No agenda, no maps, no plans. Get lost in Mdina’s ancient bastions & narrow streets and peek through its noble past.
The Silent City stands isolated on a hill in the heart of Malta. An extraordinary mix of medieval and Baroque architecture with century-old buildings and uncountable stories to tell.
In this detailed city guide you will find 31 reasons to visit Mdina; the best things to do, the must-see attractions and the top sights of Città Notabile.
#1 The Mdina Gate – Seen in The Game of Thrones
Mdina’s baroque-style main gate, built in 1724 during the magistracy of Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena, is the first attraction a visitor sees.
Walk among the statues of growling lions and take a peek at the gate’s escutcheon bearing the Vilhena coat of arms, while leaving the 21st century behind.
The original King’s Landing
The town’s elegant gate can be seen in the first season (episode 3) of Game of Thrones.
#2 The Grand Mdina Cathedral & Museum
The majestic Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Paul was designed by the world-famous Maltese architect, Lorenzo Gafà.
The bright interior with its magnificent dome decorated with beautiful illustrations, the breathtaking paintings and the grand Corinthian columns on the façade made Saint Paul’s Cathedral a 17th-century architectural masterpiece and one of the best things to do in Mdina.
It was here in 60 A.D. that Apostle Paul found shelter after shipwrecking on the Maltese Archipelago. It is said that Metropolitan Cathedral is located at the same holy spot where St Paul converted the Maltese Saint Publius to Christianity.
On the other side of St Paul’s Square, visitors may access Mdina Cathedral Museum with the same ticket they have used to enter the cathedral. The collections here include ecclesiastical objects of sacred art, Roman antiquities and many masterpieces of European painters.
Which clock will you trust?
A weird tale surrounds Mdina’s Cathedral. The clock on the left side always shows the wrong time, to confuse the devil. However, the one on the right is always correct and chimes every 15 minutes.
You may find more info at the official website.
#3 Palazzo Falson Museum – Fine Art & Antiquities
If there is one cultural attraction in Mdina well worth your time and the cost of admission, it’s none other than the Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum.
This magnificent 13th–century palazzo is the second oldest building in Mdina. After an extensive restoration in 2007, the house was turned into a state-of-the-art Museum. Palazzo Falson exemplifies Sicilian-Norman style while the façade has Spanish influences with a number of mullioned windows mimicking the Catalan Style.
During the Middle Ages, the palace was owned by Maltese nobles with the last one being Olof Frederick Gollcher. A keen collector of objets d’art and a frequent traveller he restored the Palazzo and turned it into an extraordinary treasure-trove.
The museum exhibits his collections; oriental rugs, fine paintings, archaeological artifacts, antique furniture, jewelry, weapons and a library with more than 4,500 volumes.
The museum’s roof-top café with its bright outdoor terrace provides stunning panoramas of the surrounding landscape, extending all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
If you are looking for an interesting cultural activity in Mdina, then a visit to Palazzo Falson, conveniently located in the heart of the Silent City, is highly recommended.
Palace’s high guests of honour
Rumour has it that the palazzo has received Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, a prominent member of the Knights Hospitaller at Rhodes and later the first Grand Master of Malta.
More info can be found at the official website.
#4 Mdina Ditch Gardens – a peaceful stroll
Mdina gardens, officially named Howard Gardens, form a natural border between the Silent City and the neighbouring Rabat. The ditch used to house 273 citrus and 7 olive trees but they were all replaced by lawn and stone paving by 2015.
Today, the gardens are a popular attraction, providing a quiet spot and beautiful views over the fortified city. What is more, they are regularly being used for food fairs, concerts and festivals, so make sure to ask in the tourist office.
How to find it
You may enter the ditch via stairs at the southwest corner of the fortifications. If you keep walking you will eventually get outside of Mdina and be rewarded with beautiful views of the island.
#5 Palazzo Vilhena – the Magisterial Palace
Vilhena Palace, named after Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, is a Parisian baroque style palazzo, restructured between 1726 and 1728.
Above its main entrance, a bronze bust of Vilhena proudly stands while the Grand Master’s coat-of-arms are sculptured both on the main door and inside the portico.
