The Xara Palace is a 17th century five-star Relais & Châteaux property—the only hotel inside the walls of the Mdina—and the former home of a noble family.
Mdina (pronounced ehm-dee-nuh) is also known as The Silent City, and we experienced this first-hand. We walked through the Vilhena gate that leads into the fortified city, amidst the crowds of tourists who are queueing to see the city dungeons and the horse-drawn carriages with drivers shouting out offers for a ride. Once night time falls, all the noise and activity melts away to reveal an almost eerie, mystical ambience within the air as the whole place goes quiet. Built like a traditional Arabic medina, our footsteps echo as we make our way down the labyrinth of interconnected paths until we reach a towering stone palazzo.
The Xara Palace is a 17th century five-star Relais & Châteaux property—the only hotel inside the walls of the Mdina—and the former home of a noble family. A sign at the entrance reads: “The Maltese nobility assembles within the walls of this ancient palazzo in order to elect its committee of privileges.” The baroque building stands proudly at the end of a small slope, just a short walk from the main gates. Upon entering the hotel doors, we’re welcomed with a glass of bubbly and invited to take a seat in the lounge. From the ornate church doors towering over us at the end of the hallway to the exquisite furniture full of dark wood and brick reds, there’s an air of sophistication that oozes from every nook and cranny of the palace.
The original hotel had over 30 rooms, but after the four-year renovation, it was pared down to 17 immaculate rooms and suites, each unique in its own way. We are staying in one of the deluxe suites on the first floor, which we’re told is the same floor where Baroness Xara used to reside. Light floods into the suite from both the living area window that looks out into the courtyard below and the bedroom windows that offer a panoramic view of the Maltese countryside. Tastefully decorated, the warm interiors are brought to life with unexpected pops of colour - like the azure sofa in the living area and the gold trim of the bed linen. Whilst the marble bathroom is gorgeous in its own right, your eyes will immediately be drawn to the stunning bathtub, separated from the sleeping area by a sheer curtain.
The Xara Palace is serious about gastronomy—not only do they house award-winning restaurants, but they have a catering company as well and can be found serving their delicious fare at weddings and other special occasions. Though the Michelin-starred de Mondion was closed on the day we visited (open from Tuesday-Saturday), we got a taste of the impeccable views from its rooftop location during breakfast, which was served out on the restaurant terrace. For dinner, we ate al fresco at Trattoria AD1530, a nod to the strong Italian influences within Maltese cuisine. The atmosphere was friendly and unfussy with the team leaving the food to speak for itself. Like a traditional trattoria, the menu is split into antipasti, soups and salads, pastas and risottos, pizzas, mains, and desserts. The highlights of our meal included a chicken liver and mushroom garganelli pasta, which had a moreish richness that was accentuated by a Marsala and balsamic glaze; a bright and punchy linguine vongole with pepperoncini; and a local rabbit with garlic and thyme which was served with a nice, deep gravy.
As the former Maltese capital, Mdina provides an exemplary list of options to experience Malta’s history and culture all within its honeyed walls. Archbishop’s Square is a stone’s throw away from the hotel, and here you’ll find the imposing 17th century St. Paul’s Cathedral. A baroque building that’s home to the Cathedral Museum sits right across. Though you’ll be transported back to the present day once leaving the Mdina’s gates, it’s worth it for what awaits in the neighbouring town of Rabat. Take a stroll through the Howard Gardens on your way there, then get lost in the mystical maze at St. Paul’s Catacombs, and take in some Roman-era architecture at the Domus Romana, and if you’re visiting in the summer, the hotel also has an outdoor pool in Rabat that you can access via the complimentary transport. Though Malta is well-connected via public buses, renting a car is encouraged as it keeps you from having to queue in the heat. A short 15-minute drive will take you to the UNESCO World Heritage Ħaġar Qim temples as well the pristine Maltese waters at Golden Bay or Gnejna beach—the famous Blue Grotto isn’t far either.
Whilst it won’t be taken against you if you’d rather disconnect completely and cocoon yourself within the hotel’s walls, if you do decide to try something new, check the hotel events calendar as you may be able to join a wine tasting hosted at de Mondion. Otherwise, the concierge can arrange for a guided culinary walking tour covering both Mdina and Valletta.
Interested in an experience similar to this? Contact our concierge service today for a bespoke, luxury itinerary catered to your every need.
Bath might be known for its Roman baths, picturesque Georgian buildings and association with Jane Austen but its culinary scene is increasingly attracting visitors from all over the United Kingdom and further afield.
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