Visit Mdina and Rabat: tips for a beautiful Maltese getaway

by Destination(s) Europe
Published: Last Updated on

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A trip to the island of Malta is a unique opportunity to discover exceptional places. There is no shortage of places to marvel at, including Mdina and Rabat, the two emblematic cities of the archipelago. Located at the center of the island of Malta, these two cities were once one.

It is more than likely that you will arrive in Malta via Valletta. Many low-cost airline companies serve the destination.

How long to visit Mdina and Rabat for

Half a day, excluding transport, may be sufficient but to really appreciate it, particularly the museums and catacombs, it is better to devote a whole day to it .

On the X3, X4, 31, 32 or 35 lines from Valletta, or lines 202 0r 203 for Sliema and San Ġiljan further west, it will take you about an hour to travel there.

Fun Fact: The two cities were originally one. They were separated during the Arab occupation. Their names, Mdina (“the city”) and Rabat (“the suburb”), come from the Arabic language.

Mdina, the “silent city”

The former capital of Malta, Mdina was founded 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians. Interestingly, the city served as the setting for the Game of Thrones series, as well as hosting many other film productions. Located in the center of the island, it is accessible from the capital on foot, by bus, taxi, or car. Luckily for tourists, the “silent city”, as it is still nicknamed, has been left to pedestrians.

Mdina Malta

What to visit in Mdina?

  • One of the city’s main attractions is Mdina Gardens. Located at the edges of the city, they are suitable for walks and strolling.
  • The Vilhena Palace: located in Saint Publius Square, this is a true historical gem not to be missed. Completed in 1730, this palace now houses the National Museum of Natural Sciences.
  • The Falzon Palace: still known as the “Norman house”, the Falzon Palace was built in 1945 on behalf of Antonio Falzon . Now a museum, this palace is full of collector’s items that belonged to Olaf Gollcher, the last resident of the house. | Official site
  • The Palazzo de Piro: also now a museum, Piro’s Palace also houses a hotel and a café, and offers a magnificent view of Malta | Official site
  • The Cathedral and the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul Museum: located on St. Paul’s Square, the cathedral has a magnificent dome and frescoes that are definitely worth a visit. Its museum is full of art collections and objects that date back to the time of the Inquisition.

Mdina is a small museum town. If you are still there after dark, a stroll through its picturesque streets will be your only activity. Moreover, there is only one real hotel within its walls (see “Where to Stay” section).

Rabat, the secret city

Located very close to Mdina and easily accessible from the capital, Rabat (also called “Ir-Rabat”) is a city of a whole different size. It has more than ten thousand inhabitants, while Mdina has only a few hundred. The city is no less picturesque and is also full of sites to visit. To see them all, it will sometimes be necessary to go underground.

Rabat cathedral

What to visit in Rabat?

  • The Wignacourt museum is located in a baroque palace. It contains an important collection of paintings by famous painters, both from the island itself and from Europe. | Official site
  • The Catacombs of Saint-Paul and Sainte-Agathe are underground cemeteries dating from Roman times. These cemeteries were created to bury the deceased, which was prohibited by Roman law. In these catacombs, you will find many tombs and detailed frescoes with beautiful inscriptions. | What visitors think
  • The church andgrotto of Saint-Paul . The cave was a place of refuge for Saint-Paul after his arrival on the island. It became his home, and so he built a church there to preach and convert the locals to Christianity.
  • The Domus Romana which is a museum where one can admire the many vestiges of the Roman era, and in particular mosaic pavements.

Sleep in Mdina and Rabat: prestige and exclusivity

We will not lie to you, there is not a wide choice of hotels, although there are more in Rabat than in Mdina.

The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux | The only real hotel in Mdina, but splendid nevertheless. If the price of the room is high, it is justified by the location of the establishment and the quality of its services | Misrah il-kunsill, Mdina

Maleth Inn Guest House | Located in Rabat, this charming guest house offers few rooms but all the necessary comforts for your stay, with the added bonus of an ideal location | 15, Museum House, Triq tal-Muzew, Rabat

Now, our little guide to visit Mdina and Rabat, on the island of Malta, is finished. We hope you liked it. If you have any other ideas for things to do, please let us know in the comments.

(Photos by Karl Paul Baldacchino  / Unsplash and Juan Antonio Segal / Flickr / CC)

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