What to see in Marsaxlokk
Marsaxlokk is a small fishing village in the south-west of Malta well known for its vibrant Sunday market and for the Luzzi, the colourful boats with the mythical eye painted on their prows that dot the sea of the wide bay. The name Marsaxlokk derives from the Arabic word Marsa, meaning harbour, and from the Maltese Xlokk, meaning sirocco, the south-easterly Mediterranean wind due to its position.
Marsaxlokk Bay is also the second-largest natural harbour of Malta and in the past was an easy landing place for pirates and the Ottoman Turks during the “Great Siege” of Malta. On the west of the peninsula, is located Fort Delimara, built by the British in 1881 to guard the entrance to Marsaxlokk Bay.
One of the attractions of the bay are the Luzzi wooden boats that create a particular postcard-perfect scenic effect reflecting their shades of bright red, green, yellow and blue in the sea of the bay. It is said that the fishing boat design dates back to 800 BC when the Phoenicians came to Malta.
The traditional eye (or ghajn) painted on both sides of their front bow is an amulet against bad luck. Asking a fisherman, he said that the eyes are a survival of an ancient Phoenician custom. They are referred to as the Eye of Osiris, the Phoenicians’ god of protection from evil, and represent a symbol of protection, good health and protection for the fishermen while out at sea.
Another interesting thing we heard is that the luzzus are customarily inherited from a person’s father and grandfather and the colours of each boat usually are kept the same due to superstitious belief. The fisherman told us that when the old paint is completely stripped off the boat to scrutinise the hull, the ship is then re-painted in the same colours that the person’s father and grandfather had used.
The other attraction of Marsaxlokk is the bustling market takes place on the waterfront every Sunday, from dawn until early afternoon. This is one of the most popular markets on the island, with both locals and tourists flocking to the stalls to purchase fresh fish that has been caught earlier that morning.
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In this market you will find fish stalls located near the church, fruit and vegetable vendors, a few booths selling tasting local sweets and pastries and in the middle a bit of everything, with sellers of household products, clothes, carpets, bags, shoes, souvenirs and so on. Marsaxlokk is also known for its numerous seafood restaurants on the waterfront, so, if you decide to stay until noon, you can think about having your lunch there.
When to go and how to reach Marsaxlokk
If you plan to catch the local transportation, we suggest going very early in the morning to avoid the crowd. There are only very few buses to reach Marsaxlokk, and the more you wait to go, the more it’s challenging to find a space onboard. We took the bus at 7.30 am entering the market after one hour, and it was an excellent choice. From Valletta, you can reach Marsaxlokk catching the bus n. 85, 81 or TD10. If you have time, the best option is to rent a car and visit all the main attractions of the south-west side like Blue Grotto, Hagar Qim temples and the dining cliffs. In case there is a car park next to the football pitch along Triq Kavallerizza, only 5 minutes walk from the promenade.
Other spots to see around Marsaxlokk
1) Saint Peter’s Pool
On the coast towards Marsascala, is located the beautiful Saint Peter’s Pool, a quiet inlet cove famous for its crystal clear waters and for being an excellent place for diving enthusiasts. During the summer it is an ideal place where you can find relax surrounded by green and blue deep water and natural limestone rocks.
The pool is not easy to reach by public transport, and the closest stop is Delimara (bus n. 119); from here you have to walk more than 2 km. If you start walking from Marsaxlokk, the pool is 3 km far. If you have a car, there is a small parking space on top of the cliff, halfway from the main road. From here, you have to walk for a bit along a path leading down to the pool.
Alternatively, you’ll find many stalls of local fishers along the Marsaxlokk promenade offering boat trips to Saint Peter’s Pool (the whole trip takes around 1 hour and costs 10 euros). They also provide a kind of ‘’water taxi’’ service, so, if you decide to spend a few hours there, you can fix a returning time with your fishing boat. Bring with you whatever you need as there are no facilities (either restroom). During the summer you’ll probably find someone who sells drinks in the car park.