Rabat Malta – The Suburb of the Old Capital Mdina
“Rabat” are you familiar with this word? it is derived from the Arabic word “Suburb”. Rabat Malta is one of the towns in the Northern Region of the country. The town is named Rabat since its town lying outside the citadel of Mdina.
It offers a bunch of museums and some point of tourists attractions. Rabat is also known for one of the few forested areas the country knows, at Buskett, the entrance to which can be found on the outskirts of the village.
Personally, when we arrived in Malta I’ve never expected to visit Rabat cause I don’t even know it that well. Mdina is a more popular town than Rabat. After our tour of the town of Mdina, we have decided to visit the outside part of it. Honestly, I didn’t even know that Medina and Rabat aren’t the same towns.
About Rabat Malta
I have read some facts about Rabat while roaming online. It says that Rabat Malta is more rural character and natural beauty. It has quaint buildings, streets and it is the home of the famous Catacombs of St. Paul and of St. Agatha.
Once you get out of the main entrance of the wall of Mdina you have to know that you are already stepping the street of Rabat.
Since Rabat is the suburb of Mdina, its population is way larger than Mdina. Garnering more than 11,000 people living in this town imagine the difference? 300 people vs 11,000? that’s way too far right?
Mdina and Rabat used to be a single town a long time ago. However, the Arabs dug a moat across the hill and fortified its tip and created Mdina. Nowadays, the parts of the street pattern in Rabat is remains of its walls from Roman times.
What to visit in Rabat Malta
As I’ve mentioned that Rabat is a plus size compare to Mdina, there are some interesting places that tourists should discover. On our list we have:
Howard Gardens – The biggest public gardens in Malta and can be found in the border between Rabat and neighboring Mdina.
Domus Romana (Roman Villa)
The mosaic pavements in the ‘Roman villa’ at Rabat rank among the finest and oldest mosaic compositions from the western Mediterranean, along those of Pompeii and Sicily.
The Wignacourt Museum
Formerly Grand Master Wignacourt’s palace and is now a dusty but charming old-style museum. It now houses a mediocre local art collection on the ground floor and a slightly random collection of historic furniture and paintings.
Museum of Casa Bernard
Catch a glimpse of how Maltese nobility lived in this well-kept and beautifully restored 16th Century Palazzo. Passed on through generations, descendants from its original owners actually still live there.
St Paul and St Agatha’s Catacombs
Displays a varied and interesting collection ranging from coins to Roman, Etruscan and Egyptian artifacts. Nowadays, these Catacombs are taken care of by Heritage Malta.
Santa Marija ta’ Gesu (Ta’ Giezu)
Santa Marija ta’ Gesu (Ta’ Giezu) or St. Mary of Jesus is one of the churches that you’ll stumble on the road while wandering in St. Paul’s Street.
The time of our visit there were these special decorations in the streets. I’m not sure what is it I’m I think it’s a kind of feast that the people of Rabat are celebrating.
Santa Maria ta’ Doni (Ta’ Duna)
The first church that you’ll bump into the streets of Triq San Pawl. I have researched the name of this church but there’s no information about it. Until I found a special site for churches in Malta. Finally, I have found it! its name is Santa Maria ta’ Doni (Ta’ Duna) or St. Mary’s church.
Apparently, there are in total of 591 worship places in Rabat Malta. These include churches, chapels, parish churches, sanctuaries, basilicas, cathedral and many more.
There’s only one Cathedral in Rabat, it is Santa Marija Assunta the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. Found in Pjazza Katidral, Victoria.
Main Parish Church of Rabat (St. Paul and Grotto)
Church of St Paul is a Roman Catholic parish church located in Rabat, Malta. Built above the grotto, dates from the 17th century. The statue of St Paul was donated by Grand Master Pinto.
The silver galley hanging from the ceiling was given by the Knights of St John to mark the 1,900-year anniversary of St Paul’s shipwreck. Pope John Paul prayed in the grotto during his visit in May 1990.
According to the history, the Sanctuary of St Publius was added on to the Church of St. Paul in 1617.
The Spaniard Publius came to Malta in about 1600 to become a knight, but upon visiting the grotto he decided to become a hermit instead. Lorenzo Gafa renovated the building in 1692 and his brother Melchiorre executed the marble statue of St Paul.
The Entrance to the grotto is through the church of St Publius. The grotto is the place where according to tradition St Paul lived and preached during his three months stay in Malta.
The grotto was visited by two Popes, Pope John Paul II in 1990 and 2001 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
Don’t be confused, St. Paul’s Grotto is not the same as the similarly named St. Paul’s Catacombs, which are a few miles away.
St. Paul’s Church and Grotto is listed on The National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands (NICPMI) is a heritage register listing the cultural property of Malta.
San Katald (St. Catald)
St. Catald church located few walks away from St. Paul and Grotto. It can be compared to St. Paul’s and St. Agatha’s Catacombs which also houses the catacombs.
Visiting the inside of the church St. Catald feels breathtaking. Seeing all those tombs felt really bizarre. I’ve recently read that catacombs are underground cemeteries dug in the globigerina limestone, consisting of long narrow corridors with tombs on each side and vaults.
Most of the tombs were used for the internment of two people. Sometimes a double tomb has a thin wall separating one from the other. At times they are put side by side, and not only two, but even three, four or five persons were buried in the same grave.
Reading this makes me feel sad-looking back how life is difficult hundreds of years before us.
There’s no entrance fee at St. Catald church to visit the catacombs. It’s only by donation after you have finished the tour, you are free to give how much you would like.
That moment when we visit this place there was a group of tourist inside listening to the tour guide explaining about the catacombs. It was truly an intriguing story to hear. I would love to hear more about it history especially Malta’s history in general.
Where to park in Mdina and Rabat
We ended our tour here and went to another place. A place where I will tell you on my next blog post. Before I go I’d like to share you the details and tips where to park your car whenever you are coming to Mdina and Rabat Malta with your car.
Note that parking spots are limited in the area. Therefore, you have to know where to park or else you’re ruined and stuck for long minutes or maybe hours of waiting.
Right outside the entrance to Mdina, next to a playground, public parking is available, although it’s rare to find a spot here on busier days. A parking attendant is usually present and their income is based on your generosity (although paying them for parking there is not required as such).
There’s a large paid parking area near the Roman Villa (museum in Rabat – more on that below) for starters.
You can also drive through a narrow tunnel into the moat of Mdina from that location, with more public parking spots. You’ll often find a parking attendant here as well.
Lastly, there’s a road in the same place that leads down to what used to be one of the few train stations around in Malta (and is currently in use as a restaurant). On busy days, that road is my best bet to find a parking spot.