With the 2014 Battle of Malta fast approaching it's time to start planning some of the potential side activites you can try on your trip.
PokerListings is here to guide you through the multitude of excursions and activities available outside of the casino and the more traditional tourist activities.
While Malta is a relatively small island there are an amazing number of things to do on this little rock in the middle of the Mediterranean.
Last year we gave you an overview of the main attractions on the island: monuments, beaches, boat trips, restaurants, bars & clubs, shops, etc.
This year we'll take you off the beaten track a bit and show you what other activities and events you can find.
Fort Rinella (Kalkara, south-east of Valletta)
Ranked #1 on Trip Advisor's list of attractions in Malta visiting Fort Rinella is educational, interesting and fun.
Aside from the 1878 fort built by the English (with an audio-guide) don't miss the many historical reenactments with soldiers in period uniforms.
Several shows are scheduled throughout the afternoon (from 2pm). Make sure you get there on time so you don't miss the beginning: rifle presentation and demonstration, horsemen duels, cannon shooting. You can even take part and fire a rifle or a cannon yourself if you make a donation.
There is also a fascinating documentary about the history of the fort and its impressive 156-ton Armstrong cannon – the biggest muzzle-loading cannon in the world.
Here's another one of Malta's typical and unique attractions. If you're close to the Upper Barraca Gardens in Valetta around midday (and 4pm during summer), do not miss the Saluting Battery.
It may only last a couple of minutes but you can enjoy the show for free from the gardens facing the Grand Harbour, just above the cannons.
If you want you can also take a guided tour (€2) just after the show.
The Malta Experience
The Malta Experience is a very popular attraction in Valetta, near Fort Saint-Elmo.
There's a 45-minute documentary available in a variety of languages that recounts the rich history of Malta over 7,000 years: from the first settlers to the Roman occupation, the knights, the Great Siege and WWII.
Comfortably seated in a huge air-conditioned cinema you'll discover how the various wars and invasions have shaped the island and you'll understand why Malta has such diverse influences.
Well done and very educational, the headphones are unfortunately a bit outdated – which is a shame, considering the relatively expensive price (€10). Thus, save it for those who haven't read their travel guide yet.
You can also visit the Sacra Infermeria built in 1754. It used to be one of the most famous hospitals in Europe with its massive 160 meter-long main room.
Another option if you want to discover the history of Malta is the Valletta Living History, another 35 min-long spectacular reconstitution in the form of a movie focused on the capital Valletta.
Eight showings per day run at the Embassy cinema in Valletta.
Still in Valetta, still educational – albeit a little more fun. Here you can discover Malta's brand new dynamic cinema experience.
Maybe a bit expensive (€9) for a 20-min movie Malta-5D will still thrill children and those who are not used to 3D movies or moving seats.
If you love sports and outdoor activities you'll no doubt want to rent a quad bike to explore Malta and Gozo. Be careful on the main roads though -- Maltese drivers aren't known for their skills!
For the adrenaline junkies among you Malta is well-known for its climbing and abseiling spots. There are a few companies that offer this so make sure you pick a very safe one – for obvious reasons!
Most of them also offer mountain bike excursions, hiking, Tyrolean traverse rope or kayaking – all the more possibilities to enjoy the gorgeous, varied landscape of Malta. Prepare to make some unforgettable memories!
How about Horseback Riding?
They offer various formulas (60-minute walk, 90-minute coast ride at sunset, etc.) as well as private lessons. Even true beginners are welcome!
As far as prices are concerned, they're very decent and range between €20 and €30 for the aforementioned options.
You can also give archery a try, it's always good fun.
Only downside: the opening times are a bit restricted.
You can take a 2h lesson (between €25 and €35 depending on the number of participants) or book a regular 1h session for up to 5 people (€15).
Do you prefer driving? Malta also has an outdoor karting track (Note: poor maintenance makes some karts unreliable).
Extreme sports, like parachuting, are also available in Malta. You'll find more information about it at the tourist office.
And for those who like to fly high, you can enjoy a flight in a microlight – and even take flying lessons. This is an absolutely unique experience and an opportunity to see Malta from up high. And who knows, maybe you'll even feel like steering yourself!
And, of course, Malta also has a golf course: http://www.royalmaltagolfclub.com/
Water and Sea Activities
Surfing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, scuba-diving ... for water sports the possibilities are endless in Malta.
For those who like the sea from afar, there are two options:
The Malta National Aquarium, which opened in 2013, is a good option in case of bad weather.
