The small and picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk (pronounced marsa-schlock – meaning southeastern port) is located in the South-Eastern part of Malta, adjacent to Żejtun, Marsaskala and Birżebbuġa.
In this article, I’ll introduce you to this traditional fisherman’s village and help you decide whether to stay or visit. You’ll also learn what there is to see and do, and where you can stay and sample the local food.
As a tourist destination, Marsaxlokk is popular for a few reasons:
On Sundays, many Maltese visit the Marsaxlokk fish market to buy fresh seafood from the morning’s catch.
Marsaxlokk fishing village is the largest fishing harbour in Malta. It has been so since antiquity and today the greater part of fish sold on the islands are caught by fishermen coming from this village. Traditional luzzu’s (brightly-coloured traditional fishing boats) and larger fishing vessels line the sheltered harbour in a colourful display that has been the subject of countless photoshoots.
During the week, fishermen coming in with their catch take the fish to the fish market in Marsa. From there, hawkers, fish retailers, restaurant owners and others gather in the early hours of the morning to buy fish for redistribution. However, on Sundays, fish is sold directly to consumers by the fishermen from stalls in the Marsaxlokk Sunday fish market.
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Marsaxlokk village is only 6.5 kilometres away from Malta International Airport. You can be in the village in just 10 minutes by car. Various bus routes can take you to Marsaxlokk as well.
If driving your own car, the roads close to the village core are fairly easy to navigate but get a bit bumpy on the outskirts, especially towards the area known as Xrobb l-Għaġin. Parking at the seafront is pretty difficult on Sundays, though you can usually still find a parking spot in one of the side streets of the main promenade.
The following bus routes can get you to Marsaxlokk:
If you’re staying in one of the northern resorts or Valletta, it might be more worthwhile visiting Marsaxlokk with a hop-on-hop-off bus tour (South route). You’ll get to see much more on the way there, considering the relatively long distance to cover using public transport.
If you’re planning to stay in Marsaxlokk, you can opt to get an airport transfer from Malta International Airport, which wouldn’t take long and cost something like €20 for a private taxi (one way). It’s usually cheaper to book a round-trip straight away.
You can also take this half-day Sunday tour to Marsaxlokk with a combined visit and boat tour of the Blue Grotto. Especially if you have limited time, this is a great way to avoid hassle with public transport since pickup/dropoff from/to your place of stay is included.
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There are no big hotels in Marsaxlokk, however, a stay in this fishing village is ideal for those seeking a relaxing time away from it all. The village offers a limited number of accommodation options that get good reviews from customers.
If you’re looking for a quiet little time away from the hustle and bustle of busy towns, Marsaxlokk is the perfect place to visit. Here is a list of things to enjoy while in the village:
The Marsaxlokk church was built in 1897 and is dedicated to the Madonna of Pompeii. The village holds three annual religious celebrations: on the 8th of May, on the first Sunday in August and the first Sunday in October. The statue of the Madonna and child was commissioned in Lecce, Italy, in 1900.
Located just 15 minutes walk from the village centre towards Birżebbuġa, Fort St. Lucian was built in 1610 by the Order of Saint John to protect Marsaxlokk Bay against Turkish attacks. Through the years, the building has seen several modifications.
The British used it as a munitions depot during World War Two. Currently, it is not accessible to the public because the fort has been listed for restoration.
A walk along the Marsaxlokk harbour presents local fishermen busy mending their fishing nets in the street and fleets of colourful traditional Maltese boats (called Luzzu) still in use to this day. Restaurants, bars and cafes line the waterfront so you are spoilt for choice if the sea air suddenly brings on your appetite. The open-air market is located along one side of the harbour and is an all week event.
15 minutes uphill from Marsaxlokk village centre lies the area that’s known as Tas-Silġ. This part of Marsaxlokk is mostly known for its archaeological importance, being the site of a shrine that was transferred from one civilisation to another over thousands of years. Unfortunately, the site is open only by appointment with Heritage Malta, so you cannot just go in and visit the remains yourself.
In the area, there is also the Carmelite church, built around 1833 on the site of an older church and dedicated to the Madonna of Snow. The church is open daily for functions and is also used as a retreat centre.
Fort Tas-Silġ is a fort built between 1879 and 1883 by the British at the end of Delimara Point, above il-Ħofra-ż-Żgħira. It was part of a number of fortifications protecting Marsaxlokk Harbour along with Fort Delimara, Fort San Lucian, Fort Bengħisa and the Pinto and Ferretti batteries. The fort today is used by The Island Sanctuary, a charity organisation that takes care of stray and abandoned dogs in Malta.
There are two markets in Marsaxlokk – where one is essentially the extension of the other. The Marsaxlokk open market sets up shop from Monday to Saturday along the quay with stalls selling a variety of food, clothes, souvenirs, ornaments, paintings and traditional objects – however, on Sundays it extends farther, focusing mainly on the retailing of fish caught by local fishermen. They set up stalls to sell their catch directly to the numerous clients that flock to the Sunday fish market.
A word of warning: Sundays are usually pretty busy when locals flock to the village. That means it can be tough to park close by and you’ll have to find a parking spot in one of the back streets from the seafront. During the week, the village is much more relaxed and navigating the market is a lot easier.
