Mdina – The Silent City of Malta

I arranged my visit to Mdina, the former capital of Malta in the medieval period, while I was still at the airport waiting for my transfer to the hotel. I have previously posted on a Facebook travel group for advice regarding what to see in Malta and found two other girls that were here during the same period of time, one as a tourist (Erika) and one as a resident (Daniela). We agreed to meet in the afternoon and explore Mdina together, having Daniela as a guide.

Even if the airport is just a few miles out of the capital, the traffic in Malta is so bad that it took over an hour to reach my hotel, the Hilton. I would recommend though taking a door to door transfer rather than the bus, as booked online, the price is very low (I paid £5 for a return transfer booked with Hoppa).

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Once arrived at the hotel I only had time to take a quick shower and then hurry towards the station to catch the bus number 202 from St Julian (Ross stop) towards Mdina. I was meeting Erika on the bus, so I had to be there for a specific time. Luckily, the bus station was 2 minutes away from the hotel.

 

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The is quite good but in the same time is very chaotic, with old and crowded buses. I was lucky to be one of the first ones on the bus and I spotted Erika straight away, in her white dress, having an empty seat next to her. We connected straight away and had a lot of time to chat, during the hour and a half necessary for the bus to cover the 8 km to Mdina. We ended up being more than half an hour late for the meeting with Daniela.

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We could spot Mdina from the road, a while city on top of a hill. You have to know that Mdina looks more like a citadel inside Rabat town and often you will see that the buses actually go to Rabat and not Mdina. That’s because a very limited number of cars is allowed to enter the city and most of its streets are very narrow. Only about 300 people still live in Mdina and that is why the name of “The Silent City”. Walking through its streets, most of time times you won’t hear a single sound.

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We entered the “Silent City” through Mdina gate, passing over an arched stone bridge decorated with statues of lions holding the coat of arms of Rabat. In the medieval period the entrance to the city consisted of three gates separated by courtyards. However, in the 17th century the city has been completely rebuilt and the gates were demolished to make space for Palazzo Vilhena. That’s when the medieval fortifications have been reconstructed and a new Baroque gate built a few meters away from the original one: Mdina gate.

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 What is there to do in Mdina? As soon as you step inside the city gate, take a few steps and you will be welcomed by a beautiful square with St Paul’s cathedral guarding it. The legend says that the cathedral was built on the same spot where the Roman governor Publius met Paul the Apostle, after his shipwreck in Malta. However, the cathedral we see today has been rebuilt in the 17th century following an earthquake which destroyed the old one. The new one was reconstructed in a Baroque style as well, with only a few original elements incorporated from the old cathedral (the ones that survived the earthquake, like the door for example). The floor of the cathedral is covered in marble tombstones commemorating bishops and members of the noble families of Mdina who are buried inside.

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In order to experience the beauty of Mdina you have to visit it in the afternoon, early evening. During the day the horde of tourists will spoil its beauty and silent atmosphere. I arrived there at around 4:30PM and got the chance to explore an empty town, quiet, with almost no sight of other people around. The narrow streets between the tall buildings are like a labyrinth from where you’ll never know which corner of the city you’ll end up to.  Will it be a square? Will it be a gate? Will it be a wall?

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We ended up in an empty little square with a well in the middle. If you are a fan of the Game of Thrones you will recognise Mesquita Square easily as the location of Littlefinger’s brothel in front of which Ned Stark and Jaime Lannister fought. Did you know that the first season of the popular TV series was filmed in Malta?

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If you get hungry while visiting Mdina, you have to know that there are just a few places to eat inside the city. I would recommend you to stop even for a coffee at Fontanella Garden which has an amazing location, right on the city walls. You can almost see the entire east side of the island from there and, despite the prime position, the prices are actually very decent. They have a great selection of cakes and light bites which come in huge portions. I ordered the ftira, a traditional Maltese tuna ciabatta, and ended up not being able to finish it or have any dinner that evening.

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As the sun went down and the street gas lamps turned on, we went for a stroll in the gardens underneath the city walls. You have to note that these gardens do close at night, make sure that you check the schedule for when the gate shuts to avoid getting locked in.

