Malta – a wander around Mdina, the old capital

If you have ever travelled around Malta there is surely one place you cannot miss. High, near the centre of the main island on top of a hill, the old capital city of Malta, Mdina. The silent city. Way before Valletta came into play Mdina was the centre of all that was Malta.

mdina main gate

You can see it prominently in the skyline from miles around and the old grandeur hits you even before entering throughinside the walls via the Mdina main gate.

An ancient settlement

There has been evidence of settlement here going back to around 4000 BC but it was the Phoenicians whom are thought to have first fortified the place. The present day layout and most of the architecture is owed to the Arab occupation from around 900 – 1000 AD, after the Roman occupation (when it was called Melita).

Mdina empty street

Narrow alleyways and streets that is much like a lot of Islamic medieval urban architecture. Fascinating to wander around and even more so on a quiet day as I had.

Mdina tea room

It was when the Order of St John arrived and took over the island in 1530 that the once great city of Mdina started to lose its prominence. The order didn’t use the city to settle as an administrative base but instead used the town of Birgu. In fact, even before then, the neighbouring Rabat was bigger and more populated than Mdina the supposed capital.

silent city

There is something quite remarkable about wandering through the streets here seeing the old narrow architecture intertwined with times since. The Normans and onwards. After an earthquake in 1693 the ruined Norman church for instance was taken away to be replaced by one of the most famous buildings here, St Paul’s Cathedral.

St pauls Cathedral mdina

As well as wandering the streets within, there are many great points to walk the walls that surround the City. A perfect spot is to look out over from the old capital to the new, Valletta. It was guns of the defenders of Mdina that sent the Ottomans running back towards where Valletta is now in the Great Siege of Malta, 1565.

view over to Valletta
ancient walls

The present day population of Mdina is under 300 and no cars are allowed except a few of the population, emergency vehicles and wedding cars etc. This gives rise to the affectionate local nickname for the place, The Silent City.

cathedral dome
old doorway

If ever in Malta, it is a must visit.. If ever in Mdina, you must take time to wander the many streets and side streets. You can get lost for hours and hours exploring within the walls of this city. Wonderful buildings, restaurants and shops are abound everywhere, A big tip from me, go for a cake at Fontanella Tea Garden. Absolutely delicious.

skyline of Mdina city
walking the little streets

On every trip to Malta I take the time to come and explore the historic Mdina. Away from the beaches and bars of the coast but a place to visit full of interest and especially the discover the real history of the Malta you have come to see and stay at.

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4 Comments

  1. Sandra Miceli says:

    Oh Paul, you make me feel so homesick to see these beautiful pictures of Malta! I’m very impressed with your history of the Island. I hope you also had a chance to visit the sister islands, Gozo and Comino. Make sure you only visit Comino in summer. There’s only a hotel and an old house but the attraction is the most beautiful colour of the sea. Day ferries in summer and make sure you take your bathing suit.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      thanks for the tips for next time Sandra

  2. Ely Kosanovich says:

    Have you ever visited Salvador City in Bahia State in Brazil.
    Please visit also the TOWN of OURO PRETO ( black GOLD )in MINAS GERAIS – you will like it very much.
    I will enjoy reading, again. THANKS !
    (EB/EK)

  3. Wonderful! Took me back to our visit there 6 years ago. I have to say I’m envious of the first photo particularly, since I tried to take a photo of the city in the distance from a tour bus and it didn’t work! I found it a fascinating place and now want to go there again!

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