The sun glitters magically on the blue Mediterranean sea, tiny coloured boats bob up and down in the harbour, while weathered men and women set up a large number of small stalls all around the bay, showcasing a marvellous array of fresh fish, plump fruit, and other local produce. This is Marsaxlokk fish market, the perfect destination for anyone wanting to spend a jolly and tasty Sunday morning.
Marsaxlokk, a small village located on the south-eastern part of Malta, has an old history as a port. In the 9th century, it was here that the Phoenicians first landed and set up their businesses, even building a temple to the goddess Astarte at the nearby Tas-Silġ. It was also at Marsaxlokk that the Turkish fleet anchored during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
Historical facts apart however, Marsaxlokk is undoubtedly mostly well-known for its fish market, which is the biggest on the island and which attracts both locals and tourists alike. Flecked with hawkers, crafts stalls, and farmers selling fresh fruits and vegetables, this market is aptly named for the many fishermen who traditionally set up shop here – selling many types of fish, as well as other seafood, almost right after it is brought in from the sea.
The many-coloured tiny boats they use to haul in the catch, called ‘luzzu’, are also a traditional feature. Decorated in bright yellow, blue and green, they sport large dark lashed painted eyes on their bows; symbols of good fortune and protection at sea.
The word ‘marsa’, means harbour, while ‘xlokk’ is ‘south’ in Maltese, therefore the meaning of the village is very clear, since it has been serving in this function for hundreds of years. The waterline also offers a large number of restaurants specialising in fish.
Most of Malta’s fish supplies are caught by fishermen in Marsaxlokk. During the week, these are taken to the fish-market in Valletta or to Marsa, however on Sundays, fish is retailed by the fisherman themselves on the quay. The fish-cuisine-aficionado may find any kind of fish his heart yearns for in the Marsaxlokk fish market – seabass, grouper, dentex, stonefish, white bream, red mullet, tuna, swordfish, not to mention the famous ‘lampuki’, that is, dolphin fish. This last is the most popular among the Maltese, who cook it in a variety of delicious ways, most notably either frying it in olive oil and lemon juice, or baking it in a ‘torta tal-lampuki’ (dolphin fish pie).
Of course, many of the fish are seasonal, resulting in an ever changing fish market, which always offers fresh and different produce.
Marsaxlokk is situated only around 6.5 kilometres away from the Malta International Airport, and one can arrive there in 10 minutes by car. A number of public busses are available to take one there as well.
If you want to take a look at the Marsaxlokk quay right now, click here.