- HOTELS (BEST RATED)
- HOTELS (BEST VALUE)
- SIGHTS & LANDMARKS
- THINGS TO DO
- FESTIVALS & EVENTS
- STAY SAFE
Sliema (Maltese: "Tas-Sliema") is a town located on the northeast coast of Malta in the Northern Harbour District. It is a major residential and commercial area and a centre for shopping, dining, and café life.
Lining the coastline is a promenade known as the Sliema Front, that has become the ideal spot for joggers and walkers as well as a prolific meeting place for locals during the summer season. Romantic moon strolls, barbeques and open air restaurants and cafes have made Sliema the hub of social nightlife. Sliema is also known for its numerous rocky beaches, water sports and hotels.
Sliema, which means 'peace, comfort', was once a quiet fishing village on the peninsula across Marsamxett Harbour from Valletta and boasts beautiful views of the capital city. The population began to grown in 1853 and the town was declared a parish in 1878. Now Sliema and the coastline up to neighbouring St. Julian's constitutes Malta's main coastal resort.
Sliema is considered a desirable place to live and is relatively affluent, with extremely high property prices compared to the national average. Historically, stylish villas and traditional Maltese townhouses lined the streets of Sliema. Sliema has now been ringed with modern apartment blocks, some of which are amongst the tallest buildings in Malta. This has resulted in significant traffic, parking and construction-related noise pollution issues.
Residents of Sliema are stereotypically known for their usage of English as a first language, although this is changing in the 21st century due to demographic shifts. Maltese people from Sliema are referred to as Slimiżi.
Sliema and St Julian's are Malta's most modern and most built up areas and where most tourists stay. It is where one will find the most hotels, rental apartments, restaurants, bars, shops and clubs.
Sliema and St Julian's form a near continuous town spread over two adjacent peninsulas with St Julian's to the north (about 20 minutes walk) and Valetta and a third peninsula to the south (about 20 minutes drive).
Malta is a very Catholic country and its people are some of the friendliest and most embracing of tourists in Europe. It is important to note though that certain behavior is strongly frowned upon (such as excessive drunken raucous behavior) and other behavior is illegal (such as topless sunbathing) despite this town being a common tourist area.
Street names in Malta are written first in Maltese then in English, it becomes helpful to learn both since some people only use one or the other when giving directions and some maps only give the Maltese (on the assumption that the reader will be able to translate).
The Knights of Malta Period
At the Great Siege of 1565, il-Qortin, as it was then known, was a camp centre for Turkish troops led by Dragut. He met his fate there, having been killed by a bombardment from Fort St. Elmo at the other flank of Marsamxett Harbour, where Sliema stands. Fort Tigné was eventually built by the Knights of St. John in the late 18th century and further developed by the British in later years.
The British Period
In 1855 a new church dedicated to Our Lady Star of the Sea ("Stella Maris") was opened to public worship. Around the new church, the small village grew into a town. By 1878, the population grew to such an extent that the religious authorities had the Stella Maris Church declared a parish in its own right and it was separated from St.Helen's parish of Birkirkara.
The town began to develop rapidly in the second half of the 19th century becoming popular as a summer resort for wealthier Valletta residents. Their elegant villas and town houses lined the quiet, inland streets. Various Victorian buildings graced its three kilometre sea promenade which overlooked rugged rocks, farms and even a small sandy beach. In 1990 one of these farms which had been abandoned, was transformed into a coastline garden known as Ġnien Indipendenza (Independence Garden).
A few Victorian, as well as art nouveau houses, still remain in the inner streets, although only a handful remain along the shoreline, as there has been significant modern development of apartment blocks and hotels. A distinctive group of six traditional houses with Maltese balconies has survived remarkably intact at Belvedere Terrace, set back from Ix-Xatt (the Strand). These houses overlook Manoel Island to the South across the Sliema Creek; the houses have heritage protection and the lower buildings between them and Ix-Xatt cannot be built upwards.
The British built a number of fortifications on the Sliema peninsula in the 19th century. These were Sliema Point Battery (1872–76), Cambridge Battery (1878–86) and Garden Battery (1889–94). In addition, the 18th century Fort Tigné remained in use as well, and barracks were built on the Tigné peninsula.
In 1881 the first sea water distillery on the island was erected in Sliema in order to provide water to the Tigné barracks. In 1882 the distillery was decommissioned and the building, which still stands today, has been occupied by a printing press since that time. The barracks it supplied water to were demolished in 2001 in order to make way for the development of Tigné Point development.
The town has a considerable number of streets connected with the British era in Malta, such as Norfolk Street, Amery Street, Windsor Terrace, Graham Street, Milner Street and Fort Cambridge.
Sliema has been the site of intensive development in recent decades. The Victorian houses that lined Tower Road have all been replaced by apartment buildings built in modern architectural style. Several of these boast beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea or Valletta but their development has been controversial. The promenade has been upgraded in the late 1990s and is an extremely popular spot for leisurely walking, particularly on warm summer nights when it remains crowded into the early hours of the morning. Shopping is primarily centred in an area called the Ferries (the Strand or ix-Xatt, Tower Road and Bisazza Street) and the more recently opened Tigne Point shopping mall. Restaurants and cafes can be found along the promenade.
