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  • Writer's pictureKrista the Explorer

2 Days in Rabat, Malta: A Full Guide

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

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Taking a day trip from Valletta to Rabat is a very popular option for many visitors to the island due to the very close proximity between the two locations. Seeing Rabat and Mdina in one day is also very doable if you’re short on time since neither are particularly big and are easy to walk around on foot. However if you want to explore all that this incredible archaeological treasure trove has to offer at a more leisurely pace I would definitely recommend spending 2 days in Rabat, Malta.


The history of Rabat is intertwined with Mdina’s which can be traced back over 4000 years. Rabat, which translates to suburbs, used to be part of Mdina before the Arabs took control of it in the 13th century. To make the city more defensible they made the city walls smaller and Rabat ended up being outside of them. Today Rabat is known for its archaeological sites, religious orders, and its agricultural and rural roots which can be seen in the restaurants in Rabat.


We spent a little longer than 2 days in Rabat, Malta but during our third day we visited a few nearby attractions outside of Rabat as well such as the Blue Grotto and Dingli Cliffs. If you’re planning to travel around Malta then Rabat is the perfect place to base yourself out of rather than Valletta as it’s less busy and there is free parking throughout the town. Here’s a look at some of the top things to do in Rabat, Malta as well as where to eat and stay.


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Things To Do in Rabat, Malta

The attractions in Rabat are very close to one another and if you happen to visit Rabat when it’s raining then you’re in luck because there are plenty of catacombs, churches, and museums to visit. Unfortunately sites such as the Abbatija Tad-Dejr and St Agatha’s Crypt were closed when we visited in March but we still managed to create a full 2 day itinerary.

St Cataldus Church & Catacombs

A small stone church with statue of saint in front.
St Cataldus Church

One of the top free things to do in Rabat, Malta is to visit the St Cataldus Catacombs. These catacombs are much smaller than others but they’re a very unique archaeological site in Rabat to visit and should take no more than 20 minutes to walk around. The catacombs are located under St Cataldus Church which is dedicated to an obscure Irish saint.


Entry is free and you’ll be given a quick introduction by a lovely local lady who will also give you a pamphlet with more information about the catacombs. They date back to the 2nd century and offer visitors the chance to look at one of the finest examples of an agape table which would have been used by early Christians during funerary rituals.


Wignacourt Museum

Inside corridor of a museum with old paintings on wall.
Wignacourt Museum

The Wignacourt Museum is a must-see if you plan to visit Rabat, Malta. The museum itself is housed within a 17th century baroque residence with the first floor being the main exhibition space featuring various gallery works, sculptures, and other historic items. The big draw to this museum however is the unique labyrinth of tunnels underground which consists of St Paul’s Grotto, ancient chambers, and World War II shelters and tunnels. Entry to Wignacourt Museum costs €6.00 and grants you access to all of the levels.


St Paul's Grotto

Small statue of St Paul in a grotto with candles around it.
St Paul's Grotto

As you explore Wignacourt Museum one of the first areas that you’ll visit is St Paul’s Grotto. This site is said to be the birthplace of Christiainty on the island as it’s where St Paul the Apostle and his missionary came in the year 60 AD after becoming shipwrecked on their way back to Rome. It became one of the earliest known places of Christian worship in Malta and today is a popular pilgrimage site.


St Paul's Church

View of a large church lit up by sun at sunset.
St Paul's Church

One of the most imposing features of Rabat is St Paul’s Church. It’s located in the heart of the town and is one of the many churches in Rabat, Malta that are open to visitors throughout the day. The current church was built in the 17th century but others have stood on this site hundreds of years prior to the current one. It’s a beautiful church inside so if the doors are open make sure you pop your head in for a quick look.


St Paul's Catacombs

Large catacomb with built-in metal walkway.
Inside one of the main catacombs

Rabat’s main attraction, and the reason why so many tourists the town, is St Paul’s Catacombs. The catacombs form part of a large burial ground that would have been used by the Byzantines, Punics, and Romans making this site as one of the earliest pieces of evidence of Christiainty on the island of Malta. The burial site was first used around the 3rd century BC and this typical Roman underground cemetery was in use until at least the 7th century AD. Parts of it were even reused in the 13th century.


