Mdina is one of my favourite places in Malta. Back when we lived in Malta, we used to visit quite often, either for an evening stroll or an afternoon coffee and cake.
Before Valletta was built, Mdina was Malta’s capital city. It is a tiny walled medieval city and sits on one of the highest points in Malta. It is home to various remarkable palaces that line the narrow winding shady streets. I suggest you spend some time walking around the streets of Mdina to appreciate its architecture, atmosphere and silence. Pay particular attention to the balconies, different doors and door knobs. I can assure you that the charm of Mdina is something you will not forget easily!
Upon arrival, you will notice the impressive Mdina Gate, designed by the Order of St. John’s French architect de Mondion and built in the baroque style. As you enter, on the right side you will find the Vilhena Palace, today home to the National Museum of Natural History. The underground level of the same building houses the Mdina Dungeons.
A left turn takes you to Triq Villegaignon (the main street), which you should walk along until you reach the main square. At the end of the square stands St. Paul’s Cathedral, a stunning building both on the outside and inside, designed by architect Lorenzo Gafa in a baroque style. There is also an adjacent Cathedral Museum, which exhibits a vast collection of treasures recovered from the devastating earthquake of 1693. These include illustrated choir books, elaborate vestments, silver plates and a coin collection spanning over 2,000 years, including a complete set of Roman coins minted in Malta and Gozo.
Back to the Piazza, walk to your right and soon you will notice a small church on your left side, the Carmelite Church and its Priory Museum. This is the only priory in Malta to accept visitors while friars live there. The building has been recently renovated and you can be guided around the different areas of the priory and appreciate the beauty of this 17th century building. If you are interested in visiting make sure you pre-book your visit.
Walking further along, on the other side the same street you will find Palazzo Falson. It is a typical medieval palace, and was the former home to Captain Olof Frederick Gollcher OBE (1889-1962), the son of a prosperous shipping merchant of Swedish descent. Gollcher used to collect various object d’arts and antiques, which are beautifully displayed here. Among his collections, you can find paintings, silver, furniture, jewellery, oriental rugs and armoury.
Keep walking along Triq Villegaignon and you will end up on the bastions. The view from Mdina Bastions is breathtaking. On days with good visibility, the southern coast of Sicily can be seen from atop the bastions. You can enjoy this view while having a coffee or light lunch at the tearoom on top of the bastions.
Other places of interest to visit in the vicinity
The Domus Romana, also known as the Roman Villa, is situated just outside Mdina walls. It houses various remains from the Roman era, showcases intricate mosaics and gives us a glimpse of the life in a Roman domestic household.
In Rabat, you can find a complex of catacombs which are very interesting and worth a visit. These include St. Paul’s Catacombs and St. Agatha’s Catacombs. These catacombs are the largest late Roman underground cemetery in Malta.
Additionally, you can visit St. Paul’s Church, which was built above a grotto where it is said that St. Paul lived after being shipwrecked on Malta.
This is another post in the series of posts about visiting Malta, my home country. To check out my other posts, please click here.
Note: Cover photo – Mdina, The Silent City. Photo credit: Mark Fox (CC BY-NC 2.0)