Mdina is known as "The Silent City" of Malta, located in the northern region of Malta. Mdina used to be Malta's capital city from the antiquity period until the medieval period. It is the fortified city surrounded by the city wall of only 0.90 square kilometres area, being one of Europe's finest examples of an ancient walled city. Inside the city is full of an extraordinary mix of medieval and baroque architecture and has been on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if it is on the tentative list of UNESCO, Mdina nowadays has attracted numerous tourists and is one of the main attractions in Malta.
The Mdina Gate outstanding from the city wall, opens its arms to welcome the tourists inside. Mdina has in total 3 city gates with the one appearing in the image above as the main gate. The gate was built in 1724 in baroque style to serve as the main entrance of the city lies at the end of the short arched stone bridge. It was designed by Charles Francois de Mondion for the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Manoel de Vilhena. The main purpose is to let every single man entering the gate see the coat-of-arms of Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, representing his outstanding success during the war.
The Mdina Gate is beautiful indeed, but it might be even more pleasant to see from the perspective of Game of Thrones' fans. The Mdina Gate is one of the Game of Thrones' filming locations in Malta; the King's Landing Gate scene was shot here.
The first place you will see after entering the Mdina Gate is the National Museum of Natural History situated in the 18th-century palace, Palazzo Vilhena, in Parisian-Baroque style. In 1973, it was officially inaugurated as the National Museum of Natural History with several collections of natural history materials. The museum displayed various topics such as Maltese Geology and Palaeontology, exotic mammals, marine fauna, insects, shells and birds, and other topics like human evolution. The museum is open every day from 09:00 until 17:00 and the tickets are only 2.50€ to 5€.
Roaming around inbetween the city walls is one of the best things you can do in Mdina. You can walk through the narrow streets, come across the squares, churches, restaurants, cafes, and houses. Within this tiny walled city, there are about 300 residents that live here, most of them are the noble families and the descendants of the Norman, Sicilian, and Spanish overlords who started settling in Mdina from the 12th century onwards.
Even if you get lost in Mdina, you will still discover beautiful winding streets. Even with numbers of tourists inside the city, it still looks peaceful and pleasant. Every entrance to the narrow street leads you to another one. Along the narrow streets, you will see the colourful door whether it is red, green, or blue with the iconic doorknob. When you walk, you eventually arrive at the end of the city wall, you will find Bastion Square with the panoramic view of the evergreen landscape and clear baby blue skies.
If you wander around, you will come across the open square with the green door, Pjazza Mesquita. This may look familiar again to the Game of Thrones' fans since this location has been used to shot the scene of Littlefinger's brothel in King's Landing. Inside this square, there is one restaurant called "Don Mesquita" with the outstanding red door where you can relax in the peaceful afternoon with a cup of coffee or a meal before continuing to discover the Silent City.
St. Paul's Cathedral, or The Metropolitan Cathedral of Malta, was built on the remains of the Norman cathedral that was built in the medieval times but has been destroyed from the earthquake in 1693 which, too, destroyed most of the city of Mdina. Lorenzo Gafà was the Maltese architect who planned and reconstructed the cathedral until it was completed in 1703. This cathedral is the Mother Church of all Churches within the Maltese Archdiocese and is dedicated to the Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle who founded the church in Malta following his shipwreck on his way to Rome in the year 60AD.
When you step inside the cathedral, you will see the altar right in front of you. Although this cathedral may not look fancy, it is full of history and stories behind each painting. The altarpiece behind the altar is one of the masterpieces of Mattia Preti, one of the major artists who redecorated St. John's Co-Cathedral which situated in Valletta, the current capital city. The painting representing the Conversion of St. Paul on his way to Damascus.
The cathedral's ceiling is covered with frescoes paintings depicting the life of St. Paul. The one which is worth noting is the painting above the altarpiece which is the depiction of St. Paul's shipwreck in the middle of the raging storm and the God's intervention which led St. Paul to Malta. It was painted by Mattia Preti and was completed before the big earthquake occurred in 1693.
Although Mdina is a small city, it is full of restaurants, cafes, and wine bars for you to relax and unwind inside this peaceful atmosphere. There is also a hotel where you can stay here for a night for a great experience in the city full of history. Besides, there are about 7 museums and 3 cultural attractions which are The Mdina Experience, The Knights of Malta, and Malta Fun Trains where you can learn more about Mdina and Malta in a more entertaining way. If you wish to buy the souvenirs, Mdina is one of the great places to buy souvenirs especially the Mdina glass.
Words and Photographs by Aphinya Kasemsukphaisan
Transportation: Bus line 50, 51, 52, 53, 56, 109, 181, 182, 186, 201, 202, and N50; Mdina Station