Marsaxlokk is a traditional fishing village in the South Eastern Region of Malta. The village is one of the main tourist attractions in this part of Malta and it is famous for its large fish market and the traditional fishing boats called luzzu. In Marsaxlokk Bay is also the town of Birżebbuġa, the Malta Freeport, and the Power Station at Delimara.
Our blog posts about Marsaxlokk:
- Marsaskala, Malta – A Week When the Coronavirus Strikes
- Birżebbuġa, Malta – A Walk from Marsaskala
- Marsaskala, Malta – A Hike to Marsaxlokk
The History of Marsaxlokk
The area around Marsaxlokk has remnants for a past long gone. They tell us about life here as far back as the neolithic period. In more recent times Marsaxlokk has developed into a fishing harbor with heavy fortifications.
The Marsaxlokk Bay was used as a landing spot for the Ottoman Navy during the Great Siege of 1565. Forts and watchtowers were built on the hills around the bay for centuries afterward. It took several more centuries before the fishermen settled in Marsaxlokk. Until the mid 19th century the fishermen commuted from the nearby town of Żejtun.
The village grew during the second half of the 19th century and became its own parish in 1897. It has since grown and today it is a thriving village and the fishing base for Malta.
Sights in Marsaxlokk
Marsaxlokk has plenty of sights both at its center but also further away on the outskirts of this traditional fishing village. There are temple ruins, churches, and fortifications scattered across the area.
Marsaxlokk is the home port for about 70% of the Maltese fishing fleet. The bay is usually filled with the colorful traditional fishing boats known as luzzu. The luzzu has its origins in the early years of the 20th century and has most likely been inspired by the older ferilla. It is the bright colors of the Luzzu that create that picturesque view out over the bay in Marsaxlokk.
Marsaxlokk Market is one of Malta’s famous open-air markets. The market is known as il-monti and is especially active during Sundays when the daily catch of fish and seafood is up for sale. A few markets stands, selling especially souvenirs for tourists, are usually open no matter which day it is.
Parish Church of Our Lady of Pompei
The Parish Church of Our Lady of Pompei is one of the most prominent buildings that you will see when walking along the waterfront in Marsaxlokk. The church, Knisja tal-Madonna ta’ Pompei in Maltese, dates back to 1890. Marsaxlokk Parish was established in 1897, with the church at its center.
Delimara Lighthouse is at Delimara Point, to the northeast of Marsaxlokk. It is an active lighthouse and the second to be built at the location. The current lighthouse measures 18 meters in height and was built in the 1990s. The first one was built in 1855 and was in operation until 1990.
Fort San Lucian
Fort San Lucian, or Forti San Luċjan in Maltese, is a watchtower at the headland that separates Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa. The Order of Saint John built the tower was built in the early 17th century. Several additions were made to the tower in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is the second-largest watchtower in Malta after Saint Thomas Tower in Marsaskala.
Fort Delimara, Il-Fortizza ta’ Delimara in Maltese, is a fort built in the 1870s and 1880s by the British. Its motive was to defend the port in Marsaxlokk and was in use by the military until 1956. It has since mostly been abandoned but was used by a farmer for a few decades until 2005 to raise pigs. Land erosion is eating more and more of the cliff on which the fort stands.
Saint Paul’s Tower
Along the path leading to Munxar Hill, there is a tower, the Saint Paul’s Tower. Also known as the Ta’ Bettina Tower it dates back to the 18th century. The tower and nearby chapel are today privately owned and inaccessible for visitors. But the tower is still visible from the walking path along its side.
Saint Paul’s Battery
Saint Paul’s Battery, Batterija ta’ San Pawl in Maltese, is an artillery battery standing on the hill between Marsaxlokk and Marsaskala. The British built it was built in the 1880s and it was in use until the turn of the century. It has today been abandoned for more than 100 years and is in quite bad condition.
