The 'Silent City' Mdina
Mdina, also known as Malta's 'Silent City', sits atop a hill overseeing many of the neighboring towns. This small city is fortified and boasts an eclectic mix of medieval and Baroque architecture lining the quaint narrow streets.
Here's our pick of the best things to do when in town and the surrounding area!
The Main Gate
The present main entrance gate leading to Mdina, which we find today, is not the original one. The architect Charles Francois de Mondion designed the new gate in 1724 for the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Manoel de Vilhena. On entering the gate one can see the coat of arms of this Grand Master showing his outstanding successes during his war
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Then it will interest you that many scenes from the first season of Game of Thrones were filmed in Malta. Also this gate was used for Kings landing
The Mdina Dungeons shows the history of prison life in Mdina. Beneath the Vilhena Palace in the underground passageways that lead to chambers and cells once where prisoners used to be imprisoned.
Entrance is just next to the inner side of the main Mdina Gate. Here you will view the methods and instruments that were used for torture in Malta until the year 1813. Scenes were recreated, showing the brutality of the Maltese prisons during the medieval era. It is a journey that takes you back when justice was very different than today, with a flavor of horror mixed with historical facts.
It takes you back to the darker side of life on these islands, including historical context that helps you become part of its past.
The Mdina Dungeons are open 10 am - 4:30 pm (last admission 4:15pm).
Admire the architecture
Inhabited in the past by noble families, many of the residences have been passed down through the generations and are still associated with the more wealthy. Tiny, deceiving doorways embedded in tall walls lead to properties with vast interiors.
Dubbed the 'Silent City' due to its quiet streets and strict vehicle restrictions, entering Mdina is like stepping back in time. The main entrance to Mdina, known as Mdina Gate or Vilhena Gate, is a fine example of what to find beyond it. Designed by Charles Francois de Mondion, the Baroque style gate was built in 1724 and named after Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena.
St Paul's Cathedral
Dedicated to the Patron Saint of Malta, St Paul's Cathedral is Baroque in style and was built in the 17th century. Designed by architect Lorenzo Gafa, the cathedral took five years to build.
The impressive interior of the cathedral holds an ornate vault, gilded and with an arched ceiling of paintings of St Paul's Shipwreck as depicted by artists, the Manno brothers.
Surrounded by marble and detailed stone masonry, the interior of the cathedral is even more awe-inspiring than its beautiful exterior. The twin bell towers can be seen around Mdina and beyond, and underneath each sit large clocks - as with all places of worship bearing clocks in Malta, they tell different times, of which only one is correct. This is said to confuse the devil as to when parishioners attend mass.
Take in the Cathedral Museum
In the same square as the cathedral sits a Baroque building dating back to the 18th century, with its first stone laid in 1733. Built by Bishop Alpheran de Bussan, this building today is the home of the Cathedral Museum.
The museum houses a number of collections such as the Silver Collection dedicated to objects owned by the Brotherhood of the Souls in Purgatory and the Numismatic Collection, and a collection of coins discovered in Malta. Along with a wax collection, silver statues, a bell room chapels and halls, this magnificent building has a lot to offer its visitors.
National Museum of Natural History
Situated in a breathtaking 18th century palace, that was also once a hospital for cholera sufferers and British troops during the 19th century and tuberculosis patients in the early 20th century.
Vilhena Palace became the home to the National Museum of Natural History in 1973. Display areas within the palace cover natural topics ranging from Maltese geology to exotic animals and habitats. A whole hall is dedicated to the skeletons of vertebrates. Discover the importance of Malta's animals of the past alongside the small uninhabited Maltese islands of Fifla, Fungus Rock and St Paul's.
Cart ride by Horse are offered at the Mdina gates. Personally I am against these rides, with the animals in the heat.
Falson Palace, which is open to the public as a home museum with seventeen rooms with historical objects and many antique collections, is believed to be the second oldest building in the city. Do not leave the city without visiting this palace to see the personal belongings used by people a long time ago and to witness some of their home life...
The Fortification Walls Of Mdina
The Fortifications of Mdina are defensive walls surrounding the natural plateau on high ground in the center of the island. From here there is a formidable view of the island's principal ports, which was the most ideal location for a fortified capital at the same time overlooking the open Mediterranean Sea for any invaders.