We said good night to Mdina and left it to sleep, while we went to explore a little bit the streets of Rabat as well. Out first stop was at Domus Romana, the ruins of a 1st century Roman house. Unfortunately the museum was closed but we did take a peak through the fence and tried to imagine how it must have looked like.

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Rabat is as beautiful as Mdina, with the same narrow streets and beautiful buildings but without the silence. In fact, the name of the city, Rabat, comes from Arabic and it used to mean “a suburb” of Mdina. In the past, before Mdina was rebuilt in the 17th century, the two cities used to be only one. Today, Rabat is mostly known for the catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha, underground cemeteries where the Romans used the bury their dead.

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In Rabat you can also find the most famous place to buy pastizzi, the local snack of Malta. Crystal Palace is just a whole in the wall, across the street from Domus Roamna, where the best pastizzi on the entire island are made. Don’t miss it!

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Have you ever visited a silent city before?

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.

143 Comments

  1. I am a massive fan of Game of Thrones are you? I am super stoked that you got to visit the silent city, as someone who is a little bit of a history geek this is a massive bonus for me. Plus Malta is stunning xx

  2. Mdina is such a lovely place. I like quiet and peaceful places where I can relax and just enjoy my vacation. It would be nice to stay here and unwind.

  3. A silent city with only 300 inhabitants and a limited number of cars daily seems so good to me! Can’t believe I have not heard of Mdina before. Most people only know about Valletta I think 🙂 Very interesting article!

  4. OMG! Malta looks so exquisite! It has such a beautiful old world charm to it! Reminds me much of Edinburgh, but this place looks so much less-crowded than Edinburgh! Whoa! GoT was shot here! I didn’t know that!

  5. Mdina looks really beautiful! Malta is on my bucket list and I hope to visit it one day. Being tired of the big city noise, it actually sounds really tempting to be able to move to The Silent City permanently, if that was possible 😉

  6. There are so many places worth the visit and this Mdina is no exception. Love the way you captured the beauty of each structure, even the cute cat. My first impression was the place is so clean, making ita people disciplined and caring of their environment.

  7. You’ve captured the unique beauty, day and night of Mdina and am feeling envious 🙂 Such an adorable guest kitty you have.

  8. I didn’t know Game f Thrones was shot there too! I guess Mdina wasn’t so silent in the days the crew was there hehe.
    Anyway, I’ve never been to a silent city, unless I can consider silent every city before 6/7 a.m. (or a Spanish city before 9 😀 )

  9. I am a huge fan of GOT and I had read somewhere that parts of it had been shot in Malta. It is nice how you were able to find travel companions through a facebook group. May I ask which one? Mdina looks so gorgeous through all your pictures.

  10. This is such a picturesque little city! Kind of reminds me of Tuscany and Croatia at the same time.
    I must admit that I’m not familiar with Malta (until recently I thought it was one of the Canari islands haha) but now that I’ve seen a bit more of it, I would love to visit! And throughout my travels I’ve seen a lot of locations where GOT has film and I always get so excited about it!! Haha can’t wait for the new season!

  11. I think the only silent city we’ve ever visited is the Silent City at Bryce Canyon National Park in the US, which isn’t a city at all. It looks very peaceful, especially in the evening without all the other tourists. Just in the last year we’ve heard so many good things about Malta. Looks like you enjoyed it!

  12. Woah. I’ve never heard of Mdina before, but it certainly is lovely! I like how you definitely get that old-timey feel with the sandy color of the buildings and roads. How long would you say it takes to see the city?

  13. I haven’t visited this city yet. However, I recognize that square as you said it. And, I totally didn’t know that the season was filmed there! I just wish I could see the beauty of that silent city personally. Surely, your photos are breathtaking. 🙂

  14. I’ve always wanted to go to Malta, but I haven’t done much looking into it yet, so I’ve never heard of Mdina. It looks so perfect for me. Quiet and picturesque (in the afternoon and evening, at least). What a beautiful post about a beautiful little city.

  15. This is fabulous! I’ll be in Malta in April. I’m looking for places to stay and things to do for a week. This town looks like an amazing to place to visit.

  16. I don’t know how many times my boyfriend talked to me about Malta. Despite the Italian sound of his surname, it’s actually Maltese, so he has ancestors from there. Now it’s a place I can tell him, and even plan to visit when we’ll go there. Or just make it a surprise. I’ve never visited a silent city and I’m really curious to do so. Mdina might be our first one.

