Malta has a rich backstory and a heavy involvement with the arts scene, as well as a fun and jovial personality. All sorts of events happen on a daily basis and being a relatively small country, all events are easy to get to and enjoy.
I’ve listed some of my favourite recurring events in Malta that I’d recommend you attend while you’re here and I’ve also included tips on getting easy info on what’s happening during the time of your planned visit to the Maltese islands.
Know of a recurring event you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment and let me know!
1. Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck
When? 10th of February (annually)
Where? Valletta, Malta
Why visit? Great example of a religious celebration, very much part of the nation’s heritage.
Marking the shipwrecked arrival of St Paul in Malta in 60 AD, this February festival is a one-day extravaganza boasting marches and costumed parades, as well as colourful confetti throwing throughout the streets and a spectacular firework display. A statue of St Paul himself is carefully carried through the streets in celebration, and hundreds of doves are released into the blue, Maltese sky – a very moving, atmospheric display.
2. In Guardia Parade
When? Most Sundays of the year, at 11am. Duration: 45 minutes.
Where? Fort St. Elmo, Valletta, Malta
Why visit? Adds a dimension to the historical setting of Valletta, built by the Knights of Malta.
Type: Historical re-enactment
Cost: €7 for adults, €3 for children
Taking place throughout the year, from March to December, the frequent In Guardia Parades showcase re-enactments from events that occurred in important military fortifications in Malta and Gozo. The inspection of the St John’s Cavalier is represented and the Knights of St John are a permanent fixture, played out in traditional uniforms amongst a life-like military drill demonstration.
3. Carnival celebrations in Malta
When? February (annually), this year’s dates: 05/02/2016 – 09/02/2016.
Where? Valletta for the main celebrations, Nadur (Gozo) for “anything goes” celebrations
Why visit? The floats and performances provide for some pretty unique entertainment.
Being a traditionally Catholic country, carnival celebrations in Malta are a big annual event. Perhaps not at the level of how it’s celebrated in Brazil, but it’s a great colourful extravaganza that marks the start of Lent with a bang nevertheless.
Local float builders compete with each other in preparation for the big celebrations in Valletta with all sorts of large floats, with all sorts of themes. The parade itself is one big party with music and performances, and the local clubbing scene continues the party in the evening.
If you’re looking for something completely nuts, you could take the ferry to Gozo and join the celebrations in the village of Nadur. That village experiences a true invasion of youths dressed up in all sorts of costumes and drinking to the occasion. It’s not a last-minute spontaneous thing to do. The ferry has limited capacity, as do local hotels and hostels.
4. Notte Bianca
When? First Saturday of October (annually), this year on 01/10/2016
Where? Valletta, Malta
Why visit? Great atmosphere, lots to see and discover and a great excuse to see Valletta by night.
From the Italian for “White Night”, Notte Bianca is a much-anticipated one-night arts extravaganza that takes place in early autumn. Throughout the hours of darkness, art galleries, museums, and cultural hotspots put on special exhibitions, dance performances, and theatre shows, not closing their doors until the first glimmers of a new day begin to show.
Most museums are accessible for free during the evening, so it’s an opportunity to view a few of them, also at a different time of day. Every part of the capital is included in the event, and it is a great opportunity for visitors to explore works by local artists as well as international creative talent.
Since it’s a popular event, Transport Malta usually organise additional transport for the occasion, so keep an eye out for that or ask at wherever you’re staying for more info. The actual programme of performances and other events for the evening are usually available from September onwards here.
When? Weekend long activities, second week of October (annually), this year: 01/10/2016 – 02/10/2016
Where? Birgu (Vittoriosa), Malta
Why visit? Great atmosphere, very well organised and Birgu by night always impresses.
Type: Historical / Cultural
In October every year, the quaint harbour town of Birgu (one of Malta’s oldest towns) puts on a mighty fine show with an event that’s become popular in recent years, and for good reason.
Highlighting the town’s rich history, as well as its old buildings and narrow alleys, Birgufest showcases historic re-enactments, wonderfully decorated streets, and opens its museums, churches, and galleries until late.
The best part? The lights surrounding the harbour are switched off and replaced by thousands of atmospheric candles for a candlelight experience and mood.
6. The Malta Arts Festival
When? July/August (annually)
Where? Valletta, Malta
Why visit? A large variety of artists and performance in a great setting.
Event page: http://maltaartsfestival.org/
The piece a la resistance of the Malta art scene, the Arts Festival is a major event celebrating a huge variety of art forms, including (but by no means limited to) music, dance, theatre, and art. Set throughout some of the most important cultural buildings in Valletta, visitors can explore Malta’s extraordinary and expansive arts scene in a concentrated space.
