Grand Harbour

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Grand Harbour looking eastwards, as seen from the Upper Barrakka Gardens

Grand Harbour (in Maltese: Il-Port il-Kbir) is a natural harbour on the island of Malta. It has been used as a harbour since at least Phoenician times. The natural harbour has been greatly improved with extensive docks and wharves, and has been massively fortified.

Grand Harbour


The harbour mouth faces north east and is bounded to the north by St Elmo's Point and further sheltered by an isolated breakwater and is bounded to the south by Ricasoli Point. Its north west shore is formed by the Scebarras peninsula, which is largely covered by the city of Valletta and its suburb Floriana. This peninsula also divides Grand Harbour from a second parallel natural harbour, Marsamxett Harbour. The main waterway of Grand Harbour continues inland almost to Marsa. The south eastern shore of the harbour is formed by a number of inlets and headlands, principally Rinella Creek, Kalkara Creek, Dockyard Creek, and French Creek, which are covered by Kalkara and the Three Cities: Cospicua, Vittoriosa, and Senglea.

Grand Harbour.
Saint Elmo Bridge.
View out to sea.
View from The Upper Barakka Gardens.
New dock built in 1867
HMS Rodney in the harbour during the Allied invasion of Sicily.

With its partner harbour of Marsamxett, Grand Harbour lies at the centre of gently rising ground. Development has grown up all around the twin harbours and up the slopes so that the whole bowl is effectively one large conurbation. Much of Malta's population lives within a three kilometer radius of Floriana. This is now one of the most densely populated areas in Europe.


The Grand Harbour was the base for the Knights of St John for 268 years, and after their departure became a strategic base for the British for a further 170 years. It was the site in the late 16th century of a devastating tornado that killed 600 people and destroyed a shipping armada. The area was the scene of much of the fighting in the First Siege of Malta when the Turks attempted to eject the Knights of St John. The whole area was savagely bombed during the Second Siege of Malta during World War II, as the docks and military installations around the port were legitimate targets for Axis bombers. However collateral damage wrecked much of Valletta and The Three Cities, and caused large numbers of civilian casualties.

Malta Dockyard is still active but with the departure of the British Military the harbour lost much of its military significance. A considerable part of Malta's commercial shipping is now handled by the new free port at Kalafrana, so the harbour is much quieter than it was in the first half of the 20th century.

Coordinates: 35°53′42″N 14°31′14″E / 35.89500°N 14.52056°E / 35.89500; 14.52056

Around the Grand Harbour from Fort Ricasoli to Fort St. Elmo[edit]

A Vision for Malta's Grand Harbour[edit]

The Grand Harbour, the backdrop to Malta's History, is set to experience a regeneration as the Maltese Government, in September 2007, unveiled 20 proposed projects that would revamp the area while respecting its historic value.

The 20 proposals are these:

  • A New Cruise Liner Terminal in Senglea
  • Extending the Valletta Cruise Liner Terminal
  • One promenade from Ricasoli all the way to Senglea
  • New yacht marina in Kalkara
  • Conversion of Sir Paul Boffa hospital into a hotel
  • A new tourism and cultural sector
  • A center for the audio-visual industry in Fort Ricasoli
  • Restoration of Villa Bighi
  • Super yachts along the Senglea waterfront
  • Discontinuing the Cleaning of Tanks
  • A Commercial Maritime Park
  • Maritime institute
  • Maritime services
  • Closing down the Marsa Power Station
  • Afforestation of the Rinella Valley
  • Rinella Creek
  • New maritime infrastructure in Kalkara
  • The reorganisation of Xatt il-Mollijiet
  • Extension of quay infrastructe in Coradino
  • A Base for Towing Services in Xatt il-Knisja

See also[edit]

External links[edit]