Marsaxlokk Fish Market
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By definition, everyone who lands in Malta from overseas is ‘a tourist’! But this ‘one size fits all’ description covers a whole range of people from the ‘never leave the hotel and sit by the pool all day’ package variety to those who want to fully immerse themselves in the culture and discover things that are uniquely Maltese – like the Marsaxlokk Fish Market.
OK, so we admit it’s not as impressive as Valletta Waterfront, the cobbled streets of Mdina or the Blue Grotto but this is as Maltese as life gets, my friends. And if you’re a food lover and happen to be self-catering, then here is where you can buy the freshest fish you’ll ever get your hands on!
The village of Marsaxlokk (pronounced Marsa–schlock) is the premier fishing port on the island. But don’t for one minute imagine mighty trawlers, huge industrial buildings and warehouses and giant cranes. No, the fishing here is still focussed around a quaint harbour and aside from some of the boats being more modern and having engines, little has changed here for centuries.
You could turn up for six days of every week and not know that Marsaxlokk is actually a fishing village. That’s because the daily catch is landed and packed early in the morning and driven straight to the Valletta fish market. But on Sunday mornings things work differently – and that’s when you need to turn up.
On Sundays there is no fish market in Valletta but there is one here! The fish remains on the harbour side and the fishermen turn salesmen and knock out their produce to the shoppers.
Don’t expect strict hygiene regulations to be followed, or fancy stalls with neat rows of fish on crushed ice. This is rough and ready, high speed trading. There’s no need for ice as the fish was swimming a matter of a couple of hours ago and remember this has not been shuttled around the country for hours in a refrigerated lorry. It’s direct from sea to stall to bag to pan, or barbecue! Delicious!
The spectacle of the boxes of glistening fish is worth seeing even if you’re not there to buy, as is the haggling between the fishermen and the Maltese housewives as they try and get the best deal.
There will be a different selection almost every time you go as it depends entirely on what has been enticed from the sea that day! So you could find any of the following on sale - bass, grouper, dentex, stonefish, white bream, red mullet, tuna and swordfish as well as the famous lampuki, or dolphin fish, which is most common through the summer to late autumn. Octopus and squid are also frequently caught and used to make mouth-watering soups or pasta sauces.
If you are in half-board accommodation and have nothing on which to cook a fish, then worry not because it’s still possible to try Marsaxlokk fish in all its fresh glory. There are several restaurants on the edge of the bay that specialise in seafood, (why wouldn’t they?) and there’s something special about eating the fruits of the sea when you could lean down and almost dip your fingers in the water.
In spite of the name, Marsaxlokk Fish Market also has stalls selling other items such as local arts and crafts as well as souvenirs and refreshments. There’s also a beach on the edge of the village so when you’ve done shopping you can take a swim with the ones that got away!
There are plenty of buses to Marsaxlokk and a fairly large car-park too if you’re driving there yourself. To avoid scrapping for a space, get there early. Stalls start opening from 7am and it’s done and dusted by lunch-time so the earlier the better!
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