Few places will captivate you quite like the streets of Valletta, the nightlife of St. Julian’s, or a boat ride through the Three Cities. However, there is another must-see place for visitors to Malta! Also known as “the Silent City” of Malta, Mdina has a long and interesting history to discover. Today it’s still extremely well maintained and the ancient medieval walls are waiting to be explored! So join us as we tour Mdina, and guide you through this special city in Malta.
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Quick History of Mdina Malta
The Phonecians first founded Mdina around 700 B.C. When the Romans arrived the city was named Melita and it once served as the capital of Malta. Legend has it, that the Apostle St. Paul shipwrecked on Malta in 60 A.D. and lived in a grotto just outside of present-day Mdina. These events would shape the history of Malta into the Roman Catholic island you see today.
As the years went on, Mdina and Malta itself would change hands several times. From the Romans to the Byzantines and then was finally under Arabic rule in 870. It was at this time the city changed its name to Mdina. Like many streets and towns in Malta, the Arabic name stuck until today.
In 1090 AD, the Normans came storming in to take the city back under Christian rule. It was the Normans who are responsible for surrounding the Silent City with massive fortified walls.
Over the next few centuries Mdina would become home to the richest nobles on the island from all around Europe. After the arrival of the Knights of St. John much changed on the island, but Mdina in Malta still retained its seclusion in the hills.
Why is it Called the Silent City in Malta?
So you may be wondering why Malta is called the Silent City! Once the capital moved from Mdina to Valletta in 1571, it lost much of its importance and population. Mdina is home to around 250 people still, and many tourists flock to the ancient streets of the fort. However, they all follow one rule… Stay silent!
Only residents are allowed to drive their cars through, and the lamp-lit streets at night make it feel like a ghost town once the sun sets. For this reason, staying overnight near the Silent City provides a much-needed break from the traffic and commotion in the rest of Malta. After visiting Mdina, you’ll truly grow to appreciate the history and beauty of the famous walled city.
What You’ll See Inside Mdina Malta
Once you enter the giant walls of Mdina you’ll be blown away by how well preserved the historic town is. There are only three gates to walk through and it’s surrounded by a deep moat. This really shows how well defended the fort had to be!
Inside Mdina in Malta there are a few different tourist shops and restaurants to enjoy. Most notably, the Fontanella Tea Garden is worth grabbing a drink at for its elegant design and atmosphere.
We also had a traditional dinner at Coogi’s Restaurant & Tea Garden with amazing views over the island. Below are other attractions of historical importance not to miss out on.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral: One of the most famous churches in all of Malta and the #1 thing to see inside Mdina.
- Natural History Museum: See geology, fossils, plants, and more inside the former Palace of Justice.
- Carmelite Priory: 17th-century monastery which is still functioning today.
- Mdina Dungeons: Experience what medieval prison life was like in the museum underneath the Vilhena Palace.
- Palazzo Falzon: 2nd oldest building in the Silent City and former palace turned art museum.
Exploring Rabat Outside the Mdina Malta Walls
Just outside Mdina Malta, you’ll find the sprawling streets of Rabat. This area is home to just over 11,000 residents and gives off a very local vibe compared to the castle walls. Since there are very few places to stay inside Mdina, your hotel will likely be in Rabat if you choose to stay overnight.
Stroll through the colorful streets of Rabat and walk to the Basilica of St. Paul. If there’s one place we recommend getting a quick snack at it’s at Crystal Palace Bar. They’re known for being one of the best bakeries in all of Malta, and the ftira and qassatat are are must try!
Should you Visit Silent City Malta?
Yes! You should 1000% include Mdina in your Malta itinerary. The architecture is timeless and spending a night in the Silent City will be different than anything else you do on the island.
Even if you can’t spend the night, it’s worth the drive from wherever you’re staying. One of the best parts about Malta is that it’s small enough that everything is accessible for day trips.
Have any questions about Mdina, or want to share your own experience in the Silent City? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where to Stay in Rabat & Mdina Malta
Ultra Luxury – The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux – Enjoy a unique stay inside Mdina walls in a 17th-century building. This five-star hotel has beautiful views of the island and ocean in the distance.
Fun Vacation – Point de Vue – Just outside the city walls of Mdina, this traditional hotel is a good option to base yourself from. Make sure to book one of the rooms with a view!
Budget-Friendly – My Travel House – This guesthouse is located in Rabat, just a quick walk from the city walls of Mdina. Good value with a wonderful breakfast included.
For more places to stay in Mdina Malta you can explore the latest prices here!
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Malta Travel Planning
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. Even though Malta is small, you will want a car to get to all the best towns and beaches.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a trip to the Blue Lagoon on a Catamaran, go on a full-day quad bike tour of Gozo, or join a 3-Hour Walking Tour of Valletta.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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