Mdina Malta, The Fortified City

About

Mdina, also known as “The Silent City,” is the former capital of Malta. A medieval fortified city that captures the imagination of visitors with its timeless atmosphere. Explore its labyrinth of narrow streets with Arab influences, admire its imposing limestone constructions, and discover the countless cultural treasures it houses. Visiting Mdina is a journey back in time, where every corner tells the stories of a rich past.

Travelers' favorite Malta excursion

Mdina, the Former Capital of Malta

Located in the center of the island, this fortified city stands proudly on a hill, offering panoramic views over the Maltese landscape. The history of Mdina goes back more than 4,000 years, having been the stage for numerous historical and cultural events from the Phoenicians to the Romans, from the Arabs to the knights of the Order of Saint John.

The city was founded around the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians under the name Maleth. Later, it was renamed Melite by the Romans. Under Roman rule, Mdina served as the capital of Malta and was further fortified and beautified.

However, it was during the medieval period, particularly under Arab rule from 870 until the Norman conquest in 1091, that Mdina gained much of its urban and architectural character. The Arabs introduced new construction techniques and an urban plan that favored narrow streets and labyrinths of alleys, characteristics that still define Mdina today.

Over the centuries, Mdina underwent various modifications and reconstructions, especially after the earthquake of 1693, which led to a significant Baroque reconstruction of the city. Despite these transformations, Mdina has retained its medieval atmosphere, with limestone buildings, ancient gates, and fortifications that tell its long and rich history.

For many years, it was the city where the most noble and wealthy families of Malta lived, hence its nickname “The Noble City”. With the arrival of the Order of Malta in 1530, the importance of the “Noble City” declined in favor of Valletta, the new capital. However, the city never lost its charm nor its historical and cultural significance.

Narrow streets of Mdina, Malta
The fortifications of Mdina
A horse-drawn carriage in the streets of Mdina

Where is Mdina Located?

Located in the central-western part of Malta and adjacent to Rabat, just 13 kilometers southwest of Valletta, Mdina stands out as one of the country’s most iconic destinations. This ancient city attracts numerous visitors with its vast cultural heritage waiting to be discovered.

How to Get to Mdina?

Mdina is easily accessible by public transport, as the bus stop is located right in front of the city entrance, just a 5-minute walk away. Note that in Mdina, vehicle access is restricted, except for a limited number of residents, which has earned it the nickname of “the Silent City”.

From Valletta terminal: you can take any bus between the numbers 50, 51, 52, 53, and 56.

From the airport, 201 is a very long journey but also very interesting, or the X3.

From St. Julian’s, Sliema, and Gzira: you can take the 202 without changing.

You can find all bus schedules on the official website of Malta Public Transport.

What to See in Mdina?

Mdina, famous for its quiet and serene atmosphere, is a must-visit place in Malta to discover the most iconic sites of Mdina that you should not miss:

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Founded in the 12th century, this majestic baroque cathedral rises on the site where, according to tradition, the Roman governor Publius met Saint Paul after his shipwreck on Malta.

The original cathedral was severely damaged during the Sicily earthquake in 1693, leading to its dismantling. It was subsequently rebuilt in a baroque style following the design of Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafà.

Tickets to visit the Cathedral are acquired at the Cathedral Museum, located to the right of it and just a few meters away. Entrance fee for adults: €10.00. Children under 12 years old: FREE.

Palazzo Falson

The Palazzo Falson, previously known as Palazzo Cumbo-Navarra, Casa dei Castelletti, and the Norman House, is a medieval urban residence located in Mdina, Malta. Built around 1495, it is considered one of the oldest buildings in Mdina.

Originally, it was erected as a family residence by Maltese nobility and bears the name of the Falson family. Today, this palace is open to the public as a house-museum, offering visitors the chance to explore seventeen rooms filled with historical household belongings and various collections of antiques. Among its walls, there are tapestries, paintings, ancient furniture, and a remarkable library containing rare volumes.

Palais Vilhena or National Museum of Natural History

The Palais Vilhena, located in Mdina, Malta, is a baroque architectural gem built between 1726 and 1728 according to plans by French architect Charles François de Mondion. This emblematic building was erected at the behest of Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, who wished to provide Mdina with a palace serving not only as an official residence but also as an administrative center.

