Mdina & Rabat

Mdina is a must-see location on any trip to Malta. This medieval fortified city sits inland on the island’s highest point offering great views all around. It was at one time the country’s capital city and essentially it has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. No one knows for sure when the huge walls were built, but it’s believed to be around 1048 after which Mdina became a thriving Muslim town. Access is through a number of city gates, but the main gate (pictured above) is the one you should not miss.

Once inside the city walls, the best way to explore is simply to walk the city’s streets. We’d actually recommend taking a walking tour to get the most out of your visit. With 1.5 million tourists a year, those streets are often busy and you will have to navigate around the horses and carriages that carry visitors around too. The only cars inside the walls belong to residents, so there are very few. We felt they should ban them altogether though. There are several notable buildings to see. St Paul’s Cathedral sits in the biggest square in the city and is the tallest structure in Mdina. The interior is sumptuous but we actually preferred the nearby Church of The Annunciation Of Our Lady which has an even more striking skylight (pictured below) and is free to enter.

The oldest building in Malta is in Mdina. It’s a palace called Palazzo Santa Sofia which has the date 1233 inscribed on the windows but it’s not open to the public so you can only enjoy the outside. Another notable home is Casa Gourjion – a baroque addition to Mdina in the main square, which is operated as a museum. Mdina is known as the ‘silent city’ and it feels peaceful when you walk around the streets even if they are busy. The stone pathways around the city are twisty, reputedly to stop archers from having a long range if the city walls were ever breached.

Mdina served as Malta’s capital until 1530 when the Knights of the Order of St John or ‘Hospitallers’, were handed the rule of the country and initially set up governance in Birgu instead. When you visit, you can see why this location was seen as perfect from a defence perspective. You can see Mdina when you are travelling all over Malta because of how high up it is. On the northern edge of the city are walls that you can actually climb on to and the view is simply stunning.

Mdina was used as a filming location for HBO’s Game Of Thrones, doubling as Kings Landing in the first series. The main gate was used, as was Mesquita Square (pictured below). The building with the green door is actually Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish’s brothel and was seen in several scenes. The square was also used as a location for the blacksmith workshop where King Robert Baratheon’s son Gendry was employed. If you’re a fan of the show, check out our guide to other places used in the series here:
Malta Game Of Thrones Filming Locations

Mdina is a very small city with a population of 250 within the city walls. As such, the town of Rabat built up outside the main gate. Rabat is worth visiting too and there are attractive buildings, boutique shops and trendy cafes here. Buildings of note include Casa Bernard – a 16th century palace and St Dominic’s Priory on the outskirts of Rabat (pictured below). The central courtyard and church building are beautiful. This was another location used in Game of Thrones and you can see why. Rabat also has some impressive catacombs under St Paul’s which are open to the public and operated by Heritage Malta.

To get the most out of your visit to Mdina and Rabat, we’d recommend taking a walking tour. This one gets great reviews from other visitors: Mdina & Rabat Walking Tour with Catacombs


Mdina is only 8 miles from Valletta, but it will take you almost an hour on a bus. From the bus station, take bus number 50, 51, 52 ,53 or 56.  The map below shows Mdina. Rabat sits outside the ancient city’s walls.


Mdina – Wikipedia
Rabat – Wikipedia
St Paul’s Cathedral, Mdina – Official website
St Paul’s Catacombs – Heritage Malta
Casa Bernard – Official website
Hotels in Valletta –
More Things To Do In Valletta – GetYourGuide