Sliema – Exploring Malta

Sliema is a town located on the other side of the bay from the Maltese capital Valletta. It has grown into a modern commercial hub but is also a part of a larger urban area that makes up the main tourist area of Malta. This former village is today an area with high-rise buildings along its waterfront. However, a few historical sites have survived and there are few places in Malta that can compete with the view of the capital that Sliema has. Even though its name means “Peace” it is one of the busiest areas in Malta.

Our blog posts about Sliema:

The History of Sliema

When Fort Tigné was built in the 18th century the inlet of the bay became protected from both shores. Fort St. Elmo was already defending the bay from the headland of Valletta. The fort and area were at the time in the control of the Knights of St. John, but would later come under the control of the British.

It is hard to believe today that the streets of Sliema were once lined by the villas and townhouses of the wealthy inhabitants of the capital. The sea promenade was previously where you found the larger victorian styled buildings. This was at the end of the 19th century when Sliema had become a popular summer resort for the inhabitants of Valletta.

The modern development of Sliema sped up after Malta’s independence in 1964. The new constructions have in most parts replaced the earlier buildings from the British era. The population has at the same time increased significantly and has passed 22.000, making it the fourth largest town in the country (after St Paul’s Bay, Birkirkara, and Mosta).

Sights in Sliema

Even though Sliema’s modern buildings and the everlasting building frenzy, there are still a few historical buildings and sites standing. Here are some interesting sights that we have identified in the town of Sliema.

Fort Tigné

At Tigné Point is the 18th-century Fort Tigné. It was built by the Order of Saint John in the 1790s and was further developed by the British in the 19th century. Restorations have taken place in recent decades and it is since 1998 a part of a group of old Fortifications in Malta that is on the tentative list and could become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Saint Julian’s Tower

Another fortification still standing along the seaside promenade is Saint Julian’s Tower, Torri ta’ San Ġiljan in Maltese. The tower was built in 1658 to protect St. Julian’s Bay and a battery was added in 1715. As is the case with the Sliema Point Battery, Saint Julian’s Tower is today used as a restaurant.

Sea Water Distilling Plant

The seawater distilling plant was built in 1881 to provide drinking water to the barracks at Tigné Point. It was decommissioned already in 1882 and has since been the home of various printing services.

Sliema Point Battery

The Sliema Point Battery is another of the fortifications in Sliema that has survived to the present day. The British built this artillery battery in the 1870s. The battery is today a restaurant.

Sliema Promenade

The seaside promenade follows most of Sliema’s coast. It connects with both neighboring Gzira and St. Julian’s. The distance from one end to the other is around 5 kilometers and there’s an almost constant view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Tigné Point

Tigné Point is the eastern peninsula of Sliema and the location for several of the older fortifications of the area, out of which Fort Tigné is one of the few surviving. It is today home to several modern building complexes, but also some of the best views of the capital Valletta. The only sign left of the old military Tigné Barracks is the architectural influences to The Point Shopping Mall.

Sliema Activities

There are plenty of activities all around Sliema and it is not hard to spend a day or two exploring the many sights and engaging in activities around the bay. In addition, it is not far from the capital Valletta and there are plenty of day trips to take at sea.

Beaches in Sliema

The cliffs around Sliema have several spots for swimming. There may be a lack of sandy beaches, but the locals do their best to find ways to access the water.

Qui-Si-Sana Beach

Below the promenade along the northern shores of Sliema is the Qui-Si-Sana Beach. These are mostly rocks and cliffs along the waterfront and a few passages down into the water. The rocks are also popular for sunbathing.

Exiles Bay Beach

There is a small sandy beach at Exiles Bay. This beach also includes the cliffs and rocks that are so typical for Malta. The view on offer is the urban area known as Paceville in neighboring St Julian’s.

Hiking to and from Sliema

Sliema is in many ways at the center of Malta and there are many directions in which to head out for a hike. You can, however, expect the first kilometers to be in an urban environment. It will take quite a long time before you will reach the countryside no matter which direction you take.

To Saint Julian’s

Following the Sliema promenade to the west will take you to Saint Julian’s. This includes passing the Balluta Bay and Spinola Bay before reaching the very busy area of Paceville. It is then possible to follow smaller roads close to the coast to walk even further to the west. It is still for us to attempt and see if it is possible to continue past Pembroke to the Splash & Fun Water Park.

To Valletta

Continuing along the Sliema Promenade to the south will take you around the bay towards Valletta. This will take you past the towns of Gzira, Ta’ Xbiex, Msida, Pieta, and Floriana. The views along the route will include several marinas and the Manoel Island. Once in Valletta, it is possible to either take the ferry back to Sliema or to continue around the Grand Harbor to the Three Cities.

