The picturesque town of Sliema sits on a peninsula enjoying two waterfronts, one flanking the Mediterranean, and the other looking across Marsamxett Harbour into the eyes of Valletta. This is now the most fashionable resort in Malta offering up-market shopping, fine dining, classy hotels and apartments, and an important status symbol for those lucky enough to have acquired an address here.
Sliema got its name from a chapel dedicated to The Our Lady of The Sea and Sliem is the Maltese word meaning peace or serenity. It is quite a large residential town with a population of around 15,000 locals, housing also a significant number of expatriates that reside there temporarily.
Sliema was once a quiet fishing village and a little summer resort that attracted the wealthier Valletta residents. Elegant houses and villas were built and soon it grew into an important residential area and a hub for shopping, cafes and restaurants. In recent years the tourism potential of the area was developed and promoted with great success and now Sliema is the first tourist resort in Malta with the town expanding rapidly with a myriad of shops, hotels and apartment blocks.
Sliema is surrounded by the rich blue Mediterranean and the promontory offers spectacular views across to Valletta, an area that is now a hive of commercial activity. This is where all the harbour cruise operators have their little jetties, and every day, all along the Strand Road, the persistent salespeople work the crowds, frantically courting business, and through their tenacity and sales skills, manages to fill the many cruisers with tourists of every nationality, taking them to every nook and cranny of the Grand Harbour, returning them safe, highly impressed and delighted.
Apart from the harbour activity, Sliema is all about shopping. Up to a couple of years ago, the main shopping area was in the centre of the town between the two waterfronts, where many big international stores boomed, and were complimented by local independent shops, restaurants and boutiques. It was, and is still, a buzzing area of the town, but now, the development of Tigne Point has transformed shopping, not only for Sliema, but for the whole of Malta. This is located at one end of the town on an area jutting out into the harbour, and it is just massive. It comprises hotels, apartments, infrastructure, and a three-tier shopping mall, all designed and finished to world-class standards. The mall, in particular, is spectacular with at least one hundred of the world’s top brand names located here. I must say that I’m hugely impressed with these wonderful new facilities, and as I return each year I’m pleased to see it flourishing and successful, because this was a most courageous leap forward by the developers, and the government that backed this important project.
A small bridge situated at the end of Sliema Strand Road on the Gzira waterfront, leads to Manoel Island, a historic islet and an important landmark covering an area of some 30 hectares in the harbour between Sliema and Valletta. The Island’s main feature is Fort Manoel, an 18th century fortification constructed by the Knights of St John. The fort was named in honour of the Grand Master and with its garrison of 500 men it was deemed virtually impregnable at the time.
After suffering devastating attacks and a series of direct hits during air raids in the Second World War, Fort Manoel was reduced to a shadow of its former magnificence. Sadly, the situation was worsened by the decades of neglect and vandalism that overtook the place after the British forces moved out of Malta. Several years and millions of Euro later, this historic gem has now been almost fully restored and further ambitious plans are in train for the historic little leaf-shaped island.
The other very well known historic structure on Manoel Island is the Lazaretto. Built from 1643, the Lazaretto was first used as a quarantine centre and, later, as a hospital and Military base. Today the Lazaretto is in a critical state of repair but will be fully restored and re-used as part of the proposed new heritage regeneration process.
Manoel Island is an established yachting centre and includes an extensive yacht repair facility considered to be one of the best in the Mediterranean. A fully fledged 350-berth yacht marina also features in the plans for Manoel Island’s further redevelopment which also envisages the provision of leisure facilities, gardens, walkways, museums and other cultural attractions.
Over the past few decades, Sliema’s popularity has been steadily gaining momentum and it is now becoming a highly sought after area by both locals and tourists. With an abundance of top class amenities, spectacular sea views and a lively modern ambience, you’ll find that Sliema is buzzing with exuberance and positive activity. I always find this little town delightful and exhilarating, and with its numerous bars, beach lidos, fine dining, delightful and colourful ice cream parlours, cafes, and stylish shopping malls, I’m spoiled for choice and for me there’s never a dull moment in Sliema.
From ‘IN LOVE WITH MALTA’ (The Hidden Treasures)
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