Malta could never be described as a great shopping centre, and many Maltese go on a day to Sicily when they want a shopping spree. The best buys for visitors are the local crafts, which are conveniently displayed and demonstrated in craft villages on Malta and Gozo. Crafts aside, the best shopping is in Triq ir-Republika (Republic Street), Valletta.
Department stores and clothes shops here are uninspiring compared to their mainland European counterparts, and the prices in international shops, such as Marks & Spencer, Benetton and Next are substantially higher. The best places in which to experience the bustle of true Maltese life are the Sunday markets in Valletta and Marsaxlokk.
Generally speaking the best place to see – and the cheapest places to buy – local handicrafts are the two crafts villages on Malta and Gozo.
Gozo Citadel Crafs Centre
Arts and crafts purchased by private Maltese and Gozitian firms, located in what use to be the old Gozo prisons.
Ta’ Qali Craft Centre, Ta’ Qali
Authentic Maltese crafts are displayed on the site of a World War II aerodrome. Here you can watch working silver-smiths, glassblowers, potters, ironsmiths, stone carves, lace makers and jewelers. A visit to the village \features on day tours of the island but it is more satisfying to go independently and browse (and buy) at your own leisure.
Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Village
This is Gozo’s version of the Ta’Qali Craft Centre, displaying and selling local crafts, but all ona samller scale. The emphasis is on lace making and weaving
Brass and Iron
Replica brass dolphin doorknockers, as seen in Mdina and other old quarters, are favourite souvenirs. Wrought ironwork is a local tradition, and items range from candlesticks to an entire suit of armour.
Local pottery is not as varied as you might expect from a Mediterranean island. The styles are mainly rustic and the predominant colours are brown and blue. Very reasonably priced are the ceramic and sculpture; seconds sold at the Craft Centre in Ta’Qali.
Local glassware is stylish, beautifully coloured and reasonably priced. Vases, pots and ornaments come in various shades of blue and green, often in a mottled effect.
The Maltese have been making jewelery for centuries and the island is full of silversmiths and goldsmiths, many specializing in filigree work. The streets of Valletta are the best place to shop.
The main event is Valletta’s flea market held on Sunday mornings near City Gate. There are also weekday markets in Merchants’ Street, Valletta, and in Rabat, in Marsaxlokk, and in Victoria in Gozo.
Most of the authentic handmade items you will see are made on Gozo. Beware, however, of imitation lace. Among the range of genuine items are lace-edged handkerchiefs, napkins, tablecloths and full-lace shawls. Try the crafts village of Ta’ Dbiegi, the shops behind It-Tokk Square in Victoria or the shops of Xlendi.
Equally abundant are the cheap and chunky woolen cardigans and sweaters that hang outside the shops in Malta, and Gozo, Cotton goods such as T-shirts, towels and jeans are very reasonably priced, especially in markets.
Malta Weave is an especially hardwearing cloth that is used for making dresses, skirts, tablecloths and bedspreads.