Bormla – History

Human activity at Bormla started as far back as the megalithic age. Stretching on five high hills overlooking the Grand Harbour, Bormla provided shelter and vessel repair facilities since ancient times. The maritime connection with other cultures helped the Bormla population to gradually become renowned for its refined abilities in various fields of craftsmanship, the arts, and the sciences, amongst which some became world famous for their achievements and works both on the Maltese Islands or elsewhere. The arrival of the Hospitaller Knights, in 1530, saw the birth of another two new towns adjacent to Bormla, increasing the maritime and economic activity and augmenting the population.

During the Great Siege of 1565, the Bormla heights proved most ideal to the Ottoman army against the other two fortified towns. The Great Siege showed the importance of fortifying Bormla if the Knight wished to safeguard their other two towns and especially the maritime resources and facilities at Bormla. This led to the building of two strong lines of baroque fortifications entirely over the hills of Bormla: the St. Margerita Lines (1638) and the Cottonera Lines (1670). Though they were never put to the test, both Napoleon (1798) and Nelson (1800) have expressed their impossibility to enter the city once no one could have opened the Gates for them. Educational initiatives, institutions and schools started early in Bormla, and most of the present Maltese private schools and colleges saw their infancy there. Though Bormla had benefitted from the arrival of the British Empire, through an increase in the maritime facilities, docks, educational and economic activity, heavy World War II air-raid bombings had forced most of the population out of their homes seeking refuge in rock-cut shelters and safer distant villages. After the war the decline of the Dockyard and the urbanisation of Malta caused another flow of emigration both overseas and to new villages on the Islands.

The long post-war reconstruction phase and the substitution of houses of character with new government apartment blocks led to a decline in its social infrastructure spreading the earlier prosperous population and culture to most of the villages and new towns. Though Bormla went through hard times it is still rich in authentic heritage that gives the visitor a unique experience and re-establishes Bormla as the shining jewel of The Three Cities with most of its architectural, artistic, and cultural assets available to experience. Though the old Dock area is a mixture of both old and new features, a visit to the older areas as the St. Margerita area is recommended. Bormla is also known as Citta’ Cotonera but mostly as Citta’ Cospicua a title conferred to it by Grand Masters Nicola Cotoner in 1670 and Marc; Antonio Zondadari in 1720. Among popular events that attract crowds to the city are the events of Holy Week and Easter Sunday, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and other annual cultural festivals.

Attractions in Bormla

1. Cottonera Lines

Cottonera lines were built according to a plan of Antonio Maurizio Valperga on four of the five hills of Bormla in 1670 under Grand Master Nicola Cotoner. The six kilometre fortification encircles most of Bormla with a series of bastions and triumphal baroque gateways.
Address: Outer fortifications of the city.

2. St. John Almoner Church

Built at Ta’ Għuxa heights in 1681-1682 on a plan of Lorenzo Gafa’ as the older church dating before 1300 situated just outside the fortifications had to be demolished. For a number of years It housed the statue of St. John the Baptist which formed part of the Order’s Carracca. It titular painting is by Mattia Preti.
Address: Triq San Gwann Ta’ghuxa
Contact person: Bormla Local Council
Telephone: +356 2166 3030 or +356 2166 5337

3. St. Helen’s Gate

The second line of baroque fortifications around the core of Bormla started in 1638 on a plan by Fra Vincenzo Maculano da Firenzuola but stopped after a while. Works continued after the completion of the Cottonera Lines and ended in 1740, with St. Helen’s Gate as the main gate of the Margerita Lines.

Address: Part of the Margerita Lines; follow Triq Il-Kurunazzjoni inside the lines and Triq L-Immakulata outside the Margerita Lines

4. Nativity Chapel (Underground Chapel)

It is a rock-cut church dating back to the Byzantine times with early mediaeval additions. During the early days of the Order it formed part of a nearby Grand Master’s palace and property. Abandoned and profaned in 1671, the church was rediscovered during the post-war reconstruction phase.
Address: Triq Il- Kurunazzjoni
Contact person: Bormla Local Council
Telephone: +356 2166 3030 or +356 2166 5337

5. Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception and Oratory of our Lady of Sorrow

The Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception was originally a medieval chapel built in gratitude of an apparition of Our Lady in the 13th century. Though it became a parish in 1586-87 the present Church was built in a Doric style in the beginning of the 17th century. The Church and its adjoining Oratory house many treasures of art, artisanship and craftsmanship created by both famous Bormla-born artists and others.
Address: Triq Il-Pellegrinagg
Contact Person: Rev. Archpriest
Telephone: +356 2182 8413
Opening hours: mornings and afternoons during religious services

6. Dock 1 and the Dockyard

The present Dock built in 1842-1848 by the British Admiralty with various shipbuilding and repair facilities around it, took the place of existing earlier facilities and services which dated from ancient times. The dock stopped functioning at the end of the 20th century. Its foundation stones, is said to be taken from the ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassos, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Address: at the end of Gavino Gulia Square.

7. Galley’s Store

The old medieval building was converted by the Knights into a magazine for four galleys of its fleet.

The British, between 1840 and 1979, added some Georgian style buildings and used them for other services including a sails’ making loft, a chapel and storage space.

Then it became part of the Malta Drydocks till 2000.

8. St. Theresa’s Church

The Church and Priory were built in 1625-1632 on a baroque-rococco style. The priory served as a language school for many years during the days of the Order of St. John.

