Marsaskala is one of the seaside towns in the South Eastern Region of Malta. It has grown from the center of Marsaskala Bay to include most of the area between Marsaskala Bay and St Thomas Bay. The fast-growing population, the growth of about 400% in 20 years between 1993 and 2014, has according to most sources passed 10.000 inhabitants. It is estimated that the population is actually three times as high during the tourist season in the summer months.
Marsaskala is sometimes shortened to M’Skala but it has a different name in Maltese. In the local language, this is Wied il-Għajn. Marsaskala is the story of a former fishing village that has developed into what is today a thriving town.
Blogg Posts From our visits to Marsaskala:
The History of Marsaskala
It is believed that Marsaskala was once a Roman port. It is as a port and possible invasion point that for a long time formed the history of Marsaskala. An attack in 1614, when 60 Turkish ships landed around 6000 soldiers in what is today Marsaskala, prompted the construction of Saint Thomas Tower.
It would take a long time before the small fishing village developed into the town it is today. At the beginning of the 20th century, the population of Marsaskala was just around 50 inhabitants. It was during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century that inhabitants from Cottonera, the Three Cities, started to build their summer residences in Marsaskala. These would later become permanent residents and the town of Marsaskala started to develop. The local parish was established in 1949 and with the opening of the Jerma Palace Hotel in 1982, it became one of Malta’s resort towns.
Sights in Marsaskala
There are several historical buildings, green parks, small beaches, and other sights to discover in and around Marsaskala.
Saint Thomas Tower
St. Thomas Tower is the town’s main historical site and it’s currently being converted into a museum. It is in Maltese known as the Torri ta’ San Tumas. The tower dates back to 1614 and it is the largest of the many watchtowers in Malta. The tower has in modern times even been used as a pizzeria before it in 2008 was handed over to a local heritage foundation. Its defensive duties continued until the 19th century.
Marsaskala bay is the main bay around which the town of Marsaskala has grown. It is a long and narrow inlet where the center of the town is at the bottom of the bay. It is in the center where most of the town’s restaurants are. The bay itself has a long waterfront promenade. The promenade is a perfect start to get a feeling of the town and see a few of its main sights, including the parish church and some of the salt pans.
Saint Thomas Bay
St Thomas Bay lies on the southern shores of Marsaskala and it has developed into a larger recreational area. The bay was earlier a part of nearby Żejtun but was incorporated into Marsaskala as the town grew. Today, the bay includes not only a beach, but also a playground and outdoor gym, all connected with a seaside promenade path. The area is also served by a café and restaurant close to the shoreline.
Church of Santa Anne
Marsaskala parish was established in 1949 and the present church was built a few years later in 1953. The church is known as the church of Santa Anne and is dedicated to Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. Its location along the northern shores of Marsaskala Bay means that its tower is easily visible from the waterfront promenade.
Inwadar National Park
Inwadar National Park is just north of Zonqor Point. It is known as Il-Park Nazzjonali tal-Inwadar in Maltese and was established in 2016. The park covers the area between Marsaskala, Żabbar, and Xgħajra, an area slightly smaller than one square kilometer. The park offers some great views of the sea.
The Żonqor Point is on the northern side of Marsaskala Bay. It is a popular destination for snorkeling and fishing. Żonqor Point was once the home of Żonqor Tower, a watchtower from 1659 that was demolished in 1915. In its place is now a World War II pillbox. Along the waterfront of Żonqor Point, there are also plenty of salt pans.
To the west of St Thomas bay is the Mamo Tower, also known as San Tommaso Tower. It is a fortification built by the Mamo family in 1657 and it is used as a residence. It was not until later that the Mamo Tower was integrated into Malta’s coastal defenses. Today the tower is used neither as a part of the defense nor a residential building. Instead, it is owned by the Government of Malta.
Munxar Hill is to the south of Marsaskala, right next to St Thomas Bay. The Munxar Hill is actually a small peninsula between Marsaskala and Marsaxlokk. Here you will find the Munxar Path, a scenic hiking path to the point of the peninsula.
Jerma Palace Hotel
So what connection did Marsaskala have with the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi? At the headlands, known as il-Ħamrija, next to the St Thomas Tower, are today the ruins of what was once one of the largest hotels in Malta. It was opened in 1982 and managed by Corinthia Hotels International. The owner was, however, the Libyan Foreign Investment Company. It was in operation until 2007 and has since fallen into disrepair. It is today a ruin, or ghost building if you would like. There are plans for new developments at the site, but until then visitors will keep seeing the ruin overlooking the sea.
There are many activities in and around Marsaskala. If you so are looking to spend some time people-watching at a café or enjoy the sunshine at the beach. In addition, there is the possibility for snorkeling and other water activities for anyone who can find a good instructor or who knows what they are doing.
