About The 3 Cities
Across the Grand Harbour from Valletta, The Three Cities comprise Birgu (Vittoriosa), Cospicua (Bormla) and Isla (Senglea). Birgu is the oldest settlement, and its name is probably derived from its principal fortress, the Fort St. Angelo. Dating back to medieval times, Birgu was always known for its maritime vocation. It was a haven for safe anchorage, and was a maritime hub for merchant, commercial and military shipping and services. Birgu was a protagonist in the Great Siege of 1565, and after its part in achieving victory, was given the name of Citta’ Vittoriosa. During the British rule, Birgu was the Empire’s base in the Mediterranean.
Cospicua is a double-fortified City standing between Birgu and Isla. Inhabited since Neolithic times, Cospicua offered fortress protection to its adjacent cities. In 1776, the Knights of St. John started construction of a dockyard, which was extensively expanded by the British, and was extensively used during the Crimean War, the First World War and the Second World War. After Independence in 1964, the dockyard became a principal player for the Maltese economy. Today, parts of this dockyard are being turned into an attractive commercial and tourist centre.
Isla (Senglea) was connected to Cospicua by a bridge during the rule of the Knights of St. John, and was also used as a hunting area. Senglea also played an important role in the Great Siege of 1565, and was given the title Citta’ Invicta, due to the fact that it remained unconquered. Senglea was pivotal in the blockade against the French in 1800, and saw devastation during World War 2 due to its close proximity to the Grand Harbour and drydocks.