  17. The RED door looks so beautiful. Sorry couldn’t resist writing that. It looks like a lovely city to explore. Just 300 people in city, I think everbody would know each other by name. Hope you had a great time here.

  18. I remember this town! I’ve been to Malta for a coiple of times and when I was there for the first time we drove around the island and visited Mdina as well. Your wonderful pics brought back some manynice memeries.

  19. Gorgeous photos of a place I had not heard of until now! What a neat experience to be able to walk through a quiet place preserved in time! Would you recommend spending a whole day wandering (I know you said to arrive later in the afternoon, but just curious if it might be worth it to battle the crowds to see the museum or something and stay later than the rest for the quiet walking experience?)

  20. Wow .. what beautiful photos .. it sounds like such a fun place to visit. I loved the picture of the church and (of course) the kitty cat. Thanks so much for sharing!

  21. What a lovely escape especially if you live at such a crowded and busy city! I think it’s beautiful and breathtaking too. It would be nice to go here to unwind and just explore the whole city by taking your sweet time.

  22. I have a fascination for all things old. hahaha I find historical or old places lovely and amusing. I like that pinkish door! I would probably visit these churches, too, if I go to Malta.

  23. Malta looks gorgeous and this city is no different. I love historical and cultural destinations, and I think Malta has plenty of those. Your photos are brilliant especially of those doors and tight alleyways!

  24. Mdina looks fascinating. It is not a place one reads about often so I had no idea that it was so beautiful and historic. I didn’t know that any part of Game Of Thrones was filmed there either. I’d been to the Old City of Dubrovnik which is also a filming location though.

  25. I haven’t heard of The Silent City before.. I love history and I am sure The Silent City is full of it! I love the architecture. I also have this thing where I love visiting churches and St. Paul’s Cathedral looks stunning. By the way your pictures are amazing.

  26. I was reading your post and was telling to myself “some of the landscapes look like the ones in Game of Thrones”! And then you mentioned it haha (I was proud I recognized!)
    It must be a very beautiful city I really want to go there. By the way thank you for posting about it, because I did not know it!

  27. Knowing the best time to visit a place is extremely important. I hate when troves of tourists spoil the atmosphere. That is probably why I tend to visit places that aren’t so crowded. I’m glad you got the quiet experience. I’m sure it was entirely worth waiting till mid-day for.

  28. Wow Mdina looks so beautiful, I love how you describe it as a labrynth of streets where you never know what will be around the corner. And for a city to be so peaceful and ‘silent’, is such a rarity. I’d never considered it as a destination I would visit but youve really made me think twice!

  29. Every time I am reading about Malta, I am ready to cry. We spent 3 months in Sicily last summer and were just a short boat ride away from Malta. We wanted to visit it but every weekend something else was keeping us away from going there. Alás, been half a world away now, I can only regret how much I missed. Mdina in your photos reminded me of Sicilian Siracuse.

  30. I haven’t been to any silent city. But Mdina appeared as if it came out from a history book. I felt as-if I was re-visiting history. Quite interesting to know about Mdina and Rabat. The photographs are fascinating enough.

    1. You can always book a flight to another European country. Flights inside Europe are usually very cheap and there are a lot of low cost companies that go to Malta 🙂

  31. Only 300 people live there? I can imagine after all of the tourists go home, it would be so peaceful and quiet. I love the photos you took of it, and would love to learn more about Mdina.

  32. Never heard of Mdina before but it seems like the place to escape from the maddening crowd. You captured in your photos the serenity of this quaint town. I would like to visit in the future!

  33. Look at that Baroque architecture! Mdina is definitely a place to be. It would be a plus if you’re a GOT fan, too (which I am not, for now… but my friends would love this). I am just completely amazed at the architecture, to be honest. Every time I see travel posts, I always focus on that particular part of their stories. <3

  34. I have never heard of the Silent City before. I love that they have limited the amount of cars going in and out. I am not a big fan of big cities due to the noise, pollution and the big chains but I believe I would love this little place.
    Thanks for putting it on my radar.

