From its beginnings in 1905 to the present, discover the story of the Barrakka Lift
Linking the Upper Barrakka to the Grand Harbour over space and time

Melanie Drury

The Barrakka Lift is a rather unique transportation system in Malta and is of historic importance. Initially serving British servicemen and dockyard employees, today it transports thousands of cruise ship passengers from Lascaris Wharf in the Grand Harbour to the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta, efficiently and conveniently.

The lift began operating in 1905 under Macartney, McElroy & Co Ltd., Malta’s tram service company. The original lift was made of a 60-metre vertical turret of steelwork which was connected with the bastion gardens via a bridge. It incorporated two cabins with a capacity of twelve passengers each.

It ran almost uninterrupted until it closed down in February 1973. The privatisation of the dockyard and the withdrawal of British servicemen drastically reduced the lift’s main source of income and caused it to become unfeasible to operate. Previously, only a shortage of mining equipment and coal to generate electricity during World War I had caused an interruption in the lift’s operations.

Failing to find another company willing to take over, the Government dismantled the lift ten years later in 1983. But, in 2009, thirty-six years after its closure and with a booming cruise liner tourism promising business, the Government resurrected the concept of the Barrakka Lift. 

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The Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation within the Infrastructure Ministry managed the 2.5 million euro project. A tender was granted to a consortium made up of Mekanika Ltd, Polidano Group and JS Dimech Ltd, and works began on the new lift by August 2011.

The new Barrakka Lift is located on the original site of its predecessor. It opened in December 2012, creating a convenient link between the harbour and the city centre’s shops, restaurants and museums.

Today, with a journey taking approximately 23 seconds, the lift can carry 800 people per hour, with each of its two cabins having a capacity of 21 passengers. It is most certainly the quickest journey between the centre of the capital and the Valletta Waterfront. The facility is conveniently located just 500 meters from the Valletta Cruise Ferry Terminal and opposite the landing place for the harbour ferry crossing.

The standard return fare is just €1.00 while the elderly holding a Karta Anzjan card, and children under 10, travel for free. Holders of a valid harbour ferry crossing to or from the Three Cities also use the lift freely. The lift operates between 7am and 9pm from November to May and between 7am to midnight from June to October. 

15th February 2019

Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.