Despite the fact that it’s Malta’s most populous area, many of those travelling to this small Mediterranean archipelago tend to skip over the lively and bustling city of Sliema in lieu of Malta’s other cities and attractions. This, however, is a shame as Sliema has a lot to offer travellers, from beautiful seaside scenery to a great cafe and restaurant scene. There are a number of things to do in Sliema and it can be hard to know where to start!
Situated on a peninsula on the eastern side of the island of Malta just north of the capital of Valletta, Sliema is ideally located for a base for exploring all that the island nation has to offer. Though it can seem on the surface as an overbuilt metropolis and doesn’t necessarily retain the charms of cities like Mdina or Valletta, it is very much worth exploring in its own right and deserves to be treated as more than just a jumping-off point for the rest of the country. If you’re heading to Malta and want to get the most out of your trip, follow this guide to ensure your visit to Sliema is a great one.
Getting To and Around Sliema
As Sliema is the largest urban area on the small island of Malta, it operates as something as a transport hub, meaning that more or less all roads (and buses!) lead to Sliema.
If you’re staying in the city when visiting Malta, getting to Sliema from the airport is straightforward and easy. You will quickly find that it doesn’t take too long to get anywhere in this small country, especially if its an urban area where there are numerous transit links. If you need to get from the airport to Sliema or vice versa, then you have a couple of options.
First and foremost, you can opt to take a taxi, which you should expect to cost around €15-20 and take about 20 minutes, depending on the traffic. You can get a taxi from a rank at the airport or you can opt to hail one from the Bolt app, which is the easiest way to get a taxi and is often cheaper than getting one from the rank.
There is also an airport bus number X2 that will take you to Sliema. The buses leave regularly and it’s well-marked at the airport so it isn’t hard to miss. Because there are numerous stops, expect the journey to take around 45-60 minutes depending on the traffic and time of day. This is the cheapest option, ranging in price from €1.50 – 2 depending on the season (bus fares cost more in the summertime) and you can purchase tickets in cash directly from the driver.
Another popular option is to get from the airport to Sliema by car. While renting a car in Malta certainly isn’t necessary considering how well-connected the country is by bus, some like the convenience and flexibility that a car can offer them.
We recommend using RentalCars.com to find deals on car hire in Malta. We also suggest taking out an excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance in order to save money and give you peace of mind should any damage happen to your car.
It’s worth noting that having a vehicle in Sliema can be more of a nuisance than it’s worth as the city can get very busy and parking can be very hard to find. If you don’t mind dealing with traffic and searching for a parking spot, then you should have no issue. If not, it may be better to rely on your own two feet or the bus to get around!
Sliema is fairly small and you can easily get on foot…in fact, we would recommend it! Sliema is quite walkable and it can be very picturesque to get lost in its hilly back alleys.
If you’re looking to get out of Sliema and explore other areas of Malta, the bus system is quite extensive and there are multiple stops throughout the city. It is worth noting, however, that the busses can get packed in the warmer months and the drivers won’t always stop when you flag it down so sometimes you have to be patient if you’re relying on public transport.
There are also frequent ferries connecting Sliema to the capital of Valletta. The journey only takes about 5-10 minutes and you get lovely views of the Valletta skyline from the water on the ride. Ferries leave every 30 minutes and a single journey costs €1.50 and a return journey costs €2.80. You can purchase tickets right before boarding from the attendant.
Things To Do In Sliema
In recent years, Sliema has become a massive hub for expats and digital nomads seeking a high quality of life, great weather, and affordable prices. Because of this, Sliema has the feel of a big, bustling, vibrant city while still possessing some small-town charms. There are a number of cool things to do in Sliema — here are some of our favourites:
Wander Along The Promenade
Sliema is situated on its own peninsula just across the bay from Malta’s capital of Valletta in the southeast and the residential city of St Julian’s to the northwest. And the wonderful Victorian seaside promenade is Sliema’s crown jewel — stretching for three kilometres surrounding the entire peninsula, it leads all the way to St Julian’s.
Taking a leisurely stroll and enjoying the beautiful views of the Mediterranean along the promenade is one of the best things to do in Sliema. The promenade is also lined with gelato shops and many cafes, so there are ample places to take a rest if the Maltese heat starts to get to you. It also comes alive in the evening, where locals and tourists alike flock there to enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine in hand.
Take Advantage Of Happy Hour
Malta really embraces the Southern European drinking and eating culture, and this becomes especially evident in Sliema. After just a quick stroll, you will see that most cafes offer great happy hour deals — many where you can get a free appetiser with the purchase of a drink. This can be an appealing option, especially in Sliema’s many wine bars. Malta has an emerging wine industry and makes some fantastic reds and whites and they can be really great to enjoy with a traditional meat and cheese platter!
Even if a cafe or bar doesn’t have a free appetiser to entice you to purchase an alcoholic beverage, most places will have fantastic drink deals which is great if you’re visiting Malta on a budget! So find a place that appeals to you and enjoy the sunset hours with a discounted drink in hand!