Xrobb l-Għaġin Nature Park and Sustainable Development Centre is a Government project that aims to safeguard an area of over 155,000 square metres of natural habitat. The park provides a nice walk along the peninsula with stunning views. On-site there is also a hostel run by the centre and provides accommodation at very low prices.
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There are four stunning coves with clear water in Marsaxlokk – but none of them are within easy reach. This makes them perfect swimming spots for swimmers who want peace and quiet but don’t mind a little hike to get there. You will rarely find crowds within these areas and their remote locations (and bumpy roads) have kept away the vendors and beach combo entrepreneurs that hog other swimming zones in Malta.
The first two Marsaxlokk beaches are il-Ħofra ż-Żgħira (small cove) and il-Ħofra l-Kbira (large cove) – two coves adjacent to each other. To reach them, you must travel a number of narrow winding roads to the Southwest of the village. Kalanka and St. Peter’s Pool are the other two of these bays, with St. Peter’s Pool (one of my top 10 beaches in Malta) being the most accessible of all four, reachable via the road that leads to the Delimara Power Station.
All four coves have crystal clear deep waters which offer excellent snorkelling opportunities.
When the wind is strong from the South or East the water in all four bays can become rather rough and dangerous, especially for young or inexperienced swimmers.
If driving there, it is advisable to park your car on the main road at the top of the cliff.
Marsaxlokk is synonymous with fish and seafood cuisine. Here you’ll find the best restaurants in Malta in this category. The following is a list of the top 5 restaurants in the village:
The natural harbour has attracted seafaring cultures since ancient times. In the 9th century BC, Phoenicians used this port to land in Malta – they even had their own temple dedicated to Astarte. The Romans used Marsaxlokk bay for safe anchorage during their reign, as did the Arabs after them. Later on in Malta’s history, Marsaxlokk provided anchorage for the Ottoman fleet when they came to lay siege to Malta in 1565.
The area that’s known as Tas-Silġ (‘silġ’ being the Maltese word for ice) has seen human activity for thousands of years. Archaeologists identified the remains of a megalithic temple originally built in the Neolithic period. Subsequently, it was inhabited by Bronze Age people, Phoenicians, and Romans, until the same time was finally used as a Byzantine monastery in the 4th or 5th century AD before being completely destroyed.
Unfortunately for visitors, the area holding the remains of the temple has been isolated by a large boundary wall. Visits can be arranged by appointment with Heritage Malta, the organisation in charge of the site.
If you’d like to get a taste of Maltese culture and tradition, Marsaxlokk is a good stop to visit as part of your sightseeing plans.
This fairly quiet fisherman’s village by the sea is full of the colourful little boats that Malta is known for. It’s also a great place to get a taste of some of the freshest seafood you’ll find on the island.
Yes, it refers to the nature of the town and its location: Marsa is an Arabic word for port, while xlokk is Maltese for south-east.
Weekdays tend to be quieter in Marsaxlokk, while on weekends (in particular Sundays) locals flock to the town for their Sunday lunch.
The upside of visiting on Sundays is that the local market will be set up at the seafront, which creates a little hustle and bustle. Don’t expect amazing buys though, the market stalls generally sell everyday items and food.
Marsaxlokk is located towards the Southeast of the main island Malta, North of Birżebbuġa and south of Marsaskala (both being other seaside towns in the area).
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Hello… Can you please suggest me nice farm house in Marsaxlokk please? Occupancy for 4-5. Thanks so much.
Hi Cathy, sorry but I’m afraid I don’t know of any farmhouses for holiday lets in Marsaxlokk. They’re not very common on this side of Malta.
Hi, could you please let me know the story behind that “Fisherman /dog /cat” sculpture?
Hi Ross, honestly I don’t know that there’s a story behind it. As far as I know it’s a tribute to local fishermen, present and past.
Hi, is Marsaxlokk wheelchair friendly? And are the restaurants also wheelchair accessible?
Hi Iman, Malta generally isn’t very wheelchair friendly and although pavements are decent and few steep roads exist, restaurant owners exploit the space with as many tables and chairs as they can fit and fishermen often have their gear and boats out on the side of the quay. The restaurants themselves are usually wheelchair accessible, yes.
This is excellent as an over view. My only request would be to provide the detail of bus routes from, the airport rather than the unhelpful “various” – Many thanks for the rest of the information
Fair enough Shirley, I’ve updated the section with some detail on that!
Hi! I would like to know if it is worth considering staying in Marsaxlokk for a holiday in Malta or is it better just to visit it for a day?
Hi Nicoletta, it really depends on what your idea of a holiday is. If you just want somewhere quiet and away from the crowds and don’t mind renting a car to get to other places (if sightseeing is on your to-do list) then yes, it could be a good place to stay.
We were there early September 2017, for a day visit in Marsaxlokk – based ourselves in Marsascala for a week, as we were close to the Zabbar Festa, Valletta,Malta Smart City etc / and therefore we explored the South of the Island. We also spent another week in Bugibba (North of Malta) to explore Mosta, Qawra, Blue Grotto, Gozo, The Blue Lagoon, St.Julians Popeye Village etc etc
Sounds great Ross. How was your trip? Any tips you’d like to share with other readers? 🙂
Coming to this place tomorrow for a lunch. Want to have some fish dish…
You’re definitely going to the right place for that Max, enjoy!