Over the palace’s side façade, a statue representing Justice can be found. The fact that this one is not blindfolded signals that justice is all-seeing and all-knowing. Having served as Mdina’s law courts, Vilhena Palace also houses several remaining cells.
A sanctuary for those in need
Palazzo Vilhena served as a temporary hospital during the Maltese cholera outbreak in 1837, as a sanatorium for British troops in 1860 and also, as a hospital for patients suffering from tuberculosis in the early 20th century.
#6 Palazzo de Piro – a centre for arts & culture
Palazzo de Piro dates back to the 16th century, built by the famous Maltese architect & engineer of the Order of St. John, Girolamo Cassar. Originally consisted of three large halls, it was turned into a cultural & exhibitions centre after extensive restoration works in 2005.
Nowadays, it houses two interesting museums, the first one being “The Museum of Tools, Trades & Traditions” and the second one “The Mdina Cathedral Museum Extension”.
Both of them contain rich private collections; objects and tools related to ancient trades, historical patrimonial artefacts collected by Maltese parishes, painted panels from the Spanish Romanesque period, liturgical clothing, paintings from local & foreign artists and a series of wooden contemporary sculptures.
If you feel like taking some time off culture and arts then you can relax at the Xpresso Café and Bistro. The palace’s courtyard terrace offers some spectacular views over the surrounding landscape making your whole experience at the palazzo one of the best things to do in Mdina.
More info: http://www.palazzodepiro.com/
#7 Mdina streets – each one has a story to tell
Narrow and winding, the cobbled streets of Mdina witnessed numerous wars and battles. The fortified city of Mdina, called the Silent City for its peace & tranquillity, invites you to step inside its walls and discover all its century-old secrets.
The medieval city has many a tale to tell; historical gossip, interesting facts, stories of sacrifice, joy, love and even some with an eerie and mysterious twist. Large squares with flowers, bastions with an amazing view, baroque buildings and impressive palaces come out surprisingly in every corner.
Roam through Mdina’s quaint streets, once trod by nobles and knights, and listen to the Silent City. Getting lost in that maze is definitely one of the best things to do in the old capital (if not the best).
Narrow for a good reason
Mdina’s streets are extremely narrow so that they can stay in the shadow for the whole day. For a country that hot, this architectural system was much appreciated.
What is more, having maze-like streets confused the enemy in case of an invasion and allowed the defenders to create ambushes at every corner. Quite resourceful, if you’d ask me!
#8 Mdina at night – enigmatic & mystifying
If you think Mdina is a wonderful place during daytime, then you should take a stroll after the sun sets. It is then that the Silent City fully lives up to its name.
Wandering through the lamplit desert streets of the ancient town is a great way to appreciate its eerie silence.
At night, the whole town radiates a medieval charm and you half expect a knight to show up on a dimly lit corner.
Interested in ghost stories?
If you bump into a woman standing silently at the end of a dark street urging you to follow her, then I would advise against it. She will simply vanish into a wall, giving you a nice spook.
Another Mdina’s popular ghost story is that of a woman killing a knight and then being sentenced to death. Before being beheaded, however, they allowed her to get married. What this lady is doing as a hobby nowadays is to pop up in the background of your photos, posing as a headless bride. Well, you better check those selfies again!
#9 The Carmelite Priory – a mix of sobriety & architecture
This hidden gem, still functioning as a monastery run by the religious Order of Carmelites, is one of the most important religious buildings in Mdina. Visitors may participate in the priory’s daily prayers or meditation sessions and experience the spiritual lifestyle of Carmelite friars.
A highlight of the monastery is the Carmelite Church, one of the most important Maltese baroque churches, built between 1660 and 1675.
Visits to the church are always guided by a resident friar. It’s a great way to admire the church’s delicate frescoes and its exceptional paintings while also getting some additional information.
Mdina’s Carmelite Priory has many other rooms open to the public; a refectory, where the monks take their communal meals, a sober oratory, an authentic kitchen and a restaurant (Al Convento) serving regional Maltese dishes.
Even though Carmelite Priory is not heavily advertised, a visit there is an interesting thing to do while in Mdina.
Did you know?
