Everything you need to know about Christmas in Malta.
I’ve always loved Christmas, after all, it is "the most wonderful time of the year" isn't it, and after last Christmas was cancelled, we really do need a good one this year!
This gorgeous little island sparkles and shines beneath a blanket of twinkling lights and the thing that makes it truly special is that a festive season spent here still has the air of the simpler, none commercial Christmases of days gone by.
Having travelled to this beautiful island in the #Mediterranean for the past four decades, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of having celebrated Christmas and New Years here lots of times, and I've always had an absolute ball!
So much so, I simply must share with you just how awesome it is!
In this dedicated blog I'll be covering,
the best things to do
attractions to see
Food to savour which will help you to truly soak up the festive atmosphere.
Everything you need to know, from what the weather will be like to the church services available, along with a number of incredibly handy insider tips too.
So, without further ado, here we go..............
What is the weather like at Christmas?
Well now that’s a difficult one, 🤔 I’ve spent Christmas Days basking in 70 degrees sunshine and others spent in torrential rain and rather chilly winds. The best recommendation I can make is to remain watchful of this page, the Malta Airport weather page as it’s incredibly accurate.
Having said that, Malta as an island is only 17 miles long and 9 miles wide so bad weather generally moves out quickly.
When the weather is good, it’s very very good, you’ll wake to the clearest blue skies, but when its bad, it’s horrid, think stormy grey skies, wild seas and very strong winds.
December is the wettest month of the year so do pack an umbrella ☂️ Average temperatures range from the mid 50's to around 70 degrees but you do need to factor in humidity which can make it feel a lot colder than it actually is, especially in the late afternoon and into the evening. Hail stones and storms are not unknown at this time of year too. I guess the message is “be prepared for all eventualities” 😆
This leads me nicely onto.........
So what do I need to pack?
Being a girl who has been caught out many times before and ended up with an impromptu shopping trip as she’s packed all the wrong clothes 😆 I am totally best placed to answer this question
Seriously though, I would recommend packing layers, along with some good boots or trainers, pop in a pair of flip flops too just in case, a warm jacket is essential, gilets are a godsend worn with a nice thick scarf and jumper, leggings, jeans, hoodies and T-shirt’s are great choices too. For an evening it’s very casual, but you may want to pop in a couple of smart dresses 👗 and heels 👠, a smart shirt and brogues for the guys for any festive meals you are taking, as these are very dressy affairs! 👔
If you have access to an indoor pool or a protected from the wind sunbathing area, you may want to pop in your bikini or swim shorts too. The Maltese are a hardy lot and you will still find many of the locals taking a dip in the sea in the winter months.
Don’t be at all surprised to see the locals bundled up in heavy fur and leather coats coupled with fur boots and hats whilst out and about during the day. On one of the occasions where I got my wardrobe very wrong, I set out for the day wearing a sun dress and flip flops only for the temperature to dip dramatically mid afternoon leaving me receiving some very strange looks 🤣🥶🙈
What is Malta like at Christmastime, will I like it?
It's simply magical! The Maltese really do adore this time of year and the true spirit of Christmas really does still exist here. It’s a time when all generations of the family come together to celebrate and enjoy the various festive activities available.
Malta is a Catholic country, ever since St Paul was shipwrecked here in AD 60 changing Malta’s religious history forever by converting the islands inhabitants to Christianity ✝️ Therefore Christmastime is an extremely special and important time of the year for the Maltese.
The streets are so prettily decorated with Christmas lights and decorations, and in Valletta, the islands capital city, you can shop until you drop listening to your favourite Christmas tunes which ring out throughout the shopping streets. It’s just so lovely and not at all commercial as our Christmases are here.
The stores are open later in the lead up to Christmas and are even open on Sundays too.
Wherever you wander you will come across a beautiful Nativity display, outside in the villages and towns, and also inside hotels and restaurants.
Valletta is simply stunning at Christmas, there’s the Mdina Glass blown glass bauble Christmas trees and the breath-taking Christmas lights display on Republic Street.
Sliema also puts on a super show, with huge Christmas bears and stunning Christmas trees in the beautiful shopping centre The Point
Along with illuminated Christmas gift all wrapped up with a bow 🎁 in St Anne’s square.
The beautiful traditional Maltese balconies which are so captivating at any time of year, are decorated with Christmas wreaths and dazzling fairy lights.
