Before Valletta was built, Mdina was the capital of Malta. Known as the Silent City, the striking 4,000-year-old town has a timeless, peaceful ambience and a collection of beautifully preserved buildings surrounded by grand stone fortifications. In addition to the historical attractions, there’s plenty to entertain art, culture and food-lovers among its cobbled streets. From touring sites like St Agatha’s Crypt and museums like Palazzo Falson, to shopping for local Mdina Glass and relaxing at Vinum Wine Bar, here are 10 of the best things to do in Mdina.
Admire St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral dominates Mdina’s skyline. A masterpiece of 17th century architecture, the Baroque church features grand Corinthian columns and a magnificent dome decorated in beautiful illustrations by celebrated artists such as Mattia Preti. Said to have been built on the holy spot where St Paul converted Maltese Saint Publius to Christianity, this important cathedral is worth making time for.
Discover Mdina’s Citadel
The city’s immaculately preserved fortifications (or Citadel) date back to medieval times and make for fascinating exploration, especially for those interested in history. Start at the Baroque-style Main Gate, built in 1724, and cross the bridge to admire the statues of lions holding the Vilhena coat of arms. Next, climb up the bastions surrounding the fortified city to enjoy impressive views out over the surrounding countryside.
Deep underground below the city are the fascinating St Agatha’s Catacombs. One of the best sites in Mdina for history and archaeology enthusiasts, the network of tombs sheds light on the lives, and deaths, of early Christian people in Malta. Visitors are welcome to explore an ancient section of the catacombs where Byzantine frescos cover the walls, and browse a small museum displaying Roman artefacts.
A museum of fine art and antiquities housed in a 13th century palace, Palazzo Falson is a must-see. The medieval building, the second oldest in Mdina, contains an impressive collection of art and silver, a giant library housing valuable manuscripts, an extensive armoury, and rooms containing original décor such as Oriental rugs and antiques. Art-lovers should look out for 17th century paintings by the liked of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Nicolas Poussin and Mattia Preti.