Note: This travelogue is based on a trip I took to Malta in 1995, so the pictures and information are rather dated and may not accurately reflect the modern appearance. I welcome updates and corrections.
Malta is largely concentrated on its island coastlines -- the cities of Sliema and Valletta, and the island lagoons. Most of the interior of the three islands are rather barren and forgettable, with one very definite and emphatic exception. Located on the high ground of western Malta Island is the ancient walled city of Mdina. Mdina is over 3,000 years old and has been fashioned and re-fashioned by every civilization that has conquered Malta throughout history.
I regret that I have only one picture of Mdina (don't know why -- thought I had a lot more), which shows the main gate and its bridge that crossed a huge moat. The interior is solid rock -- little grass or vegetation -- with densely packed cobblestone streets carving out alleys among the tall non-descript buildings.
Mdina had a number of special attractions and museums. The most impressive (and frightening) museum was built into the old city dungeon. It depicted torture scenes from Malta's brutal past, such as when Muslims and Christians persecuted each other during Islam's expansion across North Africa (for reasons that require little imagination, I found those pictures inappropriate for inclusion in this website ... J ).
Highlights included finding this wonderful restaurant built into a former wine cellar. The food was excellent, the service wonderful, and the setting fantastic to look at. Also, a plaza called the Palazzo Constanza hosts a great museum that depicts medieval life on Malta during the 14th-17th centuries, when the islands were ruled by Europeans.
Of course, Mdina is now more than just the walled city. As one of Malta's grander attractions, the outer city is loaded with places to eat and shop. I recalled that in 1995, the prices were rather out of proportion with the rest of Malta, even for a tourist trap section. (Because the Maltese currency is roughly 3:1 against the US dollar, it is tempting to think that 40 Maltese cents isn't much. Be careful.)
Mdina is a must-do in Malta. It's a very different place.
Trip taken 1-3 September 1995 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin