A unique day Trip to Mdina
A personal review of what we would do if we were tourists
How should a day trip to Mdina be like? We visit plenty of times and always admire the beauty of the city. We know all of Mdina at the tips of our fingers, so we taught of creating an itinerary of what to do in a day.
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Malta is truly an unexpected experience, so tiny but packed with culture. It does not leave any stone unturned in impressing its visitor. We invite you to flavour this beautiful city of Mdina and the adjacent town of Rabat which once were one city named Melite.
Mdina is the old capital that never loses the splendor of a medieval city attracting you to go again and again.
Apart from that we provide various other suggestions depending on your taste and time. Ultimately using these suggestions will not make you lose track of the most important spots you should visit.
If you have time during your holiday, it is best to dedicate a full day and if not more. After visiting Mdina, you can keep on going to the neighboring town of Rabat with so much to see and walk around.
The Start Of our Day Trip
We love to enter Mdina from the main gate, the Vilhena Gate. It is splendid, eye-catching and photogenic not only to everyone to us but also to the Game of Thrones where the King’s Landing was filmed for Season 01 Episode 03.
What To Do At Mdina Entrance
- Visit the Mdina Dungeons takes you back to the time when punishment methods and the dramatic stories of people who used to be punished, Recreated wax mannequins portraying the dark side of Malta’s past. It will take 30-45 minutes depending on how long you walk through the dungeons.
- Visit the National Museum of Natural History at Vilhena palace covering several topics related to exotic mammals, marine fauna, insects, shells and birds. You need about an hour or more depending of your personal interest about the subjects. Vilhena palace beautiful A French baroque architectural classic commissioned by Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena
- Visiting the Mdina glass shop, a very popular and looked for by tourists to the numerous wonderful handmade glassware where you will surely find something that appeals to you.
- On the side within the Torre Dello Standardo there is the Malta Tourist Office if you need anything to ask.
Going deeper into the city to the main square
There are two narrow roads from where you can proceed from, usually the left side is the preferred way as it passes in between old magnificent palaces leading to the main St. Paul’s Square in front of the cathedral. Going to the right will take you to Xara Palace hotel but from here you can still proceed to the centre of Mdina.
In the centre you find a large typical Maltese square with an imposing cathedral dedicated to St. Paul.
We suggest the following options
- Visit the Roman Catholic cathedral of St. Paul the Apostle or also known as the Mdina Cathedral. It is very beautifully adorned from the inside. It is the best works of art for the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa’. You can visit during the following visiting times. Monday to Saturday: 9:30 to 17:00 and Sunday: 15:00 to 17:00.
- The Cathedral Museum adjacent to the cathedral can be visited with the same ticket for the cathedral and archives. Monday to Saturday between 9:30 and 16:15 (Doors close at 16:45)
- Visit the Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum. You will see an incredible collection of art and antiques with silver and jewellery items, coins, furniture, armour and paintings. They were the property of the Captain Olf Frederick Gollcher OBE until he lived here till 1962. It is one of the remaining old buildings in Malta.
- The Carmelite Priory has been in Mdina since the 17th century and the only one open to visitors in Malta. The convent’s friars decided to open their door to the public to share the Carmelite living traditions. In the refectory a snack bar is open to the public where for many centuries friars shared their meals together with their community life.
Walking further up from the main square or from the left side of the cathedral
You will arrive at another small square located at the edge of the fortifications from where you will have a great vintage point to look at a great part of the island’s landscape and the main ports of Valletta and Marsaxlokk although from far away. Here it is a meeting point for tourists and locals.
Options of what you can do here and around
- Stop for a while and sit on a bench or on the stone steps, take time to look over the bastion walls, take selfies and photos, video for memories, a location which you will remember for long.
- Proceed two minutes walk to the left side to the very popular Fontanella Tea Rooms, known by many all over the world for great cakes but also food where you can have lunch with a great panorama of Malta. If you so succeed to find an empty or wait a bit like many, take a table either for tea, a local beer, a mix of cafes, lunch or dinner.
- Palazzo de Piro cafe and bistro are fifty metres further away in the same narrow street with spectacular views over the fortifications. A different setting with a high-end and totally unique palazzo setting. It is ideal for for quiet time for tea, lunch or dinner.
Seeing the quieter area of Mdina
Instead of going to the main cathedral square you can proceed through the side narrow streets and go to Mesquita Square. A quiet area of this old capital, walking through, may be a car might pass, most probably only pedestrians a great difference than how we live today.
A very popular Instagram Attic house with typical Maltese architecture facade of limestone and bright coloured apertures and elaborate wrought iron. Do not miss to take some photos. There is the possibility of meeting someone else doing the same thing like you.