Since 1973, the palace houses the National Museum of Natural History, which holds significant collections in areas such as geology, paleontology, botany, and entomology. This museum is a crucial center for research and education in Malta.

Walking the Streets and Viewing the Fortifications of Mdina

Undoubtedly, walking in Mdina is one of the most rewarding ways to experience the vast historical and cultural heritage of Malta. By wandering its narrow paved streets, you’ll venture into a labyrinth of historically charged buildings, each telling its own story.

Surrounding the city, the sturdy and majestic fortifications of Mdina stand out, reminding us of the important strategic role the city played over the centuries. Viewing points along its walls offer spectacular panoramic views of the island, reaching out to the blue Mediterranean Sea.

Just outside these historic walls, Howard Gardens await. This green haven is the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll, to relax, enjoy an ice cream, or simply take a moment to rest.

Visiting Rabat

St. Paul's Catacombs, Rabat, Malta
Archaeological Remains
St. Paul's Catacombs Museum, Rabat

And finally, you cannot miss visiting Rabat. The two cities, very close to each other, are small and can be comfortably explored in a single day. Making a visit to both Rabat and the City of Silence (Mdina), enjoying a pleasant walk while discovering the historical corners each offers, makes for a truly wonderful plan.

In Rabat, we recommend you to visit the Domus Romana, or Roman Villa, discovered in 1881 outside of Mdina. Built in the 1st century BC as an aristocratic residence within the Roman city of Melite, this place allows you to explore exceptionally well-preserved mosaics, statues, and other Roman artifacts.

Furthermore, the St. Paul and St. Agatha’s Catacombs are worth a visit. Part of a complex system of interconnected passageways, used throughout history for the burial of the dead and the performance of rituals, these catacombs are considered the cradle of Christianity in Malta. Here, the island’s first Christian community was established by the apostle St. Paul, making this site a place of profound historical and spiritual significance.

Visiting Mdina Glass Workshop

St. Paul's Catacombs, Rabat, Malta
Glassmakers at work at Mdina Glass
Mdina Glass Products

During your visit to Malta, you cannot miss the Mdina Glass workshop at Ta’ Qali. It’s located just five minutes by car from the famous medieval city of Mdina. There, you can see master glassmakers in action, creating unique and handmade pieces.

Mdina Glass is a company dedicated to the creation of handcrafted glass pieces located in Malta, representing a craft tradition going back centuries, preserving the ancient glassmaking techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Where to Eat in Mdina?

Here are some recommended restaurants in Mdina that cater to a wide range of tastes and budgets. At these places, you can enjoy delicious local cuisine, complemented by impressive views of Malta.

Fontanella Tea Garden

Fontanella Tea Garden is one of the most iconic and cherished establishments in Mdina, known by locals and tourists alike for its welcoming atmosphere and spectacular panoramic views. Located on the ancient walls of the fortified city of Mdina, this café and tea garden offers a haven of tranquility and beauty, ideal for enjoying a break while exploring the history and architecture of Malta’s former capital.

The menu at Fontanella Tea Garden is notable for its selection of teas, coffees, homemade cakes, and particularly for its famous chocolate cake, which has won the hearts of everyone who has tasted it. Besides the sweet treats, it also offers options for light meals and snacks, perfect for any time of the day.

Don Mesquita

Don Mesquita is a charming bistro and wine bar located in the heart of Mdina, offering its visitors a unique dining experience.

Try the “Maltese platter”, a typical Maltese dish offering a delicious combination of antipasti. This can include ġbejniet (sheep’s cheese, either fresh or aged), zaitun (olives), bigilla (broad bean paste), caper caponata, and various types of local charcuterie, such as Maltese salami.

The de Mondion Restaurant

The de Mondion Restaurant, located atop the walls of Mdina inside the luxurious The Xara Palace Relais & Châteaux, is one of Malta’s most prestigious dining establishments. Named in honor of the French architect Charles François de Mondion, who played a crucial role in the baroque design of Mdina, this restaurant offers not only a top-tier culinary experience but also impressive panoramic views of the island. This prestigious establishment is proud to have been awarded a Michelin star.

Information About Mdina, Malta

Location

L-Imdina

Transport

Bus: “Rabat” Stop

Map