This is no joke. All along the promenade, it is possible to climb down the steps and splash around in the water. In the summer months especially, the water in Malta is very warm and swimming can be a welcome break from the sweltering heat.
The swimming areas are very well marked and there are also barricades both to prevent you from going too far out and to prevent boats from going to close. So if you don’t feel like venturing to the north of the island to find a sandy beach, going for a swim beneath the promenade can be one of the best things to do in Sliema.
If you want to see (and swim in!) a bit of Maltese history, keep an eye out for the Victorian bathing pools along the promenade. These were carved out in the limestone and are naturally filled by the rising and falling tides.
Enjoy Delicious Maltese & International Cuisine
Though there are fantastic restaurants throughout Malta, Sliema has a great collection of eateries and it’s really a great area to grab a delicious and authentic bite to eat. Whether you’re looking for a crisp salad and freshly squeezed juice or a hearty traditional Maltese feast, you can find everything and more in Sliema.
Some of our favourite restaurants in Malta are located in Sliema and, especially away from the promenade, they don’t tend to come with a very high price tag either. While you probably can’t go wrong with a well-reviewed restaurant anywhere on Malta or Gozo, Sliema is one of the best places to explore if you want to learn more about delicious Maltese cuisine and want to experience the great food scene in the country.
Sliema Restaurants & Cafés
One of the things that we were incredibly impressed by in Malta was the quality (and value for money!) of the food. The local cuisine is delicious and there are myriad fantastic restaurants where you can sample it. There is also a great café culture in Sliema that is worth trying out. Here are some of our favourite Sliema restaurants and cafés:
This Kiwi cafe is located close to the promenade and makes excellent coffee and freshly squeezed juices. They also serve some great vegetarian sandwiches, salads, and cakes so it can be a great option for a late breakfast or lunch. It’s a pretty big hangout for the digital nomad and expat communities because it has both comfortable indoor and outdoor seating and fast wifi. Even if you’re just popping in for a flat white, be sure to head to Mint when you’re visiting Sliema.
This is a great place for a cup of coffee in the morning or a delicious salad or sharing platter in the afternoon or evening. Serving up fresh salads, delicious sandwiches, and appealing meat and cheese platters along with fresh-pressed juices, Crudo is a perfect place for a bit to eat. Located just off of Sliema’s promenade overlooking Balutta Bay, it is also conveniently located in the city.
Located on the Promenade, this might be the best place for an all-around experience. They have a good happy hour deal, a fantastic dinner menu, and a shisha specialist to keep you chilling out there all evening. We spent a wonderful evening there, sampling some local craft beer and eating a delicious octopus salad. It’s also a great location to smoke a hookah while looking out at the sea or watching the people stroll along the promenade while out for the evening.
This is absolutely one of the best Sliema restaurants. Situated in a rather unassuming alleyway, this place has a homely atmosphere and amazing food. It’s worth keeping in mind that the portion sizes here (and most anywhere in Malta) are absolutely massive so maybe don’t order an entree and a main per person unless you’re really hungry! Some great things to try are their octopus in garlic (a local speciality) and their seafood pasta. The fish is as fresh as it could be and you can definitely taste it! Make sure to make a reservation as they get busy!
If you want a hearty Italian meal away from the touristy places on the promenade, then you cannot go wrong with La Cuccagna. Located a little bit inland from the seaside, this restaurant has all of the delicious Italian favourites including pasta dishes, risottos, and delicious pizzas. They also have a great wine list, agreeable prices and friendly service.
This small seafood restaurant only has two seats inside and is more often used as a takeaway joint, but it nonetheless serves some of the most delicious traditional seafood dishes in Sliema. They have typical Maltese fare like octopus in garlic on the menu (which is amazing!), but also interesting twists — like a fantastic octopus burger. Located close to the Sliema to Valletta ferry terminal, you can’t go wrong with a quick bite at Sea Salt!
Where to Stay in Sliema
Because Sliema is the largest city in Malta and is arguably the best place to base yourself on the island, there are numerous accommodation options to choose from that will suit any budget. If you’re struggling to find the best place to stay, have a look at our suggestions:
Two Pillows Hostel — This small boutique hostel is a fantastic place to stay if you’re travelling solo or on a budget. This clean and comfortable hostel had a number of rooms (both dorm and private), a great location in Sliema, and a friendly and helpful staff. Click here to see their latest prices
Mr Todd Hotel — This small hotel located is located in the heart of Sliema and only a stone’s throw from the swimming areas that line the promenade. They offer clean and air-conditioned rooms, 24-hour reception, and a helpful staff to ensure your stay in Malta is a great one. Click here to see their latest prices
Private Rental — If you’re looking for a different sort of accommodation, then a private rental can be a great option. There are a number of properties available in Sliema, from private rooms to entire apartments/houses including this lovely studio apartment. Click here to browse private rentals in Sliema
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Sliema!
Though Sliema isn’t filled with many tourist sites and activities, it is a lively city with many cool things to do and great places to eat!
Are you planning on visiting Sliema, Malta? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!