Isla (Senglea)

Isla (or Senglea), is the smallest of the Three Cities in Cottonera. This town is situated on a peninsula protruding into the Grand Harbour, facing the charming walled city of Valletta. The name of ‘Isla’ is derived from the Italian word ‘isola’ (island), which describes how the peninsula is nearly cut off from land by Mill Hill and St Julian’s Hill.

This locality is truly one of the jewels of the Maltese Islands, being also one of the oldest cities dating back to the 16th century. This maritime city not only boasts of a rich heritage but also contains many structures built by the Knights themselves, making it one of the heaviest fortified areas on the Island. It is indeed a gem enclosed by spectacular bastions, overlooking stunning views and still guarding the Grand Harbour as it did centuries ago.

Going for a stroll to Ġnien il-Gardjola (the look-out garden) at the tip of Senglea Point, one can enjoy a blend of history and the Mediterranean. From the lonely caper tree clinging to the bastions, to the ancient fig trees scattered haphazardly, it seems that the island's gentle climate has in time fused with the city itself. Looking down towards the calm waves of the harbour, one can still see the beating heart of the cities - the dockyard which was set up by the Knights and later developed further by the British as a naval shipyard.

Isla reflects also Malta’s religious heritage with many niches holding revered statues of patron saints and an astounding basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Victories. The striking images of the elderly praying in these old churches show the depth of Malta’s religious beliefs.

This city is more than a place adorned with character and heritage. Life flows through its narrow streets amongst its aged buildings. Many activities take place within the city, amongst which the popular Regattas (traditional boat races) which take place on the waters of the Grand Harbour twice a year- on the 31st March and 8th September, with Isla being one of the major contenders. September the 8th heralds Isla’s biggest celebrations with the city festa where the town is lavishly decorated and lit by hundreds of light bulbs and spectacular fireworks. More recently, another event has been added to the local calendar- the Martime Senglea Festival (September) which is truly a celebration of the local culture, history and its relationship with the sea.

Really and truly however, no word can describe Isla. Only by visiting such a small distinctive place, nestled in the heart of the Grand Harbour can one really savour its true charm.

Isla at a glance…

Located: Eastern side of the Maltese Islands, into the Grand Harbour

Main attractions

Gardjola Gardens
Senglea Point (swimming)
Senglea Promenade
Macina (Sheer Bastion)
Villa Sirena
Senglea Bastions
Fort St. Michael
Basilica of Our Lady of Victories
Church of St. Philip (Porto Salvo)
St. Julian’s Chapel

Main events

March/ April

  • 31st Regatta Races
  • Good Friday and Easter Sunday Processions

May

  • 8thSenglea Day

September

  • 8th Our Lady of Victory Feast
  • 8th Regatta Races
  • Maritime Senglea Festival