Ideal location - useful hub from which to visit Valletta and the rest of Malta
157 people found this review helpful
I had the incredible good fortune to win July's Silvertraveladvisor's prize draw of a 3 week holiday at The Victoria Hotel in Sliema, Malta. The holiday had to be taken between 1 December 2013 and 28 February 2014 so, after careful research, I chose the first three weeks of December in the hope that the warmth of the Mediterranean Autumn would still be lingering.
Sliema is a photographer's paradise with its ancient gated villas hiding behind palms and orange trees; tall limestone buildings with brightly-painted wooden balconies; wide, clean promenades offering far-reaching sea views, parks, statues, sculptures and well cared for stray cats; glowing sunsets; colourful boats and fishermen. I planned to spend much of my time walking around the town and along the promenades experimenting with my camera.
The Hotel is situated on the highest point in Sliema, a largely residential town with two sea frontages: one facing the capitol city of Valletta and the other looking out over the open sea. Within the vicinity of the hotel are a large supermarket; many small, specialist shops including "The Smocking Shop" (not a misspelling but a shop genuinely dedicated to this aspect of dressmaking); several of the top ten restaurants in the town such as Ta Kris, TemptAsian, La Cuggagna; numerous retail outlets including a shopping Mall called The Point containing a Debenhams and a New Look, and a stylish seafront Marks and Spencers.
I had not come to Malta to spend my time shopping. However, we had, somewhat optimistically, brought mostly light summer clothing with a couple of jumpers in case of the occasional cool day. We rapidly realised that every day in Sliema in December was relatively cool thanks to the fresh sea breezes and the tall buildings that blocked out the low sun. In our first week I popped into M & S for some warmer clothing and winter boots. We now blended in with the locals, unlike some of our fellow stalwart Brits who continued to brave it out in shorts and sandals.
Sliema is a convenient hub for travel to other parts of the island. The Strand sea front contains: the ferry terminal to Valletta (2.80 euros for a return trip across the harbour); the information kiosk for Arrriva buses and numerous bus stops for this local bus service that will take you all around the Island for 2.60 euros a day or 12 euros for the week; the ticket shops and bus stops for the two open top, hop on hop off tour bus companies and various harbour cruises.
A pleasant stroll southwards along The Strand seafront, takes you to the suburb of Gzira and Manoel Island which is largely used for boat building but is gradually being developed into an exclusive residential area. On the approach road to the Island lies the quirky, and somewhat smelly, Duck's Village – a higgledy piggledy collection of duck houses and shacks, decorated with a range of plastic toys, designed to provide shelter for passing birds, but in which guinea pigs, cats and chickens appear to live in harmony. There are collection boxes along the fence to enable viewers to contribute to the feeding and upkeep of the various creatures. I would have liked to have continued walking further round the coast and into Valletta, but prior research had suggested this is virtually impossible and potentially hazardous on foot, so I used the bus or ferry.
On the other side of Sliema the waterfront offers a pleasant, slightly bracing, walk northwards into St Julian's, taking in the amazing limestone shores into which bathing pools have been carved. There are no beaches as such but some of the hotels have built lidos and swimming pools on the sea front. There are some pleasant parks with fountains, flowers, shelters and benches, some of which have been taken over by stray cats that are cared for by the locals providing food, medical care and purpose built shelters lined with jumpers and blankets. There are several well-kept public conveniences within the parks which are apparently franchised out to locals who are allowed to keep the tips. There are also plenty of public water fountains dispensing free water.
Walking the streets around the hotel, I gained a colourful and aromatic insight into the day-to-day life of the residents. Each street seemed to have its own tiny convenience store supplemented by pop-up vans selling fish, meat or vegetables. There were also numerous pavement cafes and hole-in-the-wall Pastizzerijas selling warm pastizzi ( pasties filled with cheese or peas) and other pastries such as Imqaret (pastries stuffed with a spicy date mixture).
We thoroughly enjoyed our three weeks in Sliema in December, such an interesting town in a convenient location, and although the weather was relatively chilly – between 10 and 18 degrees during the day – it was mild compared with the English winter weather and ideal for exploring the area.
157 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.