Not gonna lie, the main reason I wanted to visit Mdina in Malta was for the Game of Thrones filming locations. I’m often guilty of only wanting to visit places for their notoriety on screen, even when they’re an epic place in their own right. And as it turns out, there are plenty of things to do in Mdina beyond filming locations!
Mdina is seen as Malta’s second city after it’s capital, Valletta, which is everything Mdina isn’t. While Valletta is filled with cool bars, modern architecture and has a more ‘lively’ atmosphere (ie. a fair few more people), fortified Mdina isn’t called ‘the silent city’ for nothing. The high city walls that surround the medieval-esque city of Mdina literally drown out the outside noise. And while a few people still live in Mdina, most only visit via the city gate for Sunday mass at St Paul’s Co-Cathedral.
Mdina, and by extension Rabat which is just outside the city walls, are usually the second place in Malta that visitors, erm, visit after Valletta. Definitely plan one day in Valletta but Mdina and Rabat deserve one whole day of your trip, too. Here are all the top things to do in Mdina (including what to eat and how to get to Mdina) if you only have one day!
Things to do in Mdina, Malta
Public Transport: Travelling by Bus from Valletta to Mdina
I’m a huge fan of Malta’s amazing public transport system. Because it’s such a small country, the bus services are run by one company so you don’t have the disconnect between cities and towns like in the UK. And I just love it when all single journeys cost the exact same no matter where you’re going, it makes travelling abroad so much easier! All single bus journeys in Malta cost €2 paid to the driver during the day (at time of writing).
If you’re travelling from Valletta, Mdina is very easy to reach. Head to the Valletta/Blata L-Bajda bus interchange where there are several bus stops in one location. Find the stop for bus numbers 51, 52 and 53 as these all travel to Mdina. Buses depart every 10 minutes so you don’t need to plan too far in advance. And even better, unlike UK buses, the buses in Malta have screens that announce every stop so you know when to alight! The journey should take around 30-minutes and you should alight at Telgha.
Accommodation in Mdina and Rabat
Though you’re probably staying in one of the neighbourhoods outside Valletta and are making a day trip to Mdina, there are some fantastic options for accommodation in Mdina or Rabat if you want to stay nearby.
There are plenty of fantastic Airbnbs in Mdina or just outside in Rabat for under £50 per night for the whole apartment. Though you might be stuck for supermarkets in Mdina (the city is super, super, super small if I haven’t made that clear), at least you’ll get a cracking view of all the limestone streets with rainbow-coloured doors when you wake up in the morning. And first dibs of the instagrammable photo ops!
Booking.com has some fantastic hotels in Rabat and check out the hostels in Malta if you’re a budget traveller. I always book my hostels through Hostelworld, which is usually my prefered type of accommodation when I’m travelling solo. They don’t have any hostels near Mdina but loads near Valletta in Sliema and St Julians.
6 Things to see and do in Mdina and Rabat
1. Mdina City Gate
One of the first things to do in Mdina is before you even enter the city! It’s no exaggeration that Mdina looks like some kind of fairytale/old-timey walled village with an actual bridge over a moat (a dry one, though). Mdina’s city gate is beautiful and I’m sure you’ll want to take some photographs outside before you head in. Mdina is on the tentative list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and that doesn’t surprise me at all. I am surprised it’s not one already!
2. St Paul’s Co-Cathedral
The main reason why Mdina is so popular with visitors isn’t just that it’s a beautiful place to spend one day in Malta, but because it used to be Malta’s capital city until 1530. The main cathedral at that time would have been St Paul’s Cathedral built in the 12th century. The grand church has had a few mishaps in its time and was rebuilt in the Baroque style in the late 17th century, which is how we see it today. St Paul’s Cathedral currently shares Catholic church responsibilities with St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.
I visited Mdina on a Sunday when it is closed all day for mass, but definitely try to go inside the church for a nosey if you can. Opening hours are 9:30-16:15 Monday to Saturday. It’s fascinating how religious the Maltese seem to be and when they go to mass they really dress up. You think the Spanish and Italians are devout Catholics but they ain’t got nothin’ on the Maltese.
If you particularly love visiting churches in European countries, you might also want to also visit St Agatha’s Chapel. For such a small city, there are a fair few churches! I counted at least six but I don’t know how many are still active.
3. The Elusive Blue Door
Once upon a time, you couldn’t search #bluedoor on Instagram without being bombarded with snaps of this exact blue door over and over again. Literally, just google ‘Mdina blue door’ and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a huge and heavy, rustic-style front door painted a cool blue adorned with a thriving vine of purple flowers. Instafodder if I ever saw it.
