Mdina Malta, The Silent City
Mdina is the former capital of Malta, a fortified medieval town known as the “City of Silence” or the “silent city”. An exceptional site loved by tourists keen on history, it fascinates with its frozen and timeless atmosphere. Behind its walls hides a labyrinth of narrow streets reminiscent of Arabia, limestone buildings, and preserved cultural and religious treasures that are worth lingering over.
The History of Mdina Malta
The Former Capital of Malta
Mdina or L-Imdina is among the best-preserved fortified cities in Europe, where time seems to have stood still, preserving this architectural treasure intact. The city’s first inhabitants and founders were the Phoenicians in 700 BC, but the city changed hands numerous times through various invasions. For a long time, Mdina had strategic importance, located on one of the highest points on the island of Malta; thus, it was the capital of Malta until 1530.
In 1530, the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, later better known as the Order of Malta, received Malta from the hands of Charles V. The order then decided to transfer the new capital of the archipelago to Birgu, with maritime trade becoming more important than land security.
After the relocation of Malta’s capital, Mdina remained for decades the city where the noble and the richest families of the island lived. Hence, it was colloquially referred to by the inhabitants as the “Noble City”.
In 1693, Malta was severely affected by a large earthquake, and many buildings in Mdina needed reconstruction. The Order of Malta introduced the Baroque style to the city, which blended with the Arabic style, a mix that today contributes to the unique charm of the place.
Location of Mdina
Where is Mdina located?
The city of Mdina or L-Imdina is located in the central-western part of Malta, next to the town of Rabat. Originally, Mdina and Rabat were one and the same city, but during the Arab occupation, the city was split into two. Mdina is only 13 kilometers southwest of the current capital of Malta, Valletta.
How to get to Mdina?
The former capital of Malta is easily accessible from the main tourist areas of Malta:
- From the Valletta bus station, you can take any bus between 50, 51, 52, 53, and 56
- From Sliema to San Julian and from there to Mdina, you can take the 202 without changing
- From the airport, the 201, is a very long route, but also very interesting, or the X3
- From the part of St. Paul’s Bay (Bugibba, Qawra, and Xemxija) to Mdina, you can take the 186 or the X3
- From Mater Dei Hospital, you can take the 181 or 182
Map of Mdina
Places in Mdina to Discover
Just wander around the city to appreciate, at the turn of the alleys, the mix between medieval and baroque architecture. The fortified city also houses many historical and religious monuments that are worth visiting.
What to visit in Mdina?
Visit Palazzo Falson
Palazzo Falson takes its name from the Falson family, who were the first to inhabit the palace, and it’s also the second oldest building in Mdina.
The palace is a true treasure of history. It houses a library with century-old volumes, as well as a large collection of furniture and paintings from noble families who lived in the palace.
Discover Saint-Paul’s Cathedral
The Saint-Paul’s Cathedral was rebuilt by the Knights of the Order of Malta after the 1693 earthquake. Its reconstruction marked the beginning of the Baroque influence on the island and was carried out by Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa.
The cathedral of Mdina does not compete with the impressive ornaments of the co-cathedral of Saint-John or with the extravagance of the dome of Saint-Paul’s Cathedral in Valletta. However, it remains one of the most iconic buildings in the city.
Visit Vilhena Palace, the National Museum of Natural History
The Vilhena Palace, also known as the Magisterial Palace, is a baroque-style palace named after António Manoel de Vilhena, the Grand Master who commissioned its construction.
The palace was transformed into the National Museum of Natural History on June 22, 1973. The museum has a significant collection of samples from Maltese flora and fauna. Fossils, rocks, minerals, birds, mammals, fish, arthropods, all from the Maltese habitat, can be discovered in the Vilhena Museum.
Stroll the streets and see the chapels of Saint-Agatha and Saint-Nicholas
Both chapels were rebuilt according to the plans of the famous architect Lorenzo Gafà. The chapel of San Nicolás is not open to the public at the moment. In the chapel of Saint-Agatha, you can discover the work of Giuseppe D’Arena, the painting representing Saint Agatha, the patron saint of Malta, with Saint Adrien.