St Paul’s Catacombs in Rabat are by no means small. We spent at least 2 hours here going up and down the various entrances to the catacombs which were used by a number of different religions and groups. There are information boards set up outside each catacomb entrance so you know what to look for inside as well as a small museum when you first enter the complex. It’s a fascinating place to visit and for only €6.00 you definitely get your money’s worth.


St Agatha's Crypt

Entrance to a crypt in a small stone courtyard.
St Agatha's Crypt

Sitting next to St Paul’s Catacombs is St Agatha’s Crypt. This site can only be visited through a guided tour that takes around 20 minutes and costs €5.00, however every time we visited it was either closed or a tour was in progress so we weren’t able to enter. No photographs are allowed inside either but from what I’ve seen online it’s a very unique attraction in Rabat to visit that’s completely different from other burial sites in the area.


Walk along the streets of Rabat

Street in Rabat decorated with Holy Week decorations.
Street in Rabat

The quaint and narrow streets of Rabat are beautiful to walk around - even if it’s raining. We happened to visit just as a celebration had taken place so some of the streets were still dressed up. There are a lot of nice photo spots in Rabat to take advantage of and as you make your way through the town you’ll come across several bars in Rabat as well as some delicious places to eat in Rabat too.


St Dominic's Priory

Medieval priory with small garden in the centre.
St Dominic's Priory

If you don’t mind taking a walk outside of the town centre then I would highly recommend visiting St Dominic’s Priory which was established in the 15th century. Entry to the priory costs only €5.00 and there’s a small museum inside with an interesting exhibition where you can learn more about the priory and Christianity in Malta.


Despite its status as one of the most recognizable landmarks in Malta, St Dominic’s Priory is often overlooked by tourists as it lies on the outskirts of the town. If you like Game of Thrones then you may recognize its courtyard which was used in season 1. In my opinion this is one of the best things to see in Rabat, Malta and is certainly worth the short walk to get to.


Howard Gardens

Entrance to a small garden area in front of Mdina gates.
Howard Gardens

If you’re spending 2 days in Rabat, Malta then part of that time will most likely be spent exploring the streets of Mdina too. As you make your way through Rabat towards the silent city however, don’t forget to pause and take a stroll through Howard Gardens. These gardens form a natural barrier between the two towns and offer a nice view of Mdina’s bastions. It’s one of the largest gardens in Malta and sits next to the Roman Villa which is a key attraction in Rabat too.


Mdina Gate

Stone bridge leading to the entry gate of Mdina.
Mdina Gate

Before entering Mdina, take some time to admire the impressive Mdina Gate. As you can imagine the bridge leading up to the gate is extremely busy but if you visit near sunrise or sunset you should have no problem getting photos without people in them. This baroque gate was built in the 18th century and is the main gate to the fortified city. Many visitors doing a Malta sightseeing tour will have this at the top of their list, especially if they’re a Game of Thrones fan.


Where To Eat in Rabat, Malta

If you’re wondering where to eat in Rabat, this small town has a lot to offer with many restaurants focusing on using local produce and traditional dishes. Visiting Rabat in the off season means that you’ll find the town less crowded, but that also means that some places will be closed. However, there are still some tasty options available and if you like high quality food then Rabat is a great choice for food lovers.


Step15

Not far from the Mdina Gate is Step15 which is the perfect restaurant for lunch in Rabat, Malta. Not only do they serve exceptional food based around seasonal local ingredients but the restaurant also boasts beautiful views of the countryside too. This is a very modern restaurant with a cozy atmosphere and their menu has a great selection of dishes on it that cater to all types of dietary requirements. Plus, the food presentation is phenomenal and looks almost too good to ruin by eating it.


We visited Step15 for lunch and decided to share a number of their most popular dishes. The Smoked Burrata was one of my favourites and had a unique flavour profile I hadn’t tasted anywhere else. The Cured Salmon was equally as tasty and another great option for a starter. The Scallop Ravioli, Octopus, and Rabbit Sausage each offer something a little different for a main dish and are a modern take on traditional Maltese food. Step15 also has a nice selection of homemade desserts available so you might as well finish your meal off by treating yourself one more time.


