What to do in Mdina and Rabat in a day

Mdina, the old capital city of Malta, is one of the most beautiful and well preserved European medieval towns, selected as a setting for movies like Game of Thrones, Troy, and Gladiator. The structure and plan of the city streets are practically the same today as they were a thousand years ago. It was home then and still is up to this day to Malta’s noble families who made Mdina their home from the 12th century onwards. Impressive palaces line its narrow, shady streets. Mdina is now known as the ‘Silent City’ probably due to emptiness in Mdina after moving the capital to Valletta in the late 16th century. There are less than 250 inhabitants in Mdina these days. Right next to the walled city of Mdina, there is Rabat, a charming village full of houses with colourful doors and balconies and quaint streets. It grew around Mdina, built by those who couldn’t afford a palace inside the walls but wanted to be close by in the case of an attack. My ideal plan for the day in Mdina and Rabat would be like stated below, but in real life, you should adjust it according to the time when the guided walking tour is offered. So here you go! 52 mdina tour thesanetravel.com P1155673

Take a walking tour of Mdina and Rabat

11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I was lucky to have my walking tour with Christian Galea, who offered his services through the Airbnb platform. Christian has been a professional guide for more than 15 years, and it is a passion for him more than only a job. He loves showing his beautiful country to visitors. The tour highlights were Mdina Main Gate and Walls, the Main Street and side streets walk, St Paul’s Cathedral and Ramparts Viewpoint, Rabat old streets walk, visiting St Paul’s Grotto and Catacombs Area.50 mdina tour thesanetravel.com P115564251 mdina tour thesanetravel.com P115564455 mdina tour thesanetravel.com P115573253 mdina tour thesanetravel.com P1155718

Have lunch at Chalk cafe bar

1 p.m. to 1.45. p.m.

The Chalk cafe bar is a small cosy coffee shop situated in the heart of Rabat, Malta. It offers excellent coffee, delicious Maltese dish ftira, and homemade sweets. The cafe has a cool first floor and the cutest balcony for two. Their mouth watering goat’s cheese is from Gozo. I enjoyed ftira and tea in a lovely atmosphere, and the service was excellent.10 chalk cafe thesanetravel.com P114549113 chalk cafe thesanetravel.com P114550615 chalk cafe thesanetravel.com P1145502Address: 36 St Paul's Street, Rabat

Visit Casa Bernard

2. p.m. to 2.45 p.m.

Located in the city of Rabat next to Mdina, Casa Bernard is a 16th-century private family home and a delightful place to visit, with its beautiful architectural features combined with a rich and interesting history. The name of the house, “Casa Bernard”, was chosen by its owner, a French doctor named Dr. Salvatore Bernard, who was the personal physician to the Grand Master of Malta in the early 18th century. This Palazzo was recently restored by Georges and Josette Magri, both teachers by profession, who have made it their home and dedicated their retirement to recreating the interior of this wonderful townhouse. Thus, it is not a museum, but the building enjoys the warmth and dedication of a lived-in place. Explore the interior with a guided tour that takes you around the richness of this palace, completed with charming antique furniture, paintings, and objects of art. 41 casa bernard thesanetravel.com P114552743 casa bernard thesanetravel.com P114554244 casa bernard thesanetravel.com P1145561I was lucky to have a tour with the owner Mrs. Josette Magri.
Open daily except Sundays and public holidays, with tours on the hour-mark, from 10.00 to 16.00hrs, or by appointment.
Address: 43-46 St. Paul Street, Rabat

Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina

3 p.m.-3.30. p.m.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a dominant structure in Mdina. Designed by architect Lorenzo Gafa at the end of the 17th century, the cathedral is a fine building whose façade impresses visitors. The cathedral’s magnificent dome painted in a traditional deep red colour dominates the skyline. The construction works took just five years to complete. 80 cathedral mdina thesanetravel.com P115568981 cathedral mdina thesanetravel.com P115577382 cathedral mdina thesanetravel.com P1155774The baroque palaces surrounding it are the old seminary and the episcopal residence, with the former accommodating the Cathedral Museum. The cathedral is the metaphoric mother of all Maltese churches, and it is also the seat of the Maltese Archbishop.
Open for tourists: Monday to Saturday from 9.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. Sunday from 3.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Address: 2 Triq San Pawl, L-Imdina

Have the afternoon tea with a view

3.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.

Fontanella Tea Garden is just a few minutes’ walk from the St. Paul’s Cathedral, situated at the end of the wall. Fontanella Tea Garden offers traditional homemade cakes and food and breathtaking views from the bastions overlooking the beautiful island of Malta.29 tea mdina thesanetravel.com P115573130 tea in mdina thesanetravel.com 20211129 17235454 mdina tour thesanetravel.com P1155726Address: 1, Triq is-Sur, Mdina

Explore the streets of both cities

4.30. p.m. - 6 p.m.

When strolling around, pay attention to details of their building’s architecture. You will notice house names, Maltese balconies, low gates in front of the entrance doors, and door knockers, and “pregnant” windows.

House names 

Most houses or apartment blocks in Malta and Gozo come with their own name. The house names can have their origin in religious topics, history, nature, cities names, be celebrity inspired, inviting, or totally random.