Address: 1, Triq Santa Tereza
Contact Person: Father Prior
Telephone: +356 2182 6111 or +356 2182 2343
Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 6.00pm – 7.00pm,
Sun: 8.00am – 9.30am and 3.45pm – 4.45pm

9. St. Theresa’s Priory

Address: 1, Triq Santa Tereza
Contact Person: Father Prior
Telephone: +356 2182 6111 or +356 2182 2343
Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 6.00pm – 7.00pm,
Sun: 8.00am – 9.30am and 3.45pm – 4.45pm

10. Medieval Quarter

The area known as St. Theresa’s Area is an early medieval residential area and mostly pedestrian. Narrow streets, staircases and alleys are paved with hard coralline limestone flagstones which contrast with the soft limestone houses flanking them.
Address: Triq Nelson, Triq Xandru

11. St. Joseph Chapel and ‘Conservatorio’

The Chapel built in c. 1810 formed part of the earlier Conservatorio built some years before.

The adjoining complex was used as an orphanage till it became vacant and in 1995 most of it was demolished to accommodate a new old people’s residence.

Address: Triq San Gorg

12. Bormla Local Council

Known as ‘The Rest’ it was built in 1853 as a Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Rest. After the war it became the club of the pioneers of Maltese Football St. George’s F.C. and in 1994 the Bormla Local Council’s Offices. A theatre that was as the rear of the building was demolished in 1996.
Address: 2A, ‘The Rest’, Pjazza Santa Margerita
Telephone: +356 2166 3030 or +356 2166 5337

13. St. Margerita’s Monastery

It was built in 1726 instead of an older medieval chapel dismantled due to the building of the Margerita Lines, with an adjoining nunnery resided by the Discalced Carmelite nuns
Address: 1, Triq Santa Margerita
Telephone: +356 2182 6111, through St. Theresa’s Priory
Contact Person: Prioress Nun
Telephone: +356 2182 0558

14. Bishop Gargallo’s Residence

The summer residence of Bishop Gargallo and an adjoining servant’s house.
Address: Triq Santa Margerita, 9-12
Private Residence, not open to the public

15. St. Margerita Windmill

The Windmills on the heights of St. Margerita and the Almoner bastions were built by the Universita’ in 1674. They were still functioning till the first decades of the 20th century.
Address: Triq Il-Mithna

16. Bir Mula Heritage (Social History Museum and Gallery)

The building, now used as a social history museum, has various levels dating from the Arab period till the 17th century. It exhibits artefacts found on site dating back to the Neolithic and other curiosities which historically formed part of the daily life of the community.
Address: 79, Triq Santa Margerita
Contact Person: Mr. John Vella
Telephone: +356 2182 6910 or +356 2182 6427 or +356 9927 3276
Email: – Website:
Opening hours: Saturday and Sunday: 10.00am – 12.00pm or by appointment. Pre-booking is necessary, especially for group activities not held during regular opening hours or specialised tours.

17. Rock Gate Cemetery

Rock Gate Cemetery was used for the burial of Ottoman soldiers during the 1565 Great Siege and later for non-Catholics. It took its name from a Gate in the Margerita Lines adjacent to it, and which was demolished in the 20th century.
Address: Triq Il-Gublew tal-Fiddla

18. Former Bonnici Market/Former Parade Ground

Bonnici Market is one of the two markets, or first examples of a supermarket in Malta, built in 1855 by the British Admiralty to compensate the Bormla people for the expropriation of the main core and wharf of the city in order to build the Dock complex.
Address: Triq Santa Margerita

19. Former Fort Verdala

Fort Verdala, built in 1853 and adjoining the Margerita Lines, served as a Prisoner-of War camp during various wars and campaigns in the Mediterranean. Many famous personalities were held prisoners inside it as Admiral Karl Doenitz, the successor of Hitler during the first World War and the Emden crew. After WWII it was used for educational and residential purposes.
Address: Triq Alessandra

20. St. Margerita Lines

St. Helen’s Gate is the main gate of the Margerita Lines. Completed in 1740, it is decorated with various characteristics of the baroque age. The curtain over the gate is in the form of a stepped-terraced fortification and unique in the islands.
Address: Inner Fortifications of the City

Local Information

Bormla Local Council
Address: 2A, ‘The Rest’, Pjazza Santa Margerita
Telephone: +356 2166 3030 or +356 2166 5337

Bormla Police Station
Address: Pjazza Gavino Gulia
Telephone: +356 2182 4218

Cospicua Health Centre
Address: Triq L-Iljun
Telephone: +356 2167 5492 or +356 2167 3292 or +356 2182 1727

Address: Paola Health Centre
Telephone: +356 2169 1314


Arriva Bus
From Valletta to Bormla: Bus 2
Bus Stop: Bormla
Customer care: +356 2122 2000

 Location Bormla

View Larger Map

Places of Refreshment Bormla

St. George Band Club
Bar serving hot/cold beverages and some snacks
Address: Paolino Vascallo
Telephone: +356 2189 7532
Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 8.00am – 7.00pm and Sundays and Public Holidays: 9.00am – late afternoon. All day – till night during the local festival days.

Socjeta’ Regatta Bormla
Pizzeria, Bar and Restaurant
Address: Triq Santa Tereza
Opening hours: mornings and afternoons

Additional Information:
Various small bars, confectioneries and take-aways are available along the wharf.