Situated in the centre of the island, the village of Attard forms part of what has become known as the three villages – comprising the delightful trio of Balzan, Lija and Attard itself. Attard traces its roots in antiquity with a number of prehistoric, Hellenistic and Roman finds made in the area. The village itself became a parish in 1575. Attard has seen a rapid growth in development in recent years and its population is now over 10,000 but at its core is a small assemblage of winding streets and grand old houses centred on its magnificent parish church.
The parish church of Saint Mary was built between 1613 and 1624 by a local Attard architect, Tumas Dingli who was a mere 22 years old when he started the project; still seen as his best work and probably the finest Renaissance monument on the island. Worthy of note is the intricate carving on the church’s façade which reaches its apex in what is undoubtedly the most beautiful doorway in Malta.
Attard’s main street contains a couple of interesting historic villas. Villa Barbaro and Casa Bonavita, both private residences, played small parts during the insurrection against the French between 1798 and 1800. Military operations against the French are said to have been planned at Villa Barbaro, while Casa Bonavita, owned by a pro-French agent, fared much worse and was ransacked by pro-British Maltese.
Main Street leads on to Saint Anthony Street which contains Malta’s finest 18th century country house, Villa Bologna. The villa was built in 1745 and was eventually owned by Sir Gerald Strickland – a remarkable character who achieved the unique feat of being elected both as an MP in the British House of Commons as well as Prime Minister of Malta. The sumptuous villa and its vast gardens, though still privately owned, are open to the public. The rest of Saint Anthony Street is occupied by a row of beautiful houses and villas, making it one of the most distinguished residential streets in Malta. At the end of the street and bordering Balzan is San Anton Palace.
San Anton Palace and Gardens were built by Grand Master Antoine de Paule, originally as his private residence but used by successive Grand Masters as their country residence. The palace is nowadays the official residence of the President of Malta and therefore not open to the public. The spacious and well-laid gardens, on the other hand, have been open to the public since 1882.
Across the street from San Anton Gardens is the recently opened President’s Kitchen Garden, containing a menagerie of domesticated as well as exotic animals, a herb garden and duck pond and a children's playing area and cafeteria. A personal initiative of President George Abela, the Kitchen Garden is a worthy addition to the Gardens themselves and a very child-friendly place.
On the outskirts of Attard is the Ta Qali area, a large flat plain previously used as an RAF aerodrome but nowadays converted to a National Park containing both formal and informal gardens, a children’s adventure park and an Aviation Museum as well as a Crafts Village.
Attard has one five-star hotel (Corinthia Palace) and a small number of cafeterias and restaurants in the streets around the church - a good alternative way to spend a quiet evening in one of Malta’s attractive village cores.
Hotels in San Anton / Balzan, Malta: Corinthia Palace & Spa