Mdina is a fortified city, situated on the highest hill in Malta, in the northern region. Back in the day, until the medieval times, it was in fact Malta’s capital. The city still remains within the city walls and have a population of only approximately 300 people. The history of Mdina can be traced back more than 4000 years. According to tradition the Apostle St Paul is said to have lived here after being shipwrecked on the Islands back in 60 AD. Its medieval name – The Noble City – is a very apt description of Mdina, as is the more common name Mdina is now known by – The Silent City.
We used the hop on hop off bus to get to Mdina from St Julian’s. It probably isn’t the quickest way of getting there but it did give us the opportunity to sit on the top deck of the bus and take in the Maltese countryside. As we arrived so did another half a dozen or so other buses – both sightseeing ones and public ones. This in turn created the impression that it was going to be heaving with people once inside the city walls, as people edged towards the city gates, which were featured in Game of Thrones, eager to see what was waiting on the other side.
The chatter once inside subsided as people were obviously taken aback by the beautiful buildings they were greeted with – it truly is an open air museum just waiting to be explored and is one of Europe’s leading examples of walled cities. Mr ESLT and I set about admiring the Norman and Baroque architecture and wandering the narrow cobbled streets that are easy to navigate, happily snapping away as we did. Mdina is fully padestrianied with only the few residents that live there being allowed to drive in the city. However you can hire a horse-drawn carriage to take you round the city if you aren’t to stable on your feet or you fancy adding a bit of romance to your visit. Considering the number of people piling off the buses, it was not overcrowded once inside. In fact, down some of the streets we didn’t come across another person.
If ‘getting lost’ in the city is not your thing there are plenty of audio tours that you can download directly to your phone or iPod for around 5 euros. We found the one available on Get Your Guide very useful. It includes 17 audio tracks and a map and takes around 1 hour to complete.
There are a number of sites to see in Mdina including:
- The Mdina Cathedral- The late 17th-century St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed by architect Lorenzo Gafa. It has a lavish interior and the museum has a collection of coins, silver plate, religious vestments and some woodcuts by the German artist Albert Dürer.
- Palazzo Falzon – is a palace in Mdina. It is believed to have been constructed between around 1495 and mid-16th century, although parts of it might date back to the 13th century. This makes it the second oldest building in the city. It is open to the public.
- The Bastion – take a walk to the bastion which offers panoramic views over the Maltese countryside. It is even possible to see over the Mosta Dome from here. Don’t forget to check out the elegant buildings built near the bastion and submerge yourself in old world charm.
- The Mdina Experience – you will never know Mdina better! a 30 minute show to experience Mdina’s fascinating journey through time. Relive Mdina’s 7000 years of triumph and tribulations – the cult of the mother Goddess – the shipwreck of St. Paul – the medieval city half destroyed by earthquake and gloriously rebuilt
- Palazzo Vilhena – is a French Baroque palace. It is named after António Manoel de Vilhena, the Grand Master who commissioned it. It was built between 1726 and 1728 to designs of the French architect Charles François de Mondion. Since 1973, it has been open to the public as the National Museum of Natural History.
Following a great morning of exploration there was only thing for it – lunch. There are many reputable restaurants in Mdina but the busiest for lunch by far was the Fontanella Tea Garden which is famed for its cake and views across Malta. Unfortunately, we couldn’t not get a table upstairs, therefore missed out on the views, we also didn’t have cake (there was just no room after our sandwich) but I can confirm it looked amazing and looking back I should have got a piece to take back to the hotel with me.
It may be a small town but it is rich in history (and currently on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites). Not the ideal place to base yourself when visiting Malta due to its lack of facilities and amenities however Mdina is a must see place in Malta – it is unique and truly stunning.