What to do here:
- The Mdina Experience - The story behind the old capital city which entangles all the history of the Maltese islands. A 30 minutes state-of-the-art high resolution audio visual screening with panoramic images gives you a very clear short understanding of the history of these islands. The sound track is in 12 different languages. It is open seven days a week with shows starting at 10:00 till 17:00 except for Christmas day.
- Here you can also take a snack at the cafeteria at the same premises.
- At the same time you should know that this square was one of the locations used for the series Game of Thrones season 1 episode 5, the Jaime Lannister comes to threaten Ned Stark.
- Here you can also take a snack at the cafeteria at the same premises.
- Very close to here you will find The Knights of Malta 3D film located at the premises behind the fortification walls where ammunition and shot used to be stored. It is all about their achievements and the great wealth that has formed its heritage. Afterwards you will have time to visit the vax representations showing various aspects of the lift of the Knights in Malta.
An Extended Trip To Rabat Malta
If you have extra time, you can visit the town of Rabat Malta after your day trip to Mdina. Rabat is only a few meters away so you can walk.
Exiting Mdina from Greeks Gate located on the side, from here you have a variety of options of what to do
One of them being that on exiting Greeks Gate you can walk along the fortifications moth towards the main entrance Vilhena gate passing under the arch up to the other end. A great view of Malta at the end of the moth. After you can come back to street level through a public lift arriving to the small carpark just in from of the main entrance gate we have just mentioned.
From here you can walk back through Howard gardens to the Roman villa and catch up with the options we will mention below. Everything is so close to each other a few minutes walk in any direction and you arrive very quickly.
What to visit in Rabat
- A visit to the Domvs Romana the Roman villa remains that was the house of a Roman aristocrat. It was usually a much larger and comfortable house than a city home. From the few remain the most impressive are the floor intricate mosaics and the several artefacts that shows the life style of the people who lived here.
- The Church of St. Paul stands built above the grotto. The present church was built between 1653 and 1683 where till today it has been adorned with incredible architectural features. Adjacent to it there is a smaller church dedicated to St. Publius who converted to Christianity while St. Paul lived here.
- St. Paul’s Grotto lies under the church where St. Paul lived for three months. It is in reality a small damp with no special features within. It was the refuge for St. Paul and the persons with whom he was travelling from Cyprus to Rome, surely Roman soldiers, prisoners like himself and the ship crew.
- It is here where the Catholic light shone brightly during his presence where it is said that a number of persons were healed including the father of St. Publius.
- Wignacourt Museum is on the side of the St. Paul’s church the side street where this museum lies. IT was formerly the Knights of St. John’s chaplin’s quarters. It is directly linked to St. Paul’s Grotto with an underground tunnel. Today this building is a museum with Punic, Roman and Christian artifacts. The building itself has beautiful architectural features. Open Monday to Sunday from 09:30 – 17:00.
- St. Paul’s Catacombs are an extensive 2000 square metres of underground cemetery made up of galleries and tombs from the 3rd century BC to around 7th century AD. They are located outside the present Mdina fortifications. Back then the area of the catacombs was outside the walls of the ancient city of Melite.
- St. Agatha’s Catacombs, Crypt and Museum are adjacent to St. Paul’s but from a different entrance. The crypt is dedicated to St. Agatha’s who had come from Sicily to evade persecution from the Romans. The underground catacombs lying outside the ld Roman capital Melite were used up to the 4th century AD.
- Casa Bernard lies in one of the streets of Rabat. Its outside impressions does not give any clews of what lies inside and this was the norm in olden times for safety reasons. It is a 16th century palace with historical features of the Medieval and the Knights of St. John. Visit this open house with guided tours by the owners themselves.
- Pastizzi at Crystal Palace cannot but not mention the very popular Crystall Palace the Maltese style tea bar just beside the Roman Villa. It is very popular for the Maltese delicacy of pastizzi made of ricotta (cow cheese) and pizelli (pies). You will surely see several locals queue to buy them and also tourists. It is open 24/7. Tea is still served in pyrex transparent glass. Recently they opened an ice cream shop just adjacent.
Other Suggestions Of What To Do In Mdina
- You can go back to Mdina after sunset to experience the city at night or take a tour round the city at night and listen to some spooky ghost stories.
- During the day the ‘Il-karozzin’ (a horse-drawn carriage) can be hired by tourists for a tour around the city. The sound of the wheels on the paved roads reminds you of the past.
- Walk along the ditch of the fortifications starting from Greeks Gate to the other side. Take the public lift to the carpark and the popular Veduta restaurant.
- Choose to dine at Mdina or Rabat. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from so you will not be disappointed.
- Take memorable photos of the city during the day and night. Want a small peak of what they are like, click here for some photos during the day and night.
A day trip to Mdina - To make your way around easier
We have created a map with the two options where we have outlined the route.
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By Albert and Benjamin Magro