When in Malta you cannot miss to explore the lovely village of Rabat, neighbour of the old capital city of Malta, Mdina.

You will discover not only superb cafes and palaces but also a long history still preserved in the many ruins accessible for a visit.

Rabat Location

The area of Rabat and Mdina extends on a hill on a central west area of Malta and was historically used as the main settlement for its strategical position that overlooks the east coast of the island.

Rabat History

Actually, Rabat was once inside the same defensive walls of Mdina, however the Arabs decided to split the core centre to the suburb, from which it comes the word “rabat”.

Rabat is famous in Malta for being recognised as the birthplace of Maltese Christianity. According to tradition, it was in the area of Rabat that the Apostle Paul lived after being shipwrecked on the island of Malta, in 60 AD.  

To confirm this assumption the St Paul’s Catacombs, which represent the earliest and largest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta. St.Paul’s Catacombs are a typical complex of interconnected, underground Roman cemeteries that were in use up to the 4th century AD.

In the 15th century, while the area served as a shelter from constant pirate attacks, several religious orders arrived in Rabat, remaining there ever since.

It was when the Order of St. John arrived in Malta that Rabat earned significance thanks to

  • its close proximity to Mdina,
  • the St Paul’s Grotto,
  • the Covent Schools
  • and for the arable farmland in the village.

Rabat has to wait for the late 19th century for the introduction of new social services.  In fact, under the British Rule in Rabat where built the first primary school.

The British also promoted the initiation of medical and postal services, the upgrading of spring water, street lighting and a train service between Valletta and Rabat. It was also in those times when the two music band clubs, L’Isle Adam and Count Roger were established.

What to do in Rabat

The town is a commercial centre and acts as a market to its large agricultural hinterland. 

In Rabat you can enjoy the peacefulness of a Sunday stroll along its alleys or in its gardens, have a lovely meal or coffee and tea time overlooking the beautiful valley and visit many places of historical interests as:

  •  St Paul’s Church and St Paul’s Grotto. The church was constructed in the 16th century, over the grotto where it is believed that St Paul lived and prayed during his stay in Malta.  St Paul’s Grotto is only a small portion of the massive catacombs complex under Rabat. 
  • St Paul’s Catacombs. The largest late Roman underground cemetery in Malta. Have a look at Flora the Explorer visit of the sites during the special event called “Mortem – A Roman’s Last Journey”, click here
  • The Roman Villa (Museum of Roman Antiquities). The current Museum building does not only preserve some of the most precious Roman remains as mosaic floors but also allows visitors to get a glimpse of life in a Roman domestic household. Apart from showing the complex history of the site, the current museum display is in fact designed to take the visitor through the various aspects of a Roman family and household with aspects ranging from the actual division of roles in a Roman family, to fashion, education, entertainment, food and drink. For more information, click here
  • Mdina, of course. Visit the Silent City during the Christmas period with Flora the Explorer, click here

Just oustide Rabat with a short journey you can visit:

  • Buskett Gardens.This is one of only two wooded areas in Malta. The public park is a very nice place where Maltese festivals are held during the summer.
  • Verdala Palace. Near the Busket Gardens, the Verdala Palace (1586) was built for the Grand Master but is now the summer residence of the President of Malta. Its 16th century architecture is splendid, as well as its gardens which show a great contrast between the treeless lands of Malta and the olive, fir and citrus trees planted here.
  • Dingli Cliffs. West of the city of Rabat, this is Malta’s highest point. Like most other coastal cities and beaches in Malta, this area is great for walking. The magnificent views from the top (830 feet, 253m) include the islet of Filfla. You will surely not miss the landmark of Dingli, its Radar.