You will very much notice that restaurants and pubs are quite busy early evening as friends, families and colleagues all get together to enjoy a little Christmas cheer!
Will the island be busy?
November through to March is the low season for tourists in Malta mainly as the warm Mediterranean sunshine cannot really be guaranteed. However the Christmas and New Year weeks do get busy and it can be quite an expensive time to visit if you don't book in advance. There is an abundance of accommodation options available across the island ranging from 5* luxury to Air BNB so there is something to fit everyone’s budget. Please bear in mind that self catering may work out cheaper overall, but as the cost of living is higher than here in the UK, you’ll need to factor in your food bills ( thankfully the local wine is extremely reasonable 😆)
Can I attend a church service in Malta at Christmas?
Absolutely! The parishioners will welcome you with open arms. With a population of just over 440,000 there is one church for every 1,000 residents, I will let you do the math 😲 as to how many churches there are on an island spreading just a little over 92 square miles.
As previously stated the main religion is Roman Catholic, but other religious denominations which are represented are Adventist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Evangelical Baptist Church, Reformed Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican, Church of England, Muslim, (there is only the one mosque 🕌 which is located in Paola) Methodist and Greek Byzantine.
The Catholic Churches are stunning at Christmas, lit with fairy lights and beautiful nativity displays with the crib of course being the focal point. Very often you will find that these displays are almost life size!
Attending Midnight Mass after the traditional Christmas Eve dinner is a long established Maltese custom. An unusual addition to this mass is that the sermon/story of the Nativity is given from the alter by a young girl or boy between the ages of around 7-10, instead of the priest. It’s called The Sermon of the Child or in Maltese Il-Priedka tat-Tifel.
One thing to bear in mind if you intend upon attending one of the Christmas Eve midnight masses, is that most of these services will be conducted in Maltese or Latin. Although if you carry out a google search or ask the advice of the extremely friendly locals you will be able to find one in English. After mass, it’s traditional to enjoy a warming and comforting mug of Imbuljuta tal-Qastan, a drink made with hot chestnuts and chocolate.
Tip - you can purchase beautiful nativity sets in the numerous gift stores across the island, ranging from glass and crystal to ceramic - it’s a lovely keepsake to take home reminding you of fond memories made during a Maltese Christmas.
Must do’s and must see’s.
Top of your list has to be Valletta, it’s stunning at any time of year but is truly magical at Christmas. There is just so much festive cheer throughout the city! Do visit one of the many stunning baroque churches, there are over 25 of them, along with the stupendous St Johns Co-Cathedral. Find time to savour one of the delicious hot chocolates or a spiced mulled wine whilst watching the world go by at one of the many pavement cafes.
Tip - no flash photography is allowed inside the Co-Cathedral. There is also an entrance fee payable, €10 for adults, €7.50 for students and seniors, children under the age of 12 accompanied by an adult are free
Fairyland - Santa's City - Valletta
Fairyland – Santa’s City will be returning to Valletta's Pjazza Tritoni between the 3rd of December and the 2nd of January! It's an original adaptation of Santa’s story, promising to give the most exciting day for the whole family.
You will find the 32m high giant Rudolph's Ferris wheel, an ice rink, a beautiful carousel, and of course Santa in situ in his grotto. There are oodles of artisan craft stalls, and a huge variety of festive food and drink options. Entrance to the site is free, with the fairground rides at an additional fee. "There will also be a couple of surprises which we are keeping wrapped up nicely for the time being,” the Malta Tourism Authority have stated too, ooh exciting! For your safety this event will be organized following the COVID-19 protocols in place by the Health Authorities at the time.
Tip - Fairyland is extremely busy from dusk, and queues are extremely long for the rides and to visit Santa. If you can visit during the day, you will be able to wander freely and safely without the long queues.
The Magical Illuminated Trail - Walk Thru Edition - Verdala Palace Buskett.
This is a spectacular walkabout journey through the walkways of one of Malta’s national historic gems, Verdala Palace and features hundreds of larger than life lantern illuminated sculptures, light Installations, projections and much more. A magical after-dark adventure for all the family, this year with lot's of new attractions. ( As per current regulations, all events in Malta are currently restricted to vaccinated attendees only.)
This is a ticketed event which can be booked here
Adult tickets are priced at EUR15 and children aged 3-16 at EUR8.50.
