Mdina is fascinating in many ways. It’s an ancient town on a top of a hill, overlooking large parts of Malta. The architecture is stunningly preserved in its medieval outfit and the walk through the streets feels like a stroll back in time. Traveling to Malta on a family trip was a beautiful experience in its entirety and Mdina was no exception to that. That’s why it is among the must-see destinations in every brochure or blog you’ll find if you start planning a trip to this wonderful island, alone or with your family.
The history of Mdina traces back more than 4000 years. It served as the island’s capital from antiquity to the medieval period. Mdina was founded as Maleth in around the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians. The city was later renamed Melite by the Romans who took over the island from Carthage in the 3rd century BC. but It remained the capital of Malta all the way to and throughout the Middle Ages. Melite was much larger than present-day Mdina but was reduced to its present size during Arab occupation of Malta. It was the Arabs who gave the name Mdina, which is a variation of the Arabic word “medina,” and stands for “a walled city, with many narrow and maze-like streets,” which is exactly what Mdina looks like.
The arrival of the Order of St. John in 1530 brought a crucial change in Mdina’s position as the islands political, cultural, and trade center. Immediately after the establishment of the new rulers, Birgu became the administrative center of Malta and its glory declined over the centuries. Still, Mdina remained the home of the Maltese nobility and religious authorities, and property continues to largely be passed down from families and from generation to generation. These noble families are descendants of the Norman, Sicilian and Spanish overlords who made Mdina their residence from the 12th century onward. That’s why Its medieval nickname was ‘Citta’ Notabile’, meaning “the noble city.” Mdina never regained its pre-1530 importance, living on as a quiet refuge for the aristocracy. That gave rise to its present popular nickname “the Silent City” by both locals and visitors.
Mdina is fascinating to visit for its timeless atmosphere as well as its cultural and religious treasures. Sitting on top of a hill overlooking large parts of Malta, It’s filled with centuries-old buildings that have been well maintained throughout the ages. The city is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it is one of the main tourist attractions in Malta. Mdina is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city and extraordinary in its mix of medieval and baroque architecture. A myriad of streets and alleys paved with stone slabs, surrounded by a blend of architectural styles introduced over the centuries all together make Mdina an impressive place to visit and to admire. Our kids don’t know much about history but they sure enjoyed the calmness of this labyrinth of narrow streets and high walls.
Today, Mdina is still confined within its ancient walls and has a population of just under 300, but it is contiguous with the town of Rabat, which takes its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population of over 11,000. According to tradition, it was in Rabat that the Apostle St. Paul settled after being shipwrecked on the Islands in 60 A.D. Furthermore it is said that St. Paul resided inside the grotto know as Fuori le Mura (outside the city walls) now known as St. Paul’s Grotto in Rabat.
The view from the Mdina city walls is magnificent. You can see a big portion of the Malta island from up there. Mommy took some amazing photos and the children enjoyed the stunning panorama,
The city also attracts another type of tourists – the adventurous Game of Thrones fans. Much of season one of the iconic television series was filmed in Malta. King’s Landing was set in Mdina and many familiar scenes were shot in the city. The fight between Eddard Stark and Jamie Lannister was filmed at the Mesquita Square in Mdina. If you are a GOT fan, be sure to spend a couple of hours finding and enjoying the spots where these famous scenes were shot.
You can get to Mdina by public transport. Take a bus from the central station in Valetta, which leaves you just outside the gates of Mdina. Be sure to visit the Silent City when you go to Malta, it is absolutely a unique experience. We also shot some footage and edited it in a 6+ minutes video. Combined with these wonderful photos that Mommy took with her Canon 5D, you can at least peak inside Mdina’s ancient beauty.
Until next time, Love Y’all!