Mdina: exploring the silent city of King’s Landing…

 

 

On day three of our recent Valletta trip we decided to visit the ancient walled city Mdina (m-dee-na). It is Malta’s former capital and lies high on terraced fields, dominating the island’s surrounding skyline. If you feel some ‘Game of Thrones’ vibes upon entering through city gate, that’s because the gate and other locations featured in season one of the popular series…welcome to King’s Landing…

Mdina City Gate

Mdina Malta

In the GoT series Mdina city gate represents one of the entraces of King’s Landing.

Mdina Malta city Gate
Mdina City Gate

Mdina is easily accessible by bus and the ride takes about half an hour, depending on traffic, dropping you off at the garden opposite the entrance gate.

Through course of history Mdina went by different other names: it was founded ‘Maleth’ by the Phoenicians and renamed ‘Melite’ by the Romans after the honey the island was famous for. Under rule of the knights of Order of St John activities switched to the newly built Valletta and Mdina therefore lost its capital status.

The current and still used name is derived from the Arab word ‘medina’, though it also goes by its nickname ‘The Silent City’ and ‘Citta’ Notabile’, with the latter probably the most accurate to this date: the noble families that once lived within city walls are replaced by about 300 noble and lucky inhabitants with security cameras closely monitoring the entering cars and their drivers.

Mdina Malta

St-Pauls Cathedral is a baroque church dedicated to apostle Paul. Under each bell tower is a clock: the right one being a normal one telling time, the left one showing date and month, though legend says the two clocks were to confuse the devil. The church was destroyed during the Sicilian earthquake of 1693 and had to be rebuilt completely.

Mdina Malta

Meanwhile some mingling with the locals…

Mdina Malta

Mdina Malta

Another GoT filming location, Littlefinger’s brothel…

Mdina Malta

No walled city nowadays without souvenir shops…Mdina is famous for its glass, used in jewelry and deco items…

Mdina Malta

Mdina glass Malta

We had lunch at Trattoria 1530, part of the Xara Palace Relais&Chateaux hotel and located in one Mdina’s lovely picturesque squares…by the way, can you spot our little lunch companion?

 

re-fueled we again hit the winding and narrow streets…

Mdina Malta

 

Mdina Malta
Mdina tears…

Mdina Malta

Mdina Malta

Mdina Malta

Charming Mdina is rightfully on UNESCO’s World Heritage tentatives (the waiting) list.

Join me next time for the final part in this Valletta-series where I’ll take you around a fun ‘Three Cities’ tour.

Ingrid

xxx

Mdina Malta

 

Mdina Visit Malta

for part one of this blog series covering Valletta itself click here Valletta 2018: the culture trip

Trattoria 1530

 

Sintra: life in technicolor…

Pena Palace Sintra

In the Lisbon series there is one more ‘must see’ I want to tell you about, or not…maybe Sintra should be kept more secret as it is already overrun by tourists all coming to admire the city’s cultural and architectural wonders. Its natural and historical value make Sintra in its whole a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like I said, a ‘must see’…

 

Sintra is located 25 km outside Lisbon city centre and is set against the lush pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. Easily accessible from Lisbon Rossio train station in about 40 minutes and included if you have a Lisboa card.

Upon arrival shuttle services await you to bring you to all the main sites, however we chose to walk to the village centre. An easy walkable path offering views on the National Palace with the characteristic chimneys, colourful stands with local handicrafts and an iron throne, well, with a little imagination…

Sintra Portugal

Early mornings can be foggy in Sintra, don’t worry, sunny ‘sol’ does her best and by noon you’ll have clear blue sky!

 

Sintra city centre Portugal

In the above picture, all the way up, op top of the foggy hills, are the ruins of the moorish castle. We’ll get to them later…

Sintra city hall
view on Sintra city hall

First stop for us however was Pena Palace and its gardens. From the city centre we took a tuk tuk that dropped us off at Parque da Pena entrance and from there we made our way up to the Palace, still a serious climb on often cobbled paths!

tuk tuk Sintra Portugal

Some piece of advice…if you are not interested in castle interiors you do not have to get in line, which can be a very, very long queue…the exterior grounds are perfectly accessible with your entrance ticket without waiting in line or just ask for the cheaper park/outside combination…wish someone had told us that upfront, it certainly wasn’t mentioned at the ticket office…though would have saved us a lot of time! And yes, some of the terraces are only accessible from the inside, however is it worth an hour and a half queuing? That is up to you to decide…

Pena Palace Sintra

Sintra Pena Palace

The palace is a dazzling piece of extravagant and astonishing architecture, where technicolor meets mythology and of course, being in Portugal, tiles are never far away! Not that it was always like that…the hilltop used to be home for a monastery. After the abolition of religious orders in Portugal it was abandoned and King Ferdinand II acquired the grounds in a public auction. So the story goes he was a bit jealous of Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria and commisioned Baron von Eschwege to build him his own dream palace opera-inspired (he later marries opera singer Elise Hensler) and saw to a forestry landscaped garden to hide away in. I’d say mission accomplished!

 

 

Pena Palace Sintra tiles

Meanwhile in city centre…

Sintra moorish walls

I promised blue skies, didn’t I? Fog has cleared and you can see them now…next stop, the moorish walls…

The Castelo dos Mouros was established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra however archeological excavations and studies of the artefacts around 1995 even traced back occupation of the castle slopes to 5000 B.C. by neolithic communities…this place breathes history! In the 19th century King Ferdinand II acquired the castle that had become a ruin by then and converted it into the romantic style of that century through exuberant planting and reconstruction though keeping a certain medieval ruin charm.

Not sure if I would recommend to climb the longer part of the walls with very small children or if you are afraid of heights…the passage is sometimes narrow and there is not always a safety railing…

 

Sintra Moors Castle

The ruin walls offer phenomenal views on Sintra and its surroundings, however, like I said, watch your step, as not everywhere a railing…

Sintra Moors Castle

Sintra Portugal Moors castle
Sintra City Centre shot from the moorish walls

Tired feet and back, hence the tuk tuk back to village…smooth ride and friendly helpful driver, were all I needed to recover and smile again!

tuk tuk Sintra Portugal

There’s plenty more to see in Sintra, in fact, if you want to explore thoroughly and at ease, it’s probably best to spend the night, more ‘must see’ attractions are the Quinta Regaleira, Palácio de Monserrate, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Convento dos Capuchos,… just check the local tourist office website or office.

Adeus Sintra, until we meet again!

Ingrid

xxx

Sintra Tourist info

Park and National Palace Pena

Moorish castle

we stayed in Airbnb Inglesinhas5 and you can read more on our Lisbon adventures herehere or here