If you too want to get dem likes on Instagram, I’m not judging! It’s now even been listed on Google Maps under ‘Blue Mdina Door’ so you’ll easily be able to find it. It’s right in the west, top corner of Mdina near Fior di Latte.
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This is the famous blue door in Mdina which we walked half an hour to find. It’s down a small alleyway, a short walk away from the towns best gelato shop. It’s got the biggest flower arch I’ve seen in ages which was beautiful and covered in bright pink flowers. I couldn’t walk past without grabbing a photo 🎥 – – – #mdina #mdinamalta #mdinaglass #mdinathesilentcity #jet2holidays #jet2malta #malta #maltaphotography #visitmalta #visitgozo #valletta #vallettamalta #asseenonme #reallifeandstyle #happyselves #shinyhappybloggers #theuncoolclub #thegirlganguk #lbloggersuk #thecaptionclub #chattycaptioncommunity #curateyourownfeed #tarastraveltribe #averagesizegirl #averagegirlsize #midsizestyle #slowsundayclub #mdinabluedoor #maltaphotographer
4. Mdina City Walls Viewpoint
While you’re over at the Blue Door (and probably queueing for the privilege), check out the utterly phenomenal panoramic viewpoint from the top of Mdina city walls over the rest of the whole damn country. That’s what is so amazing about visiting tiny countries like Malta, you can see from one coastline to the next. Definitely one of the best things to do in Mdina.
5. Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Mdina and Rabat
Okay, I’d be remiss if I didn’t properly acknowledge that quite a few tourists visit Mdina nowadays for the Game of Thrones filming locations. The film crew shot King’s Landing and Dothraki scenes from season one in Malta before production moved to Dubrovnik, Croatia for the rest of the show’s run. Rumour has it that the crew weren’t very respectful to the Maltese landscapes and if that the case, I don’t blame them for telling Game of Thrones where to go.
Naturally, I have a whole other blog post on the Game of Thrones filming locations in Malta so if you want to know which scenes were shot in Mdina, check it out!
6. Walk around Mdina’s city streets
One of the best things to do in Mdina is to put your phone/Google Maps away and just walk around. Like the rest of the country, Mdina was built purely with limestone which gives the whole city a gorgeous sandy tone and along with the brightly coloured doors and religious shrines that are often found outside Maltese homes. And it’s a teeny, tiny city surrounded by huge walls! You’re not exactly going to get lost.
If you have children, you might also like to visit The Mdina Experience exhibition. But I wouldn’t bother if you’re travelling solo or as a couple, it’s literally just a one-hour movie about Mdina’s history.
5 Places to eat & drink in Mdina and Rabat
1. Fontanella Tea Garden in Mdina
There aren’t many restaurants in Mdina and personally, I would take the short walk to Rabat for lunch for better, cheaper options. But if you want to eat in Mdina then try the Fontanella Tea Garden. The restaurant is situated next to the city’s viewpoint do you have a cracking view over the rest of the country. Their menu includes homemade cakes, mezze platters and simple toasted sandwiches.
2. Fior di Latte in Mdina
I never say no to good ice cream. Yes, I even visited Malta in January and I still fancied a couple of scoops. All in the name of research, right? If you too are a sucker for good ice cream then Fior di Latte (also next to the city viewpoint) is ideal to sample a cheap sweet treat and check out the sweet view at the same time.
3. Ta’ Doni in Rabat
I initially went to Ta’ Doni in Rabat for lunch before I noticed all the tables were full. It’s quite a small artisanal café/restaurant so you may have the same problem as me. Ta’ Doni is the perfect place to eat lunch in Rabat if you love fresh bread and quality, deli-style ingredients.
4. Toffee & Co. in Rabat
Where I did end up heading for lunch in Rabat is Toffee & Co. and I’m so pleased I did! They served these delicious traditional Maltese flatbreads with different toppings and sauces and it was bloody beautiful. Like a cross between a pizza and a sandwich. It’s a family-friendly restaurant and they also serve great coffee and homemade desserts.
5. Crystal Palace in Rabat
Finally, Crystal Palace is widely known as the best place in Malta to taste a traditional Maltese flaky pastry called Pastizzi. They’re usually filled with either pea paste or ricotta cheese and probably the closest thing Malta has to street food. And since the Crystal Palace bakery is so close to Mdina city gate you can pop by to grab some pastries to start your one day in Mdina the right way!
And those are all the things to do in Mdina and Rabat in Malta if you only have one day! Are you planning a trip to Malta? Let me know in the comments below!