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Though small, Malta still has something for everyone and somewhere to go for everything ... it’s just a case of knowing what you want to do and then where to go to find it. For history and sightseeing, for example, you head for Valletta or the former capital, Mdina . For peace and tranquillity, it’s Gozo . And to mix with the in-crowd, you hit trendy Sliema.
Sliema has always had a bit of a chip on its shoulder, if that’s possible for a place! It’s smarter, a little bit more chic and always has its finger (hey if it’s got shoulders it must have fingers) more firmly on the pulse of the latest trends than most other places. It’s also the place where the best shops on the island can be found, which probably has a lot to do with its levels of kudos among the Maltese ‘in-crowd’.
Sliema started life as little more than a colonial town on the edge of the sea across from the Maltese capital city of Valletta. Back then there were regular ferries taking British servicemen and civil servants to their offices in the administrative centre. The service was recently revived and is still one of the best ways of reaching Valletta.
Since the Second World War, Sliema’s standing has gradually increased so that now it is an acknowledged trendy commercial centre. It’s the place ‘to see and be seen’.
If you’re looking for one of Europe’s big name fashion shops then, if they have a branch in Malta, you’ll find it here. The town and its attractive waterfront promenade are just as well-know and popular though for their pavement café culture as it is for shopping. It’s here where ’women who lunch’ and many other people come to sit in expensive sunglasses, drink coffee and put the world to rights.
Of course, you’re more than welcome to join them because unlike some European venues we could mention (London, Venice, Paris) where cafes in the more exclusive places hike up their prices to ridiculous levels, the prices here are fairly standard. You can easily take part in Sliema life, buy various small local dishes and a beer or wine and watch the world and the boats go by.
Thankfully Sliema’s cafés are an all-inclusive operation. You’ll find people of all ages knocking around. The beautiful young things strut along towards the centre of Maltese nightlife down the coast in Paceville, while the not-quite-so-young things relax and chew the fat having secured a spot on one of the many seaside benches.
Sliema is seldom quiet but never too ‘stressy’ and busy as to make you feel uncomfortable. Your biggest issue here is likely to be finding a parking spot if you visit in the height of summer.
But once you are safely parked it’s a case of picking your venue for an espresso or a quick lunch-time ftira - a huge local sandwich packed with Mediterranean favourites like tuna, tomatoes, olives, beans and sun-dried tomatoes, made from a delicious, large, traditional Maltese bread loaf.
Then you do what the locals do – sit back, relax and take in the views – like the yachts in the marina and the big tankers and the cruise liners sliding by in the distance.
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