Vittoriosa (its Italian name and how locals will refer to it to visitors), or Birgu (Maltese, how you’ll see it on signs), has a history that predates its neighbor to the northwest, Valletta. back before Valletta was a twinkle in Grand Master Valette‘s eyes, Vittoriosa was the island’s main port town. after the Knights Hospitaller fortified it the early 1500s, it played an important role during the Great Siege of Malta. once the new capital was built, though, the city declined in status and to this day remains quiet, despite its proximity.
today, it’s a nice getaway from Valletta, and although there are the occasional cruise ship tours that breeze through, the narrow streets were often just me and the locals. the Inquisitor’s Palace, perhaps one of the more famous attractions, was quite meh, skippable IMHO, although to think that you were in a building used during the Inquisition (complete with prison cells and torture chamber) is pretty cool. the tiny museum at the Oratory of St. Joseph, though, has some interesting stuff, although it’s a small and musty collection. the volunteer that manned it today was more than happy to share his knowledge, though, which i really appreciated — i learned a lot about the history of Vittoriosa and Malta in general.
also, be sure to stop by the 13th-century Norman House at 11 Triq it-Tramuntana (aka North Street), which is open to the public for free. not much to see inside (it’s famous for its window, just look up when you’re outside), but it’s one of the oldest, if not oldest house in town.
it’s about 30 minutes from Valletta to Vittoriosa on the buses that leave regularly from bay 14. i hear there are water taxis that can probably take you across the harbor quicker, but for me that would have required a walk through Valletta, so i just used my week-long bus pass and saved money. i spent the morning meandering, taking the suggested one-hour walk in the Lonely Planet and stretching it out to two. maybe it’s because i didn’t have a lot planned for today or that it’s just plain less crowded than Valletta, but i really enjoyed feeling unhurried.