Fort Tas-Silġ, or Il-Fortizza tas-Silġ in Maltese, is a fortification close to the Saint Paul’s Battery. The British built the fort in 1879 and it was completed four years later. Its objective was to defend the Marsaxlokk Harbor. The fort was in use by the military until 1960. The fort has since 1991 been used as a refuge for dogs by the Island Sanctuary.
Xrobb l-Għaġin Nature Park
Covering the peninsula of Xrobb L-Għaġin is the Xrobb L-Għaġin Nature Park. It is a protected reserve for fauna and flora that also includes the remains of a megalithic temple.
Tas-Silġ is not only an area north of Marsaxlokk it is also the rounded hilltop filled with archaeological findings. The ancient remains that can be found here include a megalithic temple as well as sanctuaries dedicated to Astarte – the goddess of war, hunting, and love.
Church of Our Lady of the Snows
Tas-Silġ is also the home of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows, which name in Maltese is Knisja tal-Madonna tas-Silġ and is the church that has given its name to the area. It was built during the 19th century.
There are plenty of activities all around Marsaxlokk and it is not hard to spend a day or two exploring the many sights and engaging in activities around the bay.
Beaches in Marsaxlokk
There are two beaches close to the center of Marsaxlokk. One is to the east and the other one to the south. Then there are also the more scenic beaches and swimming posts that you can find along the coastal cliffs.
There are two twin bays separated by just a thin piece of land. l-Ħofra l-Kbira is the larger bay. It offers easier access to the water than the cliffs that otherwise are so common along the Maltese coast.
Il-Ħofra ż-Żgħira is the smaller of the two twin bays and as with the larger Il-Ħofra l-Kbira it is easier to access the water here.
Kalanka Bay or Il-Kalanka is close to Fort Delimara. It is a small bay surrounded by cliffs where it is possible to either swim or just to enjoy the sunshine.
St. Peter’s Pool
St. Peter’s Pool is across the peninsula from the Delimara Power Station. It is one of the more popular beaches in the area and it is famous for its white cliffs. This is not a sandy beach with friendly access for kids.
Hiking to and from Marsaxlokk
The easiest way to go hiking from Marsaxlokk is to do so along the coast. There are of course roads towards the inland, but it is the cliffs and the view of the Mediterranean Sea that make a hike here interesting. It is also along these routes that most of the sights are, especially the coastal fortifications.
Heading north along the coast will take you towards Marsaskala. The hike will take you past sights such as the St Paul’s Battery and the Munxar Hill. Once in Marsaskala, there is also the possibility to extend the hike to Xgħajra and the Three Cities.
If you instead head south along the coast you will soon reach Birżebbuġa. The path will most likely take you past Fort San Lucian and other sights along the coast. There is also the view of the large Malta Freeport that is visible for most of the hike.
Excursions from Marsaxlokk
There are many places in Malta within reach of Marsaxlokk. Many of these are the other major tourist attractions, such as the capital Valletta, but there are also towns that are more common destinations and residential towns for the Maltese.
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:
Just across the Munxar Hill to the north is neighboring Marsaskala. The former fishing village has grown into a resort town and one of the largest cities in this area of Malta.
From our visits:
- Marsaskala – Exploring Malta
- Malta Highlights – November 2021
- Marsaskala, Malta – Sant’Antnin Family Park
- Marsaskala, Malta – Exploring the Playgrounds
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:
- Valletta – Exploring Malta
- Valletta, Malta – A Carnival in Town
- Valletta, Malta – A Kid Re-discovers the Island
Marsaxlokk with a Kid
The fascinating colors of the many luzzus and the smells and products at the daily market can for some kids be the highlight of the day. For others, there is the playground and the many places serving ever-so-popular ice cream.
Playgrounds in Marsaxlokk
We have been able to find one playground in Marsaxlokk. It is in the center, at the edge of the waterfront promenade when you arrive from Delimara.
Next to the harbor and with a café as a neighbor is a playground. It is decently sized with many attractions also for the smaller kids. It might be a bit more limited for older kids.
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