In the center of Malta lays the fortified city of Mdina. Until the medieval age, this was the capital of Malta and today it is one of the country’s major tourist attractions. The city has less than 300 inhabitants but is located just next to the much larger town of Rabat. Rabat has gotten its name from the Arabic word for “suburb”.
For us, the trip to Mdina was a great excursion from Gzira, only a short bus ride away. Although any short bus ride on Malta feels like an eternity.
Taking the Bus to Rabat
There are plenty of buses and bus routes on Malta. There will usually be a bus at least once per hour, probably even more frequent.
Except for the big bus stop in Valetta, there doesn’t seem to be any place around the capital where several routes interconnect. Instead, there are bus routes on every other street. So, it is just to find a good stop, check that there is a bus in the correct direction and wait for it. The timetable is usually a mystery, so don’t be surprised if the bus arrives when least expected. You can buy the tickets on the bus.
We decided to take a walk to Msida and take the bus from there. For being such a small country, Malta surely has a lot of towns. Msida is one of them. That resulted in a bus ride of a bit less than 30 minutes to Rabat.
Entering Mdina is an impressive experience. Crossing the massive moat and walking through the gates almost yanks you back to the medieval ages. Inside you will find a maze of small narrow streets. If you don’t plan to visit one of the tourist traps – restaurants and shops, then there are mainly three things you would probably do and we actually did. First is to walk along the narrow streets, letting Little A explore on foot as well and just enjoy the feeling. Second is to enjoy the view once you reach the top of the walls. It is possible to see most of northern Malta and the challenge is to name the towns along the coast. The third is to actually notice the buildings. This happened to us first on the way out. And yes, you should probably also enjoy an ice-cream as well.
OK, let’s be honest here. We did a bit of shopping. Or more precisely, we patiently waited outside the shops while Susann’s mother shopped away. Mdina has quite a few shops selling traditional Maltese glassware and jewelry.
A Walk Through Rabat
I visited Mdina and Rabat a few years back and have fond memories of Mdina – not so much about Rabat. But I must admit that Rabat was as well really cozy for strolling around. There are quite a few restaurants and cafés.
After our exploration of Mdina, we had a few more hours before our agreed meeting with Susann’s cousin (who lives on Malta). She was going to pick us up in the evening to go and have a Maltese dinner.
In Rabat, we stopped at a cozy café for some coffee and snacks. We took a chance to taste a local Maltese bread, ftira. It’s ring-shaped loaf that comes with different fillings: ours had tuna and olives. Unfortunately, the catacombs of St Paul had closed once we reached the central square. Maybe next time. The biggest difference between Mdina and the center of Rabat is that the streets are a little bit wider and that there are more cars.
Dinner in Mosta
Eventually, it was time to meet up with Susann’s cousin and we were soon on our way to the town of Mosta. After parking the car we walked by the impressive Mosta Rotunda before reaching the restaurant. Maltese cuisine is really a melting pot with dishes from so many countries, but snails and rabbits seem to be reoccurring.
The island of Malta is quite small. Which makes it possible to start with breakfast on one side, lunch at another and then dinner somewhere else. Visiting Mosta for once felt like we had entered a part of Malta not crowded with tourists or foreign workers. Just like Susann’s cousin, there are thousands of Swedes and Finns working on the island.