So the calendar’s open and smack in the middle of summer is an empty weekend. What to do? Beach escape or city break? History and culture or warm waters and hidden coves? If decision-making is a problem, head to Malta in summer and do the lot.
A three-hour flight from the UK, the Mediterranean island is eminently weekend-able and we’re yet to find a holiday checkbox it doesn’t tick. Set splash in the middle of the Med, Malta (and little sisters Gozo and Comino) has spent millennia being tossed from one empire to another, resulting in a rich mishmash of architecture and a kaleidoscopic cultural heritage. Its Unesco-listed capital Valletta is officially the sunniest in Europe and currently limbering up to don the mantle of European Capital of Culture 2018. So, here’s our our top five events in Malta in summer…
When 10 July to 3 August
Where Island wide
What A three-week cavalcade of alfresco drama, dance, music and art events celebrating local talent and international artists from across the creative spectrum. This year marks the festival’s 10th birthday, and 2015’s highlights include classical ivory-tickling from pianist Noriko Ogawa; a multidisciplinary music tribute to Marco Polo; an original choral piece featuring 18 hydraulic jacks; and contemporary interpretations of traditional Maltese poetry, prose and song.
When 6–9 August
Where Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta
What You didn’t know they made wine in Malta? Well, why would you? Very little makes it out of the country, as the Maltese tend to drink it all themselves. All the more reason to seize the chance for a sampling at this three-night winery-hosted event, enhanced by live music, fine food and a tipsily sophisticated party atmosphere. Grab a glass and taste-test more than 20 wines crafted from Malta and Gozo’s homegrown grapes – including the islands’ unique varieties: gellewza and girgentina.
La Notte di San Lorenzo
When 9 August
Where Grand Harbour, Valletta
What Lucky for Malta that St Lawrence was roasted alive in Rome in 258 AD, else the skies above Valletta would be disappointingly empty on 9 August. To mark his martyrdom, Valletta gathers by the harbour to watch one of the year’s biggest firework displays (and the Maltese love their pyrotechnics), kicking off at 10pm.
When 1–7 September
Where St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Valletta
What Malta is well known for the Baroque beauty of its buildings and its wealth of ornate churches, but contemporary art? Not so much. Now in its second year, Viva is an initiative intended to yank the archipelago’s creative scene into the modern day and earn Malta a place on the contemporary visual-arts map. Featuring exhibitions of local and international artists and a programme of workshops and talks, it’s an intriguing opportunity to see how a country goes about changing its outlook on art.
When 28 June 2016
Where Floriana, just outside Valletta
What One for the forward planners, this – possibly the biggest live-music event in the middle of the Med, MTV’s free annual concert in the Granaries of Floriana entices crowds of 50,000 or more to see the latest up-and-coming acts from around the world alongside established names from the contemporary scene, and as 2016 marks the show’s 10th birthday, anticipation is running high.
WHERE TO STAY
Eight chic suites tucked behind a historic neoclassical façade, Casa Ellul puts you in easy reach of… well, everything (Valletta’s a petite city). The townhouse has been in the same family since their textile-merchant forebears bought it in 1837, and the current generation has painstakingly restored it into a thing of splendour.
For more info on Malta’s events over the summer of 2015, check out Visit Malta, or call a Smith24 travel specialist to plan a romantic Maltese getaway.