Beaches in Marsaskala
Many people visit the Mediterranean for the sun and swimming. In this regard, there are just a limited number of areas in Marsaskala that offer a possibility to spend a day at the beach.
St Thomas Bay Beach
One of few sandy beaches in the area is at St Thomas Bay. In regards to swimming, this is one of the main beaches in the town. It is accompanied by all the other possible activities of the area, including the café right next to the beach.
Hiking to and from Marsaskala
There are two good options for hikes with Marsaskala as a starting point. These two are along the coast, either to the north or to the south.
To Xgħajra and the Three Cities
Leaving Marsaskala at Żonqor Point and heading north will take you through the Inwadar National Park. The hike will first take you to Xgħajra, from where it is possible to continue towards the Three Cities. What is great about this route is that it is possible to extend it even further, either to Valletta or towards Sliema. One option is actually to take the ferry from Senglea across to Valletta and then walk across the capital and take the other ferry to Sliema. From Sliema, it is possible to continue even further along the coast to St Julian’s or turn back towards Gzira and Msida for a walk around the bay.
From our hike:
To Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa
Leaving Marsaskala at St Thomas Bay and heading south will take you across the Munxar Hill towards Marsaxlokk. There are many short and long options to choose between when finding your route. From Marsaxlokk, there is also a possibility to continue along the coast to Birżebbuġa.
From our hikes:
Excursions from Marsaskala
Even though Marsaskala is at one of the easternmost points of Malta, the whole island is still within reach for day trips. There are, however, a few places that are easier to reach, especially with public transport.
Birżebbuġa is not only the home of the large Malta Freeport, it is also the home of a few historical sites. Here you will find two interesting archaeological sites, Għar Dalam and Borġ in-Nadur.
From our visit:
Fgura is a town along the road to Valletta. The main street has many small shops, usually more oriented towards the locals than to tourists. For anyone wanting to leave the bus earlier on the way to Valletta, then Fgura is perfect. From here it is just a short walk down to the Three Cities and the ferry across to Valletta.
Marsaxlokk is an old fishing village and famous for its traditional colorful boats and the daily market. This is one of the main tourist attractions in the eastern part of Malta. Being the neighbor of Marsaskala, this is an attraction within easy reach – both on foot and by the local bus.
The Three Cities – Birgu, Cospicua, and Senglea
The Three Cities of Birgu, Cospicua, and Senglea are famous for their fortifications and marinas. This is where you will find the Fort St Angelo and several places to view the marina, the Grand Harbor, and Valletta itself.
From our visit:
Valletta, the capital of Malta, is one of the places that most people visiting the country will try to see at least once. Its high walls and other fortifications make it an impressive sight and the view of the sea is never far away.
From our visits:
The town of Żabbar is just a short bus ride away and even though it is not the most tourist-oriented town on the island it still has a lot to discover. With the many traditional Maltese balconies, the Gallarijas, lining the streets and with fewer tourists, it is also easier to just stroll around. In addition, the fortifications of the Three Cities are right at the outskirts of the town and so is the large Park ta’ San Klement, with a playground for the kids.
From our visit:
Marsaskala with a Kid
Marsaskala has several areas for kids, especially the many playgrounds, and it is a perfect place to visit with kids. Walking with a stroller here is as difficult as anywhere else in Malta, especially in the morning before the garbage bags have been collected. The bags usually occupy the curbs all over the island and force pedestrians, and especially if you have a stroller, to share the street with the cars.
This is a problem all over the island, but in Marsaskala there are a few areas where it is easier to walk. This is especially true of the waterfront promenade, where it is possible to let kids walk a bit more freely. Then you just need to worry about all stairs that are still there when the kids run around. In many ways, Marsaskala is the quiet alternative in comparison to the more tourist-attracting areas of Buġibba, Sliema, and St. Julians.
Playgrounds in Marsaskala
There are several playgrounds in and around Marsaskala, making it one of the better towns in Malta that we have visited in regards to activities for kids. Out of these playgrounds, there are especially three that we have visited multiple times and hope to return to.
Marsaskala Bay Playground
The playground in the center of Marsaskala is large and it is also the meeting point for the local kids. It has several sections depending on the age of the kid. There is something for everyone here. Even though there are benches at each section, there is a high likelihood that the kids will run between these forcing the parents to move along.
Sant’Antnin Family Park
Sant’Antnin Family Park is a large park just a few minutes’ walk from the center of Marsaskala. It contains several separated sections specialized for different activities and games. No matter the age of the child, there is most likely an area fitted for the needs of a day of playing.
From our visits:
St Thomas Bay Playground
The playground at St Thomas Bay is a lot smaller than the other two, but that also makes it easier to keep an eye on the smaller kids. It is a well-fenced-of area where it is possible to always have an eye on the kids and still let them explore a bit on their own.
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