I had debated putting this as a restaurant tip and the place appears to offer a good range of "bar" food which looked very good but I did not eat there myself so I will place it as a "things to do" tip.
Malta, being Southern European, is very much a cafe society. People gather, normally outside, to have a drink or a bite to eat and discuss thing, often very vocally. For people not used to it, I suppose it can be a little intimidating but do not be put off as that is just the way it is and you will soon get used to it and hopefully enjoy it as part of a culture different to your own. Certainly in Malta you will be greeted with great courtesy and friendliness by the loal people so just smile and enjoy yourself.
I know this all sounds a bit philosophical for what is effectively a tip about a decent little cafe where I had a couple of beers but I feel it is relevant. When I was on Malta, it was the run-up to the General Election which happens every five years and so the discussions tended to be more lively than normal, as they were here. Indeed there were two rival political rallies taking place in the square right in front of me as I was enjoying my beer in the declining light of a pleasant Spring day and yet there was no unpleasantness at all. The two or three police officers present seemed more interested in chatting to friends and having a smoke than in any sort of crowd control. Which brings me, eventually and circuitously as usual, to my point. The Cafe du Brazil offers absolutely the prime location in Birgu / Vittoriosa for people watching which is a great pastime of mine.
I had wandered in, more or less by chance as it looked OK and was greeted by a young lady who had good English. Tehrre appeared to be a good selection of drinks and, as mentioned, a reasonable menu so I took my beer and went outside to watch the street theatre. I should mention that in March this place closed about 1800 hours. I am not sure if they stay open longer int he season but just beware. I should say that the young lady was more than happy to clear up round me and when I offered to drink up quickly and go I was told to take as long as I wanted and enjoy my beer which I thought was a nice touch.
Whilst researcing this tip I happened upon a tip for the same place written by VT member leics. whom I know and respect in 2009 albeit much more succinctly. She says more or less what I have said so it appears this place maintains it's standards.
I know this is rather a verbose tip on a small cafe but I do hope it assists the reader to appreciate a place they may not have visited. If any of you do visit here, you really should drop in for a drink or a bite to eat, it is great.
Although I did find very much more when I was there, my primary reason for visiting Birgu / Vittoriosa was to visit the Malta at War Museum. This is administered by the admirable Fondazzonji Wirt Artna, a charitable organisation who also administer the Saluting Battery and Lascaris War Rooms in Valletta as well as nearby Fort Rinella.
The location of the Museum is itself impressive being situated within and underneath the ancient city walls and includes a subterranean warren which served as shelter for numerous civilians during the aerial bombardment by the Italians and Germans during the Second World War.
The main Museum, which is accessed through the Gate de Provence, features numerous artefacts connected with the Second World War. I found the emphasis to be rather more on the civilian perspective of that War rather than the more militarily slanted National War Museum in Valletta and is none the less interesting for that. Not far into the building you will see a small cinema on the right (about a dozen seats) and I do recommend that you go there to view the film "Malta G.C." which was produced by the Imperial War Museum in London and narrated by a young naval officer called Laurence Olivier! Whilst obviously wartime propoganda, it is a fascinating insight into life on the island during the last War. The film lasts about 20 minutes and plays on a continuous loop.
When you have seen all you want to see in the main Museum, you are directed towards a door leading to some stairs and beside which are some builders hats with the intriguing instruction, "Please take a hairnet and helmet before going down the shelter"! Certainly one of the stranger things I have been asked to do in a Museum but, believe me, it is for a good reason. You will need the helmet for reasons I shall explain shortly and the hairnet is merely a hygienic courtesy to the next visitor using it.
Suitably protected and attired, I descended the steep stairs and started to wander round. Well I say wander but shuffle along bent half double and sometimes having to turn sideways would be a better description. The further into the complex you go, the narrower and lower the passages seem to get. I would suggest that it is not suitable for anyone with claustrophobia issues. The reason for the helmet became obvious as, even being extremely careful, I managed to bang my helmet on the roof numerous times. That would really have hut had I been bare-headed. Obviously the place was not designed for comfort but it really brings home the awful troglodyte conditions that people had to endure for such a long period of time merely to avoid death from the skies.