7. Malta Jazz Festival
When? July (annually), this year: 22/07/2016-24/07/2016
Where? Valletta, Malta
Why visit? Great artists, excellent music.
Cost: Varying ticket prices depending on seating
The sun-drenched, limestone architecture of Malta offers the perfect backdrop for a jazz festival, and this particular one is a bit of a spectacle. Set against the enchanting waterfront location of Ta’Liesse in Valletta, headlining jazz performers take to the stage and provide the soundtrack to a three-day extravaganza of brass, bass, and beats.
8. Festa Frawli – Strawberry Festival
When? April (annually), this year: Sunday 10th April, 2016
Where? L-Mgarr, Malta
Why visit? Good excuse to visit one of the nicer villages on the island and obviously for getting high on fresh strawberry supply. 😉
Cost: Free (well, except for the strawberries themselves of course)
Who doesn’t like strawberries? The plump, juicy red fruits take pride of place at the annual Festa Frawli in the old, agricultural village of L-Mgarr. Tucked in between rolling green hills, it’s the perfect place for a festival dedicated to strawberries, grown in the fields surrounding the village known for its agricultural produce. The streets around the parish church as well as the square in front of it will be packed with stalls selling strawberries.
Throughout the day, visitors can browse through the buffet of strawberries, as well as fruit-based desserts, snacks, and drinks – look out for the novelty dishes, too! There are also numerous craft stands selling local works, and a series of folk bands performing during the event.
It’s become a popular event in recent years, which means two things: Limited parking and strawberries selling out quickly. Attend early – the event usually starts at 10am – to avoid traffic, parking issues and for a relatively pain-free return trip, beating the crowds.
9. The Farsons Great Beer Festival
When? Late July (annually). This year: 22/07/2016 – 31/07/2016
Where? Ta` Qali National Park
Why visit? Cold beer and good music make for a nice combination to cool down on a hot summer’s eve. Weekdays are usually quieter, but the better bands play on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Event info: http://www.farsonsbeerfestival.com/
There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer’s day than a nice cold beer, and this particular July festival has beer in abundance.
Claiming to be one the largest and most diverse outdoor events in the whole of Malta, the Farsons Great Beer Festival boasts an array of samples, delicious food stalls, and a fairground for kids, all set to the soundtrack of a selection of live bands of local artists.
The event is obviously meant to promote both locally brewed beers as well as international brands, but it’s worth attending for the music and atmosphere as well!
10. Summer Wine Festivals
Marsovin: July (annually), this year 15/07/2016-17/07/2016, 8pm – 1am
Delicata: August (annually), this year 26/08/2016-28/08/2016, 7pm – midnight.
Where? Marsovin: Hastings Gardens, Valletta, Malta – Delicata: Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta, Malta
Why visit? Good selection of wines, good food and a laid back evening to enjoy.
Cost: Marsovin: €15 (wine tokens provided at that value), Delicata: €12.50 (To purchase souvenir glass for unlimited wine tasting for the evening).
Local wine producers Delicata and Marsovin organise annual wine festivals, which offer a good opportunity to get a taste of local Maltese wines (and a good excuse to enjoy good wine for a w mellow summer’s night).
Throughout the event, visitors can sample as many different local wines as they wish, soaked up with some of the delectable food on offer. To top it all off, there is a rota of artists providing a soundtrack to the classy event and both locations offer for great harbour views to admire.
11. Holy Week and Easter
When? April (annually)
Where? All over Malta and Gozo
Why visit? The most important time of the year for the Catholic Church, celebrated in a unique way in Malta.
Easter is a huge celebration in Malta and the festivities last for a week, starting on the Friday before Good Friday with a procession featuring the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows through the streets of Valletta.
On Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday) the ‘seven visits’ take place, where celebrators visit seven churches of their choice in the evening, paying their respect to the Altars of Repose. Most churches open their doors for the bigger part of the evening.
Sombre but impressive processions fill the streets on Good Friday, carrying a selection of statues that represent different parts of the Passion of the Christ. On Easter Sunday the festivities are considerably more positive as the statue of the Risen Christ is taken back to the church and revellers enjoy hearty meals with their families.
To attend a Good Friday procession, I’d recommend going to Naxxar, Senglea, Zebbug or Mosta. Processions are usually held at 3pm and I highly recommend being there early to avoid difficulty finding a spot to park or getting stuck on a bus in traffic.
12. International Fireworks Festival
When? April (annually). This year: 16th, 23rd and 30th April, 2016
Where? The Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta (main location) and other locations (TBA).
Why visit? Spectacular fireworks show with an impressive backdrop of Valletta at night. What’s not to like?