A typical friar’s cell is open to the public. It includes only the necessary furniture and simple objects required by the friar to live a life of prayer & solitude. Next to the cell is a bier used for delivering the bodies of the deceased friars to the crypt for burial.
More info: http://www.carmelitepriory.org
#10 Natural History Museum – Maltese flora & fauna
Mdina’s National Museum of Natural History is housed within the former Magisterial Palace of Justice, known as Palazzo Vilhena. It covers topics like the origins of Malta’s landscape, human evolution, exotic animals, insects and local marine species.
There is a special section dedicated to Malta’s national bird (the blue rock thrush) and a huge collection of almost 850 pieces of rocks, minerals and worked pieces of art.
A rather weird collection
The Natural History Museum of Mdina exhibits some unusual geology and palaeontology displays; an 18cm tooth belonging to the ancient 25-metre Carcharodon Megalodon, a skeletal anatomy room featuring the delicate bones of a snake and the largest squid captured in the Maltese archipelago.
For more info, you may visit the official website.
#11 Bastion Square – the best views over Malta
It’s true that from Mdina’s bastions you can enjoy amazing views over the surrounding landscape.
However, there is a certain place, called Bastion Square (Pjazza Tas-Sur), offering magnificent panoramic views over the Maltese countryside. The little square with the military name has some affordable places to relax and grab something to eat while enjoying the best views over Mdina’s bastions.
A secret viewpoint
There is an exposed parapet in the square which allows you to walk on a section of the bastion. From there, you can have some amazing views of the surrounding villages; the impressive Mosta Dome (Mosta Rotunda), the small town of Mtarfa and even Sliema and Valletta to the west. Get that camera of yours prepared for some amazing shots!
#12 The Greeks Gate – two architectural styles in one
The second entrance to Mdina, the Greeks Gate, is less ornate than the main gate and was built in the medieval era. However, in 1724, Charles François de Mondion, added an outer structure, in… baroque style.
So the gate consists of two vaulted gateways. The inner medieval and the outer baroque, grafted in front of each other. Once you enter through the gate you will find yourself in a small square called Piazza dei Greci, which connects to a number of roads leading to different parts of Mdina.
Did you know?
The gate got its name from a small community of Greeks living close to the gate. This was also the only entrance into Mdina the slaves were allowed to use.
#13 The blue door – Mdina’s most Instagrammed spot
Almost every house in Mdina has its own door design with a unique door knocker, called il-Habbata, in Maltese.
You surely have bumped upon that bright blue door surrounded by vivid purple flowers while searching photos of Mdina on Pinterest or Instagram.
Obsessed with doors? View our photo gallery with doors from all around the world!
You need to walk to the back of the city; the blue door is located on the same alleyway as Coogi’s Restaurant & Tea Garden.
#14 Palazzo Santa Sofia – the oldest building of Mdina
Next to the Bastion Square, on Triq IL Villegaignon, is Palazzo Santa Sofia.
What’s so special about it?
Well, the ground floor of this house is the oldest building in Mdina and one of the best preserved buildings in siculo-norman style. The oldest part of the exterior contains a square-headed window surrounded by a moulding carrying the date 1233. However, it was not until 1938 that the second floor was added.
Can you visit the palazzo?
Palazzo Santa Sofia is privately owned and not open to the public. However, the ground floor and the courtyard of the palace can be hired for dinner, cocktail parties or other events.
#15 The Knights of Malta Experience – see, smell & hear the past
A visit to Casa Magazzini, built by the knights to store ammunition, offers a detailed history of the Knights Hospitaller, known as Order of Saint John.
Through a combination of written information, wax figures and audio effects, you will learn about the Order’s origins, their arrival in Malta, their period of rule and their departure from the island in 1798.
Interested in joining the order?
Nowadays, the order is still active, concentrating on its original mission, which is the provision of humanitarian aid. More or less, the institution counts 13.000 members, 80.000 volunteers and 25.000 paid employees, globally.
More info: https://theknightsofmalta.com/
#16 Take a Karozzin ride
The karozzin is a horse-drawn carriage, a Maltese traditional mode of transport dating back to the 19th century. It is the only «vehicle» allowed inside the Silent City so a ride with it is an excellent option to enjoy Mdina’s architecture.
