- Sliema is a coastal town on the north east side of the Island of Malta in the northern harbour district. The town is filled with residential and commercial accommodation, businesses, shopping, bars and restaurants.
- The population of Sliema is around 23,000 people however this number varies greatly during the peak holiday season.
- The word itself Sliema is the Maltese word for 'Peace' and is sometimes used as a greeting or a salute.
- The harbour of Sliema is called Marsamxett Harbour and was used by the Ottomans to land and begin their invasion however when they arrived they were confronted by the Grand Harbour's defences which were far too strong.
- The speed limits on the roads in Sliema are in km/h and have a maximum of 50km/h in and around the city.
- Originally the city was a stronghold and then the glorious Our Lady Star of the Sea church was built in the harbour on the shore and brought people in mass to live around it, eventually gaining its status as a parish in 1878.
- The first sea water distillery was created in Sliema in 1881, it was made to help hydrate British troops.
- The legal blood alcohol level for drivers is 80mg BAC.
- There are cameras all over the island both stationary in spots dotted throughout and mobile on police vehicles.
- Sliema was traditionally a small fishing village which was popular as a spot for the wealthier inhabitants to holiday in, now with the enormous amount of modern building that have been thrown up most of this history is lost as the houses were demolished to make way for progress.
- Manoel Island Service station is the closest place to Sliema to refill, it's on the way to Valletta via the coast.
Hiring a car in Sliema
There are a number of places to hire a car throughout the island, in Sliema there are around five that range from the well-known Hertz to the very local Cholot, the best bet is to research deeply before you rent. Renting from within Sliema is possible however the ideal prices due to competition are at the airport, which is a short bus ride away, then you can drop it back there on your way out of the country.
The companies that run directly out of the airport are Budget, Thrifty/Dollar rent a car, Europcar, 1st Car Rental/Active car rental, Avis, Goldcar rental, Green Motion car and van rental, Hertz, Tipoa, Drifter car hire, Optimo, Surprice car rental and of course Sixt.
The companies with physical desks within the airport are Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Sixt, Aquarius and the local First Car Hire.
History of Sliema
It's definitely one of the most popular spots on the island for residents and tourists alike, the long promenade and the even longer nightlife draws humans from everywhere. How did it come to be like this though, from its origins of a humble fishing village, crops were raised on the island as well as far back as 5900 BC until the land was over farmed and became impossible to inhabit. Settlers returned around 3850 BC although some may say that the island could've been lost for that period, being found again by this group who went on to build the Megalithic Temples a UNESCO world heritage site of which Malta has many. Sliema however had always been a spot of tranquillity where the fisherman would bob away waiting for a bite and the spectators on the shore would wait patiently for their breakfast. This lasted until the rise of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish soldiers turned Sliema or 'il-Qortin' as it was once known, into a camp for their troops, they were led by Dragut. His life came to an end when a strike force came from Fort St Elmo, Valletta and overthrew him and his troops. The next great shift in Sliema's history was when the Knights of St John arrived and ordered fort St Tigne to be built so that the Maltese could make a stand against the French who wished to occupy the land, Malta has a long history of being occupied by other countries. Our Lady Star of the Sea church was built in Sliema around 1855 and this brought people from all over the island to worship, then turned what was once a quiet fishing village then troop camp then worship land into a place for the wealthier of Malta to holiday. The British continued to build whilst in the area adding Sliema Point Battery, Cambridge Battery and Garden Battery to enhance fortifications in the years spanning 1872-94. Sliema has turned into what is now one of the most sought after residential and commercial areas in the whole country, the high rises were built on top of this long history making a new a vibrant land for shops, restaurants, cafes and bars to flourish.
Guide to Sliema
Where would be best to start in a city that has more historical attractions than the British museum, café's that rival Italy, restaurants that stand on the shoulders of age old tradition and bars that challenge the imagination. All of these things Sliema has to offer and so does the rest of the island but how about none of that, how about surprising yourself with an underwater tour, Scuba diving is incredibly popular in this part of the world, with its clear turquoise waters and wartime relics that have been harvested and protected, there will be plenty for you to see and the water is a reasonable temperature from May, if you don't mind the cold the flights and accommodation are ludicrously cheap in the off season. The people at Watercolours Dive Centre are some of the best on the island. There's caverns to explore within the immediate vicinity, something to warm you into the treasure hunts that are around the rest of this magical island. Just close to Sliema is Manoel Island, where the British water lighter HMS X-127 was sunk by an enemy torpedo, this is another rung in the extendable ladder of Malta's history of being a support centre for many armies and conquerors across time.
Once you're out of the water and have stared at the great dome building Our Lady of Mount Carmel that sits in the city of Valletta, you will need to bring yourself back to this day and age and Sliema will provide again with its multiple shopping spots, Plaza shopping centre, The Point shopping centre (Where you can sneak a little more history in with a quick pit stop at Piazza Tigne) is filled with all the largest brands Polo, Lacoste, Nike the ones that you can of course get at home but you're on holiday so you may buy that knit that you couldn't justify at home. Sliema has so much more to offer than those big names though and they are only a carved stone street away, Tower road is home to some independent designers but the back streets are where you will find hidden gems like Cabouxon for homewares and jewellery, then down the road from there is Sunset Records where all the latest and oddest vinyl will be waiting for your ears and wallet to buy, they have a section at the back for clothes too, you can't go wrong with a bit of Pete Tong underwear (They don't have this but they should).
