Malta Public Transport

Villa Frere

The underrated treasure of Villa Frere

Architecture during the British rule in Malta conjures images of military engineering, but there was also room for culture centres on the fortress island besides barracks and batteries. One of the crown jewels among these hotspots was Villa Frere in Pietà.

British diplomat John Hookham Frere settled in Malta in 1821 after doctors recommended a temperate climate for his ailing wife Elizabeth. An avid scholar, Frere leased a property overlooking the Msida creek and developed it into a magnificent villa with a carefully curated terraced garden spread over 15,700 square metres.

The elegant villa was nominated among the most beautiful in Europe and featured in the influential Country Life Magazine in 1930. The garden was blooming with exquisite features such as a Doric-style tempietto, a gazebo, pergolas and no less than eleven rainwater wells and cisterns. Frere planted hundreds of local and exotic trees and created a cactus garden as well as a Japanese garden.

The villa soon became a hub for artists, intellectuals as well as sovereigns including Queen Mary in 1912. Mikiel Anton Vassalli, the father of the Maltese language, was also a frequent guest of the Frere household.

After heavy damage and substantial loss of land, what survives of the house and garden is being meticulously restored to its former glory by volunteers from Friends of Villa Frere under the Auspices of Heritage Malta. The charming gardens are open for viewing on the first Saturday of the month against a donation of €5.

Getting there

Access to Villa Frere is through St Luke’s Hospital in Gwardamangia. Bus stop San Luqa is served by routes 47 and 122:

  • Route 47 leaves Valletta for Mosta every 60 minutes on the half hour between 5:30 and 21:30.
  • Route 122 leaves Valletta for Mater Dei every 30 minutes between 5:35 and 20:35.