  35. Thank you for such an amazing post. Some years ago I have visited Malta for 3 days but I have missed the opportunity to explore this amazing city Mdina mainly because I didn’t do my homework before the trip. I guess, I need to come back to Malta one day and fix it.

  36. Mdina looks really interesting and your photos really make it even more so. I would love to explore it the way you have…with a walk along those old walls and stories that reside within. Rabat too, seems amazing. To some extent, the whole description and pictures remind me of the various sites in Rome

  37. I went to Mdina a few years ago and it was my favourite place in Malta. It’s like stepping back in time as it’s so quiet! Although I had no idea that was where that scene from GoT was filmed, I just assumed it was Dubrovnik! I missed going to Rabat – it will have to wait for next time!

  38. Your photos captured the beauty of the city perfectly. Reading your journey feels like I’m there exploring Mdina. I’ve never been in Malta, but it looks as great country to explore..

  39. Mdina is so beautiful! That street passage is so neat and clean, I like takings photos of streets paved with stones!
    BS, xx

  40. Hi Joanna, isn’t Rabat the same city as capital of Morocco? I hadn’t known the history of Malta till now when you wrote this post. All I knew was that this city was at the centre of the various agreements and pacts between the Axis and the Allied powers during the Second World War. And I had , again, absolutely no clue about this city’s association with St. Paul, the apostle. This is what blogging does to other people’s lives, it enriches them. Thank you.

  41. I love the photos you included in this blog post. I’m especially attracted to the red door and the blue window. I’d love to have a red door when I have my own house as well in the future. My husband mentioned that he really liked Malta when he visited it so maybe one day he will bring us there too. Thanks for sharing your gem of a city!

  42. 1 and a half hours to cover a distance of 8 km sounds really crazy. But after seeing all those wonderful pictures of the Malta, I m convinced the place is worth the trouble. The fact that the GOT was filmed here makes the place even more interesting. I would love to walk through those narrow alleys some day. The look so intriguing.

  43. I never heard about the city but yes am a GOT fan and remember that square from season 1. I love the colourful doors and it looks like a beautiful city to visit. Have bookmarked your page 🙂

  44. I haven’t been to Malta, but Mdina looks like an amazing place to visit! The architecture looks so beautiful and I’d love to walk on those silent streets! Great photos!

  45. I can’t believe how small Mdina is in population – only 300 people! It looks like such a mystical city full of history and secrets. Great tips about there not being too many food options there – might be something people would want to prepare in advance for. Fun fact too about Season 1 of GoT being filmed in Malta – I didn’t know that 🙂

  46. I am truly grateful to come across this post. I love discovering and checking out new things. Silent city seems a very interesting and incredible place. I totally love your stunning photos!

    More power to you!

  47. I have to say that I don’t know much about Malta but it looks intriguing. I can see why Mdina is called “The Silent City”, you seem to have the place all to yourself. Rabat also looks beautiful & the Cathedral is absolutely stunning, would love to see photos of that in the day too. Damn, it’s another one for the bucket list!

  48. Mdina looks absolutely stunning. I love all the stonework and the tiny alleyways and the whole place has a very peaceful vibe about it. But the most amazing things is your photography – the shots that you captured are so beautiful. Did you have lessons? Or learn from somewhere? I wish my shots were half as good as yours!

  49. Looks like a nice place to explore & relax, although that’s not what I usually do on vacation. That’s why it’s fun to get a quick glimpse when folks like you share photos. Thanks

  50. I love ancient towns like this one! What a beautiful place – and what a nice surprise with the Game of Throne place, I had no idea it’s the filming spot! 🙂 Great post, thank you!

  51. I’ve never seen game of thrones, but I’m a fan of anything that has old architecture. I think it would be awesome to be able to go here! There are so many lovely structures. It feels like going back in time.

  52. I am hearing about Mdina for the first time, but this looks beautiful and sounds like something my husband would love to visit as he loves such silent atmosphere. The pictures are amazing & so inviting that I would love to visit anytime!

  53. Huge GOT fan especially as some if filmed in my home city. Your visit looks amazing and your pictures are breathtakingly beautiful. I would love to go here and relive it myself x

  54. I have always wanted to go to Malta and this post has made me want to go even more. I just love all the little cobbled streets.

