While Malta has not yet caught up with Ibiza, in recent years it has become a presence on the throbbing European clubbing scene. Resort nightlife can get boisterous, with late-night clubs in the tangle of streets around Paceville in St Julian’s creating a small but frenetic party zone over summer. There are dozens of neon-infested pubs offering cheap alcohol and clubs that start getting busy just before midnight, when streets are gridlocked with hooting cars trying to avoid crowds spilling into the streets. International DJs fly in for guest appearances, playing anything and everything from techno to hip-hop, salsa music and rock. Bugibba is another enclave crammed with bars and clubs, although nowhere near as rowdy as Paceville, while the open-air party complex at Gianpula Fields near Rabat is summer host to one-off parties and club night.
Even Gozo now has a few nightclubs and Valletta is also showing signs of throwing off its sleepy after-dark image, with lots of laid-back wine bars, fine dining opportunities and a thriving cultural scene. Both the Manoel Theatre and the St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity have year-round repertoires of plays, classical concerts, opera, ballet performances and art-house films.
Summer is the season of art and musical festivals around the islands, with a series of Shakespeare plays performed in the gardens at San Anton Palace each July. Almost every week there’s a religious festival of some sort, accompanied by parades, bunting and fireworks.
But music and dance runs deep through the Maltese psyche and to experience island hospitality at its most traditional, take in a foot-stomping performance of ancient island dances and jigs, complete with traditional costumes, singing and mandolin playing, over an open-air buffet dinner at Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens in Siggiewi.