Savour the history – It is practically everywhere in Malta, all of seven thousand years of it in fact. The temples, fortifications, cathedrals and churches come high on the list but there are historical artefacts in practically all the towns and villages of the islands.
Maltese Festa – Village feasts are a staple of the Maltese summer, a celebration of band marches, fireworks and sumptuous street decoration. For the best fireworks head for any of the southern villages of Qrendi, Mqabba, Zurrieq or Ghaxaq while if you’re looking for boisterous fun the morning band marches at Hamrun and Zabbar are the cream of the crop.
Wine Tasting – Maltese wine has upped its game and the best of it can easily be called world class. The best wineries in Malta regularly organise wine tasting events and tours. Meridiana Winery, located on a disused RAF wartime aerodrome is the island’s finest boutique winery and their wine tastes like heaven in situ. Marsovin also has its vineyards and likewise organises wine tasting plus an annual wine festival.
Walk the Countryside – An incredible 33% of Malta is built up which makes you wonder about what’s left of the countryside. But make no mistake – the countryside is there and is at its best from after the first autumn rains up to late spring, coloured by around 700 different wild plants which grow here. The minor roads and tracks in the west of Malta, dotted with the occasional wayside chapel or stone hut plus the ubiquitous rubble walls are a joy to explore in silence. OK – occasionally a posse of jeeps on safari might trundle past…
Dive the Blue Hole – Diving is immensely popular in Malta and this Gozo dive at Dwejra is reckoned to be the best local dive. The dive takes you through a blue hole over 12 metres deep which leads to the open sea through an underwater arch towards the remains of the Azure Window to the north and a coral garden to the south. The Maltese waters may lack the rich biodiversity of other dive destinations but make up for this with amazing rock formations and clear seas with high visibility. For the non-divers a boat trip round the sea caves and cliffs is some consolation.
Swim the Blue Lagoon – The whitish sandy bottom of the Blue Lagoon gives the sea here the loveliest hue of blue anywhere in the islands, best enjoyed before or after the crowds descend here in droves in July and August. An early morning or evening dip is simply bucket list stuff.
Isle of MTV – One of Europe’s largest free concerts takes place on the Granaries around the end of June and with a regular attendance of some 50,000 it can get sweaty but nonetheless great fun for the young at heart. Now in its eighth year, past editions have attracted the likes of Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Maroon 5, Enrique Iglesias, Nelly Furtado and One Republic. For the more sophisticated, the Floriana Granaries host another annual (free in recent years) appointment with Malta’s premier music export, the tenor Joseph Calleja. This normally takes place in the second half of July.
Manoel Theatre – More music and theatrical choices for the cooler months are offered at the Manoel Theatre, the ultimate in gentrified sophistication. The likes of Yehudi Menuhin and Genesis’ Steve Hackett have graced this sumptuous theatre – among the oldest still in use in Europe.
Nadur Carnival – Forget the more sanitised activities in Valletta or Victoria and head for the village of Nadur in Gozo where carnival is more akin to a Halloween night gone more than slightly mad. Bizarre and blood spattered characters take over the streets of the village when night falls while in the bars around the town centre there is merriment provided by real folk musicians. An age old celebration which has seen a revival in recent years and consequently attracts a huge crowd. Not for the faint hearted.
Stay in a Farmhouse –An interesting self-catering alternative to staying in a hotel. The best of them are genuine conversions, have their own pool and if you’re lucky (or willing to splash out) a grandiose terrace view. Gozo has a proliferation of these while in Malta they are somewhat thin on the ground.
Cruise – Around Malta (or Gozo) cruise is a great way to see the island from a totally different perspective. Sailing under the long stretch from the Blue Grotto to the end of Dingli cliffs is particularly spectacular since this coast is wild and undeveloped. For those with reluctant sea legs a harbour cruise is a good substitute with the seaward fortifications being the highlight here.
Coffee in the capital – Have a coffee break or snack in Republic Square – or as everyone tends to call it Pjazza Regina – the square is a tree-lined one with the National Library as backdrop, the exclusive Casino Maltese on the opposite side and a statue of a seated Queen Victoria overseeing proceedings. The best place for people watching on the island with a good cross section of Maltese society traversing the square at any time – the lawyers, parliamentarians, bankers and not least the common people on their way to or from work or on a shopping spree in the capital.
Nightlife – The St. Julians neighbourhood of Paceville is the party capital of Malta – an area packed to the gills with bars, restaurants, cinemas and clubs. A natural magnet for Malta’s youths and visiting students who can be quite noisy and inebriated, although things rarely get out of hand. Mostly for the under thirties – unless you’re reliving your youth, that is.
High Tea in a Palace – Bring out the inner toff in you by indulging in high tea in a real palazzo. Uniquely on the island, Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar offers this English treat in an ambience where no effort is spared to do things the proper way. Real tea, scones, finger sandwiches and prosecco or champagne to round it off.
Snacks of Malta –Try pastizzi while here– pea or ricotta filled pastries found everywhere in shops appropriately called pastizzerias. Wash down with Kinnie – Malta’s best loved home grown soft drink.
Dinner in Strait Street – Up to the early seventies the haunt of prostitutes and cheap cabaret shows meant only to attract easy punters, the once sleazy red light corner of Valletta has seen a revival and now attracts a refined crowd to its newly revamped cafes and restaurants. A good alternative to Paceville for the more discerning.
Festivals – Historically themed festivals have sprung up in Malta’s towns and villages in recent years, normally spread out over a couple of days. Valletta has a hugely popular Notte Bianca, Mdina hosts a very colourful medieval one in May and Birgu’s well attended one is in October. Highlight of the latter is the city’s atmospheric candlelit night.
Open top bus tour – See Malta going by from a grandstand viewpoint with a hop on hop off tour, with the advantage of a pick and choose selection of places to stop and explore further. There’s a choice of southern and northern Malta and a Gozo one. A Malta by night service operates in summer.
Bird watching at Buskett – A spectacular flying show at the height of the spring and autumn migration seasons as marsh harriers, buzzards and ospreys start swooping over Malta’s largest woodland in the late afternoon looking for a place to roost. A treat for nature lovers.
Stroll Sliema – Sliema is the islands’ most cosmopolitan town and has a seafront promenade over a mile long. A very popular urban walkway with both tourists and locals on summer evenings, with an abundance of eating places along the way.