Facing Valletta on the southeast side of the Grand Harbour are three historic cities, Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, which were originally enclosed by a giant line of fortification constructed by the Knights of St John in the 16th century. These dockside neighborhoods are where the knights were based in their auberges from 1530 until 1570. These were lodgings for the knights, organized by nationality, each with accommodation, with chapels and dining rooms all set around a courtyard. In 1570 the Knights moved across the Grand Harbour to the newly constructed city of Valletta.
Although Senglea and Cospicua today have photogenic waterfronts to explore, and a marina full of expensive yachts at Senglea, Vittoriosa is the architectural masterpiece of the three cities. Attractions include the old Naval Bakery, now housing the Maritime Museum; the Malta at War Museum; the Church of St Lawrence, which was the main place of worship for the Knights of St John; and Fort St Angelo, the headquarters of the Knights during the Great Siege of 1565. This saw action again in 1940 to 1943 as headquarters of the British Fleet when Malta became embroiled in World War II.
Today’s peaceful residential backstreets also warrant exploration, containing a former hospital run by the Knight of St John, now a Benedictine convent; and the Inquisitor’s Palace, where a series of Grand Inquisitors -- civil judges in thrall to the pope -- were based from 1574 until 1798. The Inquisitor's Palace is now Malta's Museum of Ethnography.
Vittoriosa is around five miles (8 km) from Valletta and can be accessed by bus services 1, 2, 4 or 6 from the bus terminus. A ferry service also operates from 7am to 7:30pm from Lascaris to Vittoriosa. Alternatively, take the water taxi across the Grand Harbour from Laguna Basin, which runs on demand between 7am and 12am.
The museums, palaces and churches in Vittoriosa are open daily, except the Malta at War Museum, which is closed on Mondays. All the churches close at lunchtime for a couple of hours. A multiple ticket covers entry to the Inquisitor's Palace and Maritime Museum and the MaltaPass can be used at the Inquisitor’s Palace.