Malta is often seen by Great Britain and Northern Ireland travellers as merely a cheap holiday destination. Known for its sun, sea, fast food, and nightlife district (bars, strip clubs, and nightclubs), it seems the perfect destination for the party crowd. Although we can’t fault visitors for this, the smallest EU member state has so much more to offer.
Although visitors can find plenty of fast-food hamburger, fish & chips, and pastizzi (delicious savoury Maltese ricotta or pea cake) fast-food kiosks, we suggest sampling some of the local cuisines. Maltese cuisine is heavily influenced by many cultures, including Italian & Sicilian, Arabian and French. The national dish is ‘stuffat tal-fenek,’ a rabbit stew found at many restaurants.
Not surprisingly, Maltese dishes come with their fair share of seafood dishes. Many Maltese also enjoy a piping hot plate of ‘aljotta’ (fish soup) when the weather cools down. Another popular, albeit seasonal dish is lampuki pie. Lampuki is a common fish found in Mediterranean waters that may also go by other names: dorado, mahi-mahi and dolphin fish. Alternatively, stuffat tal-qarnita is an octopus stew popular with many locals, often served with spaghetti pasta.
It’s believed that the first inhabitants were from nearby Sicily somewhere around 5000 BC. They worshipped a fertility goddess and were responsible for pottery displayed in Malta museums. Between 4000 and 2500 BC, the megalithic temples were created that remain the oldest standalone structures in the world. Malta and Gozo (sister island) megalithic temples are considered UNESCO World Heritage sites, available to visitors as a guided tour.
Malta’s location in southern Europe just above North Africa has exposed it to Semitic influences, including the Phoenicians. Under the control of the Roman Empire, the island welcomed several well-placed Roman families whose descendants remain part of the Maltese identity today. When the Empire split in 395 CE, Malta was ruled by Constantinople. During this period, Malta saw an influx of Greeks that influenced Maltese culture with their own traditions. Under Norman rule, Malta saw waves of Italian and Sicilian immigrants.
After a brief French occupation under Napoleon, Malta came under British rule from 1800 to 1964. During this time, the island’s language, politics, and culture were permanently transformed. Britain’s influence is evident today in some neoclassical architecture, widespread use of the English language, parliamentary structure and common law legal system.
Religion is a big part of the Maltese identity. It’s believed that St. Paul introduced Malta to Christianity after being shipwrecked on the island in 60 CE. Churches and parishes are scattered across the Maltese islands and are often the core of towns and villages. Each village celebrates a patron saint festival (festa), which involves street lights, band clubs, fireworks, a special mass and other festivities. One of the largest and most popular festa is the Feast of Santa Marija, celebrated August 15th in Rabat, Gozo. This day is also a national holiday and a good excuse for Maltese and tourists to take the ferry to Malta’s sister island.
Besides festas, the Maltese love their football and can’t seem to get enough, both locally and internationally. Since Malta’s football teams pale compared to larger countries like the UK, many Maltese support international clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Visitors can often find big games streamed at pubs and other establishments.
We’ve only scratched the surface of Maltese culture and the things to see and do. Although Great Britain and Northern Ireland residents enjoy playing at UK online casinos, why not make a trip to the iconic Dragonara Casino part of your itinerary? The majestic casino is housed within the Dragonara Palace, overlooking the Mediterranean. It offers 300+ slot machines, 15 live table games, a poker room, restaurants & bars, and more!