Development, high population density, parking issues, and high property prices have led many younger people originally from the area are choosing to live elsewhere on the island and consequently Sliema is suffering from an aging population. There are several foreign expatriates who reside in Sliema. There remains net inward migration to Sliema. The prevalence of use amongst Sliema residents of English as a first language is decreasing although remains significantly higher than other localities on the island. Code-switching in English sentences with peppered Maltese words and phrases is relatively common in Sliema, as well as St. Julian's, Pembroke, Swieqi, Madliena, San Ġwann and Kappara, although there are several individuals who speak exclusively in English or Maltese without mixing the two. There are a number of Maltese people who are fluent in English but struggle with the Maltese language, and this reflects use of English at home and at English-speaking schools. Despite some misconceptions and stereotypes, the vast majority of people from Sliema are fluent in Maltese and speak it as a first language.
Transportation - Get In
The area is well signposted from Valetta and the international airport and is about 20 minutes drive from Valletta and 1 hour from the airport.
The bus service is now run by Arriva (www.arriva.com.mt), most buses are air conditioned (a great benefit over the old buses!). A Day ticket costs €2.60 & can be used as often as you wish on any route during the day of purchase.
Buses for Sliema leave the Valletta terminus regularly. Be warned that the Valletta - Sliema/St.Julians routes can get quite crowded in the summer months. A number 12, 13 or 14 will take you to Sliema & St Julians.
The bus routes are very much concentric to Valletta, such that if you wish to travel from Sliema to another part of the Island (in any direction) it will often be necessary first to travel into Valletta then back out again.
A ferry regularly (each half hour between 8am and 6pm and later on special occasions such as Notto Bianco) crosses the harbour between Sliema and Valletta. A one-way ticket for the five-minute journey costs about €1.20; there are also two or three water taxis plying the same route. Whichever you use, be aware that on the Valletta side there is quite a climb up to the centre of the city.
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This is Malta's largest and most modern shopping district. You'll find several streets packed full of shops, including international favourites like Zara, Top Shop and Mango, as well as a variety of many designer labels. Malta's prices aren't anything to be excited about, but if you're looking for something trendy, possibly from a store that's more uncommon outside Europe, this is where you'll find it. There is also a small Marks and Spencers, but this one does not have a deli section.
The latest addition to Sliema shopping is The Point mall at Point Tigne, a three-level, air conditioned mall with a supermarket, cafes & many designer outlets.
- Offshore. A small coffee shop on the Strand with the best cakes and coffee in Sliema.
- Ta' Kris. Tucked away in a little alley off Bisazza Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, this is one of the best places on the island for Maltese cuisine.
Baracuda in Baluta Bay has some of best food around. Fish is what they do best, fresh out of the sea.
Sights & Landmarks
Sliema has a number of Catholic churches such as the one dedicated to Jesus of Nazareth known as "In-Nazzarenu", three dedicated to Our Lady : Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Stella Maris (which is the oldest Catholic church and thus the mother church dating from 1855) and one dedicated to a saintly Pope St. Gregory the Great.
In addition to the above list of churches, is the Anglican Holy Trinity Church Built in 1866 in Rudolphe Street.
- Stella Maris Church (Our Lady Star of the Sea) – Mother Parish of Sliema, est 1878
- Sacro Cuor Parish Church (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart)
- Gesu' Nazzarenu Parish Church
- San Girgor Parish Church
- The Chapel of Our Lady of Graces
- Fort Tigné
- Tigné Point
- Sliema Point Battery (Il-Fortizza)
- St. Julian's Tower
- Palazzo Capua
- Savoy Hotel
- Preluna Hotel (previous tallest building in Malta)
- Fortina Hotel & Spa
- The Plaza
- Exiles Beach
- Independence Gardens (Ġnien l-Independenza)
- The Three Trees (It-tlett Siġriet)
- Chalet (now demolished)
Things to do
The town is a mostly residential area and as such tourists would tend to travel outside of Sliema during holiday.
However, there are a number of excellent restaurants in and around Howard Street and a tiny supermarket just off Stella Maris Street.
The sea front is well developed and offers shaded seating areas often with free wireless internet, an array of cafes, bars and restaurants and some stone beaches with safe and clean swimming areas.
Sliema is one of the largest and most modern shopping centres in Malta : see 'Buy' below.
Scuba diving is the biggest attraction in Sliema. Diving in Sliema is easy, fun, and you can see ship wrecks, stingrays, barracudas, lots of small fish, and explore tunnels and swim through s at the Fortizza dive site.
PADI dive centres and resorts
- Malta Blue Diving (To the left of the Fortizza Restaurant located in the Preluna Beach Resort), , e-mail: [email protected]. 9am to 6pm every day. Small family-run dive shop with new equipment, flexible diving schedules and friendly staff. They teach PADI diving courses in small groups in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere and plan diving to customers requirements and diving preferences.
Festivals and events
Like all Maltese towns and villages the annual Sliema parish feasts are very popular especially those held in honour of the Our Lady Stella Maris (August) and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (Madonna tas-Sacro Cuor) in July. While to a lesser extent those of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (July) and St. Gregory (September)
Being the busiest tourist area petty crime associated with it is most rife here. That said there is still relatively little crime compared to many other mediterannean tourist destinations.