Fiesta forever! Top five Malta festivals

Celebrate the best of student life at some Malta festivals


In February, Malta’s streets are decked out for its famous Carnival (aka Il-Karnival Ta’Malta) which originated as a pagan festival in ancient Egypt, later adopted by the Greeks and Romans to celebrate the god of wine. The celebration was taken on by the Roman Catholic Church as the last party before Lent. Although it happens the world over, each country has its own twist on celebrations. Malta’s unique version of carnival involves bright, baroque costumes with an especially gothic, satirical feel, much like the mysterious masked carnival of Venice. Traditionally centred in Valletta, the whole island erupts into colour with people, dancing, feasting and following the amazing floats.

Malta Carnival, 25 February to 1 March

‘People start preparing for the Malta Carnival the year before, making costumes and coming up with increasingly dramatic float designs. Every square is full of people celebrating, so expect big crowds and an exciting party atmosphere,’ says Chanell Muscat, Queen Mary, Malta Campus’ Admissions officer. ‘Another favourite festival of mine is Nadur, on my home island of Gozo, a spontaneous event famous for its creative outfits which get more funnier and more political every year. There was the year when our Nadur festival had an entire float devoted to Money Heist, everyone wearing those distinctive red jump suits. Another year, students took over a float dressed as doctors. Some of our students are in a festival choir or band, others volunteer as emergency responders. For onlookers, it’s a great way to make friends, meet people and witness our traditions. Locals take pride in showing tourists and students what our country is all about.’

Bright feathered costume at the Malta Festival

Strawberry Festival, 6 April

April is peak berry season in Malta. This festival’s focus is on a town called Mgarr on the north of the island, where stalls containing boxes of this bright red fruit are displayed and delicacies can be sampled by visitors. To get the best out of your visit, position yourself by the Parish Church where most of the berry action takes place.

Malta Summer Festival, 6 June to 14 July

While the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra provides the backbone of this week-long Malta festival, several other orchestras will be taking part, and world-class performances take place all over the island. Meanwhile, the Malta Classical Music Academy (MCMA) hosts a fortnight of masterclasses and lectures for participants to enjoy. The event is based in Valletta, St Julian’s, Floriana and Victoria – be sure to plug in to your favourite sounds as you travel from venue to venue.

4 Malta International Food Festival, 13-17 July

This gourmet event takes place in and around Valletta – in particular Tritoni Square – over a week in July. Although local delicacies are proudly displayed, expect to see (and sample) an array of food from around the globe – over 80 exhibitors take part each year, so there’s no shortage of delicacies to try. Gozo has its own food festival a few weeks later, beside the parish church of Xewkija towards the south of the island. Both festivals are free, and to try the food you buy tokens. The range is far-reaching, from local goodies to foreign delicacies. Our festival favourites are local stuffed flatbreads, or ‘ftira’; classic savoury pastries (‘pastizzi’); and yummy Maltese nougat (‘qubbajt’) to follow. Now try and walk home!

Notte Bianca, October

Valletta’s annual arts festival celebrates culture for all, with arts, theatre, music and museums at the forefront of the festivities. Music-lovers can spectate as a brave karaoke hopeful sings a song backed by a live band. We love how the venues stay open late, with some allowing free entry or discounts with your ticket. Dodge your way through hip-hop and parkour displays, and sample tasty night-time food to keep you partying until dawn.