Nevertheless, the best way to explore Mdina is on foot, if you have the opportunity and the time.
How much does it cost?
The prices range from 20€ to 35€, however, you can get a better deal if you haggle.
#17 Mesquita Square – a picturesque GOT location
Charming and quiet, this little square is one of the best places inside the old city of Mdina to escape the crowds. It is a great place to sit back, grab something to drink and relax; picturesque sand-coloured buildings around a stone well are the ideal setting for it.
Mesquita Square is also the shooting location of Littlefinger’s brothel in King’s Landing, featured in the Game of Thrones TV series.
The name of the square originates from a Portuguese knight who commanded the city during a Turkish siege.
#18 Mdina Dungeons Museum – the dark side of Maltese history
What could someone expect from a museum like this?
Underground cells once occupied by prisoners, brutal interrogation techniques, hideous instruments of torture and detailed information about the darker side of Malta’s medieval past.
Scenes recreated in great detail, sound effects of screaming and grotesque figures recount the stories of how everyone in power tortured those that dared oppose them.
Where are the Mdina Dungeons located?
Beneath the medieval Vilhena Palace, at the first turning on the right after entering Mdina through the Main Gate.
#19 The Chapel of St Agatha – a tale of injustice & martyrdom
St. Agatha’s Chapel is a small Roman Catholic church, built in 1410. This tiny place of worship features a decorative altar with a painting of St. Agatha. It is believed that the saint prayed here.
Did you know?
St Agatha is one of the three patron saints of Malta, with the other ones being St. Paul and St. Publius. Her statue stands prominently at Mdina’s Main Gate.
More info about the history of St. Agatha and the Chapel can be found at the official website.
#20 Nunnery of St Benedict – a medieval hospital for women
The Benedictine nuns arrived in Malta in the early 15th century with the adjacent monastery of St. Peter being built around 1418.
The nunnery operated as a medieval hospital for women; nowadays, around 20 nuns live in isolation devoting their life to prayer.
A bond for eternity
The nuns are not allowed to leave the building, not even after they have died. Each one is buried in the crypt with the only men allowed to enter being the decorator and the doctor.
One of the oldest and best-hidden quarters of Mdina is the Chapel of Saint Nicholas, a Roman Catholic Church, constructed in 1434 and rebuilt in 1685.
This small chapel, in the form of a Greek cross crowned by a central dome, is no longer used for religious purposes and sits in disrepair.
An abandoned treasury
The building is used as a storeroom for numerous artifacts and furnishings from the Grand Mdina Cathedral, with the most notable one being the Cappella Ardente, a wooden gothic structure that was put up when a notable person died.
#22 The Mdina Experience – a glimpse of Mdina’s history
Another top tourist attraction in the Silent City, the Mdina Experience, is a 25-minute movie revealing the several mysteries that surround Mdina.
It is a great opportunity to get more information about the city’s history from the comfort of your seat; St Paul, the earthquake, the Knights of Malta and the battles that took place on the island.
From the prehistoric Bronze Age…
The city was founded in the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians and was called Maleth. With the Roman Republic taking over the city in 218 BC, the city was renamed to Melite. Around a millennia after, in 1048, Malta was resettled by a Muslim community who built a settlement called Medina, on the same site as Melite.
Visit the official website for tickets and more info.
#23 Mdina Glass – the ancient art of glassblowing
The furnaces of Mdina Glass were first fired up back in 1968. Skilled glassmakers turned raw materials into molten glass using traditional glassblowing techniques.
Don’t lose the opportunity to visit Mdina Glass and discover a great variety of colourful glassware – small vases, bowls, perfume bottles, candleholders, figurines and lamps. Those traditional handicrafts are the perfect Mdina souvenir to get back home.
You also need to visit…
It’s worth watching the craftspeople work as they use their mouths and skilled hands to craft various objects from molten glass. For this experience, you need to visit Ta’ Qali Crafts Village, just 2 km away.
Visit the official eshop for more info.
#24 Torre dello Standardo – a medieval communication «device»
The Tower of the Standard was built by the Order of St. John in 1726 with the sole purpose of relaying signals from the Silent City to the rest of the island.
