Shopping - Made in Malta
Almost all holidaymakers indulge in a little shopping and while Malta and Gozo are not in the premier league of shoppers’ destinations on the scale of Dubai or Singapore they nonetheless offer diverse shopping opportunities to both the casual buyer and the serious shopaholic. There are retail outlets and shopping centres in all major towns but the prime shopping precincts are Republic Street and Merchants Street in Valletta; Tower Road, Bisazza Street and Tigne in Sliema; St. Julian’s and Bugibba. Less tourist-oriented but equally lively are the shopping centres along High Street in Hamrun; Valley Road in Birkirkara, and Mosta and Paola town centres. Shopping hours are normally 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm Mondays to Saturdays but shops open for longer hours in tourist frequented areas, and Sunday opening – virtually unheard of until a few years back – is now very much the norm.
There are a number of lively street markets – a daily one in Merchants Street, Valletta (set to move to Ordnance Street in the near future) a huge one at Vittoriosa on Tuesday and a very popular one at Marsaxlokk on Sunday. For the aficionado of curious bric-a-brac there is also a popular flea market at Vittoriosa on Sundays.
While globalisation necessarily means that most products found locally can be found almost anywhere in the world, there is a diverse clutch of goods which are genuinely Malta-made and consequently hard to find anywhere else.
Apart from the ubiquitous pastizzi which are present in every local shopping precinct, there is a good variety of traditional food products made in Malta by an ever growing number of producers. The humblest of them all is probably the rough Maltese bread loaf or Hobza tal-Malti, best served with tomato and olive oil. A number of traditional bakeries in Qormi produce this delicious staple – and they deliver daily to shops all over Malta. Complementary condiments to the bread are kunserva – a thick tomato paste; gbejniet – cheeselets made from sheep’s’ milk; olives, capers and olive oil. Maltese capers in particular pack much more flavour than any of the imported stuff.
In addition to these basics there is a growing trend towards gourmet foods and one can find a selection of jams, pâtés, pasta sauces and the like. Traditional Maltese confectionery items are also popular; qaghaq ta l-ghasel (pastry rings filled with honey) and kwarezimal – an almond cake containing no fat or eggs produced especially during Lent – are especially worth seeking out. Malta also has its own snack-in-a-bag – Twistees – which is found practically everywhere in the islands.
A good selection of drinks and liqueurs are made in Malta. In spite of the profusion of imported soft drinks on offer, Malta’s home grown Kinnie still holds its own and remains hugely popular. Malta’s premium home grown beer, Cisk Lager, also remains among the local top sellers. Maltese wine has made great strides in recent years and the top brands from Marsovin, Meridiana and others can compare with ease with the best of the imports. Liqueurs are also produced from a variety of fruit; lemon, strawberry, oranges and also the humble prickly pear.
Away from food and drink, the Maltese islands have always enjoyed a good reputation for their handmade filigree and lace. Filigree is the art of creating intricate jewellery pieces using gold or silver threads and is very much a Mediterranean craft. Lace making is very much a cottage industry, a craft that is still practised by a good number of women, especially in Gozo.
Maltese decorative glassware, although of quite recent origin, is of a very high class and several manufacturers are based at Ta Qali Crafts Village. The crafts village also includes the islands’ best potteries and ceramics works and other assorted crafts notably cane and basket ware, metalwork woodwork and a variety of items sculpted out of the local limestone. A good selection of the goods found at the crafts village can also be found in specialized retail outlets.
In the ‘strictly souvenirs’ category there is a quirky collection of items ranging from model antique Malta buses, delicate miniature traditional fishing nets, models of Maltese luzzus and lovely replicas of the luzzus’ Eye of Osiris.
Rabat - Sunday morning
Birkirkara - Wednesday's & Friday's
Qormi - Saturdays (fresh veg)
Marsaxlokk - Sunday
Birgu - Tuesday
Ta' Qali - Tuesday Afternoon & Saturdays (locally farmed Malta products)
Information correct at time of publish