Wandering through the cliffside gardens of the capital Valletta or the peaceful streets of the medieval city of Mdina, you can’t help but feel you’re in an extraordinary place. Malta, a three-island archipelago in the heart of the Mediterranean just south of Sicily, brims with 8,000 years of history and cultural influences from the Phoenicians to the Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, the Knights of Malta (the Knights Hospitaller), French and British.
“Malta is a melting pot of cultures and has always been a very crafty nation,” says Malta native Luisa Alden Sullivan, the luxury and corporate business manager of Citrus Travel. “You can see the craft of the Maltese through the ages just by looking at the architecture. There are so many unique souvenirs that are original and exclusive to Malta — we have incredible artisanal traditions.”
Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind art and home decor, intricate Maltese lace, filigree jewelry, locally produced wines or premium sea salt, these souvenirs will bring back fond memories of Malta for years to come.
Across Malta, beautiful Baroque-style limestone buildings and architectural details make the island’s cities and towns a delight to explore. One of the first things you’ll notice is the impressive bronze-cast door knockers.
Traditionally a symbol of a family’s wealth and status, these beautiful adornments come in many different shapes and styles, from a simple ball with a circular ring to lion’s heads, dolphins and the eight-pointed Maltese Cross (an emblem of the Knights Hospitaller).
If you’re keen to take home a gleaming door knocker, head to the Artisans Centre on Republic Street in Valletta to find a few options. For a custom creation, reach out to Funderija Artistika, an artistic bronze foundry that crafts gorgeous handmade pieces in shapes like monstera deliciosa leaves, scallop shells and seahorses.
Another heritage craft worth seeking out is handmade Maltese lace, or bizzilla. Known for its complex bobbin lace (or pillow lace) technique, whose roots go back to Genoa, Italy, Maltese lace flourished in the 17th century when affluent families would commission tablecloths, runners, baptism dresses, wedding veils, shawls, scarves, jackets, shirt collars and fans featuring distinct local symbols like the Maltese cross.
“I would say that the most interesting souvenir would have to be the Maltese lace since it is so intricate and takes a lot of time and patience to make,” Sullivan says.
One of the best places to find authentic pieces is on Gozo Island, where local lacemakers craft bizzilla on their doorsteps. If you are pressed for time, swing by Ta’ Qali Crafts Village just outside of the ancient town of Attard, in central Malta, to shop for beautiful Maltese lace alongside many other local crafts like delicate silver and gold filigree jewelry or hand-blown glass sculptures, vases and baubles by Mdina Glass.
With pastries, wines, prickly pear jam, olives and Gozo cheese, Malta has no shortage of gourmet souvenirs to bring home.
If you’re into wine, head to Marsovin, a fourth-generation winery with five private estates across the islands and an atmospheric 400-year-old cellar near Valletta that hosts intimate tastings (reservations required). It’s known for its premium reds — try the aromatic Primus (a blend of shiraz and native gellewza grapes) or the intense, velvety Marnisi Organic (with cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc) — but you can also find excellent chardonnay, rosé and sparkling wines.
“Our tradition of wine-making dates to the time of the Roman occupation in Malta. We have fantastic grape-growing conditions thanks to our hot summers, mild winters and rocky soil full of natural minerals,” Sullivan says. “And since we are an island nation, we do not have a lot of natural resources like fresh water. So, of course, the Romans and the locals had to get a little creative when they needed to quench their thirst.”
For those craving a sweet treat, pick up traditional Maltese nougat, or qubbajt. There are a couple of common variations — a soft, white version with almonds and hazelnuts and a dark, hard style akin to a nut brittle. Long associated with celebrations since the days of the Knights of St. John, qubbajt can be found at village festivals and markets across the island. If you want to visit a local bakery, Beehive Confectionary on the main island and Savina on Gozo Island are highly recommended.
While you’re in Gozo, head to the northern coast to see the incredible 350-year-old salt pans where Leli Tal-Melhcontinues to cultivate salt using traditional natural methods. Known for producing natural, premium salt prized for its purity and flavor, the fifth-generation family-owned company operates a charming little shop carved into the limestone cliffs where you can stock up on this artisanal seasoning.
Unique homeware and accessories
To dive into the local creative scene, head over to il-lokal on Old Bakery Street in Valletta. A champion of local art and design, this excellent concept shop showcases a mix of ceramics, prints, home accessories, clothes and jewelry from Maltese or Malta-based creatives.
Take home quirky finds like Babau espresso cups (babau being the Mediterranean version of the bogeyman), geometric earrings by Frankly Bold, atmospheric prints by Ed Dingli or a playful pastizzi sculpture (inspired by ubiquitous local pastries of the same name) by Kane Cali.
Another destination for distinctly local goods, Villa Bologna Pottery, traces its history back to the 1920s when it was initially known as St Mary’s Ceramics. The light and airy boutique and studio in Attard is a must-visit destination for distinctly Maltese ceramics inspired by local marine life, landscapes and traditional motifs. You’ll discover all sorts of gorgeous pieces, from hand-painted dolphin lamps to bowls, fish-shaped “glug glug” jugs and coffee mugs, plus colorful table linens and home accessories. The owners also just opened a restaurant next door, where you can enjoy casual Italian bites and tipples in the Baroque villa’s lush garden courtyard.
Looking for one-of-a-kind accessories? Set in the ancient fortified city of Birgu on the Grand Harbour, Birgu Blueworkshop and atelier specializes in locally crafted products, including its own brand of hand-stitched leather products made in-house, silk scarves, homeware, kitchenware, homemade jams and Maltese wines.