Mdina, the former capital of Malta, is an old walled city that’s definitely worth a visit. Although there’s not very much to do here, there’s plenty to see.
Mdina, The Silent City
Mdina, also known as The Silent City, is a tiny walled city, made up of narrow streets. Perfect for some wandering with a camera in hand. The well-preserved medieval architecture is very photogenic, with beautiful beige walls and gorgeous doors wherever you look. Wear your Instagrammable outfit! (Brecht forgot to mention this to me. Can you tell?)
We entered Mdina through Mdina Gate. That’s where the horse drawn carriages enter the old city as well. If you’re interested in a private tour of Mdina like this, enquire at the starting point that’s outside the gate. You can’t miss it, it’s where all those horses and carriages stand. Although I’m not too sure how the horses feel about their job.
Did you know Mdina Gate doubled as a gate into King’s Landing in Game of Thrones? Read about GOT filming locations in Mdina (and the rest of Malta) on Elaine and Dave's blog called The Whole World is a Playground.
One of the most impressive sights in Mdina is St Paul's Cathedral. Notice there are 2 clocks on the front of the cathedral. It’s said this is to confuse the devil.
As Mdina is situated on a hill, the views from the city walls are pretty impressive. If you’re in for a cake and a drink (or lunch) to go with that view, we can recommend Fontanella Tea Garden. They have a big selection of cakes and chocolate delights, and their hazelnut iced coffee is very good. We loved their carrot cake and apple cake, but didn’t particularly enjoy the white chocolate cheesecake, as it’s more of a whipped cream cake. Brecht read about this in Sofie's guide to Malta on her blog Wonderful Wanderings, but unfortunately only remembered it when they served us the cheesecake.
If you aren’t hungry nor thirsty, you can enjoy the same view from here, right next to Fontanella Tea Garden. From here, you’re watching northeast. To check out the view in the other direction, head out the New Gate, a small pedestrian gate on the southwestern side of the city. Cross the street and climb the stairs onto what seems to be the outer city walls of Mdina.
Ever heard of Mdina Glass? It’s a leading glass maker in Europe, based in Ta’Qali, next to Mdina. Their glassware is pretty impressive, and even though we wouldn’t buy it, we enjoyed browsing through one of their shops located in Mdina, just inside Mdina Gate.
If you’re into Geocaching (we are!), there are a couple caches hidden in and around Mdina. We found all 3!
We had lunch in Rabat, but if you’re looking for a good restaurant in Mdina, a friend of ours recommended Don Mesquita Restaurant. People on TripAdvisor seem to agree. You can read their reviews of this small family restaurant here. Note that it’s only opened for lunch, and closed on Sundays.
Rabat, the suburbs of Mdina
Rabat is located right next to Mdina. The name of this city is derived from the Arabic word for suburbs, the suburbs of Mdina. Apart from some nice doors and St Paul's Church we didn’t see much of Rabat. We did find a couple of geocaches and had lunch there.
According to TripAdvisor, Crystal Palace or Is-Serkin in Rabat has the best pastizzi on the island. Naturally we had to go check that out for ourselves. Don’t be put off by the look of this small bar and the small terrace out front. We can confirm their pastizzi is very good, but we must admit we didn’t try any pastizzi anywhere else, so can’t vouch for it being the best on the island.
For only €0.40 (~$0.46) a piece, we tried the ricotta, peas, and chicken (€0.50 ~ $0.58) pastizzi. Brecht liked the chicken one best, while I preferred the ricotta qassatat (€1 ~ $1.15). Pastizz and qassatat are both popular Maltese snacks. One is like a savoury puff pastry, the other one more of a shortcrust pastry. If you’re on a budget, this is definitely a cheap lunch, as the pastries are very filling. Three of us could hardly finish 3 pastizzi and a qassatat.
Mdina – Practical Information
How to get to Mdina
If you’re exploring Malta by (rental) car, like we did, you can use Google Maps to find your way to Mdina from wherever you’re staying. We were staying in St Julian's, from where it’s just a 20 minute drive to Mdina.
Another option is using public transport to get to Mdina. We don’t have any experience taking the bus in Malta, but you can find more information here.
Figuring out public transport in a foreign country can be a pain in the ass. Luckily there are those famous red open-top busses from City Sightseeing you see everywhere. Just book a ticket here, and hop on and off at all the major tourist attractions in Malta. Note that there are 2 routes on the island of Malta, and Mdina is part of the North Route.
If you’re not the planning type, you can go on a guided tour to Mdina as well.
Where to park in Mdina
There are no cars allowed in Mdina (except for residents’ cars), but there are several options to park your car just outside the old city. The car park closest to Mdina Gate is here. There’s one just outside the walls surrounding Mdina, at the New Gate as well, and one right here.
Map of Mdina
There’s a small Tourist Information Office just inside Mdina Gate, on your left. You can pick up a free map of Mdina here.
Where to stay in Mdina
Mdina (and Rabat) isn’t a very popular place to stay, as there isn’t much to do in the city. It’s just a (half) day trip for most tourists. However, there are a few hotels in Mdina (and Rabat) that score very well on Booking.com. Check out their rates and availability here.
You probably can’t fill an entire day with a visit to Mdina, but that doesn’t mean this tiny walled city isn’t worth a visit. We loved wandering around its narrow street and are pretty satisfied with our photos. Too bad Don Mesquita Restaurant was closed when we visited though. Please let us know how you liked it, if you’ve lunched with them!
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