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Under any circumstances, a festival in the enchanting and historic city of Birgu would certainly be worth attending. And so the annual celebration of Birgufest with great food, music and historic re-enactments was always likely to draw a crowd. But then add the extra dimension of doing it all by candlelight and suddenly you have a truly magical night out.
Candles instantly make the atmosphere so much more romantic and so the three-day event in October can be quite magical.
Undoubtedly, the most memorable part of Birgufest is the part known as ‘Birgu by Candle Light’. During this part of proceedings the whole town shuns all health and safety advice by introducing thousands of naked flames to the festivities. All electric lights are turned off leaving those flames as the only lights in the city - a magical sight!
The event is held to highlight Birgu’s long and interesting history, while showing off its fine architecture – hence the re-enactments of significant past events. All the museums stay open late and their entry fees are reduced, while public buildings and churches open their doors to the public. The residents also decorate the streets to present this charming place at its best!
There are a number of food and drink stands around the town for when you get peckish and these offer local delicacies as well as more generic snacks. Music and art lovers are also catered for with a number of concerts featuring different genres, ranging from classical to modern. You’ll also find various exhibitions set up for people to view.
Past versions of Birgufest have included a dramatised representation of the ‘Knights’ Armoury’, a life-saving demonstration by the Department of Civil Protection, parades by the Armed Forces of Malta, a display by the Jackson Pipe Band playing traditional Maltese instruments, musical and choral concerts, performances by local and foreign folk groups, theatrical performances, exhibitions of vintage cars, band marches and exhibitions of Maltese crafts.
The Malta Maritime Museum (housed in the former British Naval Bakery) and the Inquisitor’s Palace (home to the Museum of Ethnography), both of which are operated by Heritage Malta, are open through the duration of Birgufest.
Their entrance fees are cut to around €2, with children under 16 years entering for free. There is usually also a dual-site ticket costing €3.50 that will get you into both museums but these tickets are only valid during the festival.
This is truly a feast for all the senses, and one that can be enjoyed by all ages. But be warned that parking for a big event in a very small city is far from easy. The best way to avoid the stress is to look out for the Park and Ride services that run from various locations around Birgu. Alternatively, the most romantic way of getting there is over the water by water taxi (dgħajsa) from the Old Customs House in Valletta. Less evocative is the special public bus service provided between Birgu to Valletta every 15 minutes.
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