Selmun Bay (James Bianchi)
List Words : Christine Fleitz | 24 October

10 things to do for free in Malta

The Euro may have made Malta pricier, but never fear, this Mediterranean treasure trove has plenty to offer without having to reach for your wallet

1. Mingle at a village festa

If there's one thing that Maltese people love to do, it's party. Every parish has its own festa celebrating the day of its patron saint. The streets are adorned with colourful banners and bright lights, and on the eve of the festa fireworks echo through the streets as families and friends celebrate with music and food.

The next morning begins with High Mass, followed by a procession of the patron saint. Village festas are a hugely important part of Maltese culture, and visitors are always welcomed with open arms to join in the festive atmosphere.

2. Gaze through nature's window

Hop aboard a ferry to Gozo and find your way by foot to Dwejra Point where you can witness one of Malta's famous natural phenomenons. The Azure Window is a scenic arch formed by years of erosion from waves crashing against its rocky façade. It is a beautiful sight and acts as an ideal frame for that perfect picture. Sadly the arch is slowly disintegrating, so be sure to see it before it's gone!

3. Stroll through the Silent City

Get a taste of true, traditional Maltese charm by visiting Mdina, the country's original governing city. The labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets within the walled city exude a charm and medieval undertone that act as a temporary escape from the modern world.

Extra tip: For a chance to get a glimpse inside of one of Mdina's oldest buildings, visit the Palazzo Falson (closed Monday), it will cost you €10, but the expansive collection of treasures hidden behind its 13th century doors are worth a wander.

4. Marvel at Mosta's miracle

Built in 1860, Mosta Dome has two claims to fame. The first is that it claims to have the fourth largest dome in the world. The second is that in World War II a bomb pierced the dome and thudded to the church floor, luckily it failed to explode sparing the lives of the 300-odd parishioners attending mass at the time. The miracle is still celebrated by locals today, and a similar bomb can be seen on display in a small, free museum attached to the church.

5. Snorkel in the shallows

The Mediterranean waters surrounding Malta are home to a wonderful array of marine life and snorkelling can be a great, budget-friendly alternative to diving – all you need is a mask and snorkel. You can pay for a guide, but if you are a confident swimmer there is no harm in venturing off-shore on your own. Xlendi Bay in Gozo, and Mgarr Ix-Xini Cove are great places to start, as there is plenty to see even in shallow water.

6. Explore the rugged landscape

Away from the urban areas of Malta are stretches of virtually untouched countryside just waiting to be explored. Hiking in Malta can be a riveting experience as you can stumble upon anything from abandoned farmhouses and prehistoric sites, to cave chapels and secret meeting places. Hikers can also discover some striking views, from ragged cliffs and crashing waves to hidden green valleys and barren wildernesses. Dingli Cliffs are a great place for a hike and have spectacular views.

7. Unwind on a sandy beach

A holiday in Malta would not be complete without a day spent lounging on one of the many beaches littering the island's expansive coastline. Summer crowds swarm to Malta's most popular sandy beaches often making the experience uncomfortable rather than relaxing. For a more secluded scene venture off track to Selmun Bay, a beautiful sandy beach that never gets crowded. Of course such seclusion comes at a price, though not financial but physical, as you'll have to find your way down (and up) a very steep, bumpy track, which is torturous in the sweltering summer heat.

8. Feel a different kind of heat

Although glass blowing is a relatively new Maltese trade it has already become a cherished craft among locals and tourists. At the Mdina Glass factory in Ta'Qali Craft Village visitors can see glass blowers perfecting their craft and can also purchase finished products, ranging from pendants and vases, to complex sculptures. Ta'Qali Craft Village is also home to a range of other trades, such as pottery; silver and gold filigree and lace making.

9. Browse through an open-air market

Not the best Maltese market for souvenir shopping, but you'll certainly find a strange assortment of goods that are worth a look-in. The daily market in Valletta sells anything from fake designer wear to local produce, whereas the Sunday markets just on the outskirts of the capital sells more unique knick-knacks. For some local colour visit the Marsaxlokk fish market where you can taste some early morning catches while admiring the luzzu boats scattered across the bay.

10. Walk along Sliema's promenade

This long, wide stretch of coastal pavement can make for a lovely stroll in the evenings after a delicious Mediterranean meal. You'll see people of all shapes, sizes and ages enjoying the cool breeze as they watch the sun set over the frothing waves.

Extra tip: Stop in one of the many ice cream parlours lining the promenade for a fresh gelato or sorbet, or stop by one of the less attractive vans parked on the street selling the flavoured ice slush the locals love.

And one to break the bank...

Rent a boat for the day and explore the scenic coastline, dramatic cliff formations, historical harbours and beautiful bays. Be sure to stop by the blue lagoon for a dip in its crystal clear waters. A nautical license may be required, or you can hire a driver to guide you around the island. Few boat rental companies have websites, instead head down to the shore on your visit and ask around for the best deals.

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