Shopping in Sliema

When it comes to shopping and commerce, Sliema is one of the main towns in Malta. There are a few shopping centers and there are also shops almost on every street.

The Point Shopping Mall

One of the largest shopping centers in Malta is at Tigné Point in Sliema. The Point Shopping Mall is a multi-story shopping center with many of the more known international shops and brands.

The Plaza Shopping Centre

The Plaza Shopping Centre is a smaller shopping center along Triq Bisazza. As with the Point Shopping Mall, The Plaza has mostly well-known international shops and brands.

Tower Road

Tower Road, close to the Sliema Ferry, is a street where you can find several shops as well. These include both the really small local souvenir shops as well as the larger stores of the international brands.

Excursions from Sliema

The best thing about visiting Sliema is that the whole country of Malta is within your reach. Even the island of Gozo is reachable with the ferries.

Birżebbuġa

Birżebbuġa is not only the home of the large Malta Freeport, it is also the home of a few historical sites. Here you will find two interesting archaeological sites, Għar Dalam and Borġ in-Nadur. This is also a popular summer resort for the local Maltese.

From our visit:

Comino

Comino is the third-largest island of Malta and a popular summer destination for many of the boat trips from Sliema. The island is the home of the Blue Lagoon, located between the islands of Comino and Cominotto, but there is also a lot of hiking paths to explore.

Fgura

Fgura is a town directly outside the city walls of the Three Cities. Its main street has many small shops, usually more oriented towards the locals than to tourists. Fgura is just a short walk up through the city walls when arriving in the Three Cities with the ferry from Valletta.

Gozo

Gozo is the second-largest island in Malta and is reachable by several possible day trips from Sliema. The main city, Victoria, is located at the center of the island and is home to the impressive Cittadella.

From our visit:

Marsaskala

Marsaskala is another coastal resort town located to the east. This former fishing village has grown into one of the larger towns in South-Eastern Malta.

From our visits:

Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is an old fishing village and famous for its traditional colorful boats and the daily market. This is one of the main tourist attractions in the eastern part of Malta. The colorful fishing boats, known as Luzzu, are an addition to the Maltese culture dating back to the early 12th century.

From our visits:

Mdina

Mdina is the former capital of Malta and is today a small fortified town. It is one of the most impressive sights on the island and just a short bus ride away from Sliema. Mdina is also neighboring the town of Rabat, a town that is possible to combine in the same visit.

From our visits:

Saint Julian’s

Saint Julian’s is the neighboring town and the main tourist resort in Malta. This is where many of the hotels are located and it is popular for its restaurants and shopping. It is also the home of Paceville, an area that is both loved and hated for its many bars and nightclubs.

The Three Cities – Birgu, Cospicua, and Senglea

The Three Cities of Birgu, Cospicua, and Senglea are famous for their fortifications and marinas. This is where you will find Fort St Angelo and several places to view the marina, the Grand Harbor, and Valletta itself.

From our visits:

Valletta

Valletta, the capital of Malta, is one of the places that most people visiting the country will try to see at least once. Its high walls and other fortifications make it an impressive sight and the view of the sea is never far away. The capital is just a short ferry ride away from Sliema, the arrival is however at the waterfront meaning a quite steep climb to the main streets of Valletta.

From our visits:

Żabbar

The town of Żabbar is as with Figura directly outside the walls of the Three Cities and even though it is not the most tourist-oriented town on the island it still has a lot to discover. With the many traditional Maltese balconies, the Gallarijas, lining the streets and with fewer tourists, it is also easier to just stroll around. In addition, the fortifications of the Three Cities are right at the outskirts of the town and so is the large Park ta’ San Klement, with a playground for the kids.

From our visit:

Sliema with a Kid

Sliema might not be the best place in Malta for kids. It is a lot busier than most towns in Malta and can not compete with Marsaskala and a few other towns in regards to the number and quality of the playgrounds. That does not mean, that Sliema does not have activities to offer also for kids. There are playgrounds suited for toddlers as well as older kids.

Playgrounds in Sliema

We have during our visits identified two playgrounds in Sliema, neither of which we know any official name for. So here we go, the two playgrounds we have located and the sight in their vicinity as a way to distinguish them.

Read more about Malta with kids:

Playground at Qui-Si-Sana Beach

The playground next to the Qui-Si-Sana Beach is split into four different circular play areas. One with swings, one for toddlers, one for kids, and one for the older kids. It might have seen better days, but most parts of the playground are still in a good condition. The sections are a bit submerged, providing shelter from the wind.

Playground at Saint Julian’s Tower

The playground at Saint Julian’s Tower was during our last visit in 2020 in need of repairs. It does, however, include a bit larger area where the kids can run around and it is easier to keep an eye on the kids while they go between the different sections.

There are more towns and villages to discover. Join us in Exploring Malta >>

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