There are a number of daily and weekly outdoor markets in the Maltese islands. The two daily ones take place in Valletta’s Merchants Street – popularly referred to as Il-Monti – and the one that centres on Victoria’s central square in Gozo. Other large markets are held in various towns and villages. The largest is Birgu’s Tuesday market – held outside the city’s walls and hugely popular with the Maltese but not much visited by tourists. Other markets are held in Rabat, Malta (Sundays) Birkirkara (Wednesdays & Fridays) and Qormi (Saturdays). A recent addition to the list is the Farmers Market in Ta Qali on Saturdays – a farmers’ initiative to sell their produce themselves without the middleman’s cut.
But certainly the most colourful of the markets is the Marsaxlokk market held on Sundays. The market sets up on the picturesque Marsaxlokk waterfront – home of the largest fishing fleet in the islands – and really it could not ask for a more beautiful backdrop, with a large number of traditional fishing boats dotting the shallow waters of the bay.
Traditionally the Marsaxlokk Malta market is centred on fish – and certainly this is the one place to find the freshest of the catches. The stalls nearest the church have a bewildering choice of fish and other assorted seafood and the locals throng here especially in the lampuki (dolphin fish) season at the end of summer. The dolphin fish is among the most popular on the islands and is served in a variety of ways. Lampuki pies are among the options – and some cafeterias will have them on offer.
But the popularity of the market among locals and visitors alike has meant that the original fish market is now complemented by scores of other stalls selling anything from local fruit and veg, a mouth-watering variety of fresh bread and sweet pastries and a selection of local delicacies like honey, olives and the much loved marinated capers. The market’s fringes are in turn taken up by stalls selling anything from shoes, clothes and toys, and – with the tourists in mind – a bewildering assortment of souvenirs as well.
The popularity of the market among locals and visitors alike has meant that the original fish market is now complemented by scores of other stalls selling anything from local fruit and veg, a mouth-watering variety of fresh bread and sweet pastries and a selection of local delicacies like honey, olives and the much loved marinated capers.
Indeed, even if one is not inclined to buy fish and cook it there’s enough on offer to provide for picnic provisions – the Delimara peninsula close by offers some great picnicking spots. For the lazier still there is of course a variety of cafes and restaurants on Marsaxlokk’s picturesque waterfront – and understandably most will offer fish as the house speciality.
The Marsaxlokk Sunday market is a busy affair – serving the locals both as one of the best outlets for fresh fish and to a lesser extent as a mean to socialize and catch up on the latest gossip. For the visitor the market offers a colourful experience set on one of Malta’s authentically attractive waterfronts – and the opportunity to pick a real bargain too.
(Express buses run frequently from Valletta to Marsaxlokk and back on Sunday mornings.)