77-house-names-thesanetravel.com-P1155604 76-house-names-thesanetravel.com-P1145487

Maltese balconies

The famous Maltese balconies are the most prominent characteristic of the houses on the island, having turned into a national symbol, though they are an evolution of the Arabic “mushrabiya”. The ancient mashrabiya merges cultural, visual and technical aspects. The window screen is often located towards the street to enable discretion and allow cool air to pass through the façade. The screen offers the chance to see the environment but also allows to stay unseen thanks to the outside light and darkness inside.98 balconies rabat thesanetravel.com P115558899 balconies rabat thesanetravel.com P1155769

Low gates

Not all visitors notice the small, metallic gates that adorn the entrances of many houses. Traditionally, Maltese houses would have gates to their front doors. The gates add character to the entrance, often matched by a decoration on top of the door. 72 doors and gates thesanetravel.com P115573671 doors and gates thesanetravel.com P1155697In the past, they were used to keep the goats out of the houses. In those days, a milkman with a herd of goats went from door-to-door, milked the goats on the spot and sold milk.

Door knockers

The traditional door knocker, found in many old houses, often is a bronze fish, sometimes looking like a dolphin. Most likely, this echoes Arab tradition: the hanging of a fish outside the house as a good-luck symbol. Door knockers can also have numerous other motifs, shapes and sizes. Other designs include animals, heads and the popular Maltese Cross. Together with other house features, a door knocker symbolised the status and wealth of the family living in the house. Aristocrats and upper class families had massive baroque style knockers installed on the doors of their imposing palazzos.

90-door-cnockers-thesanetravel.com-P1155594 i95-door-cnockers-thesanetravel.com-P1145494

92-door-cnockers-thesanetravel.com-P1155681 94-door-knockers-thesanetravel.com-P1145492

“Pregnant” windows

Wrought iron “pregnant” windows are also common in the old cities, like Mdina. In times past, invaders of the island would wait beneath the windows and, when locals would lean forward to look into the street, they would grab them and drag them off as slaves. “Pregnant” window bars gave the locals opportunity to check the streets safely without risk of being dragged out of their houses.60 pregnant windows thesanetravel.com P115570761 pregnant windows thesanetravel.com P1155733

Have dinner at Fork and Cork restaurant

From 6.30 p.m.
Fork and Cork was recognised as a Michelin plate restaurant in 2021. Behind the stone walls of a historic building sits this charming restaurant. The restaurant’s name originates from the two greatest passions of the owner-chef Carl Zahra: food and wine. Enjoy!19 fork and cork thesanetravel.com P114548321 fork and cork thesanetravel.com P115579224 fork and cork thesanetravel.com 20211129 192241Address: 20 Saqqajja Hill, Rabat, MDN 1400, Malta

Practical information

I gave my ideal plan for the day; still, you have to adjust it according to the time when the walking tour is provided. Also, check the days of the week when walking tours of Mdina and Rabat are taking place. At least in the winter months, they are not offered every day. Then make your plan accordingly. You can also visit Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum in Mdina, which I did not. It displays permanent collections which originally belonged to its last owner Gollcher, and occasionally other temporary exhibits from private collections.

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Disclaimer. I paid in full for all services and food described in this article.

What did you think? Have you visited Malta? I’d love to hear from you so please add your comment below.

  • Published by Anita on December 10, 2021

    Author: Anita Sāne

    Anita 03 18

    About the author
    Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, 
    travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterestTwitter and Bloglovin.


    I want to see all the colorful doors and windows. I imagine it would be like walking through a rainbow ?
    Mdina & Rabat sound like places I would love to visit. With so much history, wandering the streets would be a joy. Malta is now on my radar! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Malta has been high on my list for awhile so it was a pleasure to read your insight. Between that cozy cafe, the afternoon tea, and the charming architecture, I think I'd be in heaven here!
    Your images are great. Malta was our home before Spain and l have very fond memories. Mdina was one of my favorite places, and you can see why it was chosen for GOT. Thanks for this post. I second Fontanella :-).
    Wow, what a gorgeous place that I had never heard of! I have to admit that I have only visited Malta once & it was a work trip so limited time to explore but you have convinced me to go back. And Mdina & Rabat will definitely be on my itinerary.
    I could spend a day in these two cities. They look delightful to visit. I haven't been to Malta although it has been on my bucket list.
    I've never been to Malta before but it's high on my bucket list. I love the interesting door knockers! I've seen a lot of unusual door knockers on my travels across Europe but these ones are especially neat.
    I've never visited Malta before but it's high on my list. I love the door knocker photographs! Ive seen a lot of unusual ones in my travels across Europe but these are really fun.
    I’ve been to Mdina and Rabat a few times now and will never get tired of how beautiful these places are. My camera is out all day just shooting everything I can!
    The story behind the pregnant windows is interesting to know. That is something new I got to learn today.
    I had to do a double take on the names because in my mind the combination of Medina+Rabat = Morocco. I didn't realise they could also be Maltese places! I always find it really interesting what things in common architecture were solutions to real issues of the time. You can learn a lot of what life was like in past periods from the surviving solutions in culture and buildings.
    Malta has been on our travel wish list for a long time. And we figure we will visit and stay for awhile when we finally get there. I love the idea of doing a walking tour around Mdina and Rabat. Always great to get a guide that really is passionate about the place he is sharing. So many great spots to see on a wander around. Good point about checking which days the walking tours are offered.
    We were supposed to be in Malta in April of 2020, but you can guess what happened! So Malta remains on my list and I hope to get there in 2022. This post has wonderful information and I am saving it for future reference. Thanks!

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