Fontanella Tea Garden
Renowned across the whole of Malta and a must-visit in Mdina, are the Fontanella Tearooms.
This is an extremely popular place and depending on the time of day (and year) you may have to wait a little to find a seat. With seating both downstairs and upstairs, it is upstairs that offers the most spectacular views (particularly if you manage to grab a table by the surrounding wall).
Views across agricultural land and neighboring towns go on for miles, and make the perfect accompaniment to a drink and bite to eat. Fontanella is, however, most popular for its homemade cakes, of which the menu appears never-ending, and the portion sizes are pretty generous too!
Mdina Ditch Garden
The Mdina Ditch is another area which should be explored. It is a walk outside the fortifications within the wide ditch. It starts from the Ghareqqija gate to the other side beside the Veduta restaurant where you will find a purposely built lift to bring you down and up to the main road from the ditch.
The fortification walls have been restored and the ditch floor has been paved with a mix of green lawn, paving and trees. You have various location where you can sit down and admire the tranquility and setting around you.
Several times per year beer fest, wine tasting and Food tastings are organized in the Mdina Ditch, keep on eye on our calendar for the dates!
Where You Can Go After Visiting Mdina
The town of Rabat is the second half of Mdina when once during... .. was just one locality. It is a beautiful town with a variety of things you can visit and walk around observing the lifestyle and architecture.
Usually apart from passing cars around it is very quiet. It is all surrounded with greenery and various locations can be visited on the outskirts. Various ideas are suggested in our page things to do at Rabat. Have a look and see if you can fit a few during your holiday.
The Roman Villa is situated just outside one of Mdina's gates which make it very convenient to visit. Make sure to grab a couple of 'Pastizzi' (traditional pastry delicacy) from the Crystal Palace Bar just across the street.
The Roman Villa
The mosaic pavements in the Domvs Romana (Roman Villa) at Rabat rank among the finest and oldest mosaic compositions from the western Mediterranean, alongside those of Pompeii and Sicily. They were discovered in 1881 just outside Mdina in the remains of a rich and sumptuously decorated town house of the Roman period. This museum was one of the very first to be opened to the public.
The best features of this Roman Domus are its well-made polychrome mosaics found in the Peristyle and the surrounding rooms. The mosaic pavement of the central courtyard, which was once surrounded by a Doric peristyle, is the most representative of the whole site. The center piece of this meandered pavement shows two doves perched on the rim of a bowl, a highly popular motif the origins of which may be traced to a painting by an artist from Sophos. The best tradition of Hellenistic pictorial culture, together with the extremely fine technique, undoubtedly qualify the mosaic compositions of the Roman house in Rabat among the finest examples of Hellenistic mosaic art.
The main attractions within the Domvs Romana include Muslim tombstones, a draped female statue, a tiny bone baby rattle, bone hairpins, unguentaria and balsamari for oils and perfumes, rython (drinking vessel), glass amphora, statues of the imperial cycle, peristyle mosaic and decorative architecture.
St Pauls Catacombs
Mdina has the St Agatha's Catacombs, which is basically a chapel where it's believed St Agatha, a patron saint of Malta, prayed.
Taking the guided tour inside gives you an opportunity to learn about the various paintings and grave markings.
Tours last for 30 minutes and run on the hour from 9:30am-4:30pm (except Sunday).
There is also the St Paul's Catacombs, which is a series of dark and narrow paths through ancient tombs.
Wander in Buskett Gardens
Again, in neighboring Rabat, Buskett Gardens is a lush, green, woodland area which is very rare for Malta. Originally planted as a hunting ground by the Knights of Malta, today pathways throughout the gardens lead to ideal spots for picnics, which from autumn to spring are abundant with natural springs and a spectrum of color in the form of wild flowers.
Enjoy orange trees, cacti, and Mediterranean pines as you stroll through the gardens and admire the vineyards, olive groves and lemon groves all within its walls. If visiting the gardens in June, you can take up the opportunity to enjoy the feast of St Peter and Paul too.