Want to get a head start on your Maltese Christmas shopping? This is your ultimate local gift guide
Few destinations mark the yuletide as well as Malta. Thanks to its old-fashioned village fetes, its annual presepju displays, its beloved Christmastime dishes and its many gorgeous churches. One gets the feeling that today’s Maltese Christmas celebrations still resemble those that happened centuries ago. The only change? Hunting down Christmas presents has never been easier, thanks to buzzing urban shopping streets, traditional artist workshops, and glitzy shopping malls in Malta. Whether you’re after artisanal Maltese crafts or the latest name-brand fashions, these shops in Malta should more than cater to your gift list.
The Christmas Shop is an appropriate starting point among the best festive shops in Malta. From 1st October 2015, the retailer will be operating a seasonal boutique on Melita Street in the heart of Valletta. Cards, candles, and gifts can be found here, while those inspired by the many presepji, or Christmas crib, displays across town can find their own traditional figurines here, too.
And then there are the markets. In lieu of the ubiquitous Alpine-style chalets and mugs of gluhwein, you’ll find a more traditional Maltese Christmas vibe at the Malta Artisan Market. Here, sellers trade in historic crafts rather than tourist trinkets, from filigree jewellery and handmade lace to artisanal food products.
Do keep your eyes open for the local village bazaars as well, which are held in many of Malta’s small towns leading up to Christmas. These festive markets are frequented by locals, so you’re bound to find authentic, one-of-a-kind stocking stuffers.
If Malta’s historic bazaars reflect a more traditional style of Christmas gifting, then its busy shopping streets can rival those of any European city. Lined with international brands, they’re ideal for seasonal browsing (and sightseeing) – you’ll also find suspended lights, colourful decorations, and a general atmosphere of festivity.
The shopping stretch in capital Valletta, much of Republic Street is pedestrian-only, making it well suited to window-shopping. Sliema, accessibly located just a short amble from St. Julian’s, is also one of Malta’s primary retail hubs. Bisazza Street and the surrounding thoroughfares are where you’ll find the majority of high-street shops and international brands.
For the highest concentration of stores – and perhaps the greatest odds that you’ll cross every person off your gift list – you can also follow local shoppers to the many high-end shopping malls in Malta. Begin at the largest of them all, The Point, which is located on the edge of Sliema and hosts four storeys of luxury outlets.
In St. Julian’s, the Bay Street Complex is another popular shopping hub all year round, though it draws its biggest crowds during the festive season. The combination of more than 60 independent stores and high-street brands makes this an easy go-to for Maltese Christmas shoppers.
Once you’ve bagged the designer duds, a final pass around Malta’s workshops and artist ateliers may just turn up unique pieces for the difficult people on your gift list.
The Maltese archipelago is host to two of its own villages devoted to Maltese crafts – Ta’ Qali in Malta and Ta’ Dbiegi in Gozo – designed to give traditional makers a space to retail their wares. Expect to encounter everything from glass blowing and lace-making demonstrations to a range of traditional goods, including leather items, hand-painted pottery, and jewellery.
For Maltese Christmas mementos, there are also several treasure-filled boutiques to wander. Soap Café in Sliema is a destination for locally made beauty products, and Mdina Glass includes a number of rainbow-vibrant, hand-blown pieces. Just don’t forget the bubble wrap before you start packing.