Discover the fortifications of Mdina, Howard Gardens and Ditch Garden
At the entrance, you will discover the main gate of the fortifications of Mdina. The baroque-style arch, designed by French architect Charles François de Mondion, marks the official entrance to the city and is preceded by the stone lions guarding Mdina.
The former capital of Malta is surrounded by defensive walls, this is the main feature of the place we recommend exploring, to see the incredible view of the island from the fortifications.
You can also descend to the Howard Gardens and the Ditch Garden. In the summer, it’s a very popular spot for events or simply to hide from the heat and enjoy an ice cream in the shade of the ramparts.
Visit Knights of Malta Experience or the Torture Museum (The Mdina Dungeons Museum)
To learn more about the history of Malta, the visit to the Knights of Malta Experience is one of the must-do attractions. The attraction has won the quality assurance award from the Maltese tourism authority and offers a full immersion into Maltese history and culture.
On a completely different note, for those seeking thrills, the museum of torture and crime should satisfy the most daring. The Mdina Dungeons Museum is located at the entrance of the city. The realistic exhibits and sound effects in the corridors create an atmosphere of a dungeon from another era!
Where to eat in Mdina?
Here are some recommended restaurants in Mdina. There’s something for all tastes and budgets. You’ll find local cuisine, accompanied by incredible views of Malta, history, flavors, and a wonderful cultural immersion.
Fontanella Tea Garden
The cakes from Fontanella Tea Garden are famous throughout the island. The place also has a terrace with a privileged view atop the walls of Mdina, making it a magical spot. Located on the walls of Bastion Street, the menu ranges from breakfast, appetizers, whether typical or Mediterranean, brunch, to quick sandwiches like baguettes. The highlight is the homemade desserts.
Le Don Mesquita
In this restaurant, you’ll find Mediterranean and European food, a wine bar, special diets suited for vegetarians, vegan options, and gluten-free choices. It’s located on Pjazza Mesquita, a peaceful spot with attentive staff where you can enjoy typical Maltese cuisine, as well as a variety of local tapas.
The Mondion restaurant
If you’re in the mood for French, Mediterranean, or European cuisine, you can choose the The Mondion restaurant, located inside the Hotel The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux. It’s one of the best restaurants in Malta with a MICHELIN star, recognized for its excellent cuisine.
The restaurant is situated on the top floor of the hotel and offers a magnificent view of the city of Mdina. The wine list is one of the most comprehensive you can find in Malta.
The Silent City (The Silent City) Mdina by night
We also recommend discovering Mdina at night, to enjoy a unique environment. The small town of only 300 residents becomes deserted once tourists are gone as night falls. With most attractions and shops closed, visiting Mdina at dusk is a special experience to explore.
Mdina and the Cinema
For fans of science fiction series or the seventh art, Mdina should bring back some memories. The mix of medieval buildings with Venetian windows, cream-colored walls, and balconies adorned with colorful flowers is a perfect blend that prompts directors to choose Mdina as a backdrop for famous series and movies such as Agora, the Count of Monte Cristo, and the popular series Game of Thrones.
Photos of Mdina Malta
As you will see, the island of Malta has many charming places, and Mdina is one of them. Explore its corners while reliving history and identifying the film locations across the archipelago, because in Malta you will always have a plan. So, don’t pass by the island without visiting the old capital of Malta and transporting yourself back in time.
Frequently Asked Questions about Mdina Malta (FAQ)
Where is Mdina located?
The town of Mdina is located in the central-western part of Malta, next to Rabat, just 13 kilometers southwest of Malta’s current capital, Valletta.
How many inhabitants does Mdina have?
The town of Mdina is very small, with a population of 245 people.
Is it worth visiting Mdina in Malta?
If you are going to Malta, Mdina is a must-visit. It’s an iconic town of Malta.