If your time on the island is limited, here are your top five unmissable events in the capital this month.
Valletta has just been crowned European Capital of Culture and, as you can expect, it’s bursting with activity, especially this month with the exuberance of carnival, a musical extravaganza at the theatre and more. And when it all gets too much, take a seat at the newly opened food market for a restorative gourmet treat.
For all ages: Carnival 9-13 February
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Carnival explodes onto the streets of Valletta in a riot of colour and boisterous brass band music as the entire island lets its hair down for four days of crazy merriment. Pack some costumes and join in the fun as children aged one to 100 throng the streets to watch the over-the-top colourful papier-mâché floats parade through Valletta. Float building is an art form inherited through generations of the same family.
For history buffs: In Guardia 11 February; 18 February
©viewingmalta.com - (Jeremy Enness)
In 1530, Malta and Gozo were donated by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to the Knights of St John as a free fief, thus defining the islands’ early modern history. In Guardia brings to life an authentic moment from those eventful years, when the Grandmaster’s soldiers stood guard against marauding enemies. A cast of 50 actors in full period costume stand to attention ready for inspection by the Grand Bailiff of the Order of the Knights of St John in charge of military affairs. Join him as he oversees the garrison’s military exercises in the same place where they were originally held almost 500 years ago, Fort St Elmo in Valletta. The show starts at 11am and lasts 45 minutes.
For children: Toi Toi at Teatru Manoel, 11 February
Toi Toi is Teatru Manoel’s education programme designed to introduce children to the joy and wonder of music and theatre. There are two Toi Toi events on 11 February. Toi Toi Moves at 11am and 12:15pm is aimed at children aged between three and seven years. The 45 minute programme invites children to use their imagination through an exciting journey of fairy tales accompanied by live music. Dress code: carnival.
Also on 11 February, Toi Toi Lab-sters return with The Magical Doors of Change for children aged between five and 10 years. There are two shows at 3pm and 4:30pm and each show runs for 40 minutes. Toi Toi Lab-sters offer creative and fun scenarios enticing children to join in through sounds, movement and music, to help the scientists reach their goal.
For music lovers: Carmen Fantasy, 9 February
The double bass takes centre stage in Stuart Sankey’s work inspired by Bizet’s famous opera. Malta Philharmonic Orchestra principal double bass player Gjorgji Cincievski will perform the solo. The concert, conducted by Michael Laus, includes Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 and Ravel’s Ma Mère L’Oye. The concert starts at 8pm at Teatru Manoel.
For gourmands: Is-Suq tal-Belt food market
Only a few weeks and 150 years old, Valletta’s iconic food market recently re-opened its doors after years of neglect. Originally built in the late 19th century and inspired by Covent Garden, the covered market on Merchants Street has been extensively refurbished and now houses a kaleidoscope of gourmet delights reflecting Malta’s eclectic gastronomic heritage. Don’t miss the traditional pastizzi. A perfect spot to retire to when the hustle and bustle of Valletta gets too much.
Note: 10th February is a public holiday
The 10th of February is a public holiday as it marks the feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck. St Paul is the patron saint of the Maltese Islands who, according to the Bible, was shipwrecked in a storm off Malta on his way to Rome from Jerusalem. Visit the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck Collegiate Church in St Paul’s Street, one of Valletta’s oldest churches, where you can still see the statue of St Paul on display in the church before it is ceremoniously returned to its usual resting place during a special Mass on Sunday 11 February at 10am. All shops are closed on 10th February.