Event info and programme: http://www.maltafireworksfestival.com/
Fireworks are always a great idea and they add a bit of whimsical wonderment to any event. The International Fireworks Festival features spectacular shows by local firework factories, as well as professional pyrotechnic companies from further afield. On the final day of the event, which takes place in April, there is a Grand Finale to end all grand finales at Barriera Wharf in Valletta.
- Visit the event site to see the location of the firework displays to know where best to position yourself.
- Be early to find yourself a good spot, beating the crowd.
- Get some drinks/snacks and bring along your camera and tripod if you’re into photography!
When? April (annually), this year 23/04/2016 – 24/04/2016, from 10am – 5pm
Where? Mdina, Malta
Why attend? While Mdina itself already brings you back into the past, seeing and hearing what the streets of Mdina might’ve been like in days gone by makes for a unique experience.
Mdina is an impressively well preserved historical bastion city, and the Medieval festival in April takes the city right back to the Middle Ages, encouraging visitors to dabble in a spot of time travel and experience the heady days of the knighthood. In addition, traditional, local music floats down the streets and flowers adorn every available space spreading the jovial feeling of spring.
There’s usually also a falconry display and various exhibitions are held around the old bastion city.
TIP: Parking is limited so if you’re planning to go by car you’re better off parking near the National Park at Ta Qali and making use of free organised transport to get you to/from Mdina. It’ll be a 10 minute ride and will save you a lot of hassle.
14. Village Festas
When? Throughout the year, mostly in summer. 2016 Calendar.
Where? All over Malta and Gozo
Why visit? One of the most iconic cultural events in Malta and something to experience.
Throughout the year (and more popularly during the summer months), Malta and Gozo offer an array of colour and cheeriness as, every weekend, there is a traditional village feast somewhere on the islands. Each village’s patron saint is celebrated, and although originally a religious celebration it’s the event of the year for the local villagers, filled with band music during the day and fireworks, drink and food in the evenings.
Expect winding trails of parades, traditional costumes, and local, traditional Maltese music, all topped off nicely with delicious food and refreshing drinks with the sight and sound of fireworks.
15. Isle of MTV
When? Late June (annually). This year: 28/06/2016
Where? The Granaries, Floriana (just outside Valletta)
Why visit? World famous artists, excellent backdrop and great atmosphere.
Music festivals are all the rage these days, and Malta is not immune. The Isle of MTV boats a jaw-dropping collection of headline acts each year (Past line ups included Lady Gaga, David Guetta, Will.i.am, Nelly Furtado, Rita Ora, Enrique Iglesias, Jason Derulo, Maroon 5, OneRepublic, Jessie J, amongst many other household names), and thousands upon thousands of hedonistic music-lovers converge on the island’s shores in late June for one of the largest free open-air concert in the whole of Europe.
Various parties are organised around Malta and Gozo to celebrate Isle of MTV and it’s a great time to explore the local clubbing and nightlife scene. If you decide to attend, go early and keep in mind transport options to/from the event will be limited.
16. L-Imnarja Summer Folk Festival
When? June (annually), this year: 29/06/2016
Where? Buskett Gardens, Malta
Meaning “Festival of Light”, L-Imnarja dates way back to the days before the Knights even arrived in Malta. Its roots stem from the solstice fires the burned throughout festivities but, today, the festival is a merry event for spending time with family and loved ones – picnics are the perfect pastime, and the wine is free-flowing, plus there is a selection of live acoustic music as darkness falls.
Why attend? It’s a great opportunity to see some important aspects of Maltese culture, giving you a taste of what the Maltese people’s heritage is all about.
17. The Changing of the Guards
When? Every last Friday of the month, at 10:00am
Where? From Republic street into St. George’s (Palace) Square, Valletta, Malta
Why visit? It’s quite a sight to behold, far more elaborate than most other changing of the guard processions, infused with history.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony dates back to the 17th Century. Back in the 70s the event was suspended due to budget cuts, but it has recently been brought back as part of a re-invigoration campaign. Visitors can watch the guards change, as they did back in the days of the Grandmaster and his personal guards, and then enjoy the military band in a musical procession.
18. Independence Day
When? 21 September
Where? All over Malta and Gozo
Why attend? Plenty to see and do, making it a nice day out to enjoy.
It seems that Malta has many historic events to commemorate, but this simply means that there is always an opportunity for a party! Since September 1964, the Maltese has celebrated its independence from the UK. Spreading out across the island, the event involves parades, marches, live music, and a general air of joviality.
19. Malta International Airshow
When? September (annually), this year: 24/09/2016 – 25/09/2016
Where? Malta International Airport
Why attend? Always a good variety of stationery aircraft and live demonstrations by aviators from across the world. Nice opportunity for photographers too!
