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Experience Birgu like never before – All About Birgu Fest
What is Birgu Fest?
Every year in October, the city of Birgu hosts its own festival called Birgu Fest, a festival that highlights Birgu’s beauty and history through several activities for people of all ages. It has attracted thousands of tourists and locals alike and is one of the highlights of Malta’s cultural calendar.
The original purpose of Birgu Fest, dating back to as early as 2003, was to celebrate the city’s historical architecture through a multitude of events. This later expanded into one cultural festival consisting of concerts, special admission to important sites and more.
Candlelit streets of Birgu
The most striking moment of the festival is beyond question the ‘Birgu by Candlelight’, where thousands of candles are lit across Birgu. All streetlights are usually switched off from 4pm onwards, making the candles the only source of illumination, a spectacular sight! Fun fact: this exciting moment made its way into the Guinness Book of Records in 2010 for lighting more than 10,000 candles at once, the highest number of lit candles at the time! This only takes place on the Saturday, so be sure not to miss out!
The main events
Throughout the 3-day event, one can wander along Birgu’s unique narrow streets as well as walk along the waterfront. Expect a variety of traditional music, food stalls, artisan markets, historical re-enactments as well as local bands across several locations throughout the city.
Not to mention, historic sites within the area will be open to the public at a special rate.
Birgu, also known as Vittoriosa, is an old, fortified city from the Medieval period, and is located on the south side of the Grand Harbour in the Southeastern Region of Malta.
It is the oldest of Malta’s Three Cities – including Senglea and Cospicua – and survived the 1565 Great Siege attacks by the Ottoman invaders. Not to mention, it had served as Malta’s capital city for a brief period until Valletta was built. Nowadays, the city boasts several restaurants and wine bars, and it is home to about 3,000 inhabitants. Unsurprisingly, its medieval origins are still evident, from its narrow winding streets to converted townhouses.
Which historic sites will be open?
Birgu is also greatly known for being a film location in the series “Game of Thrones”. A notable filming location is Fort St. Angelo, which was historically a bastioned fort rebuilt by the Order of St. John. It was also the headquarters for the Order during the Great Siege in 1565.
Whether you are a Game of Thrones fan or not, you can attend an interesting tour of the fort by Heritage Malta, which forms part of the festivities. Accordingly, it is one based on tales of mystery and the supernatural associated with this iconic landmark, including the legend of the Grey Lady, the firing of Ottoman soldiers’ heads across the Grand Harbour during the Great Siege and the story of Fra Giovanni Francesco di San Clement, who was known as the only knight that was executed within Fort St. Angelo’s walls.
Age restriction is 16 years plus. Click here to purchase tickets.
If you are looking to just roam around freely, Fort St. Angelo will be open to the public from the morning until late. Additionally, the Inquisitor’s Palace will also be open. The latter is both a historic house museum and Malta’s national ethnography museum built around the 1530s. Currently, the museum is divided into the kitchen area, piano nobile and spaces related to the Holy Office.
Other public buildings and churches open include the Church of St. Anne, the Norman House, the Auberge de France, St. Lawrence Band Club, the Malta at War Museum and many others.
Fort St. Angelo
How to get to Birgu
The most exciting way to get to Birgu is by ferry from Valletta’s Grand Harbour, where you can benefit from breathtaking views of the Three Cities throughout your journey. Alternatively, you can catch a ‘luzzu’ water taxi for as little as 2 euro and experience sailing the traditional Maltese way.
A special public bus service will also be offered by Transport Malta. Further information regarding routes TBA.
Focus on Fluency
- Fortified (adjective) – (a building) consisting of defensive works to protect from attacks
- Townhouses (noun) – tall, narrow terraced houses, which usually have three or more floors
- Supernatural (adjective) – of a manifestation or event which is linked to forces beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature
- Legend (noun) – a traditional story sometimes regarded as historical but not always validated
- Inquisitor (noun) – a person who makes an inquiry, especially one that is perceived as harsh
- Ethnography (noun) – the scientific description of groups of people and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences
- Re-enactments (noun) – an occasion where people act or perform something again, such as a historical event