The Pantomime - Teatru Manoel - Valletta
Is Christmas even Christmas without a Pantomime? "He’s behind you!!!!"
There’s no need to miss out on this wonderful tradition when you can spend a fabulously fun evening at the Pantomime in the stunning historic Teatru Manoel in Valletta! This year we have The Twits by Roald Dahl. Please bear in mind that you must be fully vaccinated to be able to visit the theatre in Malta and you must be able to present your vaccination certificate at the door.
What are the main days of celebration?
The Maltese Christmas Eve is a day of last minute preparations and gift shopping, followed by a family dinner and a visit to a traditional Christmas Eve mass.
Another Maltese tradition is the post mass Early Christmas Breakfast. This is usually served between midnight and 2am-4am!Here are two example menus to give you an idea, both from two of my favourite restaurants ( see Introducing my favourite foodie hotspots and watering holes on the island of Malta ) think breakfast crossed with brunch with a Prosecco thrown in 😀
My Christmas Eve is usually a little less wholesome than the above 😆 and always includes fizz, a glass or two of my favourite sherry followed by a boogie. 🍾💃
The really cool thing about Christmas Eve in Malta, is if you’re in a pub, Christmas Day is counted down and rang in, in similar fashion to our New Years Eve/New Years Day. It’s so much fun and there is always an amazing party atmosphere as all generations join in with the party, singing and dancing with lots of laughter!
Christmas Day, is the only official public holiday of the season, and the only day that newspapers don’t go to print!
Like most countries it’s the most awaited celebration 🥳 It’s a true family day. If you are staying in a hotel on a half or full board basis, you will undoubtedly have your festive meals included. If you have any other room basis or are on a self catering basis I’d highly recommend that you book your Christmas lunch in advance.
You may find one or two small cafes open in the larger towns and in Valletta, but you can pre-book a table in any of the hotels offering a Christmas Day lunch.
In the past we have dined in various hotels on Christmas Day including the Corinthia St George Hotel, in St George’s Bay, St Julians, the Marriott Hotel in Balluta Bay, and the Preluna Hotel in Sliema.
I have to say the food on offer is always incredible. The lunch is mainly served assisted buffet style and there is always so much choice.
Fresh seafood, antipasti, cold cuts, soup, salad, pasta, local breads of every description, and this is just the starter section. So many different choices of main courses to suit every diet and palate, including of course traditional roast turkey 🦃 with all the trimmings!
The dessert table, now that's simply to die for, Cassata Siciliana, cannoli, mini fruit tarts, cheese cake, chocolate tortes, mini trifles, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, and even Free From sections.
Whilst you savour every delicious morsel you'll be serenaded by a band and a fabulous singer. And if you have been very good this year you may even be treated to a visit from Santa and his elves “ho, ho, ho”
On Christmas Day everyone can be seen wearing their finery, even the young ones are in party dresses and little suits and waistcoats, it really is a heart-warming sight to see. Families are close and large here, and celebrate together, there can be over 20 people at the dinner table!
However if you prefer a lighter lunch, festive afternoon tea's are widely available too.
In Malta Boxing Day is a normal day (so long as it doesn’t fall on a Sunday) where offices and stores open as usual. But, if you can power through your hangover and find some Gaviscon for the indigestion 😆 Boxing Day is synonymous for the start of the sales, and they are awesome, prices are quite literally slashed!
There are some very familiar names on the High Street, M&S, Matalan, River Island, Clark’s, etc. Debenhams is sadly no more, becoming a casualty of the pandemic as it did here in the UK. There are oodles of chic designer stores too, Liu Jo, Armani Exchange, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and lots of independent boutiques selling the big names, Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, Versace..........and the best thing about it? It’s extremely civilised, none of the pushing, shoving and grabbing of our sales here in the UK, the sales here are a lovely experience and always a pleasure!
The main shopping centres are The Point in Sliema, Valletta’s Republic Street and a number of smaller streets which lead off from there. Then you also have Sliema’s Strand and Plaza shopping centre along with the Bay Street shopping centre in St George’s Bay St Julians.
Tip - whilst out shopping do look out for one of the gorgeous miniature glass bauble Christmas tree ornaments - but pack it well as it needs to be carried in your checked luggage!