There are numerous tanks that host a multitude of species. The ray and (small) shark tunnel is definitely the highlight of the visit.
It's also worth noting that the employees are particularly nice and helpful. After the visit stop for a bite at the Nave Bistro restaurant. Don't miss the delicious pizzas!
You can also go to the Mediterraneo Marine Park to see the dolphins (and swim with them!).
You'll be able to observe sea lions, seabirds and other species like parrots or reptiles.
Regular tickets are €16 but there are extra options available if you want to interact with the animals (€45-€65 to interact with the dolphins, €99-€125 to swim with them like Dan Cates did two years ago, for about 30 minutes).
There's also the Fun & Splash Water Park next door.
Laser Tag, Bowling and Cinema
If you're into friendly, more traditional activities you'll find a bowling alley (with 20 lanes) in St-Julian's as well as Laser Tag.
Bonus: you can play outdoors, which is particularly nice if you're tired of bumping into the walls.
Other than that there is also Paintball of course, in Kalkara or Mosta. 5 games of 15 minutes each will cost you around 25-28€.
Of course there are also a lot of cinemas in Malta. The most accessible are in Valetta (The Embassy) and St Julian's (Eden), still in Paceville.
They're all modern, comfortable and nice cinemas. Prices range from €5.50 to €9 (for 3D movies).
Please note: Like in a few other countries there is an intermission in the middle of the movie. Since you can't avoid it you might as well seize this opportunity to go buy some snacks or go to the bathroom.
The Embassy: http://embassycomplex.com.mt/
The Eden: http://edencinemas.com.mt/
And if you're looking for a relaxing time, there's a lot of spas in Malta. We wrote an article about them here.
Wine & Beer Festivals
Yes, even gourmets will be able to indulge in Malta.
For example, the annual Wine Festival is one of the major events that takes place in Malta.
To be precise, there are two festivals just a couple of weeks apart – the first one hosted by the producer Marsovin at the Hastings Garden and the second one by Delicata at the Upper Barraca Gardens.
How does it work? For a €12-€15 fee you'll be given a souvenir wine glass and coupons to get it filled at the various stalls at Marsovin (each wine costing a different amount of coupons). Delicata offers unlimited tastings.
The Marsovin festival may appear a little less crowded (because its ground is bigger), but both festivals make for two wonderful summer nights with concerts, wine tastings and beautiful views of Malta by night.
Please note that you can also visit the Marsovin wine cellars: 1h15, €10 (wine tasting included at the end of the visit).
The local brewery Farsons also organizes an annual beer festival. However, it is a little less interesting, less accessible and further from the city – it's held in the Ta'Qali National Park near the airport and the stadium.
If you feel like discovering and tasting all the local specialties – arguably one of the most amazing sides of Malta – then agritourism is ideal.
You'll be able to enjoy an afternoon visiting a farm and tasting their products, for example at the Ta'Mena Estate in Gozo.
You'll get natural fresh products (cheese, deli meats, olives, tomato paste and nibbles) accompanied by excellent local wines plus a taste of the famous Maltese generosity.
On top of that you'll get to benefit from Joseph's precious advice.
The Chamber of Mysteries
Feel like spending a friendly evening somewhere original? Why not mix good food and good entertainment?
Discover the Chamber of Mysteries, in Qormi, where you'll find a typically Maltese menu, unlimited wine, music and a magic show (by professional magicians and illusionists) in an 18th-century building's secret tower.
Enough to spend a truly spectacular evening for your taste buds and your eyes. Transport to the Chamber and back can be included!
If you like going to the theater an evening at the Manoel Theatre might be right up your alley
It's the second oldest theater in the world – it was first open to the public in 1732. It can host 600 spectators and was renovated to maintain its baroque splendor.
Even if you don't feel like seeing a show you can visit parts of the theater and the adjoining museum.
Did you know that Playmobil's biggest factories are in Germany... and in Malta?
You didn't? Well, not only can you now dazzle everyone with that fun fact,but you'll also be able to visit the Playmobil Park in Birzebugga.
Good news: entry to this 2000m² park costs only €1.20 for adults and €2.40 for children under 12.
Grown-ups will also probably enjoy visiting the factory, mon.-fri. from 10:30 to 2:30. The 45-minute guided tour costs €8.50 (with refreshments).
Another one for the kids is the Popeye Village where the 1980 movie featuring the late Robin Williams was shot.
More touristic than really interesting it's still a good option to spend a nice family afternoon. You'll be able to visit the village, see a show, a movie, visit a museum, have some fun in the water and even go on a little boat trip.