There are scores of things to do and see on Malta but If you sat us down and pressed us for the top three day trips on Malta then we’d probably say – Valletta , Gozo and the island’s former capital city, Mdina . This beautiful and charming hill-top fortress is a must-see - and one of the best ways to get acquainted with it is to climb board the Sightseeing Train.
The train, which runs on the roads not on rails, trundles through Rabat, Mtarfa and skims the outskirts of historic Mdina – traffic is banned from the roads inside the walls apart from residents.
The tour provides many excellent views of Malta’s ‘Silent City’, so you’ll experience a beautiful blend of Baroque splendour, modern buildings and vast unspoilt areas of rolling fields.
The train departs from a terminus right in front of the Domus Romana, a museum constructed around a Roman Villa in Museum Esplanade. The departure point is within easy walking distance from the main Mdina city gate through Howard Gardens. As you stand at the gate facing into the city walk around the city walls to your left for about five minutes. It’s fairly well signposted along the way.
From the Villa Romana the train sets off and heads past the main gate to the charming little house with an amazing view, the Casino Notabile. It then plunges into the heart of Rabat close to St Paul's Cathedral. You pass St Paul's and St Agatha's catacombs before continuing on into the suburb of Ghar Barka for some pleasant country views.
Next on the route is Mtarfa, where you pass the former Royal Navy Hospital and the famous landmark Clock Tower. It’s here that the train reaches the highest point on the island so then the only way is down. But from this lofty position you can enjoy the sweeping panoramic views of Mdina on one side and the vast majority of Malta on the other!
Next it’s over a bridge close to the Old Railway Station – yes, there used to be real trains on this island – before the driver puts his foot to the floor and powers up the steep hill next to the city bastions. You pass through the Greek Gate Tunnel and snake your way back around to the starting point.
Along the way you get to hear an informative commentary covering the historical, cultural and architectural importance of the area, which is delivered in English, Maltese and other languages if required.
The entire route is about 8km long, but it’s completed at a fairly sedate pace, so you’ll be on board the train for around half an hour, which is not too long for little ones! Power for the train is provided by an environmentally friendly engine and is suitable for people with disabilities. There is also a space for a wheelchair user at the rear of the train.
Two car parks next to the train terminus provide ample parking for passengers. They each have room for about 100 cars and have designated spaces for the disabled. You’ll find a third car park next to the city’s main gate.
Mdina is well signposted on the roads but perhaps more importantly, being at the highest point of the island, it’s very easy to spot and find. There are also plenty of buses that run regularly to this popular location.
You can buy tickets for the Sightseeing Train directly from the driver and they cost €4.50 for adults, €3.50 for senior citizens, €3 for children aged four to 16 and €1.50 for under 4s. It departs on the hour between 10am and 5pm from June to September. In all other months it still runs but from 10am to 4pm.
Address: Domus Romana, Museum Esplanade, Rabat, Malta
Phone: +356 7921 2142
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