The Sunday between Christmas and New Year
One of my favourite days in the festive calendar. You simply have to try the Festive Brunch at the Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta, it’s absolutely scrumptious, you can read all about it here Introducing my favourite foodie hotspots and watering holes on the island of Malta )
New Years Eve
New Years Eve is celebrated but do be aware, it’s not quite as big an event as it is here in the UK. Mainly due to the fact that New Years Day is the next public holiday and a super important day in the Maltese festive calendar.
Some pubs actually close on New Years Eve, so you really do need to plan your evening in advance rather than just winging it.
Hotels will be running their own celebratory gala dinners, which will again include a now assisted buffet and live entertainment, but they do come at a price tag, usually ranging from €65-€125 per person depending upon the hotels star rating.
If you’d rather be out and about for the bells chiming twelve, there's a pretty impressive firework display in Valletta, drawing crowds from all parts of the island.
It’s just in recent years that Valletta has started to put on a bit of a show, with a music stage in in St Georges Square, spectacular fireworks over the Grand Harbour, and with the Waterfront being a pretty lively place to visit too.
Paceville in St Julians is the place to be if you're brave enough and ready to dance yourself dizzy 💃🕺 Do bear in mind though that most venues will be running ticketed events so you really need to do your research first.
Tip - Pop into the restaurants near to where you are staying, and enquire firstly if they are open then secondly which menu they are serving.
For example the amazing Italian restaurant Vecchia Napoli on Tower Road in Sliema, serves their regular menu with some New Year specials available too, without charging any holiday supplements. (If you like your pizza they have an absolutely awesome wood burning oven here!)
Then you can go celebrate with the locals! The bars which are open usually celebrate the Maltese New Year followed an hour later by the English one too, so you get two New Years for the price of one 😃
New Years Day
New Years Day is a BIG family celebration, with food and drink featuring heavily.
Again you will see all generations of families celebrating the start of the New Year in the islands many restaurants and hotels. Special set and assisted buffet menus are offered and again it’s a very dressy affair, with the young ones heading off into Paceville in the late afternoon once they have recovered from the festivities of New Years Eve 🥴 🤕 🥳
Do be aware that there wont be a lot of regular cafes, pubs or restaurants open on this day, but you will always be able to find a drink or a bite to eat in a hotel.
It’s also the perfect time to start your New Years fitness resolution, by joining the many power walkers zooming along the Sliema/St Julians promenade.
Public transport and taxis during the festive period.
Depending upon the weather or how much festive spirit you’ve enjoyed 😆 you may need to avail of the islands buses or taxi services. First tip and it’s an important one, don’t take any notice of the bus stop timetables, they arrive when they arrive! 😆
Malta Public Transport operate the islands services with a fleet of very modern buses. From Christmas Day to around the 6th of January generally a Saturday service is operated, however on Christmas Day itself buses stop operating around noon until 3pm, resuming again sometime between 3-4pm. They also finish earlier at around 9pm.
Taxis are readily available, I would recommend E-Cabs, they are just like Uber except the price the app quotes you is the exact price you pay. You can either use your card in the app, or pay cash to the driver. It's a safe ride as you receive the drivers details in advance and can track their route too.
Tip - Pre-arrange any taxi transport for Christmas Day in advance. You can plan your journey and research public transport ticket options at https://www.publictransport.com.mt
Traditional Maltese Christmas treats to try and savour
Food forms a HUGE part of the Christmas festivities in Malta. Malta has inherited the very British tradition of baking sweet minced pies which are delicious dusted with sweet icing sugar.
Other Maltese delicacies include, the good old chocolate “Yule” log, and Treacle Rings. The Maltese Christmas log, made with lots of chocolate, cherries, nuts, biscuits and a bit of whisky, is traditionally baked for Christmas and eaten throughout the day. Treacle Rings (Qagħqa tal-Għasel), are sweet pastry rings filled with a treacle mixture. Literally translated they are ‘honey rings’, but bizarrely there is absolutely no honey in the recipe.
You can pick up a sweet treat in the many cafes across the island, or at one of the traditional Maltese sweet treat stalls which are dotted around the villages.
I very much hope that this short guide helps you to either plan a Christmas in Malta or has provided you with some useful hints and tips if you are already booked!
Here's to this Christmas being jam packed with "comfort and joy" eh my lovelies 😊
Oh and one last tip, before I go, here is how to say Merry Christmas in Maltese!
il-Milied it-tajjeb - pronounced - “ill - mill - EED - itt- TYE - ebb