Step15 is one of the best restaurants in Rabat, Malta and already has some awards under its belt. I wouldn’t be surprised to find it in the Michelin Guide in the next year or two so if you’re planning to visit Rabat don’t miss out on this amazing culinary experience before everyone hears about it.


Serkin Crystal Palace

Two traditional Maltese pastries with different fillings.
Pastizzi and Qassatat

When you visit Malta there are certain foods that you absolutely need to try. Luckily Rabat is home to Serkin Crystal Palace which is known throughout Malta as the place to go for pastizzi and qassatat. These traditional Maltese savoury pastries are normally filled with ricotta or curried peas and are perfect for a quick lunch or for a snack to take on the go. The qassatat is very filling compared to the pastizzi but make sure you try both before leaving Malta.


Root 81

If you’re a fan of dining at restaurants in the Michelin Guide then look no further than Root 81. You’ll pass this restaurant as you make your way into Rabat and it’s only a short walk from the Mdina Gate as well. Root 81 serves up a Mediterranean-based menu that’s been expertly crafted with a focus on local ingredients. With a relaxing atmosphere and modern decor, Root 81 is the perfect restaurant in Rabat to have an evening meal at after exploring the town.


At Root 81 you have the choice of ordering from the A La Carte Menu or the Tasting Menu. In my opinion the best value for money as well as the best way to try out a variety of dishes is to order the Tasting Menu. If you have specific dietary requirements they can adjust the menu to suit your needs. The Tasting Menu costs €80 per person and includes 7 dishes. The presentation of all of the dishes was mind blowing and the flavours were exquisite.


The Tasting Menu consisted of a good mixture of vegetarian dishes, meat, and seafood and included items such as oxtail ragu, rabbit leg croquettes, pig’s head fritters, char-grilled aubergines, and fish of the day. On top of this we were treated to an amuse bouche and some delicious desserts. This all came paired with a lovely selection of wine and we added a couple of their latest cocktail concoctions to the mix as well. There’s a reason why Root 81 is a popular restaurant with both locals and tourists, and you certainly won’t regret eating here at any time.


Where To Stay in Rabat

100 Boutique Living

For those of you planning on spending 2 days in Rabat, Malta or more, there’s no better option for a place to stay than 100 Boutique Living. Situated less than 5 minutes from St Paul’s Church this family-run quaint boutique hotel in Rabat, Malta is the perfect accommodation for a relaxing and luxurious stay.


We stayed in the Superior Room 3 which was absolutely stunning with beautiful modern amenities and a classic feel to the decor. The large king size bed was extremely comfortable after a long day of walking and opposite the bed was a free-standing bath that we took advantage of with our complimentary bottle of wine. The room is very spacious as well with a wardrobe, writing desk, TV, and a large terrace to sit out on. The bathroom was a highlight for me though, with double basins and shower heads so there’s no need to share anything!


The boutique hotel itself is very interesting to explore with a lot of beautiful furnishings and ornaments to admire. Next to the library and lounge is the breakfast room where you can enjoy a freshly prepared breakfast that’s pre-ordered the previous day. You also have access to a sun terrace and a pool which is perfect for cooling down in the summer season.


The owners couldn’t be more accommodating and are on hand to help whenever you need it. 100 Boutique Living is like a home away from home where you can relax in luxurious privacy while being only a stone’s throw away from the main attractions in Rabat. This hotel books up very quickly so don’t miss your chance to stay in one of the best hotels in Rabat, Malta.


>> Click here for the most up to date prices at 100 Boutique Living <<


It’s true that this historic town is a popular day trip from Valletta, but spending 2 days in Rabat, Malta or more is the perfect way to explore the town, as well as Mdina, at a leisurely pace and it makes for a great base too. If you’re planning a day trip to Comino from Malta, or are thinking of visiting Gozo as well, Rabat is only a short drive to the ferry terminal. It’s significantly more relaxing to stay in Rabat than Valletta so make sure you take it into consideration when you’re planning your trip to Malta.


If you have any questions about whether Rabat is worth visiting, where to stay in Rabat, or where to grab something to eat please feel free to reach out via email, on Instagram, or in the comments section below. Regardless of how long you choose to stay in Rabat, Malta you’ll have an incredible experience in this small town.


 

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