Marsaxlokk Fishing Village © iStock/asenova
The beautiful island of Malta pretty much guarantees an amazing holiday, but if you’re looking to observe more than just a superficial snapshot of Malta’s rich culture, you may want to plan your trip more attentively. The natives know where to stock up on the freshest pastries, what to order at the bar and how to spend the weekends, so here’s how to experience Malta like a local.
Sample Fresh Produce
Home-grown olives, sun-ripened tomatoes, fragrant marjoram and fresh bread are all stacked high in local kitchens, and for good reason. The produce in Malta is notoriously good, and it’s all in vibrant supply at the buzzing Sunday market at Marsaxlokk. This is where fishermen sell their catch of the day, and where bouquets of freshly picked herbs, piles of fruit and serried ranks of baked goods vie for attention. After stocking up on still-warm pea and ricotta pastizzi, take a perch at a nearby café to watch the world go by.
Enjoy the Local Tipples
Cisk beer is Malta’s local refreshment of choice – pairing very well with the island’s sunny climes. Wine lovers, meanwhile, can take their pick from a generous selection of home-grown vintages from popular local wineries like Delicata and Marsovin. For something softer, sip on a refreshing ruġġata tal–lewz, a homemade almond cordial often prepared to the exacting standards of a long-standing family recipe.
Pop into Church
With such a plethora of churches and cathedrals (there are 350 huddled within the island’s modest 122 square miles), it’s unlikely that any trip to Malta would pass by without at least a nod to the island’s more devout aspect. Don’t miss the heavyweights –the grand domed Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Baroque St John’s Co Cathedral in Valletta – but also spare a moment for the island’s lesser-known enclaves. The blonde-stoned Rotunda of Mosta is a source of local pride in Malta, as is Valletta’s oldest and arguably it’s most atmospheric, the Collegiate Parish Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck.
Get into the Festa Spirit
One of Malta’s most celebrated festas is Victory Day on 8th September, with a colourful regatta to mark three momentous occasions in the island’s history: the Virgin Mary’s birth; the end of 1565’s Great Siege; and the day the Italian navy surrendered to the British in WWII. It’s just one of many riotously colourful street parties that dance across the island’s annual calendar, with most in full-throttle come summer. Head out in the mood to party, and join thousands of locals dancing into the early hours of the morning.
Live Life on the Water
The Maltese enjoy a very comfortable climate, with temperatures rarely dropping below 13°C in winter and long sun-drenched summers fostering a beachy lifestyle. Locals spend weekends at the coast or, even better, out on the water. Charter a yacht and head off to explore tranquil coves, far-flung islands and lesser-frequented historic sites, saving yourself for a dip in the Blue Lagoon, one of the island’s most picturesque swimming spots.