Trying to describe Marsaxlokk in Malta is like conjuring up many pleasant smells, sounds, and sensations in words. Picture this! While the rest of Europe shivers under the winter cold, you wake up with warm sunshine streaming on your face, as gulls cry over the blue Mediterranean which laps outside your window. Step outside to the sliver of a balcony and instantly your eyes are met with colourful fishing boats bobbing on a sparkling little bay. Palm trees sway gently and a picturesque old village filled with crumbling limestone mansions circle the water. Fisherfolks silently mend their nets as cats prowl by the dozen. Close by the sweet tolling of church bells break the sleepy stupor and you say a silent prayer of thanks for such cosy moments. Marsaxlokk also smells nice of toasty sunshine, fresh salt air, and fish. Citrussy fragrance waft in from various sour orange and lime trees and close by cacti blooms riotously in large red flowers. This is the joy of Marsaxlokk in a nutshell.
A village where boats live
A fishing village located in the southeastern part of Malta, Marsaxlokk is famous for its vibrant Sunday market and colourful traditional “eyed” painted boats called Luzzus. The design of the boats are believed to go back to their Phoenician roots and the colour scheme is generally blue, yellow and red. The high pointed prows of the boats also carry another ancient tradition and these are the eyes painted on either side. The Maltese like most fishing folks are quite superstitious and the traditional eye symbol of the luzzus is to ward away the evils of the sea. Marsaxlokk today is the largest fishing harbour of Malta and derives the name from marsa which means “port” and xlokk, the local word for the south-east.
This is where the first Phoenicians landed
The inhabitants of Marsaxlokk are called the Xlukkajri and they are historically fishermen. It is widely believed that Marsaxlokk has a history which dates back to the 9th century B.C. The first Phoenicians arriving in Malta had set up their businesses at this bay and the Turkish fleet was anchored there during the Great Siege of Malta. The village’s hill of Tas-Silg was used as a prehistoric religious site and is strewn with remains of megalithic temples of the Tarxien phase. Bronze Age tools were also unearthed at the hill and Marsaxlokk is indeed as old as time.
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Find the real Maltese life at Marsaxlokk
Thankfully, Marsaxlokk also looks picturesquely old. The ancient fishing village which is a mouthful to pronounce (spoken as marsa-schlock) retains an old world charm. Despite the industrial encroachment, construction of a nearby eyesore of a power plant and high tourist footfall, Marsaxlokk resolutely leads a real Maltese life. Old low rise squat buildings circle the waterfront and men with faces weathered by natural elements mend nets while grumbling about nearly everything under the sun. Others scrape, paint and clean their boats, as cats scramble about trying to snag leftover fishes tossed out by the fishermen. The aura of Marsaxlokk is one of calm tranquillity and I remember sitting on the balcony of our room at the seafront Duncan Guesthouse, often wondering if all the village residents were sleeping.
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Fish, beeswax, capers, and Maltese Knights
On Sundays, however, the village hums with life from dawn and Marsaxlokk gears up for its weekly fish market. Held every Sunday, the Marsaxlokk fish market is a very popular attraction and on this day, freshly caught fish is sold directly to consumers by the fishermen from stalls. Apart from the fruits of the sea, locally produced fresh honey, beeswax, cookies, and capers are also the highlights of the market. Clothes, fruits, vegetables, local souvenirs, and toys are also available for sale and it is possible to get your shopped fish cooked at one of the restaurants located along the bay. On one Sunday during our stay, we woke up to busy traffic noise instead of the usual sweet peace.
Welcome to the Marsaxlokk Sunday Market
Upon stepping out on the little balcony, we saw the bay crowded with more luzzus than usual, their bright colours spilling reflections across the blue water. The promenade was a mass of stalls and there were lots of action going on. Traffic barricades were being put in place, stalls being set up, goods unloaded from boats, cars, and trucks and an old-fashioned ice cream van was already doing brisk business. By ten in the morning, the famous Marsaxlokk Sunday Fish Market was brimming with life, busloads of day trippers, local shoppers, and photographers.
Marsaxlokk Travel Facts
Most tourists in Malta stay in St Julians, Sliema, Bugibba, and Valletta and visit Marsaxlokk on day trips.
How to reach Marsaxlokk
Public buses are available from various parts of Malta for Marsaxlokk Bay. Bus No 81 and 85 depart from Valletta every 40 and 60 minutes, while Bus No 210 plies from Birzebbugia every 60 minutes. From the airport, Bus No 119 leaves for Marsaxlokk in every 60 minutes. Alternatively, take the road leading to Zejtun if driving a rental car and follow the signs on the main road until you find the directions which will take you to the village centre. There is a large parking area along the promenade and on the left side of the bay. Public restrooms are also available in front of the main church square. Marsaxlokk can be visited by the CitySightseeing Malta hop-on-hop-off bus. The first departure is from Valletta waterfront at 09:15 AM and after that, there is a bus every 30 minutes until 04:10 PM. The South Malta red line goes to Marsaxlokk which is the stop number 4. Click here for more HOHO bus details.
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Things to do at Marsaxlokk
Despite its historical importance and commercial reputation, Marsaxlokk remains a simple fishing village. Apart from Sundays, there is hardly any traffic and the village retains its timeless aura. There is a Parish Church located in front of the promenade which was built in 1897 and is dedicated to our Lady of Pompei. Historic old buildings line the old naturally deep harbour and fishing nets dry in the sun. There is the beautiful St. Peters Pool near the village and it is a pleasant bathing spot with deep crystal clear water. However, proceed with caution as the water gets rough when the wind blows. Other attractions of Marsaxlokk are the St. Lucian Tower, Tas-Silg historical sites, and Fort Delimara.
If I revisit Malta, I will definitely stay again at Marsaxlokk. It is more than just a little fishing village steeped in history. My days at Marsaxlokk felt like stepping into a picture postcard every time I looked out of the balcony of Duncan Guest House. Take a look at the photos of the Marsaxlokk Sunday Market and you will understand why. Beautiful, right?
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE