Forget the tour guides, Birkirkara is Malta’s underrated gem

Malta’s coasts and countryside receive all the love when it comes to choosing some of the best spots on the island. But one of the country’s largest cities in the center of the island, Birkirkara, is an underrated gem.

While it’s not usually found in tourist guides, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. Birkirkara is a melting pot of history, architecture, cuisine and culture, constantly reflecting Maltese identity, whether celebrating the modern or appreciating the traditional.

With the help of Ryde Malta, here is a Lovin Malta guide to the beloved city.

With over 24,000 inhabitants, Birkirkara is the second most populous city of the Maltese Islands. Its earliest mention dates back to 1402 and was already at that time one of the largest Catholic parishes in Malta.

Named after the valley that runs through the heart of the locality, many of Malta’s current hotspots like Sliema and St Julian’s were actually suburbs of Birkirkara at the time.

Much has changed since then, but in truth, everything that made Bikirkara great has never really gone away.

For starters, there are a multitude of churches which are shining examples of Maltese architecture through the centuries. While Malta certainly has its fair share of churches, few resist the impressive Basilica of Saint Helena.

Located in the old town, the Basilica is an 18th-century Baroque building that stands amid the sea of ​​developments that surround it.

The feast of Saint Helena, which takes place on August 18, is a sight to see. And although there is an intense rivalry between the two main music clubs in the region, they still manage to come together for their beloved saint.

Equally impressive is the Santa Tereza Church. Designed by Italian architect Giorgio Pacini, the church is a Modernist wonder – and is an eye-catching architectural piece in the locality – no matter which angle you look at it from.

Or you can visit the Santwarju tal-Madonna tal-Herba – which features beautiful ex-voto paintings and other offerings that could turn even the most ardent atheist into a believer.

But just to be clear – churches aren’t the only amazing places that are on offer. Strolling through the Wignacourt aqueducts, which adjoin certain industrial parts of the areas, creates a strange contrast between old and new Malta.

There’s even the old train station – which is set in a park that’s also home to one of the best burger restaurants on the island, Nom Nom. Or visit the Windmill ((il-Mithna), an 18th century windmill that is now a celebration of modernist art in the country.

And if you’re looking for a little political and historical information, be sure to stop by St Aloysius College, which has countless prime ministers and politicians among its former students.

Where to eat?

While Birkirkara has tons to offer, the food is truly where the locality shines – with local haunts filling its streets.

It would be sacrilegious not to start with Andrew’s Snack Bar, a local spot popular with all kinds of Maltese. The food and its portions are legendary, whether it’s their iconic ftajjar or the many traditional plates they have on their menu, like its ross il-forn.

It is an intimate place that celebrates good local cuisine. And it seems that the mentality has rubbed off on the countless amazing restaurants that are popping up in the area.

There’s the Marelli Cafe, located right next to the Wignacourt Aqueduct, which is quickly making a name for itself for simple, mouth-watering cuisine that’s perfect for everyone, whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a decadent lunch.

The same can be said for Stanjata, which sits along scenic Valley Road, and Olive 3, an oasis of delicious food in the industrial heart of Mriehel.

And no trip to Birkirkara would be complete without a visit to Togħma, which is undoubtedly one of the best bakeries on the island – from savory treats like their incredible pinsa to their endless supply of candy.

And if none of these places are your thing – you can visit the long line of fast food places in Birkirkara – like McDonald’s or better yet – stop at one of its pastizzerias or try Southern Fried Chicken.

Where to stay

While Bikirkara falls short when it comes to accommodation, there are still a few gems, like the Rivotorto Retreat House, which is a religious guesthouse.

Otherwise, your best bet is to check Airbnb or other similar websites to see what’s on offer.

The great thing is that you can rent a place in Birkirkara for a fraction of the price while still having access, either by bus or car, to all corners of the island, making it the starting point ideal for anyone visiting the islands. .

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Julian is the editor-in-chief of Lovin Malta with a special interest in politics, the environment, social issues and human interest stories.

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