If I had to pick one highlight of Malta, it would definitely be the beautifully mesmerising and historical Mdina.
The old capital of Malta, Mdina is rich in history and full of character, with winding alleyways leading you between squares and churches until you reach a viewpoint, where you can get your bearings and dip straight back in to the golden streets.
The “Silent City” is enchanting, in ways that nowhere else in Malta quite captivated us.
Before we started our love affair with Mdina though, I had somewhere else firmly on the itinerary – and it ended up being a huge surprise.
Mosta is about half way between where we were staying in Bugibba and Mdina, meaning it made for the perfect pit stop on the way.
Mosta is famous for what has become known as the miracle church. Malta was actually the most heavily bombed country in the world in World War II with a whopping 3,343 air raids throughout the war, and the church in Mosta almost became one of the casualties, along with most of the town’s residents when, in 1942, a bomb was dropped through the ceiling of the dome during mass.
Miraculously, the bomb never went off.
Today, a replica of the bomb is inside, and my main reason for visiting was to see it.
Quite often, when I go somewhere for one specific reason, I end up being wowed by the whole place. Even on this trip, look at the cathedral in Valletta – I went inside to check out some ridiculous skeleton murals, and found one of the most staggering cathedrals I’ve ever been into!
The Mosta Rotunda was no exception – the second we stepped inside, I was taken aback by it.
And the ceiling is STUNNING!
Apparently at one point, this was the third largest church dome in the world. It’s a real beauty!
And you can still see where the bomb came through, as they haven’t painted over it. I’m guessing they’ve done that as a symbolic reminder?
There’s a whole museum inside too, with the famous artefact itself:
From there, we hopped on the next bus to our next stop of the day: Mdina.
Useful tip: buses in Malta cost 1.50€ and the ticket lasts for two hours. That means we were able to get one bus to Mosta, check out the church and get another bus to Mdina an hour later, all on a single 1.50€ ticket!
Mdina turned out to be the highlight of the whole trip. I knew that from the moment we set foot inside the historic city gate.
Within minutes, we had stumbled across St Paul’s Cathedral, plonked in the middle of the city with all alleyways leading to it one way or another. It certainly wouldn’t be the last time we saw it that day.
Even though the cathedral is the star attraction here, the whole square is straddled with ornate and beautiful buildings.
From there, it was slow meanders and steady wanders through a seemingly endless maze of picturesque streets.
And naturally, like everywhere else in Malta, I found doors. Lots and lots of pretty doors.
Like doors? Then boy, do I have the post for you!
Doors & Balconies Of Valletta, Malta’s Enchanting Capital
We decided to head up one side of Mdina to the viewpoint, grab some lunch, and then walk down the other side, heading along to any bits in between that caught our eye.
Mdina is so small that it’s easy to explore even in an hour or two – even less if you’re in a hurry, but to me, Mdina is to be enjoyed slowly. After all, the silent city is not for running around like a maniac.
From the viewpoint, you can see over the city walls and across to virtually the whole of eastern Malta! If you look really hard, you can even see the cathedral dome towering over Valletta! And you can definitely see the Mosta Rotunda.
The view across Malta made me realise just how much of the east coast is built up – it seems like Valletta (on the right) melts straight through Sliema and St Julians all the way into Mosta (left of centre). Mdina is only a fifteen minute bus ride away from Mosta, so it’s not like that’s a vast expanse of fields in between.
Turning back into the city, we decided it was time for lunch.
I’d made a list of potential places to stop, including Coogi’s. It turns out there are two Coogi’s – one down that alleyway in the centre of the above photo, and one if you turn right from the square, where we hadn’t been yet. One has almost 1,500 reviews on Google; the other has 38. Guess which one we went to?
Nevertheless, it was a great choice! The one we went to is set in the courtyard of a historic palace, which I found really interesting. It’s also more of a pizzeria with some extras like burgers, whereas the other one seems a little more upmarket Italian.
I think either of these places is probably a winner – but one bonus of the other one is that it has a terrace view just along from that viewpoint above.
However, despite being in the one with less than 40 reviews, it was here that we witnessed one of the most ridiculous Instagram moments of our lives!
Two girls walked in, seemingly unaware (or most likely just didn’t care) that they were wandering into a restaurant, among real-life diners. One of them was filming the other walking in. Then they stopped next to us, in the middle of the restaurant, decided the video wasn’t good enough, REDID IT, and then left!!!
…anyway, if you see a video on Instagram of a girl wandering into a restaurant in Mdina, please watch out for me ungraciously stuffing pizza into my mouth in the background.
Faces suitably stuffed on video, we headed back out for a wander through the remaining streets, with me determined to see them alllllllllllllllll. (Not that that’s a difficult goal to achieve!)
Want to see where else we went in Malta? Check out my itinerary post: A Relaxing Five Days In Malta: Our Itinerary
Finally, we found ourselves in Mesquita Square, where I quickly became obsessed with a door.
(Also the building above may look familiar to fans of a certain show that keeps cropping up absolutely everywhere, especially our trip to Northern Ireland earlier this year – any guesses? Yup, Game Of Thrones, of course! This is Littlefinger’s brothel in season one!)
We settled in, soaking up the sun and taking in the beauty of the place with glasses of wine (4€ each). Occasionally, groups of tourists would wander through, but the ancient city was really living up to its nickname, because even when it fleetingly got busier, everything felt calm. It was like the city had its own unique atmosphere that no one could permeate.
I think that’s part of what I loved about it so much.
Despite Mdina being small enough to leave time, we decided not to explore the newer part of the city, Ir-Rabat. I’ve heard it’s worth checking out if you have time, but we were just enjoying the old city too much to venture anywhere else.
However, this was either a sign that we should stay longer in Mdina, or a sign that we should have checked out Ir-Rabat, because we headed out to wait for a bus back to Bugibba, and had to wait over an hour for one. (The one that eventually came should have been the third in the time we waited, and approximately 50 damn buses to Valletta came past in the meantime.)
I thought perhaps after our mishaps with the buses into Valletta the day before that this definitely meant public transport in Malta is awful, but a local lady had been waiting with her young daughter for the same amount of time and she complained to the driver.
It was an interesting ride home, too – the driving in Malta is absolutely crazy, and we had several near-misses. One car slammed its brakes on to avoid a parked car as something else was coming the other way, and we mounted a kerb to swerve out of the way.
The highlight, though, was being unable to get out of a junction because somebody had broken down there and was blocking the entire road. The driver got out, pushed the car off the road, got back in and carried on! What a driver.
So we might not have had a great impression of the public transport, but the drivers are pretty great!
Anyway, it didn’t detract from the great day out – but unless you’re staying around Valletta, it might not be best to rely on exact timings for public transport in Malta!
If you’re wondering where is worth visiting in Malta, definitely add Mdina (and Mosta!) to your itinerary stat.