Due to the coronavirus outbreak I decided to take a break from posting blogs but now, being in self-isolation and not talking to anyone apart from my family (and occasional vendors in Tesco and Panzer’s) for over two weeks I decided to resume my posting.
Mdina has many names: the Silent city, Città Vecchia, Città Notabile… And none of them can describe in full how beautiful and unique is this Maltese city included into the UNESCO World Heritage list. It was founded by Phoenicians, then occupied by Romans, Arabs, Sicilians and then, in the 16th century, was taken over by the Knights of Malta. It still remains one of the most incredible attractions of Malta!
I was lucky to visit it twice: in the afternoon and the morning, so I’d suggest you come as early as you can (as soon as the gates get opened!) to explore it at its most tranquil state.
Mdina is adjacent (literally a few minutes walk) from Rabat, so it’s worth exploring them both together.
1. Walk through the ancient gates of Mdina
Literally the first monument you’re most likely to see in the Silent City is the Mdina gate on the southeast of the city right after the stone bridge. The gates are incorporated into the defensive walls and ornated with lions on the sides.
The Gates were completely rebuilt in 1722 in Baroque style and immediately transports you back in time. The Torre dello Standardo located on the site of medieval Turri Mastra Tower stands nearby.
2. Get amazed at St. Paul’s cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Paul designed by Lorenzo Gafà was erected in 1696 – 1705 when the previous cathedral on this site was turned into ruins by the earthquake. It is one of the most lavish and still elegant Baroque cathedrals I’ve ever been to.
You know some are just covered in gold but don’t give that feeling of something inspiring? Well, this cathedral is not like this: ceiling paintings depicting the life of St Paul, mosaics, marble columns, stained glass, religious treasures – these are absolutely incredible!
3. Don’t miss the Cathedral museum
Cathedral museum is located right opposite the cathedral. If you have time to briefly pop in, do it without hesitation!
The building itself is really notable, and hosts the collection of Medieval art, silverware and historical objects as well as woodcuts by Durer.
4. Have a cake&tea with a view
If you’re looking for a place to have tea or a coffee with a view or maybe even to grab a snack or pizza, head to The Fontanella Tea gardens.
Its terrace is located right on the Mdina walls and gives you an opportunity to observe fields and villages and even the seashore of Malta!
5. Enjoy the panorama
If you’d like just to see the panorama quickly, go to the Villegaignon Street and go all the way up to the Square Bastion where you can climb the parapet and observe the scenery from the walls of Mdina!
6. Make Game of Thrones come to life
If you’ve seen the Game of Thrones, you most likely will recognize the streets of Mdina as filming locations for the first season! Mesquita square, the Mdina Gates and other sites represented King’s Landing in the series.
As seen in the GoT:
7. Have a glance at the Palazzos of Mdina
The living monuments reflecting the past times of Mdina are a must to pop in for at least a brief period of time. Palazzo Constanzo, former residence of a noble family moved there from Sicily if one of them – part of it is now a restaurant.
If you’re in the mood to explore museums, consider visiting the Palazzo Falson, one of the oldest buildings of the city. It’s also a former residence of a noble Maltese family that has now been turned into the Museum of Fine Art and Antiquities.
8. Make your own collection of door handles
Although Mdina is really small, you can easily get lost walking its ancient streets – and enjoy it to the fullest because it’s totally worth it!
Have a look at the door handles: they might not be a typical object of interest for a tourist but nevertheless in Mdina they are worth attention! Just look at all these intricate details!
9. Explore the ecosystem of Malta
Natural history museum located in the Palazzo Vilhena might not have the best collection you’ve ever seen but still gives you an opportunity to explore the local flora and fauna as well as mineral collection. Palazzo Vilhena itself is a notable building too, originally dating back to the 18th century.
10. Admire the Carmelite Priory
You might easily pass the Church of the Annunciation, or the Carmelite Priory, by but please make sure you don’t! The interior of this Baroque building dating back to the 17th century is majestic. Also, according to the local legend, the resistance to the Napoleon forces started there when people decided to protect the church’s treasures from the French.
11. Bring some Mdina Glass home
Mdina is famous for its glass. Actually it has a British background: it was founded in 1968 by Michael Harris from the UK who became the first glass manufacturer. Now it’s become one of the most famous art objects you can buy in Malta – look for the street signs for the shops!
12. Pass through the Greek gates
To make a perfect conclusion to your Mdina tour, end it with the Greek gate named so after the Greeks who lived in this part of the city. The interesting thing about it are the vaults on its sides and that the rear part of these gates still reflect the medieval period of Mdina in contrast to its front side which was redone in Baroque style. The Gates were relatively recently restored but still look less impressive than the main Mdina Gates, in my opinion.
Other places that might interest you are Palazzo de Piro and the Dungeons Museum. I’ll post a small post about the adjacent Rabat too.
I hope you enjoyed my blog!