Mdina, known as the noble city, was the original capital of Malta before the arrival of the Knights of St John in the middle ages. It was originally a Phoenician town but spent periods under Roman, Arabic and Norman occupation. The elegant walled city, with its suburb, Rabat, can trace its origins back more than 4,000 years, although today all that remains is the medieval town, which has been largely restored.
Mdina is situated on a rocky outcrop about nine miles (15km) west of Valletta. At the heart of Mdina is its landmark Baroque Cathedral of St Paul. Mdina has a conservative atmosphere, in keeping with its noble past. While the Knights reigned over Malta the city became the home of the Maltese nobility, who lived there under autonomous rule, not being deemed worthy to be invited to join the Order of St John. The descendants of some of these families live here still. Mdina and Rabat not only offer some fascinating and valuable sightseeing opportunities, but the old city is particularly inviting at night when it is lamplit and visitors can enjoy the ambience of restaurants tucked away in its bastions and palace courtyards. Motor vehicles are off-limits inside the city walls, and pedestrians have free reign to walk the streets and take in a glimpse of life in the middle ages.