20 August 2014

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The Next Big Thing - Vibrant Malta


Malta4 - Sea_MTA_384.jpgWith a growing music scene, vibrant nightlife and international sporting events, there’s more to Malta than meets the eye. Square Meal checks out the action

Think you know Malta? Think again. This ancient Mediterranean island may once have been solely a destination for culture vultures, but in recent years it’s been showing off its younger, funkier side. The historic sites and noble architecture – all stone palaces and grand churches – aren’t going anywhere, but a host of new attractions are turning Malta into a playground for a fun-loving, thrill-seeking crowd.

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The Maltese scene is right up there with Ibiza’s, with the refreshing difference that everything – from entrance fees to drinks – is just that much more affordable. Paceville, a little up the coastline from the capital, Valletta, is a haven for clubbers: it’s packed with stylish bars and dance spots, the most popular being Footloose, Havana, Styx and the huge Axis club. As the nights draw to a close, the 7 Rooms lounge bar, with its more laid-back vibe, is the place to unwind.

To make the most of the balmy Mediterranean climate, head to Gianpula. Nestled in the valley beneath the medieval town of Mdina, it’s built on the site of a sprawling 300-year-old stone farmhouse. With seven bars, a swimming pool set in lush gardens and a capacity of 4,000, it’s little surprise this über-club has attracted top-flight DJs, including Sasha, Seb Fontaine, Roger Sanchez and Boy George.

But for a truly unique experience, it doesn’t get any bigger than Gianpula Fields. This open-air site, boasting panoramic views of Mdina’s centuries-old bastions, has a capacity of 30,000. It has been the setting for some of the world’s biggest dance events, including the Xfm music festival and Creamfields. On Sunday 28 June 2009, Gianpula Fields will play host to Cream Live, with Moby taking centre stage.

If festivals are more your thing, the third annual Isle of MTV free music festival (3-9 July 2009) is one of the summer’s must-do dates. It’s part of Malta Music Week – seven days dedicated to music fans, with countless beach parties and club nights to get everyone in the festival spirit. Following last year’s success, where the likes of Enrique Iglesias and N.E.R.D. wowed the 50,000-strong crowd, this year’s line-up includes A-list artists the Black-Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga, alongside rising stars such as Metro Station.

Highlights of the festival will be broadcast on MTV’s European stations. For more details, see www.isleofmtv.com.

Meanwhile, those with a taste for gambling will find Dragonara Casino the place to be. Housed in the Dragonara Palace – once the private home of a 19th-century Maltese aristocrat – the casino’s main gaming hall offers roulette, blackjack, stud poker and punto banco (a form of baccarat), while slots players have more than 170 one-armed bandits to choose from. High rollers of course may prefer the more discreet tables of the Salle Privé.

Water Sports

Malta F1 powerboatMalta’s clean seas and warm climate make it ideal for water sports, including jet-skiing, paragliding, sailing, waterskiing and windsurfing, while the rich marine life and ancient sea wrecks are a draw for scuba divers. The crystal-clear waters of the Blue Lagoon are a favoured destination.

Those who prefer to watch sports have a choice of the Powerboat P1 World Championship and the Rolex Middle Sea Race. The Powerboat P1 World Championship consists of 14 races across seven cities, starting in May and concluding in mid-October. This June, Valletta will again be hosting a P1 Grand Prix.

This year, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, founded in 1968, will take place on Saturday 17 October. Ranking alongside the Rolex Fastnet and the Rolex Sydney Hobart as a ‘must-do’ yacht race, over the years it has attracted competitors such as Italian Olympic gold medallist Tino Straulino, round-the-world yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester and even CNN’s Ted Turner. After taking part, Turner commented that ‘it must be the most beautiful racecourse in the world. What other event has an active volcano as a mark of the course?’

Getting there

The Maltese archipelago lies in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, some 60 miles south of the Italian island of Sicily. Flying time from London’s airports is around three hours and there are regular scheduled flights to Luqa airport near Valletta; operators include:

Air Malta (twice-daily: Heathrow; daily: Gatwick)
British Airways (four flights a week: Gatwick)
Easyjet (daily: Gatwick)
Ryanair (five flights a week:

You can also reach Malta via scheduled direct ferry from ports in Italy, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily.

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As a legacy of its status as a former British colony, not only is English an official language (alongside Maltese), but all the road signs are in English and traffic drives on the left, so renting a car couldn’t be easier. There are also regular boat services between the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino, while in Valletta’s Grand Harbour there is a water taxi service using traditional Maltese ‘dghajsa’ boats.

For more information contact Visit Malta on 020 8877 6990 or see

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