From ancient times, San Pawl il-Bahar has always played a very important part in the history of Malta. Going back 6000 years there exist in this locality various sites of archaeological and historical importance, the oldest of which are 7 prehistoric tombs. Two Neolithic temples, ancient cart-ruts Punic tombs and other Bronze Age remains demonstrate that this area was a hive of activity in ancient times. With the arrival of the Romans in 218 BC, it increased in importance since San Pawl il-Bahar was the nearest safe harbour for the Roman fleet. A number of roman anchors were discovered on the sea-bed. In Xemxija, a Roman road leading to a Roman Apiary and Roman Baths are in a good state of preservation.
But the event that changed Malta’s history is the Shipwreck of St. Paul which occurred here in San Pawl il-Bahar in the year 60A.D., as a result of which Maltese became Christians
For several years San Pawl il-Bahar was practically deserted owing to its vulnerability to piratical attacks. However it provided a living to those farmers and fishermen that settled here. With the arrival of the Knights it was felt that the bay needed protection and so they strengthened it by means of forts, trenches, batteries, redoubts and towers.
Grandmaster Wignacourt built his tower in 1610; another tower was built in Qawra in 1637, Mistra Battery in 1653, and 2 redoubts in Xemxija were constructed in 1715. Two Fougasses were dug on either side of Salina Bay in 1740.
At dawn on Sunday, 10 June 1798, the French landed in Mellieha and St. Paul’s Bay. On the 13th of the same month many French ships entered St. Paul’s Bay for water and provisioned themselves and then proceeded towards Egypt. Because of their mismanagement in dealing with Maltese, the French were expelled by the Maltese, with the help of the British, some two years later.
During the 19th century in British period, a number of villas belonging to well to do inhabitants of Malta were built at St. Paul’s Bay. Throughout the Second World War most of these villas were requisitioned by the services. St. Paul’s bay became “one giant rest camp”. On the 8 September 1943, the day Italy surrendered 76 ships of the Italian fleet anchored under the guns dominating St. Paul’s Bay.
Today Qawra, Bugibba, San Pawl, Xemxija and Burmarrad became one conglomeration of buildings: apartments, hotels, restaurants, villas, houses and shops which have created a hive of activity. In the summer months, the population exceeds 60,000.
It has become one of the most frequented spots for relaxation and entertainment.