Rabat, Exploring Malta

Rabat – Exploring Malta

Rabat is a town in the northern region of Malta. Its center is neighboring the historical capital of Malta, the town of Mdina. This is in many ways the suburb to the old capital, a suburb that has overgrown the former capital itself. The municipality of Rabat has a population of around 11.900 inhabitants. One thing is for sure, it is not only Mdina that can boast with many historical sights.

Our blog posts about Rabat:

The History of Rabat

Many sources put Rabat’s origins as a suburb to the former capital Mdina. The rulers of the past found uses for the then village due to its proximity to Mdina. It developed during the rule of the Order of Saint John and continued during British rule. The British introduced many modern services in the village, including building the first primary school, establishing the postal service, and building the railway between Rabat and Valletta. Rabat’s major expansion came after the Second World War when new residential areas was built and the population reached around 12.000 inhabitants.

Sights in Rabat

Walking along the streets, especially towards Mdina, will take you along rows of the traditional Maltese balconies known as gallarija. This is a historical town with many traditional additions to the buildings. Even to though the main sight here is the former capital of Mdina, there are a lot to explore and enjoy in Rabat.

Basilica of Saint Paul

The Basilica of Saint Paul is the main church in Rabat. It stands at the central square, Pjazza San Pawl. This Roman Cathilic Parish church dates back to the 18th century and was completed in 1783. The church is named after Saint Paul, an apostle from the first century. He is believed to have been teaching for some time in a cave, or grotto, located under the church. The cave is now known as Saint Paul’s Grotto, which is also accessible from the Wignacourt Museum.

Casa Bernard

Casa Bernard is not really noticeable from the outside. It is built to blend in with its surroundings as a way to protect its inhabitants. Inside this is a palazzo that was once home to the Salvatore Bernard. He was in the 18th century the personal physician for the Grand Master. There are guided tours available for the palace.

Pjazza San Pawl

Pjazza San Pawl is the center square. This is a square with the basilica as the most prominent building. You can also find a few cafes and restaurants along the nearby streets.

Roman Villa

The Roman Villa, or Domus Romana, is one of the main tourist attractions of Malta. This is today an open-air museum making it possible to visit the remains of the first century Roman building.

Saint Paul’s Catacombs

Under a large part of Rabat is the Satin Paul’s Catacombs. There are over 30 tombs here, known as hypogea. Around 20 of these are open to the public. These are the largest catacombs in Malta and they have been used as a burial ground for many centuries. This has not only been the final resting place for Christians, but also Muslims, Jews, and Pagans.

Wignacourt Museum

Wignacourt Museum is housed in a building with a long history. It is named after the 17th-century Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt. The focus of the exhibitions is mostly art and artifacts of religious origin. The museum also has one of the access-ways to the Saint Paul’s Grotto that is located beneath the basilica.

Rabat Activities

There are many activities in Rabat. Especially popular are the cultural events and culinary experiences in the many cafes and restaurants. For outdoor activities it is best to head out of the town for the nearby countryside.

Beaches in Rabat

Rabat Municipality has a long coast line that mostly consists of cliffs. With the town being located inland, there are no direct access to a beach. There is, however, the fact that Malta is a quite small island and the coast is never far away.

Rabat Hiking

The traffic around Rabat is quite heavy with limited space for pedestrians. Once you get outside of the urban area there are plenty of smaller roads to hike along. Either head towards the coast and walk along the many scenic cliffs or head to the northwest to the Victoria Lines for a hike along the old British fortification lines.

Shopping in Rabat

There are a few shops available in Rabat, but it is very limited. Better shopping possibilities can be found in nearby Mosta, as well as in Sliema and Valletta.

Excursions from Rabat

Rabat is in the inland of Malta with most of the island within easy reach.


Dingli is a village located to the southwest. The village itself has its church, but there are no other larger sight here to discover. Instead, it is the nearby Dingli Cliffs that makes this a popular destination. The cliffs are known for their scenic views and a very picturesque sunset.


Mdina is the former capital of Malta and is today a small fortified town. It is one of the most impressive sights on the island and is just a short walk away from the center of Rabat. This is a must see when in the area.

From our visits:


Valletta, the capital of Malta, is one of the places that most people visiting the country will try to see at least once. Its high walls and other fortifications make it an impressive sight and the view of the sea is never far away. The capital is easy to reach with the local buses.

From our visits:

Rabat with Kids

There are a few streets in Rabat that are easy to explore on foot with kids. The distances are not too long and there are playgrounds nearby when looking for some more playful activity. A few of the other streets has a bit more traffic with limited space for pedestrians, especially if you have a stroller or pram.

Read more about Malta with kids:

Playgrounds in Rabat

There are at least two playgrounds in the vicinity of Rabat. The first is the playground right between Rabat and Mdina, a perfect stop while taking a break from exploring the historical sights. The second one is located to the west at the Ghajn National Water Conservation Centre.

There are more towns and villages to discover. Join us in Exploring Malta >>

This Post Has One Comment

  1. douryeh

    There’s also Rabat, Morocco, at the Atlantic coast. Also worth a visit.

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