A guide to Malta's February Carnival

Widely regarded as one of the best events on the island, the February Carnival is firmly entrenched in the Maltese calendar and brings the whole community together to celebrate. Brightly coloured floats parade through the streets alongside the outrageous outfits of carnival-goers soaking up street theatre, live music and dancing.

The largest celebrations take place in the capital Valletta and on the island of Gozo, but the carnival is also celebrated on a smaller scale across most of Malta, making it almost impossible to escape the festivities.

The popular Paceville area in St Julian’s is a favourite spot for late night revellers from across the island to party into the small hours.

The history of the celebrations

Introduced by Grand Master Piero de Ponte, Carnival has been celebrated in Malta since 1535 and would originally have seen knights displaying their skills through a series of games and tournaments.

By 1560, the knights were reprimanded for taking the festivities too far, decorating ships and filling the harbour with extravagant dancing and music, and so the festivities commenced. Carnival owes its popularity to the fact that this was the last opportunity to eat and make merry before Lent, the 40-day fasting period before Easter. But as well as food, soon parades of lavishly decorated floats soon joined the fray.

The heart of the action