Shopping & nightlife
Shopping is for the materialistic, which is all of us at some point but Sliema is for the every person and whilst here, remembering this is just one city in this rabbit hole of an island, you should go to see the Cat Statue, its perched on the edge of the promenade overlooking St Julian's Bay, one of the hottest spots for nightlife on the island. Now all this diving shopping and looking has made you hungry, well food is a specialty of this part of the island and no way will you find something older and more traditional than L-Ahwa bakery on St Trophimus St, this is just off the beaten track near where the ferries leave from Sliema to go to Valletta, there is no sign on the door so you will have to follow your nose and the locals.
Education limits are reached, swimming dreams are conquered and bread hopes have been realised now time for a well-earned drink and a sunset gander, Temptasian rooftop lounge has a few Maltese wines by the glass and a cocktail menu that has all the classics, A Bellini on the rooftop may just be the ticket for those tired feet. Fancy is not always the first choice for anyone and getting to the rooftop may be a little challenging (there's an elevator of course) so forgo those cocktail dreams and dive into the Hole in the Wall Bar and Pub that blends it's craft beer selection perfectly with its mixer of independent rock music to make a smoothie of small bar fun, it's the oldest pub on the island and has a little kitchen to knock up a tasty hot sandwich to accompany your drinking.
All of this can be a little too much, the food, the drink, the people, it can be an exhausting city so do yourself and friends or partner a favour, grab a pizza from Vecchia Napoli and go out on the rocks in front of Torri ta'San Giljan and enjoy the gentle splashing shores of the city known as 'Peace'.
Day trips from Sliema
Sliema and even more so Malta has been an island owned by everyone else but the Maltese till 21st September 1964 when the British handed it back to the rightful owners and since then they have restored, developed and started their own industries. Disney came to the island, the Hollywood flick Popeye with the late great Robin Williams, was filmed in Malta and they built a full sized Puddleburg on the Maltese coast and left it there, whether this was agreed or was just big business wandering away without cleaning up is unknown, the positive side is that it is still there today and if you ever wanted to jump into a comic strip this is the place to go, it's not too far from Sliema and there are plenty of day trips to the area.
If Popeye isn't your thing then but you still have dreams of being on a Hollywood set then take a day trip to the most picturesque parts of the whole island, Comino and Gozo, two islands to the north that are popular for their gorgeous settings and filming locations, Troy the Wolfgang Peterson epic with Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom and Diane Kruger was partly filmed on the island of Comino in the famous blue lagoon, the lagoon has to be seen to be believed, the Azure waters and jagged rock formations are what fantasies are made of just bear in mind that many people have similar fantasies and will live them out alongside you, go there early to beat the rush. Once done with the lagoon and the pirate ships (they're chartered, a lot of fun but no role playing or real pirates) take the ferry again to the island of Gozo where the iconic location 'The Azure Window' once sat, it collapsed unfortunately in 2017 but is immortalised in the Jim Caviezel film The Count of Monte Cristo, when here if you listen closely you can hear Luis Guzman whispering the secret location of the lost gold bullion, who doesn't love a treasure hunt.
Like any island there are the developed parts and the inaccessible parts, there are the cities and towns that host the travellers and the residents, beaches that are packed with people and attractions that all those people attend however there are also places that not many of those people know about. Take for instance the famous Golden Bay, the local bus will take you there for a euro or two from either a Sliema bus stop or a St Julian's bay one but then when you arrive instead of heading to the Golden Bay take a left turn and after a little trek there is the lesser known Għajn Tuffieħa beach, an untamed beachfront wilderness, if adventure is still beating through your veins, the end opposite the kiosk/restaurant(not bad for a beer or wine or even just a snack and water) is a hill waiting for you to climb over it to another even more secluded beach, this gets steep and slippery so decent shoes are a necessity but it is worth the mild danger for the stunning view.
Sliema car hire FAQ's
Cost of hiring a car in Sliema?
Car hire in Sliema is direct from the retailer so no comparison site is there to get you the best deal. Hiring a car at the airport and returning it is £6.38 per day(Price for 03/12/19 for 3 days) this is for a driver over the age of 25. This is probably your best bet. You can get a Kia Picanto for £7.50 per day from Hertz in Sliema if you wish.
What is the cheapest car hire in Sliema?
The cheapest is £7.50 per day for a Kia Picanto or similar. The cheapest that can be found from the airport with inclusive cover is £6.38 per day for a Chevrolet spark or similar.
How much is it for an economy car hire per day in Malta?
The cheapest is £6.38 per day for a Chevrolet Spark or similar however for 28 pence more you can get a more luxurious Peugeot 108 for £6.66 per day.
Which car companies operate out of Malta Airport?
Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Budget, Thrifty, Goldcar, Sixt, Green Motion and the local service First Car Hire. Other companies will happily drop a car off to the airport and they are much cheaper, Surprice and Aquarius both do pickup and drop off from Malta Airport. A few other local services will deliver the car to the airport but this will incur additional costs.
What's the best way to get around Sliema?
The public transport system of buses travel throughout the island of Malta, they are frequent and new however during busy times they can be incredibly packed, if you are to travel on them the earlier the better, the streets of the immediate Sliema are best to wander on foot.
Do I need an international license for Malta?
If you are from outside the EU then you will need an IDP(International Drivers Permit) to drive in Malta and you must have this on you at all times. Even if there is a no deal Brexit UK drivers will still be able to use their license without additional permits.
What if I have an accident?
Contact the local authorities first then the car company that you hired the rental from.
Which side of the road do the Maltese drive on?
Drive on the left.
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