Capital city during the time of the Knights, the history of the M'dina is as old as civilization on Malta.
Originally built as a fortified settlement in the Bronze Age, the Phoenicians added a wall and called the settlement Malet, which means "shelter." During six centuries of Roman rule, the city grew to four times the size it is today and its name was changed to Melita. In 870 AD, the Saracens took over and erected walls and bastions and changed the name to M’dina, which roughly translated means ‘city surrounded by walls’.
Also referred to as the Silent City, places of interest include Xara Palace, 17th century structure once a lord's residence, it has been converted into a Relais & Chateau Inn. Its rooftop restaurant offers panoramic views of surrounding countryside and period furniture in its 17 rooms. This is where Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston stayed while much of the movie Troy was filmed in the valley below M'dina's walls.
The Three Cities
The Three Cities offer an intriguing insight into Malta and its history. The narrow alleys, baroque palaces and churches, imposing fortifications and the Cottonera waterfront make this part of the island worth a visit. They are a slice of authentic life and offer a glimpse into Malta’s maritime fortunes.
Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua (also known referred to as Birgu, Isla and Bormla) are built on two peninsulas that spread into the Grand Harbour.
Their harbour inlets have been in use since Phoenician times: the docks always providing a living for local people, but also leaving them vulnerable when Malta’s rulers were at war.
One can visit St Angelo in Vittoriosa, which dates back to the arrival of the Knights in 1530, the Inquisitor’s Palace and display areas in the tribunal room and the prison complex.
St John’s Cathedral
One of the most imp-ressive struct-ures in the city, the cathedral was built between 1573 and 1577 by the Knights of Malta.
Its austere exterior offers no hint of the lavishly decorated interior. Every surface is painted, gilded or hung with artistic treasures. Marble tombstones line the floors, well-preserved frescoes that pay homage to the different patrons cover the walls, and its side chapels dedicated to different languages or groups of Knights are richly decorated. Two Caravaggio paintings executed when the artist lived here in 1607 and 1608, St Jerome and The Beheading of St John, are the main attractions.
The Malta Experience
An ideal first stop on the island, the Malta Experience is an audio visual spectacular that brings the country’s rich 7000 - year history to life. The most salient historical events, starting from the mysteries of Neolithic temples to the arrival of the Romans and the Arabs and the rule of the valiant Knights of St John are revealed in a 45 -minute astounding presentation that is educational, informative and entertaining. The attraction is located with-in the historical sur-roundings of Valleta and what was once the hospital of the Knights of St John.
The whitewashed stone-vaulted cellar of this converted early-20th-century confectionery buzzes with the capital's business elite, who come for the mezes (mize in Maltese), pasta with rabbit sauce (fenkata), and other Mediterranean specialties. Lacking printed menus or blackboards, the restaurant serves traditional and modern Maltese and Mediterranean cuisine from a choice that changes daily. The restaurant is also renowned for its Maltese stews and cassata, a ricotta-based dessert.