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horse carriage in the streets of Mdina

Mdina, also known by its Italian-language titles Città Vecchia and Città Notabile, is a fortified city in the Northern Region of Malta. This city served as the island’s capital from ancient times until the medieval period.


History of Mdina

The city was founded as Maleth around the 8th century BC by Phoenician settlers. Later, the Romans renamed it Melite. Ancient Melite was larger than present-day Mdina. It was reduced to its present size during the Byzantine or Arab occupation of Malta. During the latter period, the city adopted its present name, which derives from the Arabic word medina. 

The city remained the capital of Malta throughout the Middle Ages. With the arrival of the Order of St. John in 1530, Birgu became the administrative centre of the island.  Because of this, Mdina experienced a period of decline over the following centuries. However, it did see a revival in the early 18th century, when it acquired several Baroque features. Despite this change, it still retained its medieval character.


Present-Day Mdina

Mdina remained the centre of the Maltese nobility and religious authorities. In fact, the property within continues to be passed down from family to family and from generation to generation. Since it never regained its pre-1530 importance, it became known by the popular nickname “Silent City” by both locals and tourists. Mdina is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it is now one of the main tourist attractions in Malta.