Wanderlusty

Instawalk: Mdina, Malta’s Medina-like City

remember when i remarked a couple days ago how Malta is a big confluence of cultures? a perfect example of that is the walled medieval city of Mdina, located to the west of the center of the island. Mdina reminded me of the medinas of cities in Morocco with its narrow, winding alleyways all surrounded by a wall.

but, that was a long time ago and Malta passed through several hands before and since then so while the origins of today’s city may be heavily influenced by Islamic rulers from the late first millennium, there was a Roman settlement before that and supposedly the apostle Paul lived there for a while, and today the buildings we see are definitely not Moorish or Roman!

Panorama from the north end of Mdina, at the Fontanella Tea Gardens cafe, although a similar view can be had for free just a bit further up the street at Bastion Square (Pjazza tas-Sur).

Mdina indeed retains the medina layout but is filled with Norman and Baroque architecture, and the central square lies in front of a very catholic St. Paul’s Cathedral. certainly not very Islamic at all, but if it looks familiar, it’s because it was used as the location of King’s Landing in the first season of Game of Thrones. yes, it’s that kind of place.

sidebar: getting there buses run very frequently from the main bus terminal in front of the Valletta gates, currently from Bay 9. just take a bus (i took 53 out and 51 back) all the way out to the end of the line. my bus stopped at Rabat 3 (one of a number of stations clustered at the north end of Rabat) before continuing on to the final stop in front of Mdina’s main gate because the driver wanted a cigarette break(?), so i just got out and walked. easy-peasy. if you’re visiting in high season, get there early before the throngs invade and it’ll be even more atmospheric. the bus ride should take a little over 30 minutes.

so many people were looking at their maps, but it’s so small you can’t get lost, especially if you just follow the main street through the center of the town. look up and enjoy! but definitely don’t just stick to Triq Villegaignon; explore the side streets too. it’s hard to describe the feeling, but it’s quite magical, especially when you have the alleyways all to yourself. if no one is around you can for sure feel like a Lannister at King’s Landing (except no one is out to stab you in the back!). i’d love to come back and spend the night on a future trip. there are no cars allowed (unless emergencies, or for construction, etc.) so it can be quite tranquil (unlike a Moroccan medina!) and my impression from today is that it only gets better at night.

Walking towards Mdina’s main gate, with the moat and wall on the left.

A typical narrow street

Under a bridge downtown is where I saw the cathedral.

Near the Carmelite church

An old car in front of an old building

Inside the museum of St. Paul’s cathedral. The five euro entry fee is worth it for some of the stuff upstairs and for entry to the cathedral itself. (The downstairs of the museum is kind of a snoozer.)

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Carmelite Church. Unfortunately, the rest of the priory is closed at the moment.

View of the cathedral from the cafe on the roof of Palazzo Falson. The museum here seems kind of pricey at 10 euros but IMHO was worth it to see how the upper crust from early last century lived, as well as some great historical artifacts. Excellent audioguide, too.

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