Mdina and Rabat: What hides and protects the former capital of Malta and her suburbs

Mdina is a small city located in the central part of Malta which used to be the capital as well. The history of this place is very extensive and has been captured and recaptured many times. Every conqueror of Malta left a lasting impression on the country. The Saracens fenced it in with walls and a moat from the closest city of Rabat, and the Normans left their sign in the architecture.

Quick facts about Mdina

This medieval city nowadays has around 300 inhabitants and no outside vehicles are allowed, except for delivery vehicles, ambulances or the occasional local vehicles.

Mdina is also called The Silent City, regardless of the history behind it, it is indeed a very quiet city with so many visitors walking around. I got this overwhelming feeling when I passed a very impressive, by the way, gate that I instantly started to whisper. The narrow streets, Norman and Baroque architecture which you will recognize for monumental yet dynamic character, arches and columns, and theatrical carvings. It impressed me a lot and I felt like I had travelled in time.

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Maltese cross

When you pass the Mdina gate, on the left-hand side you will see Torre dello Standardo, a tower which used to be part of the city fortification system and now a Tourist Information Centre is located inside. Worth going in to get a map and helpful employees will mark the points of interest for you. On the opposite side of the tower take a look at Palazzo Vilhena which nowadays is open to the public as a National Museum of Natural History and in its courtyard, you will see a huge Maltese Cross. What is the cross exactly? This cross is also known as The Knights Cross and originally it was a symbol of the Amalfi Republic whose duchess started a brotherhood in Jerusalem which founded the Johannites monastery.  In 1589 Sixtus the 5th approved the cross as the symbol of the Maltese Monastery. The cross is built from 4 arms (4 virtues), which split at the ends giving 8 tips (8 tongues aka languages, and values) and its white color symbolizes purity.

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What to see in the Silent City?

Walking along the main street in Mdina – Triq Il Villeqaignon you will find most of the city attractions. Starting with St. Paul’s Square overlooking St. Paul’s Cathedral. The entrance fee to the Cathedral and Museum costs 5€.

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On the left you will pass Palazzo Santa Sofia, which originally was a one floor building built in 1233 and it is recognized as the oldest building in the city of Mdina. Just a few steps further on the right the Chapel of St. Roque is located and it is also called the Chapel of Our Lady of Light. Next, worth going into in my opinion, is Carmelite Priory or Church of the Annunciation. It has four chapels and seven altars plus impressive Baroque sculptures and paintings.

Palazzo Falson, which is open as a house-museum, is the last stop before getting to Bastion Square. Located at the end of Mdina this square provides beautiful views of central Malta and her northern coast.

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To be honest I found the most happiness just wandering through Mdina’s streets. Maybe you would say that they are all the same, but the truth is every single one is different than the previous. During my first impression of walking around the city, I thought that all those tourists and locals we saw would be a nightmare with such crowded spaces, but it actually was not that bad and was easy to walk around freely. We found, which is now my favorite spot in Mdina, Mesquita Square we were the only two people and it was so nice to got a chance to enjoy it without anyone else. It got me thinking though, where all those people are? We found them later on in Fontanella Tea Garden 😊 which is by the way a great spot for coffee with an amazing view of the island.

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Rabat – former suburbs of Mdina

Just outside the walls you will find another city – Rabat. It used to be part of Mdina’s suburbs where it gets its name. Rabat in Arabic means suburbs. I did not really care for this part of the city. All it has to offer is located underground and I mean St. Paul’s and St. Agatha Catacombs. Entrance fee is 5€. From Mdina to the center of Rabat where St. Paul’s Church is located you can take a 10-minute walk. We took a longer way, let ourselves get lost a little and we stumbled upon a cemetery, which I think I enjoyed the most from Rabat. Maybe it is only me, but I find cemeteries very fascinating and I like to visit them in other countries, since they say so much about tradition and the people themselves.

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2 Replies to “Mdina and Rabat: What hides and protects the former capital of Malta and her suburbs”

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