The organisation involved in all this was fascinating too. There was a seperate "birthing room" for expectant mothers to afford them some privacy and, as well as the communal dormitories, it was actually possible for a family to apply for a piece of rock which they then excavated themselves to make some sort of private space subject to strict rules governing size etc. There is little in the way of signage there and at one point I did wonder whether a "Babes in the Wood" trail of breadcrumbs might have been in order but I suppose they would have found me eventually. Actually, I liked that, it was not overly sanitised and I visited midweek and off season so I had the place to myself which made it slightly spooky. Although I did not see any specific signs prohibiting it, I do not generally use flash photography in museums so apologies if one or two of the images are a little dark.
Birgu / Vittoriosa is a great place to visit and if you do, I definitely recommend you spend some time here. Should you decide to visit, here are the logistics, mostly taken from the excellent attached website.
The museum is open Tue - Sun from 10.00 till 17.00hrs.
The website suggests allowing 45 minutes for a visit but I spent a lot longer than that. I would suggest at least 90 minutes especially if you view the film. The website indicates that the admission price includes a guided tour although I was not offered one and, frankly, I am happier looking round by myself and at my own pace anyway. You may wish to ask if that is your thing.
WEntrance fees are
Family group: €22 (2 x Adults plus 3 children u/16yrs).
Children under 16yrs: €6
I do, however, suggest doing what I did which is to purchase a combined ticket for all the attractions mentioned at the top of this tip as this attracts a 30% discount.
Being on one level, I would suggest that the main Museum would be accessible for mobility impaired travellers but the shelter, by it's very nature and for reasons as described above, certainly and regrettably is not. I am not a Father so hesitate to offer advice about children but I would suggest that travellers with younger children may want to consider whether to take them into the shelter part of the Museum..
Notre Dame gate was built in 1675 by 'Grandmaster Fra Nicola Cotoner' as the principal gate into 'Cottonera' some 9km of continuous fortified trace that encircles 'The Three Cities'(Vittoriosa,Senglea and Cospicua).It is byfar the most imposing and perhaps the nicest of all historic town gates in Malta.It is built on five levels making the highest building in the region.From its terrace and roof one can enjoy excellent views of a good part of the island.It still retains much of its past grandeur,its an architectural gem of unparalleled proportions.At the present it houses the headquarters of Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna-The Malta Heritage Trust.
Visiting in by appointment only.The property is available for the holding of corporate events and private functions
The 'Norman House' dates from the 13th century.
It's worth seeking out, for its window and external decoration (not sure what this is called in architectural terms). There have been the fashion for such decoration on houses at the time: I saw something very similar on a building from the same era in Buda.
Horribly difficult to photograph the whole building because the street is so very narrow (far too narrow for cars).
According to the local council website there are also other Siculo-Norman buildings in Vittoriosa:
'Siculo-Norman building in 4--5, 10-11 (the one in my photo) in Tramuntana Str, in 9 Lbic Str, 30-31 in Ancient Str, 90 Sta Scholastica Str'
Explore the history of the Great Siege at Vittoriosa by visiting the Vittoriosa 1565 Museum which is situated in a quiet street in the old part of Vittoriosa city.
In this medieval house the visitor can see 30 life-size Knights and Turks in action, together with reconstructions of Dragut's camp, Turks scaling walls, La Valette's thanksgiving after the victory, the torture chamber, a shelter, a 12-minute video on big screen in various languages, a souvenir shop, a wine and coffee bar, and a guided tour of the place.
NOTE THAT ALL INFO AND PICS WERE TAKEN FROM MUSEUM'S WEBSITE.
The Vittoriosa waterfront is dominated by the Watch Tower. This building was erected in 1545, to serve as the Order's Bakery. In those days the Knights were quartered in Vittoriosa. The upper storey was the office of the Common Treasurer of the Order.When Valletta was built some 20 years later, the Bakery and Common Treasurer were moved there. The former bakery was transformed as a factory for sails and rigging. Now this building makes part of the Maritime Museum. Some office scenes from the film 'The Count of Monte Cristo' were filmed in this building.
This Museum is housed in a late 19th century building over the site of the old covered slipways of the Knights of St.John.
There are exhibits consisting of various watercolours, original wonders of maritime engineering, models, and archaeological items, amonst others.
Here you will see a large and varied collection of paintings, photogrpahs, models, uniforms, weapons, instruments and other artefacts that attest to the history of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean during the nineteenth and twentieth century and its impact on the economy and social life of the Maltese Islands.
