The Top Things to See and Do in Sliema

Sliemas quiet backstreets are full of beautiful architecture
Sliema's quiet backstreets are full of beautiful architecture | © Olga Khomyakova / Alamy Stock Photo
Andrew Ricca

Opposite Valletta, on the the other side of the bay that hugs tiny Manoel Island, the neighbourhood of Sliema is one of the best places to stay in Malta. With easy access by ferry, great views from Tigne Point and elegant, golden-stone architecture like Stella Maris Church, travellers will find plenty to keep them busy in Sliema. Here’s our guide for the best things to see and do.

1. Catch the Valletta ferry

Architectural Landmark

Approaching Valletta on the Sliema Ferry
© Clearview / Alamy Stock Photo

If you want to take in your surroundings from a different perspective, the public ferry service is the most convenient and affordable way to get out onto the water. Marsamxett Ferry Services runs two ferries per hour, including a free shuttle service that connects Marsamxett Harbour with the Grand Harbour, on the other side of Valletta. The views of fortified Manoel Island and the butterscotch-hued walled city of Valletta will make you want to take the journey again and again.

2. Delve into history at Manoel Island

Natural Feature

St Anthony of Pauda Chapel, Fort Manoel, Manoel Island, Malta.
© Ainara Garcia / Alamy Stock Photo

Manoel Island sits at the centre of Marsamxett Harbour, attached to mainland by a bridge – with a lot of history packed onto its 0.3sqkm area. In 1592 it was first used as an isolation centre to contain an outbreak of the plague and cholera, and there’s a quarantine complex dating from between the 17th and 19th which still remains today. Close by is the Knights of Malta-built, 18th-century Fort Manoel, a sprawling limestone star fort that’s appeared in Game of Thrones.

3. Christine X Art Gallery

Art Gallery, Bridge

PaperWorks Gallery at Christine X Art Gallery. Credit: Fran Stivala Photography
Courtesy ofChristine X Art Gallery / Fran Stivala Photography
Formerly known as Artitude, the Christine X Art Gallery promotes the work of local and foreign emerging artists in an intimate setting. Daring abstracts, figurative paintings and scenes from local landscapes coexist within a relatively small space. They’re all available to buy, custom-framed, if you’re in the market for a unique souvenir. From time to time, this owner-run gallery hosts temporary exhibitions dedicated to a particular contemporary artist – and it’s always free to visit.

4. Tigne Point

Natural Feature

Malta Sliema Tigne Point footpath
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
British military barracks, disused since the 1970s, had a 21st-century makeover to become Tigne Point – an area that features the largest conglomerate of modern high-rise architecture in the country. The streets beneath, lined with a mix of luxurious apartments, shops and hi-tech offices, are now completely pedestrianised. Cross the bridge which leads to the Point, Malta’s biggest retail mall, to see the dozens of small padlocks – imitating the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris.

5. See a show at Salesian Theatre

Theater

Dancers perform in a dress rehearsal of Its Schiller!, based on 18th century German dramatist and historian Friedrich Schillers drama fragment Die Maltheser (The Knights of Malta), depicting the knights last stand during the 1565 siege of Fort St E
© REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
Sliema’s oldest theatre, the Salesian, has been running for more than a century. You’ll find it in the backstreets, a little way inland from the coastal promenade. Having been restored and reopened as one of the country’s cultural reference points, its intimate setting plays host to music performances, plays and contemporary art exhibitions. Stucco ornamentation and a wall painting entitled The Virtues of Mankind by Maltese-born painter Giuseppe Cali adorn the theatre’s proscenium.

6. Walk along the seaside promenade

Architectural Landmark

Balluta Bay in Sliema on the Mediterranean island of Malta
© Steve Allen Travel Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

At just over 2km (1.2mi), the seaside promenade following Tower Road is one of the longest continuous stretches of unobstructed open sea views to be enjoyed anywhere in urban Malta. Starting from the edge of Qui-Si-Sana neighbourhood, walk towards St. Julian’s – you’ll pass a British military base-turned-restaurant known as Il-Fortizza (the Fortress), 17th-century coastal watchtowers, churches and ice cream parlours galore. Art deco fans should look out for Balluta Bay’s chic terrace townhouses.

7. Swim in the Roman Baths

Historical Landmark

People bathing in Baths of Sliema, commonly known as Roman Baths or Fond Ghadir
© Lena Maximova - Travel / Alamy Stock Photo

There may not be any sandy beaches in Sliema, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t swimming opportunities. Just beneath the beautifully located Surfside restaurant lie a series of rectangular rock-cut pools, sheltered from open sea currents and equipped with swimming pool ladders. The pools are commonly referred to as Roman Baths or Fond Ghadir, however they probably date to the much more recent Victorian era.

8. Stop for coffee in the backstreets

Architectural Landmark

Cafe Berry, Sliema, Malta
© HelenJonesFlorio / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Start walking down the thoroughfare of Sir Adrian Dingli Street and allow yourself to wander off into the web of backstreets. You’ll stumble across fancy colonnades, colourful Maltese balconies and art deco and art nouveau facades that once defined Sliema’s urban landscape. Close to the ferry terminal on San Duminku, stop for a pistachio or hazelnut coffee and vegan almond and berry cake at the dinky-but-delicious Caffe Berry.

9. Tour Sliema's churches

Church

Rooftop view of Stella Maris parish church, Sliema, Malta.. Image shot 2011. Exact date unknown.
© antony baxter / Alamy Stock Photo

As one of Europe’s most Catholic countries, Malta has nearly enough churches for you to visit a different one every day of the year. With four parishes, Sliema has its fair share of beautiful churches open to everybody, such as the baroque Stella Maris (translated as Our Lady Star of the Sea), built in 1854. Small but full of character, its theatrical decor includes red columns and sashes, and a fresco over the altar.

10. Take a ride on a self-drive boat

Architectural Landmark

Popular holiday destination Sliema seafront looking across Exiles Bay towards St Julians Bay & St Julians Malta
© Clearview / Alamy Stock Photo
You don’t need any boating experience to hire one of the red motor-powered dinghies from Malta Self Drive Boats. Run by a friendly British owner, they’re easy to operate, cheap to rent and come with a booklet showing you where to anchor, swim and even stop at a waterfront bar. It’s also a great way reach some of the hidden corners of the harbour region’s stunning coastline, bays and historic sites.

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