Malta could never be mistaken for an immense and glamorous shopping centre. Even the Maltese go on day trips to Sicily when they feel like going on a shopping spree. Here the best buys for visitors are limited to local crafts most of them on display in ateliers with craftsmen working on-site at the handicraft villages on Malta and Gozo. The liveliest shopping area is to be found in Triq ir-Republika (Republic Street) in Valletta. The selection of department stores and clothing shops tends to be rather meager compared to their continental European counterparts. Surprisingly however prices in international shops are substantially higher. Best of all perhaps is to experience true Maltese daily existence by wandering the Sunday open-air markets in Valletta and Marsaxlokk.
The island of Malta is known for its craft centres the most popular being the Gozo Citadel Crafs Centre. Here you can find arts and crafts purchased by private Maltese and Gozitian firms that have based their trading spots in the former prisons of Gozo. The Ta’ Qali Craft Centre presents an atmospheric exhibit of authentic Maltese crafts. Housed on the site of a World War II aerodrome this centre features an array of silver-smiths, glassblowers, potters, stone carves, lace makers and jewelers. The Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Village is Gozo’s version of the Ta’Qali. On site you will find displays of local crafts on a smaller scale. Here the emphasis is on lace making and weaving. The ultimate in street markets is Valletta’s flea market held on Sunday mornings near the City Gate . You can also find weekday markets in Merchants’ Street in Valletta, in Rabat, in Marsaxlokk, and in Gozo’s Victoria.
Brass and iron are some of the other prized items for sale. Particularly popular are replica brass dolphin door knockers found in Mdina and other old town quarters. The local tradition of wrought ironwork has continued for centuries and items range from candlesticks to an entire piece of armor. Ceramics abound. Although it is as varied as you would expect for a Mediterranean island, the local ceramics still boast a wide range of designs. Styles are mainly rustic with the predominant colors being brown and blue. Most items are very reasonably priced, especially the sculptures sold at the Craft Centre in Ta’Qali. The local glassware is beautifully coloured and very reasonably priced. Other popular buys include vases, pots and ornaments all available in various shades of blue and green. Jewellery is sold by an immense crowd of silversmiths and goldsmiths most of them specializing in filigree work. Best buys can be found on the streets of Valletta.
Malta’s textiles can be found primarily on Gozo. The majority of the authentic handmade items are delicately crafted with original designs. However you should be aware that imitation lace is not an infrequent encounter. Genuine items include lace-edged handkerchiefs, napkins, full-lace shawls and tablecloths. The handicraft village of Ta’ Dbiegi is a good place search for textiles, and you might also be able to find good buys in the shops behind It-Tokk Square in Victoria or at the shops of Xlendi. Cheap woolen cardigans and sweaters hanging outside the shops in Malta and Gozo are also good bargains. Cotton goods, featuring T-shirts, towels and jeans, are also very reasonably priced, particularly in markets. You might also be interested in the so-called 'Malta Weave', a hardwearing cloth used for making dresses, skirts and bedspreads.
Maltese shops are usually open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm. The local currency is the Maltese Lira (MTL), available in denominations of 20, 10, 5 and 2. Coins are in denominations of 1 MTL, and 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. Numerous gold and silver coins are also legally in circulation. Money can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change, hotels, larger shops and restaurants. Foreign exchange machines are available at some locations on the islands. Exchange bureaux are sometimes open 24 hours a day. Many hotels, shops and restaurants accept foreign currency.Credit cards and ATMs are widespread, the most popular cards being American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Traveller's cheques can be exchanged in authorised banks and bureaux de change. Banks are normally open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 12:30pm and on Saturday from 8:30am to 11:30am. Some banks work longer hours.