Sited in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta has always had extreme commercial and political significance; a fact reflected in the island’s long and tumultuous history. Valletta’s Grand Harbour has also played a huge part in this history as the biggest and certainly the most dramatic natural harbor in the Med. In use since the Phoenician era and heavily fortified since medieval times, it’s the place where much of Malta’s seafaring tradition and military successes have been played out over the centuries. The Great Siege of 1565 and the relentless bombing during WWII both took their toll here; the former on the occupying Knights of St John and the latter on Allied troops and the people of Valletta ¬– the whole island was awarded the George Cross in 1942 for valor in the face of Nazi attack.
Today, although still guarded by the ramparts of Fort St Elmo, the harbor has lost its military significance and is largely given over to tourism; you’re more likely to see giant cruise liners moored here than warships. Boat tours offer unrivalled panoramas of the Valletta’s honey-and-gold architecture, the mighty bastion walls, the sea forts, and seven different creeks – most notably those leading to Vittorioso, Senglea, and Cospicua just across the Grand Harbour from Valletta and known as the Three Cities.
Boat cruises depart from Sliema Waterfront in neighboring Marsamxett Harbour for daily trips around the Grand Harbor; tours last between 60 and 90 minutes and take in Manoel Island, the fortifications of Valletta, and the marina at Vittorioso.