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Some places just ooze charm and class! It seems to drip from the buildings and cover the streets. They tend to be places where man, the species, has not gone blundering in, smashed things about and added lots of charmless concrete and steel boxes. They're ancient places that still appear ancient today. Places like Mdina!
The position of this city, which was for many years the capital of Malta, certainly helps. It’s lofty, in every sense of the word, because it sits on the summit of a large hill and is heavily fortified. But you never get the impression that Mdina is looking down its nose at you and trying to keep you out by hiding behind its hefty walls. No, Mdina is far too laid back and relaxed for that. The atmosphere is quiet but very welcoming.
Mdina is known as the Silent City, largely because only residents are allowed to drive cars through the city gates. As there aren’t that many residents in Mdina, there are next to no cars within the city walls. It’s all about narrow streets, fascinating architecture and is packed with history so it’s not surprising that it’s one of Malta’s most visited sites.
Prior to the Knights Of Malta arriving and taking charge of the island in the 16th century, this was the administrative capital of Malta. So, as you walk across the bridge over the moat through the main gate try and imagine those infamous knights in armour marching up and down, looking as if they owned the place – which they effectively did, instead of the baseball cap wearing sweaty tourists that abound today.
Before we move on, a quick word about the moat you cross to get into Mdina. It’s been largely left to its devices for decades but there are plans afoot to tart it up into a pleasant walkway lined with orange trees. It should be beautiful when it’s finished and by the time you read this it might well be done.
But back to the city where, if you walk to the far end – which is not far at all so don’t panic – you will be rewarded with the most magnificent view of the island imaginable from the city bastions. You will also be rewarded with the same view if you get yourself one of the outside tables at the famed Mdina institution called Fontanella. At this popular long-established cafe both the panorama and chocolate cake are legendary!
For the more cultural among us, there are plenty of attractions within the walls of Mdina - numerous museums and historical sites, as well as the city’s imposing cathedral. As the one-time number one city on Malta you can see that there was great wealth here from the buildings. It lost its capital status in the latter half of the 16th century when the Knights of St John built Valletta.
Mdina is easy to find and easy to get to by car or bus. Most sightseeing buses also call here too. Being the former capital it’s very well signposted and you’ll see it perched on its hilltop from miles away.
Parking can be difficult in peak tourist season but you’ll normally find a space if you hang around for a few minutes but you don’t get that issue if you come by bus. They run very regularly and you can get route numbers and times on the Arriva Malta website.
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