Malta underground: The coolest pastimes on the islands

Discover Malta's unique blend of ancient history and modern culture, from ancient temples to world-class poker events and vibrant festivals

Not too many locations have the breadth of appeal that the Mediterranean’s smallest nation has. Malta, along with its two neighbouring islands of Gozo and Comino, is uniquely placed in terms of geography, history, and modern culture. Some of these characteristics seem mutually exclusive—but that’s part of the magic of Malta, bridging the ancient with the modern.

For example, Malta is renowned for its megalithic, ancient structures. The temples in Malta are some of the oldest in the world, providing a lens through which to study our ancient ancestors. Given its location between Europe and Africa, there are also dozens of cultural traditions and historical locations worth exploring during a trip to the island. 

But that doesn’t mean Malta is stuck in the past. Along with its ancient origins, the country is now home to some of the world’s most robust iGaming policies. This has made Malta a home for dozens of brands that have launched with the help of the Malta Gaming Authority. Along with tourism, this is one of the country’s most robust industries. 

Ancient temples and modern gaming are only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s take a deeper dive and explore some of the more unique pastimes and cultural factors that make Malta worth visiting in 2024.

Poker Events

Given the reach of the Malta Gaming Authority, it might not come as a surprise that poker events are hugely popular on the island. Though most poker players stick to virtual platforms to play daily or weekly, it’s not uncommon for them to flock to in-person tournaments. These offer a chance to perfect their tournament skills and level up to competitors face-to-face. 

Last year, the European Poker Tour made a stop in Malta, with players gathering from around the world to compete. Along with the chance to beat competitors, players gravitate toward locations like Malta thanks to its central location, beautiful weather, stunning beaches, culinary delights, and affordable prices.

Grand Master Culture

Although Malta is no longer a religious state, it retains many of its Catholic traditions. If you’ve encountered the term ‘Grand Master’, it refers to the head of Malta’s Knights of Hospitaller, a cultural group still active in the country. In fact, though the country now runs via a parliament, the Grand Master’s Palace is still open to the public and welcomes around 300,000 visitors each year.

Aside from visiting the Grand Master’s Palace, you can still feel these cultural roots in other ways. For example, the annual Baroque Festival and Carnaval Festival harken back to Malta’s medieval era, providing guests with a truly unforgettable peek into the past.

Going Underground—Literally

When it comes to dropping off the map in Malta, most people immediately think about the island’s stunning coastlines. Diving, unsurprisingly, is a popular pastime for locals and travelers alike. However, the island is also home to several distinct underground chambers.

First, there are the catacombs below St. John’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s Catacombs are frequented by visitors. The subterranean tunnels offer a pathway to the past, covering archaeological finds from the Punic era all the way to the modern day. But there’s also the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni, an ancient necropolis and sanctuary that dates to around 3000 BCE. Trips to either highlight just how expansive Malta’s history is, as both sites are separated by millennia.

Firework Shows

Fireworks are hugely popular in Malta. In fact, the nation hosts an annual Fireworks Festival. Similar to poker events, this annual party brings people from around the world who enjoy a good show. The pyrotechnics are world-class, competing with firework shows in places like Rio de Janeiro and New York City.

Despite its tiny size, Malta is home to over 30 firework factories. Locals aren’t just there to rub elbows and watch with visitors. Many also spend their time and resources to create fireworks displays of their own. Along with the annual festival, fireworks shows are also popular ways to celebrate public holidays or royal affairs like the birth of a new prince.

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