Last Updated on 14/05/2022 by secretmoona
Mdina, located in the South West of Malta Island, is a popular destination and one of the most beautiful cities on the island. The former capital of Malta is rich in history. The 4,000 years old medieval town managed to retain and preserve its giant fortifications! Known as the Silent City, wandering through the streets of Mdina feels like walking in a ghost town. The peaceful atmosphere mixed with the interesting architecture and colourful Maltese balconies are something to see. Despite its quiet ambience, Mdina has lots to offer no matter if you love culture, art, food or architecture; the small town is packed within its small vicinity. Let’s find out the best things to do in Mdina.
History of Mdina, the Silent City
Mdina, also called “Città Notabile” or “Città Vecchia”, is a town located in the west-central of the Maltese island. The city, famous for its fortifications surrounding it, is full of history and beautiful architecture. Mdina comes from the Arabic term for “fortified town or city”.
Out of all the nicknames, the most fitting one is “Silent City”. Mdina was the capital of Malta until the Order of the Knights of St. John moved the capital to Vittoriosa and then Valletta in 1814. The move led the citadel to lose most of its inhabitants. Nowadays, Mdina has about 300 inhabitants.
Things to do in Mdina
Mdina is one of the most popular spots in Malta. The small medieval town can be visited in the afternoon and should be combined with a trip to neighbouring Rabat.
Admire the Mdina gate and the ramparts
The medieval town of Mdina has preserved its ramparts and gates. Each with their characteristics, the gates are the only way to enter the city and are accessible through bridges. The principal gate, known as Vilhena Gate, is built in a Baroque style. It was built in 1724 but restored in 2008. Once you walk through the massive Mdina Gate, you will go back in time.
Surrounding the citadel are the fortifications used as defensive walls to keep the city safe from invaders. Lots of cities and towns worldwide have decided to erect these types of ramparts. You have magnificent views of the island and the Maltese countryside from the ramparts.
The Ditch Garden – iL-Foss
The outer wall of the fortress of Mdina is surrounded by the scenic ditch gardens stretching along with its bastions and gates. It’s a neat and straightforward garden with plenty of benches to relax or rest your feet.
Admire St Paul’s Cathedral
Dominating Mdina’s skyline, Mdina St Paul’s Cathedral is a must-see building. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1702 following an earthquake. The cathedral is accessible through the city’s main gate. The Baroque style cathedral offers interesting architectural characteristics which, associated with the impressive paintings, sculptures and artefacts (some of which were collected following the earthquake), tell the story of the “conversion of Saint Paul”. The cathedral is said to be built in the exact spot St Paul converted the Maltese Saint Publius to Christianity. Its importance is measured by its massive size and strategic location; it is seen anywhere in central Malta. St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most important sights in the city and should be included in your list of things to do in Mdina. If you have additional time, visit the Cathedral Museum, which hosts a collection of religious artefacts.
Explore the narrow streets of Mdina City
Walking through the streets of Mdina is the absolute best thing to do in the walled city. We collected a map from the Tourist Office but soon put it away because it was more fun to explore the tiny alleyways. As you walk along the honey-coloured limestone streets, you start to understand the name “Silent City”. It is pretty relaxing and quiet. There are signs urging people to refrain from making noises. The streets are empty, with no locals nor cars: it was just tourists being amazed. I have to say, I’m not sure if this is due to the post-pandemic, but we hardly saw any locals compared to when we were in Rabat.
Mdina was home to some of the most successful families on the island, including those of Sicilian, Spanish and Norman descent. The architecture is therefore a mixture of Norman, Arabic, Italian and Baroque architecture. As you walk through Mdina, you can see sumptuously decorated palace facades. I loved the little details here and there: the painted doors, door knockers in different shapes or the religious figurines.
Visit Palazzo Falson (Norman House)
Built in 1495, the Palazzo Falson is another attraction to include in your things to do in Mdina. This museum was initially constructed as the residence of the first Grand Master of Malta. It offers a preview of what the noble lived years ago. Besides its architecture, the palace has a nice collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics and other antique objects from owners throughout the years to discover.
Explore the National Museum of Natural History (Palazzo Vilhena)
Palazzo Vilhena is another house previously owned by an aristocratic family. The palace is now home to the National Museum of Natural History. The museum has an extensive collection of exotic animals and information on the fauna and flora of the island. Whether it is the facade or the museum inside, this is a must-visit in Mdina.
As you’ve probably noticed, most of the attractions in Malta are religious, as the Christian culture has marked the history of this city considerably. While wandering the streets, you will come across the Carmelite Church. If you don’t have time to visit the inside, take a few minutes to admire the beautiful Baroque facade.
Things to do around Mdina City
Like Mdina, Rabat (also called Ir-Rabat) is a lovely city with the same features. The two cities were the same back in the day. Mdina means “town” or “city”, whereas Rabat means “a suburb” of Mdina. Visiting the city is another activity to include in your things in Mdina. While in Rabat, you will find impressive archaeological remains with great historical and cultural values and museums and churches. The town is known for the catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha, a former Roman underground burial place.
Domus Romana (Roman Villa)
Located on the outskirts of Rabat, Domus Romana is a museum that provides insight into the daily life of Romans. The tour provided to visitors introduces, among other things, all the different aspects of the life of the Roman bourgeoisie in Malta. A worthwhile visit.
Tour St Agatha’s Crypt, St Paul’s Catacombs
St Paul’s and St Agatha’s catacombs are located in Rabat. They were located there as the Roman law at the time forbade burials in the city. The underground cemeteries are great sites to visit, especially for history and archaeology enthusiasts.
Practical information about Mdina, Malta
How to get to Mdina
Mdina is located in the island’s centre, so it’s easy to access from places like Valletta, Sliema, and St Julian’s.
By public transport: Malta’s local buses offer a cost-effective way of reaching Mdina. Since there are no bus stations within the walled city, you will need to stop in Rabat. The citadel of Mdina is located inside Rabat.
- From Valletta: Route 53 (destination Rabat – 30 mins). You can also catch the following routes: 50 (destination Rabat – 45 mins), 51 (destination Mtarfa – 45 mins), 52 and 56 (destination Dingli – 45-60 mins)
- From Bugibba and St Paul’s Bay: Route 186 (45 mins)
- From Sliema and St Julian’s: Route 202 (45-60 mins)
- Check Public Transport Malta for more options.
By taxi: Taxis will stop outside the gates, and the fare will differ depending on where you take it. We travelled to Mdina from our hotel in St Julian’s and paid about €16 with Bolt.
By car: If you have a rental car and prefer to drive to Mdina, you will need to park outside the city’s fortifications. Only residents’ cars are allowed inside the fortified town. Depending on where you park, you will only have to walk 5 to 10 minutes to the gates.
By Hop-on-Hop-Off: You can easily reach Mdina via a tourist bus. Fare can be found here.
Where to eat in Mdina
If you need to stop and grab something to eat, the Fontanella Tea Garden is the place to go. It is renowned for its delicious lunch and cake options, but it offers one of the best views over the surrounding countryside.
Where to stay in Mdina
There aren’t many hotels in Mdina. It’s a small citadel, after all! I recommend you stay in the capital Valletta, St Julian’s, Sliema or Rabat. Below are some options in Rabat. Alternatively, check out Booking.com for an exhaustive list of accommodations in the area.
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