Winter: Mon-Sat - 8.15 - 17.00
Sunday - 8.15 - 16.15
Summer: Mon - Sun - 7.45 - 14.00
Closed on Public Holidays
Built in the 16th century, this was the base for the English Knights of the Order . Each nationality of Knights had its own auberge as a base. There are seven auberge sites still to be found in Vittoriosa.
During the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 there was only one English Knight: Oliver Starkey, who was Latin secretary to Grand Master La Valette. He lived in the building to the far left in the photo (the auberge has the balcony).
The auberge is now used as a local library, so you can wander inside during opening hours.
Apart from containing specific old buildings of interest such as the Auberge d'Angleterre and the 'Norman House', this part of Vittoriosa seems to have suffered less from damage during Malta's various trials over the centuries, and is a joy to wander around. Not least because the people who actually live there clearly take pride and pleasure in making it so, with pot plants a-plenty.
The butter coloured stone buildings snuggle together along narrow alleyways and streets, some barely wide enough for a donkey-cart let alone a car. Unlike the grid pattern in which Valletta was laid out, these streets and alleyways wind in true Medieval fashion, so unexpected pleasures lie around each turn.
Allow yourself an hour or so of slow wandering and close inspection. It is a true pleasure, especially in the bright sunshine.
When one considers how these were created, without modern tools, without electricity, with just the muscles and sweat of hundreds of men (albeit some of them prisoners of war).......they are even more impressive.
This photo is of the enormous ditch between the Advanced Gate (built in 1722) and the Porte de Provence, now filled with olive trees and other foliage.
The photo is where you will enter Vittoriosa, unless you come by boat. Wander the edges of the peninsula to see the other vast walls, gun emplacements, look-outs, sally-ports and, of course, the massive Fort St Angelo at its furthest point.
For those of you who are interested in military history , you may like to take the bus across to Vittoriosa to see the "Freedom Monument." It was sculpted by the late Anton Agius. born in Rabat. The sculpter aged 74 died during our visit to Malta Oct. 2008.
The monument was erected in 1979 to commemorate the withdrawal of the British forces from the island. This momument, as well as marking the site of the British withdrawal, is also the site where Nelson's representative landed in 1799 to claim the island for Britain.
Unfortunately the positioning of the statues being surrounded by the green trees, makes it hard to see the monument clearly. I suggest you enlarge the picture to get a better sighting. The momument seems to be erected on a roundabout.
Rehabilitation of two rooms and underground air raid shelter at Couvre’ Porte Gate, Vittoriosa and conversion of complex into Homefront Museum. This project aims at establishing in this premises a visitors’ experience dedicated to the long years of ordeal endured by the Maltese nation during the Second World War. Prominence will be given to the civilian dimension of the conflict in Malta.
The Maritime Museum charts Malta’s maritime history. The Museum is housed in the former British Naval Bakery at Vittoriosa ( see other tip for info) On entering the Museum, you will find the ‘Anadrian Hall’ which exhibits the engine room machinery of the Anadrian, a steam-driven grab dredger. The first floor houses a display on the Merchant Navy and exhibits a collection of detailed ship replicas and paintings illustrating 19th and 20th century vessels most of which served on the Malta run. The nearby St Angelo Hall, the museum’s events and lecture room, is decorated with an array of colourful ship badges.
The Main Hall illustrates developments from ancient times to the end of the rule of the Order of St John in Malta. Navigational charts, nautical instruments and a series of portraits set the scene for the navy of the Order of St John. This display includes paintings, weapons, uniforms, anchors, maps, models and other artefacts dating from 1530 to 1798.
An entire room is dedicated to traditional Maltese sea crafts and other objects that indicate popular traditions and Malta’s long-standing maritime vocation.
The final hall presents an overview of Malta as a naval base, and depicts aspects of naval and civilian life, both leisure and work. There is also a wide collection of paintings, photographs, models, uniforms, weapons, instruments and other artefacts that illustrate the history of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean during the 19th and 20th centuries and attest to the Navy’s impact on the economy and social life on the Maltese islands.
Walking in the Vittoriosa Waterfront is quite relaxing. On your right, there's some good sites worth a peek and a pic. There's the Maritime Museum, the Clock Tower, The Casino (former Scamps Palace), and at the end of your walk Fort St Angelo. Meanwhile if you look on your left, there's Senglea and the Vittoriosa Marina. In front of you the Valletta Bastions. The walk is not long so you'll do it a 20 minutes. ( way back included). Please click on pic to see more photos.