A fire would be ignited to warn the Maltese in case of an invasion and cannon shots were fired every evening before Mdina closed its gates. Well, that would be an interesting act to see!
Did you know?
In the early 19th century the Tower of the Standard housed the porter and servants of the nearby sanatorium. In 1888 it was turned into a telegraph office and later on, it became a police station until 2002. Torre dello Standardo is now used as a tourist information centre.
#25 Banca Giuratale – the majestic baroque palace
Built in baroque style, with imposing limestone walls and heavily decorated façade, the Banca Giuratale was erected between 1726 and 1728 to house the city’s administrative council and courts, the Università.
A glorious monument
Banca Giuratale was the meeting place of the National Assembly during the Maltese uprising against the two-year French occupation of Malta after the Order of Saint John surrendered to Napoleon Bonaparte.
#26 Palazzo Costanzo – residence of the noble Sicilians
The palace in Villegaignon Street, with the symmetrical façade and the rectangular doorway, was built in 1666 by the Costanzo family.
The two-storey building with the underground cellars was formerly a residence but today it serves as a restaurant, café and gift shop. The palace also hosts the Medieval Times Shows, providing insight into life during the 14th and 15th centuries.
This makes it one of the best things to do if you are a culture or an architecture buff.
The Costanzo family enjoyed high social standing before they arrived in Malta. Piero Costanzo was a senator in Messina, Giovanni a judge in Palermo, Francesco the Baron of Santo Bartolomeo and Matteo a commander with the Knights Hospitaller (he participated in the battle of Rhodes in 1482).
The one who ordered the construction of the palace, Tomaso Costanzo, settled in Malta in 1666 and was elected to serve as a councilor in Mdina. Surprisingly enough, the palazzo managed to survive almost 300 years of inheritance and as of today remained within the family.
Full of secrets…
As time went by, Palazzo Costanzo was fortified and has been the refuge of many distinguished figures. Rumour has it, that the secret revolutionary society of Carbonari remained hidden in the secret vaulted chambers below the palace.
#27 Corte Capitanale – Mdina’s old Court of Justice
The Corte Capitanale was built along with the rest of Vilhena Palace, between 1726 and 1728. Like most of the buildings of that period, it was designed in baroque style by Charles François de Mondion, a French architect and a member of the Order of Saint John.
Corte Capitanale served mainly as a courthouse until 1813 when judicial power was moved to Castellania Palace in Valletta. The prominent statues of Justice and Mercy can be still seen standing proudly on the balcony.
Its direct linking to Palazzo Vilhena was a symbolic gesture to convey the fact that the courts were under the jurisdiction of the Order of St. John. Additionally, the courthouse was also connected to the Bishop’s Palace through an underground passage, also indicating the role of the church to the judicial system.
Today Corte Capitanale is Mdina’s City Hall and the seat of the local council.
Justice will (not) be served
During the French occupation, the Maltese insurgents accused a local doctor of treason, spying for the French. Even if he was not found guilty by the court, the Maltese still asked the judge to sentence him to death. After the judge turned their new demand down the doctor was (mysteriously) assassinated as soon as he exited the building.
#28 Fontanella Tea Garden – delicious cakes & magical view
Fontanella, one of the most popular cafés in Mdina, is known for its generous slices of homemade cakes (including but not limited to walnut, apricot, chocolate, apple & carrot) and its sweeping views over Malta, stretching all the way to the sea.
After a full day of exploring the old city, grab a table on the bastion walls and relax. Fontanella Tea Garden also serves light meals such as sandwiches, pastizzi, pizzas, baguettes and has an intimate wine bar decorated with fairy lights to illuminate the garden and the tables at night.
Ever tried Maltese ftira?
Fontanella Tea Garden is the best place to taste the traditional Maltese ftira, a ring-shaped bread with loaf usually filled with capers, sardines, olives, tuna, onion, potato, or fresh tomato. Maltese state that the making of ftira dates back to the 16th century.
#29 St. Roque’s Chapel – Our Lady of Light
The quaint little Chapel of St. Roque is always shadowed by the other churches in Mdina. However, what St. Roch’s Church lacks in its exterior it makes up with a beautifully decorated interior, one that is certainly worth visiting.
