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The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux 4.5

Mdina, Island of Malta, Malta

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Attractive 17th-century palazzo with celebrity visitor credentials
  • Set on charming square within Mdina's medieval walls
  • Spacious rooms include luxury linens and high ceilings
  • Some rooms features superb views over the island
  • Some suites open to terraces with whirlpool tubs
  • Fine-dining restaurant with alfresco island-view terrace
  • Cold breakfast buffet and hot made-to-order items (for a fee)
  • Italian eatery with patio tables and gourmet burgers
  • Free shuttle service to nearby private swimming pool
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout

Cons

  • Breakfast costs extra
  • Swimming pool is off-site and seasonal 
  • Some rooms are shabby in places
  • Lower-level rooms lack natural light 
  • Some noise complaints

Bottom Line

Part of the distinguished Relais & Chateaux collection, The Xara Palace is an upscale boutique hotel housed in a gorgeous palazzo dating from the 17th century. It's also one of just a few hotels with the privilege of being located within the medieval walls of Mdina, with parts of it set into the ancient city ramparts. No two of the 17 rooms are identical, and they're not quite as beautifully decorated as one might expect, though many feature wonderful views over the island. One of the two restaurants on-site also provides superb panoramas and excellent dining is offered in both restaurants. Overall, it's certainly a distinguished hotel in a privileged position, though for palatial luxury with spa facilities and a large pool, try the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa. 

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Scene

Luxury boutique hotel set in 17th-century palazzo with aristocratic pedigree 

The Xara Palace is certainly a hotel that invites superlatives. Carved from sandstone, its elegant facade overlooks a charming, shaded square complete with ancient arches and balustrade balconies. Stepping inside, an unexpectedly bright and high-ceilinged hallway is lined with traditional patterned rugs, frilly marble-topped tables, and genuine antique furnishings, setting an aptly distinguished tone from the start. Built in the 17th century as a palazzo home for the noble Moscati Parisio family, the hotel opened in 1999 as the only boutique property in Mdina. An understated reception area, hushed atmosphere, and sparing use of hotel trappings also adds to the feeling of a genuine aristocratic residence that doesn't tip into showy opulence. While there's nothing in the way of gardens or grounds, the hotel is set around a beautiful central courtyard -- where the bar is located -- and alfresco terraces are built on top of the centuries-old bastions, provide stunning views over the surrounding countryside. Service is highly personalized with professional staff greeting guests by name. An upscale hotel charging high-end rates, the more well-heeled traveler counts among the clientele, and the hotel is also no stranger to celebrity, having hosted the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Anniston, and Bruce Willis.

Location

Set between the centuries-old walls and cobbled streets of Mdina

The hotel is tucked away behind the ancient bastions in the fortified medieval city of Mdina -- Malta’s first capital -- and is positioned as an elevated plateau in the center of the island. It's one of just a few tourist accommodations set within the city walls, putting all the main historic attractions -- such as the St. Paul's Cathedral, Palazzo Falson, and Carmelite Priory -- a short stroll away. There's also a handful of restaurants and cafes among the surrounding cobbled streets and the main gates are a few minutes' walk away. Cars are generally not allowed here, but cabs are permitted in to pick up and drop off guests. Malta International Airport is a 20-minute drive away and the island's present capital, Valletta, is around 25 minutes. 

Rooms

Individually-styled in various layouts -- many with lovely island views

Each of the 17 rooms and suites are individually styled, and while no two are identical they mostly all lean towards a traditional and even homey blend of patterned rugs, antique pieces, high-end Parisian fabrics, and comfy furnishings. Although comfortable and clean -- as well as being spacious with high ceilings -- the finish doesn't always look particularly luxurious and it's even a touch shabby in spots. Lower-level rooms look out onto a narrow medieval alley so can be gloomy by day. However, many higher-floor rooms feature gorgeous panoramic views over the island. Some Deluxe Suites also open to terraces with whirlpool tubs and stunning vistas. Duplex Rooms have split level areas and overlook the inner courtyard. Standard amenities include 32-inch flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and coffee- and tea-making facilities. In-room Wi-Fi is free and runs at a decent speed. Marble bathrooms come with shower/tub combos, wall-mounted hairdryers, and quality toiletries. While some bathrooms are tiny, others feature windows overlooking the countryside.

Features

Two excellent on-site dining options and an off-site swimming pool

In true boutique hotel style, there's very little in the way of facilities at Xara Palace. It does have excellent dining in the form of two on-site eateries. Considered one of Malta's finest restaurants, the de Mondion also has a winning alfresco terrace atop the walls overlooking the island. The menu is pricey, but excellent quality and there's an extensive wine list. More relaxed dining can be found at the Trattoria AD 1530, which focuses on Italian cooking and gourmet burgers served at tables that spill out onto the charming piazza. For breakfast, guests can choose from a cold buffet of juice, fresh fruit, pastries, breads, cheeses, ham, smoked salmon, and soft-boiled eggs. Made-to-order hot items are also available and breakfast costs extra. There's also an inner courtyard that becomes a cocktail bar in the evening. While the only on-site health facilities are a tiny gym and sauna, a shuttle is provided in the summer to an outdoor swimming pool at a hotel-owned villa on the outskirts of Rabat (around five minutes' drive). Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel. 

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Address

Misrah Il-Kunsill Citta Nobile, Mdina MDN 1050, Malta