Come here early on a Wednesday or Friday and mingle with the locals when the market sets up in the streets around the main church - the market itself is a large and lively array of stalls offering all sorts of wares: clothes and shoes, agricultural produce, meat and fish, household items, pirate dvd's - all jostle for your attention.
Start off at the small chapel dedicated to St.Paul on Valley Road and dive into the narrow street on its left which opens on to Main Street - arguably one of Malta's finest built streets with a good collection of old houses and a wealth of traditional wooden balconies. At the far end a chapel juts into the road - take the right turn into narrow St.Helen Street and soon enough this opens up to reveal Malta's finest (and largest) Baroque Parish church. The church of St. Helen's(picture right) - Birkirkara's patron saint - was designed by local architect Domenico Cachia and was constructed between the years 1735 to 1745. The ornate facade is its main pulling point but if you are here early do go in and have a look at the sumptuous interior - but bear in mind that the church usually closes by 10am.
Close by is another interesting and even older structure - The Sanctuary of Tal-Herba, dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin. This dates back to the early years of the seventeenth century and became a popular pilgrimage place when a disabled man was reputedly cured of his ailments while visiting. It is a small and beautifully decorated church and has a wonderful collection of ex-voto paintings. These were normally executed by amateurs and offered to the sanctuary as a way to seek grace or give thanks. Their simple naivety bears witness to a strong faith enduring for centuries. The Sanctuary also closes its doors at 10am on most days.
Beyond these two churches there are a couple of other chapels close by, but perhaps of more interest are the tiny streets and alleyways themselves. To the right of the parish church and off St.Roque Street are a series of curious blind alleys - some of which seem to go on forever. Sqaq Sampusa (sqaq is the Maltese for alley) is the longest - there must be over fifty houses in this alley. Equally interesting are Sqaq Karla and Sqaq il-Bicciera, both revealing a medieval street plan probably unchanged over time. Don't worry if you get funny looks from the inhabitants of these enclosed spaces - it's just that outsiders don't venture here often - but it's completely safe and friendly.
The streets to the left of the main church are equally interesting with an abundance of niches and alleyways. Tucked in on Triq il-Laqxija one also comes across the house where Malta's first President - Sir Anthony Mamo - was born; a fine no-nonsense double fronted house. You may wish to round off this off beat visit with a snack from one of the many cafes in and around the church square.