A seaport since Roman times, Grand Harbour has a long history. It was home to Malta’s Knights of St. John between the 1500s and 1700s and the site of the 1565 Great Siege of Malta when the Knights repelled Ottoman forces. After rule by the French and British—and heavy World War II bombardment—this inlet is now peaceful, plied only by cruise, sightseeing, and commercial ships.
To experience the Grand Harbour’s scale and beauty, see it from what’s considered Valletta’s best viewpoint—Upper Barrakka Gardens. For those arriving on a cruise, book a private shore excursion that covers Valletta, Upper Barrakka, and other Malta highlights. Alternatively, prebook a harbor boat trip to view Valletta’s fortifications, spires, and domes, and the Three Cities from the water by day or night.
Things to Know Before You Go
Grand Harbour is a must-see for first-time Malta visitors.
Visit Valletta’s Upper Barrakka Gardens for the best harbor views; they’re wheelchair- and stroller-accessible.
Prebook a sightseeing cruise to save time and hassle. Many include convenient hotel pickup and drop-off.
How to Get There
Valletta’s Upper Barrakka Gardens offer views over Grand Harbour. Reach them on foot from Castille Square or via an elevator from Valletta waterfront. Most harbor cruises leave from the Sliema ferry dock, on the waterfront of Marsamxett Harbour, north of Valletta.
When to Get There
Grand Harbour cruises typically run year-round, but it’s wise to prebook in high summer when they’re popular. Choose earlier morning or late-afternoon departures to avoid the busiest times. If visiting Upper Barrakka Gardens, arrive before mid-morning or at sunset in summer when the terraces are quieter and you can watch the sun set.
The Great Siege at the Grand Harbour
The Grand Harbour is a microcosm of Malta’s turbulent history. This strategic stretch of water has been coveted by occupiers for millennia, and continual conflicts raged here in the Middle Ages. Key among them was the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, when the Knights of St. John—having developed the harbor’s forts and defences—fought off relentless bombardments from the Ottomans for four bloody months.
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- Valletta Waterfront (Pinto Wharf)
- Upper Barrakka Gardens
- Lascaris War Rooms
- Auberge de Castille
- St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity (Spazju Kreattiv)
- Church of St. Paul's Shipwreck
- St. John's Co-Cathedral (Kon-Katidral ta' San Gwann)
- National Museum of Archaeology, Malta
- Port of Valletta
- Malta 5D
- Lower Barrakka Gardens
- Grandmaster's Palace
- Great Siege of Malta & the Knights of St. John
- Casa Rocca Piccola
- Teatru Manoel