just after the Second World War during which she served in the Mediterranean attacking the Italian enemy and escorting Malta convoys. There were once two or three establishments bearing Malaya's name and at that time the most notable (and profitable) was the bar which was frequented by British sailors (including some from the eponymous ship). Now only the grocery remains.
As one walks in the direction of Misrah ir-Rebha (Victory Square) on one's right shortly before the Inquisitor's palace, there is Chetwyn's confectionery. On the same (Main Gate) Street, other shops include a stationery on the left and a pharmacy with physicians' consulting rooms on the right.
Birgu also has some stationery shops, a couple of souvenir shops, clothes shops, houseware and ironmongery shops, three butchers' shops (the one in Hilda Tabone Street being the most hygienic in this author's opinion), a pharmacy (jn Main Gate Street), a few hairdressers and some other establishments such as a DVD rental shop.
Small concerns such as these tend not to have a presence in cyberspace, but links to some which do are listed in a companion page.
There are no daily outdoor markets, but there are two or three which function regularly:
The main one is a large outdoor market / 'flea market ' called 'il-Monti' every Tuesday morning just outside the fortified walls of old Birgu. The hustle and bustle is evident in the image below and to the right. The streets alongside and in between the old and newer lines of fortifications are closed to motor vehicle traffic and hundreds of hawkers' stalls are set up early in the morning. Goods sold range from clothing, to housewares, foodstuffs, plants and many more items besides. By 11.00 am some of the vendors begin to pack up, though others stay open for longer.
The photo alongside shows il-Monti - Incidentally the fortified Notre Dame de Grace gate in the background of the market is young by Birgu's standards as it is part of the outer defences of the Three Cities constructed in the 18th century. It leads on to Zabbar.
There is also a "car boot sale", held at il-Fortini on the outskirts of old Birgu starting early every Sunday morning until noon (or earlier) - one can find 'antiques' (usually bric-a-brac) and odd artefacts in this market.
The following establishments in Birgu (Vittoriosa) had been stated as participating in "Fair pricing Agreements in Retailing" (FAIR):
Antoine Borg , Barbara Store, Barocco Store ,
De La Salle Bookshop & Clothes Shop ,
Flumish Petshop , Fortini Kiosk , Franka Lira Bazaar , Freddie’s Salon ,
Hanut Tal-Laham (Mario Mifsud) , Highlight Stationery ,
Limelite Confectionery , Malaya Store ,
Mary Green Grocer , Mifsud Garage Ltd , Mix Appeal ,
Old City Marine Supplies , Old City Pub , Old Tommy’s Confectionery ,
Parascandalo , Pjazzetta Self Service , Popular Store ,
Quattro Stagioni , Rita Green Grocer , Rock Gate Bar ,
Sala Dumnika Bar , Seasons of Style , Shelton , Sottovento Pizzeria ,
St Lawrence Discount Store , Step In Bazaar/DVD Rentals ,
The 3 Gates Gift Gallery , Tommy Self Service , & Vittoriosa Pharmacy.
Check the accompanying Links Page for the minority of the above that have a website.
I have yet to see a florist in Birgu and remain bemused by websites which claim to deliver from florists in the centre of Birgu.
If you're looking for beaches, then Birgu is not the place for you. All 'closed' harbour areas are designated as 'non-bathing' and sewage and other pollution in the Grand Harbour can be a problem. In general it is best to avoid swimming after rain when it is possible that drainage may have been overwhelmed by surface water.
It is possible to swim in Kalkara creek, the inlet on the East side of the Birgu promontory, but the sea water here can be polluted, especially after rain. Many more boats are now moored in this creek with the recent addition of pontoons for yachts.
There is a short cut to the Kalkara water front from Birgu through the Gate of Auvergne which is a small tunnel within St James' Bastion just to the East of St James Cavalier (between it and the Post of Castille) thence over a bridge crossing the ditch (moat), and then down several steps - while carefully dodging the business cards of irresponsible dog walkers.
Moreover if one walks through Kalkara it is also possible to swim in the very small sandy bay of Rinella, and a swimmers' zone has been officially designated here. This beach is about 25 minutes on foot from Birgu. Unfortunately this tiny stretch of sand is still closely overshadowed by the 'tank cleaning farm' . In 2008 the Government stated its intent to remove and relocate this plant but in 2012 it decided against doing so after all. Had it done so, the beach would be less vulnerable to pollution from this source at least. The image alongside shows swimmers in July 2008 during a bus and taxi strike.
Birgu is apparently too small to have a branch of any bank, or even an ATM yet (but an application has been made for one at 'Xatt ir-Risq' i.e. close to the Marina).
Bormla (Cospicua) the adjacent youngest one of 'The Three Cities', has branches of the following two banks:
HSBC: 50 Triq il-Pellegrinagg BML 1580 (Tel: 23802380), is the closest bank to Birgu if one walks along the main waterfront (the one facing Isla / Senglea ) in the direction of Bormla (Cospicua) past the old 'Number One Dock'.
Bank of Valletta: 53, Gavino Gulia Square, CSP 02 (Tel: 21312020) is not much further on - in the heart of Bormla.
Birgu does not have a main post office, but it has sub-post office facilities at 'Step In' located in the main square i.e. Victory Square (Misraħ Ir-Rebħa).
The following information about locations of the respective facilities has been obtained from the Maltapost.com website:
|L152||Letterboxes||Triq Il-Mina il-Kbira - (Main Gate Street)|
|165||Letterboxes||Triq San Filippu - (St.Philip Street)|
|L153||Letterboxes||Misraħ Ir-Rebħa - (Victory Square)|
|L166||Letterboxes||Triq San Lawrenz - (St. Lawrence Street)|
|L167||Letterboxes||Triq San Dwardu - (St. Edward Street)|
|S07||Sub Post Offices||Step In - Misraħ Ir-Rebħa - (Victory Square)|
|BRG 1022 00||Stamp Vendors||Hi-lights Stationery - 51 Triq Il-Mina L-Kbira - (Main Gate Street)|
|BRG 1300 00||Stamp Vendors||Step-In - Misrah Ir-Rebħa - (Victory Square)|
Buses are run by Malta Transport. Please see links on the companion page.
A family run taxi firm (doubling up as an ironmongery) operates from the centre of Birgu
Water taxi services are available from the Marina entrance:
The traditional 'dghajsa' service is the more expensive 'A&S' water taxi service. In 2010, 5 Euros per head was being charged for the short trip across the harbour to Valletta but discounts could be had if a group was prepared to haggle.
A more recent and economic modern alternative is Malta Water Taxis
Birgu is not well endowed with WiFi but some establishments such as Del Borgo and D-centre provide this. The Council also offers this facility to the public close to their premises. Check the Links Page to 'find' WiFi