Rabat is a town located just outside the walls of Mdina. The word rabat is of Arabic origin and means suburb since it was once a fraction of Mdina. Despite being rather small in size, Rabat is rich in history: Christian tradition has it that Rabat was the place of St. Paul’s stay in Malta, founding the first Christian community on the island. The religious importance of the place is underlined by the cave and the catacombs of San Paolo, one of the oldest places of Christianity, as well as numerous monasteries and convents scattered around the territory.
Rabat is also home to the Domus Romana, Casa Bernard and Wignacourt Museum.
What to see in Rabat
Mdina and Rabat should be considered as a single visit, between both places the ideal would be to enter at least one of the buildings or historical sites.
With the access door of Mdina behind and continuing towards the center of Rabat, these are in sequence the attractions that you can meet along the way:
- Roman Domus : although Malta has been colonized by both the Romans and the Arabs, not much remains of their passage over the archipelago. In fact, the Roman Domus is a real museum dedicated to both the Roman and Arab periods. To find it continue along the moat of Mdina, you will see a neoclassical building with columns. More information in our article dedicated to the Domus .
- Casa Bernard : the result of the passionate work of a retired teacher couple, it is actually a Maltese noble residence, completely restored and open to the public for guided tours. The collection of vintage objects in it rivals that of some Maltese museums. Casa Bernard is open every day from 10:00 to 16:00, from Monday to Saturday. The House is located at number 46 of Saint Paul’s Street: coming from Mdina, it is the long street that you will take to reach the church of San Paolo, from which it is about a hundred meters away. To enter the house you must ring the bell. More information is available on the official website .
- Wignacourt Museum : located to the right of the main church of Rabat, obviously dedicated to Saint Paul, the museum contains a varied collection of paintings, antiques and air raid shelters from the Second World War. The Museum is housed in an ancient Maltese palace, originally built by the Knights of Malta. The Museum is located in the building to the right of the church of San Paolo, on the road leading to the catacombs. Admission costs € 5 for adults, half for children. The Museum opens daily from 9:30 am until 5:00 pm. More information is available on the official website of the Museum .
- Caves and Catacombs of St. Paul : traditionally it is the place where St. Paul, shipwrecked in Malta, stayed, so it is a place of great value for Catholicism. The complex of catacombs is larger, and includes about twenty catacombs and a visitor center. For schedules and detailed information read our article on the Catacombs of St. Paul .
If it’s not too hot, you can walk from the front door of Mdina to the center of Rabat in about 10 minutes, taking into account that the total distance is about half a kilometer. We organize half-day guided tours in Rabat and Mdina.
Where to eat in Rabat
In both Mdina and Rabat there are several bars or restaurants located in historic buildings, often with stunning views over the entire surrounding area. We would like to recommend one of these places, but we never go there, because we know that the landscape in Malta is paid, but we can tell you where to spend little:
A must-see in Rabat is the Is-Serkin bar, also known as Crystal Palace , one of the most famous Maltese pastries : you can’t leave Malta without having tried a pastizzo, the typical Maltese snack, and this is one of the best places to try it. The place is always full and crowded, difficult to sit in one of the few tables available, but there is no need to sit down to try a pastizzo, and at the counter you are served quickly. The Crystal Palace is located in Triq San Pawl, in the large square that separates Mdina from Rabat: as a reference point follow the signs for the Roman Domus, Triq San Pawl is the street that leads to the central square of Rabat, it is easy to recognize the local because there is always a certain movement, in any case, it is very well known by the local inhabitants, you ask without problems.
Ta ‘Doni is located a short distance from the Crystal Palace, it is the small bar with the blue shutters that you find continuing along Triq San Pawl, on the right coming from the square where the Crystal Palace is located. The fire, or the sandwiches, are large, with the one you settle the lunch spending little, and above all tasty: to try the one with goat cheese, dried tomatoes and capers, very Maltese and very good.