When you imagine the perfect holiday on the Mediterranean island of Malta, you might envision days spent in the sun, by the poolside or on the sandy beach, chilled cocktail in hand. There’s no denying Malta offers one of the most exciting summers in the whole of Europe – but what if you can’t make it to the island’s rocky shores in time for the hottest months?
Contrary to common belief, there’s plenty of magical events and activities to experience throughout Malta’s winter, too. If you’re considering booking your holiday between November and February, rest assured there’s plenty to be done to make your holiday unforgettable.
Festival Mediterranea, Gozo
Cramming 7,000 years of Gozitan culture into three weeks is no easy feat – but the events organizers of Gozo’s annual Festival Mediterranea make a good attempt. Gozo, being the largest island in the Maltese archipelago (besides Malta itself), has developed its own unique history and character, whilst still retaining a striking likeness to Malta.
Less populated and with fewer tourists; Gozo’s beaches are quieter, its original architecture better preserved, and its way of life more traditional. It’s the perfect place for a late autumn of opera, ballet, music concerts, theatre, conferences, field trips, art exhibitions, food tours and firework displays. For anyone interested in Gozo’s one-of-a-kind archeological sites and temples, the Festival Mediterranea provides a perfect opportunity for guided exploring.
Chocolate Festival, Hamrun
As the months turn chillier, you might be looking for a little pick-me-up in the form of a cup of hot cocoa or some spice-infused chocolate. The Maltese are known for their ‘sweet tooth’ and their fondness for seasonal treats – which is why you should not miss Hamrun’s annual Chocolate Festival.
The fortified town of Hamrun is filled with an enchanting and historic aura, making it an ideal place to indulge in gourmet chocolate tasting. Besides a range of chocolate-filled market stalls, the festival also puts on a number of incredible chocolate sculpture displays to amaze the eyes and entice the taste buds.
Battle of Malta Tournament, St Julians
Unbeknownst to many, Malta has quite the reputation on an international scene for being the host of Europe’s largest low buy-in poker tournament. Poker has had a far-spanning impact on Maltese culture, with many locals of the older generation enjoying weekly games at local casinos.
At the Portomaso Casino, where the annual poker tournament is held, the interior is modern and glamorous. As for the real Battle of Malta – that was back in 1283, when the Maltese fought fiercely against the Angevins to win back their independence.
The tournament sees thousands of poker players from around the world gather in the nightlife district of St Julian and compete for the €1 million prize. If you’re less of an experienced player, you can still take part in one of the Battle of Malta’s many side events – or simply sign up for one of several parties the events staff organize.
Teatru Manoel, Valletta
As one of Valletta’s most prized jewels, the historically significant Manoel Theatre is frequented all year around. Between November and January, the grandeur opera hall is stage to celestial choirs and Christmas concerts. With a carrara marble staircases and Viennese chandeliers, Malta’s national theatre is as spectacular as it is cosy. Get your tickets for a performance by Malta’s Philharmonic Orchestra; a show that is sure to lift your spirits during the winter months.
St John’s Cathedral, Valletta
You should visit the beautiful St John’s Cathedral regardless of the season – but this holy place is especially spellbinding in December, where a festive feeling fills its ornate halls. Built in the honour of John the Baptist, this Baroque cathedral was designed by famous Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar and is today considered one of the finest cathedrals in all of Europe.
The ceiling depicts iconic scenes from the life of John the Baptist, whilst the general interior decor glimmers with warm golds. On top of that, the Cathedral also boasts some famous artworks by the likes of Caravaggio. The Cathedral Christmas Concert is a highly popular annual event, so be sure to book your tickets in advance.
Horse riding, Island-wide
By avoiding the incessant sunshine and heat waves of Malta’s summer, you’re visiting at a better time to enjoy horse riding along Malta’ majestic coasts or countrysides. It’s a relaxing experience for horse and nature lovers alike. Golden Bay is a popular location for sunset rides and private lessons, but if you’re travelling with children you could instead pay a visit to the Funny Farm Horse Sanctuary in Siggiewi. Here you’ll find older horses who light up at visitors (and donations!)
In the week before Ash Wednesday, Malta comes alive with colour and music as the carnival is celebrated. In a tradition that has spanned over five centuries, masquerade balls and fancy dress parades can be seen all across the island, from Valletta to the island’s more remote villages. Late-night costume parties are commonplace, so don’t forget to pack your most outlandish outfit.
Late Night Shopping, Valletta
The streets of Valletta are always a romantic sight after sunset, but especially so when colourful Christmas lights grace the building at night. Don’t miss the the festive displays throughout December, when shops stay open until late and small alley restaurants offer the perfect ambience in which to enjoy dinner and wine with friends.
New Years Celebration, Paceville
If you find yourself on the island for New Year’s Eve, you’re in luck. Malta’s nightlife hub, the notoriously wild Paceville, is a perfect place to celebrate the last day of the year. If you go to Club 22, at the very top of Malta’s tallest building – the Portomaso Tower, then you’ll be treated to some incredible panoramic views of fireworks all across Malta.
Go to the glittering Portomaso Bay for one of its many five star restaurants, or join in the countdown at a more casual setting such as Bar Native or Barcelona Lounge. Regardless of where you choose to go; lights, music, drinks and crowds of cheery people will make up the best part of your New Year’s Eve in Paceville.