The baroque temple with the oval dome and the Ionian pilasters was built in 1732 as part of Mdina’s urban re-planning by Charles Francois de Mondion. The patron saint is St. Roch, revered as the defender from disease and epidemic.
The name “Our Lady of Light” comes from a painting located in the church, depicting the Virgin of Light. It is located on Triq il-Villegaignon, just past St Paul’s Cathedral. It no longer performs liturgical services but is open to the public during daytime.
Did you know?
The locals still call the chapel with its original name, Santa Maria della Porta, since it was rebuilt on a site of an older church, under the dedication of the Holy Cross, existing since 1393.
#30 Mdina’s Neo-Gothic House is an architectural oddity
Mdina’s buildings are a fine example of baroque architecture (you must have understood it by now).
However, a residential house, designed by Andrea Vassallo, stands out among the rest, representing a rare example of neo-Gothic architecture in the Silent City. The house can be found in Mdina’s main square showcasing its distinct Gothic Revival architectural roots.
Can you spot it?
#31 Things to do around Mdina and Rabat
Rabat, less known than its famous neighbour, adjoins the ancient capital of Mdina.
A famous movie location
Parts of the movies Black Eagle and Munich were filmed in Rabat.
Nevertheless, there are numerous things to do in Rabat; the Catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha where Romans used to bury their dead, Domus Romana (an ancient Roman Empire Villa) and Wignacourt Museum are some of them.
Further Reading: More things to do in Mdina!
Is Mdina worth visiting?
Mdina, surrounded by its glorious walls, is the pivot of Malta’s 7.000 years old history and a highlight of any visit to the island.
The soft colour of the sandstone walls, the tiny hidden restaurants and the cobbled streets lined with well-preserved noble houses, baroque palazzi & cathedrals give the city a timeless atmosphere.
Every building and every street has a story to tell; listen carefully to the Silent City and lose yourself in an immaculately clean sandstone maze.
Helpful info about Mdina
Catching a bus is an easy & cheap way to reach Mdina. Buses 51, 52, or 53 to Rabat (Ir-Rabat bus stop) run every 10 minutes with the ride taking around 30 minutes, depending on the traffic. The bus ticket to Mdina costs 2€. Learn what you can see on a day trip to the Silent City!
Grab the bus line 202, it takes 45 to 60 minutes to reach Mdina. You can then enjoy you day-trip to Mdina!
There aren’t many options when it comes to hotels in Mdina, but there are a few good ones if you manage to secure a room. Spending the night is definitely an experience to remember and allows you to do even more things in Mdina!
If you use your transport to get to Mdina be aware that parking is limited especially during weekends. However, there are some places to try your luck. The first one is outside Mdina, next to a playground, which is free to the public. The second one, a paid parking, is located next to Domus Romana (Roman Villa). The third parking spot is 500 metres away from Mdina Gate, here.
After the Great Siege of Malta, Grand Master Pierre de Monte moved Malta’s capital from Mdina to Valletta. Once Mdina lost its capital status, it became a ghost town and that’s when the silent city nickname was born. Nowadays, there is an ongoing effort to maintain silence within the city; you will find numerous signs asking you to be silent while cars are not allowed. Even, in complete silence, there’s a ton of things to do in Mdina!
Mdina has a population of 243 people who live inside the city walls.
Rabat’s city centre is just a step away from Mdina, only a five-minute walk from the main gate. There are plenty of things to do in both cities!
Mdina is open every day, including weekends. However, some of the attractions might be closed for the weekend. Get a list of the best things you can do in Mdina here!
Mesquita Square: Season 1, Episode 5 “The Wolf and the Lion”. It’s where Jamie Lannister and his spearmen attack Ned and his guards. The square also housed the entrances to the Little Finger’s brothel and the Street of Steel.
The Gate of the Mdina: In Season 1, Episode 3 “Lord Snow”, Catelyn and Ser Rodrik Cassel rode into King’s Landing through the main gate.
Mdina at a glance
|Found: 8th Century BC||Location: Malta|
|Population: 243||Known as: The Silent City|
|Recommended Time: Half-day, Full-day||Festivals: 29 June, 4th Sunday of July|
All images are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.