Mdina…Where is everyone? Oh! Thanks Rabat ūüôā

The silence was almost uncanny. As we walked through the silent streets of Mdina, it seemed as if most of its residents had been abducted by aliens or all 11,000 of them had collectively gone off on holiday at the same time leaving the city deserted¬†for us solitary tourists. Mdina (pronounced im-dee-na), is a historic, strategically elevated city located about 20 minutes drive from Valetta, Malta’s capital. It¬†is also known as ‘The Silent City’. As we walked through its deserted streets, it was easy to see why. While a few cars are allowed in, the city is mostly walled off from the bustle of it’s twin city Rabat which starts literally outside the walls of Mdina.
 
 

We had arrived in Mdina mid Thursday afternoon and after settling into our lodgings, (another amazing find through Holiday Lettings,¬†located just outside the main entrance to the walled city), we decided to take a quick peek inside the citadel.¬†We approached the city and decided instead to enter through the smaller, less grand entrance carved inside one of the walls. We walked towards the stately¬†St.¬†Paul’s¬†Cathedral, took a brief look around and saw just enough to whet our appetite. We estimated¬†that exploring Mdina would take at least two hours. As we wanted to do other things that day, we decided to save the full walk for Sunday, the last day of our trip.

 
City gates of Mdina, Malta

Sunday Morning

On Sunday morning, we entered through the main city gate which is a rather more impressive affair. As you approach it, close your eyes and you can almost imagine a column of ancient Maltese knights, coming home from battle, riding shoulder to shoulder across the bridge and through the arch of the city gate. Upon entry into Mdina, the distinct limestone architecture immediately catches your eye. High walls, arched building doorways, colorful window shutters and tiny traditional Maltese balconies are a consistent theme. Despite clear evidence of modern life, you get the feeling that not much has changed in the past 300 years.

 
 
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It was Sunday morning. Church bells rang through the city. A group of nuns, huddled together as if¬†shielding¬†themselves from the wind, walked briskly past us towards the call of a higher being. The only other sounds that could be heard were those of Eulanda’s camera clicking away and our feet hitting the ancient cobblestones, both echoing off the ageless¬†limestone walls on either side of us as we trekked through the curved streets. Local legend has it that the streets were built to be deliberately curved so that attacking archers could not shoot straight at their target. Malta is full of many interesting legends. The Silent City remained asleep…we didn’t want to wake it up. We loved it!

HDYTI tip: We found that the best times to take photos in the city were early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sunlight wasn’t so harsh¬†against¬†the limestone walls.

HDYTI tip: Be sure to visit the look-out post for great views of Rabat, Id-Dwejra and Mosta.

 
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The tombs of Rabat

Following our Thursday foray into Mdina, we retraced our steps and headed into Rabat. The difference between Mdina and Rabat is like night and day…one dead silent and the other, full of life.¬†We headed to St. Paul’s¬†Catacombs and inspected the intricate network of underground tombs which date back to Malta’s early history. They are famous hosting for doubling as air raid shelters from Nazi bombardment during the Second World War. The same complex houses St. Paul’s Grotto which is celebrated as the place where St. Paul preached and healed the sick while shipwrecked on the island; a story that features in¬†The Acts of the Apostles. There is also a small church and the adjoining Wignacourt Museum which houses an average display of Catholic¬†memorabilia¬†and paintings of knights.¬†HDYTI tip: Entry to these attractions is ticketed. However for 5 Euros per adult, it is worth paying to see all of them.

 
 
WWII Bomb Shelters, MaltaSt. Paul's Grotto, MaltaWignacourt Museum, Malta
 

There are many decent restaurants within Mdina and around Rabat. Our favorite was a place called Peristyle, a family run place which appeared to be popular with the locals. What it lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in the quality of food served…at very affordable prices (a meal for two cost us just 34 Euros including drinks). Check out our TripAdvisor review here. Overall, we found Malta to be a very inexpensive place to holiday. Cheap flights and just 2.5 hours from London makes this an appealing holiday destination for couples, families and solo adventurers. If you’re planning a trip to Malta, make sure to check out our “Top 5 Things to Bring!

 

 
Mdina, Malta
 
HYDTI tip: We initially considered renting a car while on this trip. We are glad we changed our minds. Mdina and Rabat are walking cities which are best explored on foot. The downside to this however is the narrowness of the streets, many of which lack proper sidewalks thereby forcing frequent looks over your shoulder and a quick sidestep to avoid passing cars. There was no traffic at all during our visit though so it wasn’t too unnerving.
Toe Rating: 4/5