  55. That’s excellent you were able to meet up with people through facebook. It’s always better to get some insight from a local if you can. Mdina is awesome. It looks like so much fun to walk around those narrow streets and see such old buildings.

  56. Wow what an absolutely stunning place! I would love to visit Malta, and I have a massive interest in History and ancient times so would love to go to the Roman House too. Thank you for sharing your adventures x

  57. It’s really a very ancient and beautiful city. Those cobbled and crooked streets give me a feeling that anytime, you will see a horse galloping across a corner. It’s indeed a gem of a place to visit

  58. It’s many years since we were last in Malta – amused to read that the traffic is still chaotic but Mdina is still peaceful. Malta’s high on our list of possible last minute breaks this year, so this was a useful post, thank you.

  59. I didn’t know GoT was shot there …. not that I am big fan but it would be nice to show off & tell others that I’d been there. I visited Dubrovnik last year & GoT was shot there as well and people were so envious ;). And did you say population of just 300 people? Man, that must be the least populated city/town in the world! It looks really pretty..

  60. I have never actually visited the silent city before. I had no idea it was called that either. The architecture here is just beautiful. I read another article the other day about Malta, so I hope to go soon!

  61. I absolutely love Game of Thrones and to think I could visit Mesquita Square where it was filmed would be delightful. I have never been to Malta but it sounds lovely thanks for sharing X

  62. It’s absolutely gorgeous! I’ve always wanted to visit Malta as I feel like it’s such a charming and beautiful place. So great as well that you were able to connect with someone to go around with, the beauty of traveling solo is that you get to meet people everywhere. 🙂

    P.S. I didn’t realize that traffic could be that bad in a tiny place like Malta. :p

  63. I went to Malta a long time a go, I can barely remember it! I have been looking at flight cost for there and it’s not too bad so hopefully I’ll be able to go back soon, especially to see this place 😀

  64. I’ve never really thought about travelling to Malta, and as such know very little about it. Your post makes it look beautiful (that red door!) and I think I might have to consider visiting next time I am in that part of the world.

  65. We visited Mdina a few years ago, and will never forget the trip. You described our experience almost perfectly! For such a small, compact city, there is so much to see and take in. It sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  66. Wow, this place looks amazing (BTW I love your photography style!)
    This is a really informational post, too! I love these kinds of places that are steeped in history and I LOVE LOVE LOVE when bloggers give tips about when to visit, because places like this are often teeming with people and it’s sometimes nice to know when to go to have a quieter time.

  67. Looks amazing, i love medieval old town looking areas of cities. This must be becoming a popular destination as i have read a few posts lately on malta. Game of Thrones is everywhere last month we were in Iceland, and Dubrovnik big GOT areas and in Decemeber they were filming at Italaica just out of Seville when we were there

  68. It looks beautiful! I love exploring old towns – they’re always full of wonders and feel so precious. Although I’m sure Game of Thrones will make more and more people visit the region over the next few years. Lucky for you you got there before the inevitable crowds!

  69. That is great organization, meeting another traveler and a local. I need you to organize my trips! I had no idea the traffic was so bad in Malta, I thought it would be a peaceful quiet place. Malta is on my bucket list and I must now organize Daniela to show me around the silent city in Mdina too!

  70. This is a true Mediterranean beauty. Not sure if I’d heard of it before but it surely reminds me of something, probably of a different incarnaton! Yes, it transports one to classical antiquity and time stops to move.

  71. My sister in law and brother in law are going to Malta next week. They’re staying in a town close to Mdina, so they will visit Mdina. They will definitely check out the Game of Thrones locations and I will share your post with them! I’ve never visited Mdina myself, but it’s on my list. I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones. The Mdina gate is impressive!I didn’t know the city had been rebuilt in the 17th century. Rabat looks very beautiful as well.

  72. The silence of Mdina wafts through your post. The place is indeed intriguing and the buildings are silent sentinels who probably have some interesting stories to tell. I would love to visit this place as it has a mystical aura around it.

  73. I go there every time I visit relatives in Malta… so I’ve probably been at least 15 times. My tip would be to get the chocolate cake from Fontanella Tea Garden. My cousin’s taken me there a few times to enjoy our love of all things chocolate. It’s delicious!

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