The Grand Harbour’s Majestic Fortifications

24 October 2016

Valletta’s Grand Harbour truly is a sight to behold. From the calm, sapphire waters dotted with impressive yachts and colourful fishing vessels to the baroque skylines of the surrounding cities, there is so much that will make you fall in love with the harbour. The crown jewels of the Grand Harbour are, of course, the many different fortifications that surround it, the two major ones being Fort St. Elmo and Fort St. Angelo. Book your flights to Malta to experience their grandiosity in person!

Extensive restoration projects on both of the forts were completed in 2015. Fort St. Elmo has been restored in great detail including the refurbishment of many of the roofs, general stone repair as well as the opening of the new National War Museum. Needless to say, Fort St. Elmo has been restored to a status befitting of Valletta. At Fort St. Angelo, massive work was undertaken to restore the upper buildings of the fort as well as the main gate and the courtyard. An electronic system that beautifully lights up the whole fort at night was also included. The restoration of these two iconic landmarks was made possible through EU Funded projects and V18 which will see Valletta becoming the EU Capital of Culture in 2018.

Fort St. Elmo

Located at the seaward end of Valletta, Fort St. Elmo stands sentinel over both the Grand Harbour to the east and Marsamxett Harbour to the west. Its strategic position made it a very important defensive structure throughout the years. During the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the fort saw some of the most intense fighting of the siege as the Ottomans heavily bombarded the garrison. Impressively, the fort withstood Turkish advances for 28 days allowing The Knights Hospitaller enough time to secure reinforcements and prepare the other fortresses along the grand harbour for war. Once the Ottomans had been expelled from Malta, the construction of Valletta began and the ruined fort was rebuilt back to its former glory. Today parts of the fort is  used for “In Guardia” and “Alarme” military re-enactments. These are great events to witness as the participants are kitted out in the colourful armour of the Knights of St. John

Fort St. Angelo

Although not technically in Valletta, Fort St. Angelo (located at the centre of the harbour, in Birgu) is an important landmark that can be seen anywhere from Valletta’s eastern coastline. The Knights Order originally settled in Birgu when they first moved to Malta. Naturally, Fort St. Angelo became the seat of the Grand Master. Following The Great Siege and the construction of Valletta, the knights’ administrative powers were moved to the new capital. This, however, did not diminish the importance of the fort. Restoration work in the late 17th century saw the construction of 4 massive gun batteries facing out towards the harbour. With over 80 guns protecting the fort and the harbour, it certainly was not a force to be reckoned with.

These exquisite fortifications are a true testament to Malta’s rich history. They are definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the Grand Harbour area.   

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