Nightlife in the capital amounts to no more than a drink or two in a bar or an evening trot in a horse-drawn karrozzin round the city’s floodlit ramparts. However, there is plenty of action in resorts to the northwest.
Those seeking the bright lights should head to the small area of St Julian’s known as Paceville. Here you will find scores of discos, pubs and late-night bars. In summer the neon-lit streets are crammed with action-seekers. St Julian’s is also home to Malta’s casino – the only place where the nightlife could be described as glitzy. Beyond the headland, St George’s Bay has a growing number of fashionable discos. Lesser concentrations of bars with live music, and the occasional discos, can be found in Sliema and in the St Paul’s area, around Buggiba and Qawra.
Discos open early in the evening for the benefit of the young (and not-so-young) Maltese visiting from the countryside who have to catch the last bus home at around 9 or 10 pm. For the rest, the music throbs on into the early hours of the morning. The older generation of visitors to Malta are usually quite content with hotel entertainment, which take the form of folk nights, cabarets and possibly discos. These events are normally open to non-residents.
On the cultural side, Malta has several English-language theatres and cinemas. The delightful Manoet Theatre puts on ballet, opera and concert performances in addition to plays. One of the most important cultural events in the Maltese calendar is Maltafest – a month of concerts, recitals, jazz performances, open-air theatre and art exhibitions – which takes place from mid-July to mid-August.
An ornate classical mansion on Dragonara Point, built in the 1830s, forms the elegant setting for the island’s original casino. After major refurbishment, the casino was reopened in May 1999. Formerly this was only open to non-Maltese but now anyone can lay their bets – provided that they are dressed correctly and pay the entrance fee. Rough-looking bouncers see the rest. The Maltese have an obsession with gambling and, when they are not in the casino, the chances are they will be trying their lick at a bingo party or buying tickets their luck at a bingo party or buying tickets from one of the islands ubiquitous lottery offices. The casino’s new restaurant, Le Marquis, is a brasserie that offers a menu of authentic French cuisine. A second casino, the Oracle, opened on the island in 1998.
The Eden Century Film Centre in St George’s Bay has 16 cinemas showing films in English. The Citadel Theatre in Victoria on Gozo has two cinemas showing films in English. The Golden Knight International Amateur Film and Video Festival, popular with local and foreign film enthusiasts take place in November.
The Manoel Symphony Orchestra performs at the Manoel Theatre. Classical concerts are also held in St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta. In summer there are occasional concerts in the San Anton Gardens in Attard and the Buskett Gardens near Mdina. The Malta Jazz Festival takes place on the last weekend of July. Concerts, vocal recitals, choral and ballet presentations are organized by the Malta Cultural Institute at the Casino Maltese in Valletta from January to June and from October to December. The International Choir Festival, held in November, sees performances by choirs from all over Europe.
Maltese folk dances are colourful affairs, with Arabic and Sicilian influences much in evidence. The performances laid on fro visitors are not necessarily authentic in every respect, but the verve of the dancers ensures a lively and colourful evening. Many hotels organize occasional folk evenings, featuring local dancers.
Fort St Elmo is the setting of the In Guardia, the re-enactment of a military parade of the Knights of St John, with period costumes and full pageantry. The event takes place on Sundays, normally twice a month. Gozo’s military re-enactment, the Sentinella, takes place at the Citadel from 11am to 3pm, Wednesday and Saturday.
The Manoel Theatre
Valletta’s delightful Manoel Theatre is Malta’s main venue for concerts, recitals and ballet performances take place all year round but the main season lasts from October to May. The theatre alone is worth a visit. It is one of the oldest in Europe, with a magnificent gilded ceiling and tiers of ornate boxes. Both local and foreign artists perform at the theatre, and there are occasional visits from world-famous pianists, singers and actors. Plays are only occasionally performed in English. One of the regular highlights is the traditional pantomime performed at Christmas.