Gozo’s been dubbed as the rewarding extra mile. This is no exaggeration because this little island off mainland malta offers a mosaic of rich experiences, amazing views and historic places interwoven with culture. Even a visit to the
capital of Gozo, Rabat or Victoria will confirm this.
Words by VISITGOZO / MINISTRY FOR GOZO | Extract taken from March's 2023 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Victoria, named in honour of the famous British Queen's Golden Jubilee in 1887 is the island’s hub or mecca that should be visited by all. Here’s a list of what to do and see in Victoria that will fill more than a whole day of touring.
Squares and Piazzas
There is no doubt that the squares in Victoria are at the centre of daily life for locals and visitors alike. Brimming with the life of the shops, cafés and bars, the piazzas or squares are an ideal place to stop and enjoy a coffee or a drink or a quick bite. One can say that each square is dominated by a church. The conventual church of St Francis, which celebrates the early winter feast of the Immaculate Conception in December overlooks St Francis’ Square while St George’s Square is under the dominion of St George’s Basilica. Independence Square, known by the locals as It-Tokk, is presided over by St James’ Church on one side and the Banca Giuratele on the other side. All three squares are all within easy walking distance from each other.
Churches and Basilicas
The number of churches in the old city of Victoria is no surprise. Gozo’s faith and religious traditions have ensured a good dose of worship places. Take time to visit the baroque Basilica of St George where nothing has been spared to lift one’s gaze to splendour. The smaller yet evocative churches of Savina and St James' Church too have their own interesting story. Apart from these churches, Victoria is also home to different religious orders - the Conventual Church of St Francis of Assisi, the Church of St Augustine and the annexed priory, the church of Our Lady of Pompei which is next door to the convent of the Dominican sisters, the Franciscan nuns' convent and their church in Palm Street. The church dedicated to Our Lady of Grace, located on the main road to Marsalforn is the base of the Capuchins Friary.
One cannot visit Rabat in Gozo without taking a couple of hours to explore the Gran Castello or the Citadel. The Citadel, sitting like the crown jewel at the centre of the island of Gozo, was an important part of the island’s defence when the corsairs roamed the Mediterranean. Walk along the fortified bastions to admire the views, and visit the Cathedral, the grain silos, the war-time shelter and the several museums as explore you wander along narrow-cobbled streets.
The old part of the town
Make sure you take some time to visit the old medieval part of the town, where the narrow streets and alleys offer a peek into what the city looked like in times gone by. Admire the vernacular architecture, look out for the devotional niches and you are bound to stumble on the artists’ district of the city of Victoria. While you’re exploring these old quarters in Victoria you might smell the whiff of freshly baked bread, in which case it is suggested that you follow the scent as you’ll end up at a bakery that is literally tucked away in one of the alleys.
If you’re looking for more interesting things to do in Victoria, make sure you note the two rival theatres located on the same main street, a stone’s throw away from each other. While the rivalry between the two can be hot and fiery, there is no doubt that the notable levels that La Stella and Leone Societies have achieved in the musical and opera spheres know their origins in the spurring and combative spirit that rages on from generation to generation.
For a dose of serenity and greenery, take a stroll through Gozo’s most prominent public garden. Villa Rundle Garden dates back to colonial times and it was named after the British General Sir Leslie Rundle. The garden is not only a recreational space, but also one where several activities are held throughout the year.