Citadella Gozo: A Glimpse into Gozo’s Medieval Past
Are you a history buff fascinated by castles, forts, and the like? On the Maltese islands, you are bound to see some awe-inspiring historic sites; from magnificent churches to ancient towers, the island is teeming with history. One such staple of Maltese antiquity is Citadella in Gozo, which can be found in the bustling city of Victoria, in the heart of the quiet island.
Step Back in Time with a Visit to Citadella in Gozo
This magnificent site, seen from numerous points around the small island of Gozo, is well worth the visit for those who have a passion for history, architecture, and the ancient world. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the history of Citadella, and how to plan your day exploring the Gozo Citadel today.
Let’s Look at the History of the Gozo Citadel
This Citadel, known locally as ‘Citadella”, has been an iconic fixture on the island of Gozo since Neolithic times. Strategically built to dominate the Gozo skyline, the Citadella has been the centre of activity in Gozo for thousands of years. Fortified during the Bronze Age in 1500 BC, the Citadella acted as the administrative centre of the island during Roman times and a refuge for the Gozitan population during the Ottoman invasions. The Citadella has watched Gozo develop throughout the years, from the arrival of the Knights of St John to British rule up to the present day. It is a structure that contains Medieval and Baroque influences and houses various architecture of religious, archaeological, and military significance. This notable landmark is well beloved by locals and visitors alike and has been on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1998.
Citadella Today: How to Spend a Day Discovering Gozo’s Cultural Landmark
1. Start with Breakfast in a Charming Square
The area around the Citadella is teeming with activity; you can start your tour at Independence Square, where the entrance to the Citadella can be found. Enjoy a quaint indoor or outdoor breakfast and have a spot of tea or coffee under the warm Mediterranean sun at Victoria Central, or Café Jubilee. You will also see souvenir shops in this area, where you can admire famed Maltese glass and, in the morning, you can peruse the It-Tokk Market at Independence Square, where you can get everything from authentic Maltese cheese to straw hats and other trinkets to remember your trip to Gozo.
2. Walk through the Fortified Walls
Now, you are ready to start your tour of the Citadella. If you just want to get a view of Gozo from the top of the Citadella, your visit is completely free.
However, if you wish to get an in-depth look at the history documented in this area, you can purchase an inclusive ticket that allows you access to various areas within the Citadella:
- The Citadella Visitor Center – The Citadella Visitor’s Centre is arguably the best place to start your tour of the Citadella. The Visitor’s Centre has printed panels and interactive touch screens that take you through the evolution of the Citadella from pre-history to the present day. From the Visitor’s Centre, you can purchase an inclusive €5 ticket which will allow you to visit the Archaeology Museum, the Old Prisons, the Nature Museum, and the Gran Castello Historic House. The Visitor’s Centre is open from 9 am-5 pm, with the last admission at 4 pm.
- The Gozo Cathedral – The Gozo Cathedral is a 17th-century baroque cathedral that is famous for its painted ceiling, which convinces visitors that the roof of the cathedral is domed when in reality it is flat. This place of worship is open for prayer and observation, and there is also the Cathedral Museum where you can learn more about the history of the cathedral. Don’t forget that this is a religious site so dress accordingly. The cathedral itself is always open and the Cathedral Museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10-1 pm and 1:30-4:30 pm.
- Museums – There are four museums housed within the Citadella walls: the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, the Cathedral Museum, the Folklore Museum, and the Nature Museum. While each provides a dynamic look into the past, the Museum of Archaeology gives a well-rounded glimpse of daily life in Malta, from prehistory up to early modern periods. From burial artifacts to ornate carvings and decorative art, the museum tells a story of the history of the Gozitan island. This quaint alternative to the much larger National Museum in Valletta is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays to Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm.
- The Old Prison – The Old Prison is the oldest surviving prison in Gozo and was used up until the 19th century. Directly adjacent to the Courts of Justice, the prison contains the largest known collection of historical graffiti on the Maltese island; from names to handprints, and scrawls of sea vessels, you can see the markings of people who were once incarcerated in this prison, hundreds of years ago. The prison is open from Monday to Sunday, 9 am-5 pm.
3. Enjoy a Traditional Meal with a View
Finish your experience at the Citadella with an authentic Gozitan meal at Ta’Rikardu or Café San Martino, both of which can be found within the Citadella. Feast on traditional Maltese platters while enjoying a splendid view of the surrounding area.
If you are craving something sweet, stop by Vanilla Plus on your way down, for a refreshing Italian gelato.
4. Explore the Victoria’s Old Town Center
Your tour of the area doesn’t have to end once you leave the walls of the Citadella; there is still plenty to explore in the surrounding area. A short walk away from Citadella you can find the town’s historic center, adorned with narrow winding streets. Strolling through the picturesque alleys, you’ll encounter a treasure trove of traditional houses that witness the island’s rich history. These charming dwellings, adorned with ornate balconies and colorful doors, exude a sense of timeless beauty.
In St. George Square, the vibrant hub of Victoria, you’ll be immersed in the bustling atmosphere of local life. Take time to explore the quaint shops offering handmade crafts and cozy cafes serving aromatic coffee. You can visit Villa Rundle Gardens for a peaceful afternoon if you prefer a quieter atmosphere.
Looking to Enhance your stay? Consider taking English Courses in Gozo with us.
Experience a blend of education and social interaction on your trip with BELS Gozo English schools. Join us for an immersive English course at a top school and connect with like-minded individuals. We cater to all levels of English proficiency and can help you achieve your personal or professional goals. Spend your mornings learning English and your afternoons exploring the island with your new friends.
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