Event info: http://www.maltairshow.com/
Cost: €13-15 (depending on the day), Children under 14: Free
Flying is a fascinating thing, and it has become the subject of many an annual event around the world. With its rich aviation history and a museum dedicated to the craft, it makes sense that Malta has one of the best shows in Europe.
At the end of September, flying enthusiasts (and even those who aren’t that enthusiastic about it) can watch amazing air displays flit over the beautiful Maltese landscape, and learn more about the machines and their past.
20. Mdina Grand Prix
When? October (annually), this year: 07/10/2016 – 09/10/2016
Where? Mdina, Malta
Why attend? Very well organised, perfect for (classic) car lovers.
Event info: http://www.vallettagrandprix.com/
In early autumn, Mdina whirs into life with the annual Grand Prix. Winding through the scenic streets of the old, rustic town and through the beautiful countryside, the classic cars taking part vie for first prize. Alongside the race, there are also numerous cultural activities to keep visitors busy – many of whom come from overseas especially for the even.
21. The Rolex Middle Sea Race
When? October (annually), this year: 22/10/2016 – 29/10/2016
Where? Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta
Event info: http://www.rolexmiddlesearace.com/
This classic annual event is a must-do for any sailing fanatic – or even those who just enjoy spending time by the sea. Beginning in the beautiful Grand Harbour beneath the imposing structure of the Saluting Battery, the race draws in thousands of visitors who watch from both sides of the harbour, enjoying the jovial atmosphere and the golden autumn sunshine.
Why attend? Quite impressive to watch the races from the bastions of Valletta, usually with great weather to boot still, at this time of year.
22. Military Mtarfa
When? October (annually), this year 16/10/2016
Where? Mtarfa, Malta
Why visit? Makes for an interesting event that focuses on an important part of Malta’s history, even if you’re not much into military equipment.
This military-inspired event provides a factual, fascinating backstory to Malta’s military history through a series of exhibitions, shows, and demonstrations. There are a multitude of re-enactments of traditional Maltese life, as well as scale models of military equipment and a plethora of food and drinks stalls to refuel at.
23. Festival Mediterranea
When? Various dates in October to December (annually)
Where? Victoria, Gozo
Why visit? With a good choice of performances there’s likely to be something to suit your tastes if you’re into the arts.
Event info: http://www.mediterranea.com.mt/
The Festival Mediterranea is a series of events in celebration of Gozo’s arts and culture scene, with a full autumnal schedule of opera and music concerts, as well as lectures, talks and walks on some of the many ancient and historic hotspots on the island. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about Gozo’s past, as well as to experience its present-day creative landscape.
The programme of events is different each year, so consult the event organiser’s website for this year’s programme when available.
24. Saluting Battery
When? The site is open daily (except for major public holidays), between 10am and 5pm.
Where? Battery Street, Valletta, Malta
Why visit? A historical location and re-enactment that leaves an impression. Highly recommended if you plan on spending some time in Malta’s capital.
Event info: http://www.salutingbattery.com/
Cost: Adults: €3 (including guided tour), Children: €1
The Saluting Battery is an important piece of Malta’s history, and every day visitors get the chance to see it in action. At 12pm and 4pm sharp, the heavy guns are fired in the traditional fashion, marking the passage of time. Located at one of the highest points in Malta, the Saluting Battery also boasts magnificent views across the Grand Harbour and beyond.
For such a small island, there is a big selection of events and festivals throughout the year – almost one every week! Whatever your interests are there is something for you; whether you want to sample some delectable local cuisine, learn about the history of Malta, or just have a look at some wonderful art.
25. Earth Garden
When? June (annually), this year: 03/06/2016 – 05/06/2016
Where? Ta` Qali National Park
Why visit? Good music and food with a laid back attitude.
Event info: http://www.earthgarden.com.mt/
Cost: Varies per edition, usually €5-€15 depending on time of ticket purchase mostly.
This annual music and arts festival that spans three days in spring is a popular event among local youths, carrying a message of care for the environment. Several live bands perform, both local and foreign and the weather never disappoints at this time of year, all in all creating a great laid back, outdoor event to attend.
So grab a beer and some food, find yourself a nice patch and just chill.
Regular event organizers in Malta
Regular theatre and music performance are held at one of the oldest theatres in Europe, the Manoel theatre in the heart of Valletta.
Trackage Scheme bring together local talent in the alternative music scene for laid back evenings of good music at some of the best venues in Malta.
Know of an event in Malta you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment and let me know!
Looking for more ideas? Here’s a big list of 101+ Things to do in Malta and Gozo