Mdina, the former capital of Malta is a true pearl at the heart of the country. This Silent City immediately fascinates everyone who just steps inside the city walls of this ancient townlet. But what is Mdina actually like? What is the secret it attracts you back over and over again? It certainly boasts the charm which is a feature of all medieval towns. Awaits you with remarkable archeological and historical sites to feed your cultural appetite and offers numerous lovely places to have a taste of the delicious Maltese food. But still, this town has something else in its atmosphere that is hard to describe.
If I were to characterize Mdina using only one single word, I would say mysterious…
Shades and shadows
How many faces can you witness of this tiny, fortified city? How many of its colors can you take with you when leaving? Mdina looks more like a film set than a real town. The touching atmosphere evoking the vibe of the Arab world. The sleepy, winding streets gives you the feeling of getting stuck in a time wrap ever since. Endearing limestone houses with decorative doorknobs and typical Maltese balconies line the narrow, always shady streets where tons of secret stories and memories stay hidden forever beyond the doors.
Wandering through the quaint town you can experience how it changes its faces during the day. In the morning the houses throw sharp shadows on the narrow streets offering some shelter in the summer heat. For siesta time it turns into a magic place with the dead streets, closed shutters and the echoing sound of the cathedral bells. When the afternoon breeze brings it back into life again. The shadows start getting longer and paler until finally merging into the gray twilight. And it’s definitely well worth a walk after dark. Have dinner in one of the lovely eateries lying tucked away in the alleys then walk around the dimly lit town under the pitch black Maltese sky. Only the eerie sound of your shoe heels clacking on the cobbled street is following your footsteps in the lukewarm Mediterranean night…
Secrets of the past
The old capital once formed one population with the adjacent Rabat. There are also beautiful churches, gardens and museums talking about the past. The Roman Villa hosts the ruins of a former townhouse and nothing makes you capture more the feeling of the old days – or even of passing – than a shocking visit in the catacombs. It looks interesting but yet, quite creepy walking through the zigzagged, underground corridors among tombs, cavities and various rooms.
Nevertheless, the true historic dream world is what you find beyond the ancient city walls. Entering the sublime main gate you immediately dive into Mdina’s historic atmosphere. The unbelievable silence of the town, the view of coaches carrying experience-hunter visitors through alleys and pretty, little squares, the eclectic mix of medieval and baroque architecture all create an authentic ambience and make the old times come alive. And certainly, impressive palaces and many other historical sites await you to uncover some of the secrets of Mdina’s past.
The Knights of Malta Experience could be a spectacular introduction before the real sightseeing. Then you will easily recognize the venues of the tragic and celebrated moments of Mdina’s history.
The St Paul’s Cathedral recalls both the catastrophy of the 16th century earthquake which destroyed the original church and the richness of the baroque era when it was beautifully rebuilt. The majestic exterior with twin bell towers hides an impressive, valuable interior. A visit in the neighboring Cathedral Museum also takes you way back to centuries with all the treasures saved from the earthquake. Bell room chapels, numismatic and wax collection and a lot more to see.
Vilhena Palace, an imposing French Baroque building enchants visitors with its sculptured entrance and lovely inner courtyard. It is home to the Museum of Natural History. Displays collections about Malta’s geology, flora and fauna including exotic animals or extinct species. A visit in Palazzo Falcon, a fine example of the Sicilian-Norman architecture allows you to discover its noble past. There is no one who would not get enthralled by the characteristic exterior of this former aristocratic mansion, the Moroccan-style courtyard with a picturesque fountain and the unique collection of antiques it hosts.
Style and creativity
If you are in search of something truly Maltese, do not go any further! There is a chick little shop hidden among the zigzagged streets filled with lots of colorful handmade glassware inviting you inside. This lovely store, a so called show room of the famous Mdina Glass Factory really has something for everyone. The range of the beautiful designs available to purchase includes decorative and functional items. Bowls, jars, vases, candle holders through kitchen accessories until unique souvenirs are on the shelves. Each and every piece is handmade, modern and stylish.
The factory itself is located in Ta’ Qali, only a short drive from Mdina. They warmly welcomes visitors for workshops where the crafts can be observed in process. The attraction offers a glimpse into the secrets of the different in-house glassmaking techniques such as glassblowing, lampwork, engraving and fusion of hand-cut pieces. However, watching the craftsmen working on the incandescent glass is definitely an incredible spectacle in itself and provides you with a memorable experience.
Apart from its enchanting atmosphere, the stunning panoramic views of the Maltese landscape also attract many visitors. And of course, the view deserves to be witnessed particularly around sunset. From the top of the high city walls the fairly flat countryside looks beautiful basking in the soft light of the setting sun while spotting various landmarks as the sun disappears behind them. Walking outside the walls make sure to look back to the darkening town and follow the sun setting behind the cathedral. The silhouettes of the Silent City with some famous sights outstanding from the black borderline under the orangly glistering sun look something truly mysterious.
What about an ultimate sunset scenery coupled with a cozy dinner or a coffe and cake at a lovely place? Fontanella Tea Gardens guarantees both. Staying on the terrace you can enjoy a tasty Maltese meal with delicious desserts. You get an impressive outlook over the coast and the countryside with Mosta in the distance. Enjoy all the colours that Mdina’s sunset presents.