Taking a Valletta Grand Harbour cruise is one of the most popular and interesting things to do in Malta.
And for good reason: A harbour cruise in Malta tells the story of the rich history of the two natural harbours (and creeks) at Valletta, Malta’s capital city.
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These tours are operated by iSeeMalta. They’re a reputable company that offers hop-on-hop-off buses and ferries, as well as combo passes for sightseeing and museums around Malta and Gozo.
These harbourside towns give you a glimpse of local life along the Grand Harbour and you can find some great restaurants and cafes there too.
You can also combine this tour easily with the hop-on-hop-off bus and ferry operated by iSeeMalta as well. On top of that, other sea cruises and tours depart from Sliema Ferries as well and can take you to other sightseeing attractions like the Blue Lagoon.
The easiest way to buy tickets is to get them in advance from the iSeeMalta website. Here’s how:
On the boat, there’s plenty of space (also for social distancing when required) and with interesting, detailed commentary (in English and German), you’ll get a good understanding of the history of Valletta’s harbours.
The service runs all year round, but schedules may change. Always check the iSeeMalta website for the most up-to-date info on their schedule.
Valletta is flanked by two of the largest natural harbours around the Maltese islands: Marsamxett Harbour (on the west side of Valletta – across from Sliema and Gżira) and Grand Harbour (on the east side of Valletta – across from The Three Cities).
This boat trip takes you deep into both of these harbours.
After you depart from Sliema, you’ll head further into Marsamxett Harbour, passing by Manoel island and its recently restored Fort Manoel.
You’ll also be able to admire the famous West-facing skyline of Valletta. Recognisable by the bell tower of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the silver dome of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church.
As you exit Marsamxett harbour you’ll sail around Fort St. Elmo and the Breakwater Bridge (also restored in recent years), into Grand Harbour.
On your right, you can see the Siege Bell War Memorial (which commemorates those who fell during the Siege of Malta in World War II) and the Knight’s hospital building (La Sacra Infermeria). You’ll also see Valletta’s popularly visited Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens.
Passing by the Valletta Waterfront, on the outskirts of the capital city and its nearby cruise port, you’ll be passing into the creeks of The Three Cities. Enjoy a sea view of Senglea (Isla), Birgu (Vittoriosa) and Bormla (Cospicua) and life by the harbour of Cottonera (another name for the area). These little towns and their surrounding area are one of the most densely populated areas in Europe.
There is a brief stop at Kalkara for those wanting to get off to explore the area on foot or to visit Esplora Interactive Science Centre.
Afterwards, the boat returns to Sliema, passing by the tip of Valletta once again.
The harbour area has played an important part in the history of Malta, for example, when it was at the centre of the Great Siege of 1565. This conflict saw the Ottoman Empire try to overthrow the Knights of the Order of St. John and conquer the island.
The Knights of St. John ruled the Maltese islands between 1530 and 1798 and left a mark on Malta’s history that is still visible today.
While cruising the harbours, you’ll be able to admire several of their well-preserved fortifications from the past, guided by the audio commentary on board. They include Fort St. Angelo (at Birgu), Fort Manoel (Gżira) and Fort St. Elmo (at the tip of Valletta).
On the Grand Harbour tour, you’ll also see the docks, where boats and other vessels are serviced and repaired. You’ll also pass through French creek and Kalkara creek.
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