Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Malta chapter on Valletta has to say about St Julian’s and Sliema:
Sliema is the quieter and more residential of these areas, and it has a bevy of gorgeous new hostel options that are very much at the boutique end of the spectrum, not party palaces for those in their teens and twenties, but catering to all ages.
Both Sliema and St Julian’s also have some grand five-star and midrange options. There’s access to the rocky beach along Sliema’s seafront from here. If you stay in St Julian’s or Paceville you’re nearer to the small sandy beach, and these districts form Malta’s gastronomic and nightlife centre.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Why Malta one might ask? ‘Good question’, an answer I’m getting a little tired of hearing as a response to all the questions asked on the news programs we watch each evening.
I was really keen to revisit Malta to see how much the island has changed since I was first there in 1972. Four decades have passed in the meantime, and the whole world has changed, would I even recognize any of my old haunts after such a long time? I spent three weeks on Malta, with my travelling friend Bronwyn while we were on our way from Casablanca to Cairo overland. She had a friend in Valetta that she wanted to visit.
Our first day in Malta was pretty much a write-off because we’d lost most of the previous nights’ sleep due to the weather delays and we weren’t settled into our room at the hotel until after 2:00am. The storm had blown over, the skies were clear, and the sun was shining like nothing usual had happened. We had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, just before they cleared the buffet away.
We didn’t have a great deal of energy so we just walked to the closest bit of water, the Portomaso Marina, and it just so happened to be one of the most exclusive in the area. The contrast with the gritty port area of Catania couldn’t have been more different. My jaw dropped when we walked through the entrance gate to the condo complex that surrounds the marina, and saw the beautiful boats on the water. After wandering around for an hour or so, we returned to our hotel to try and catch up on our lost sleep.
It was getting dark by the time we stepped outside of our hotel. We were only going to be in Malta for three nights (two full days) and we had already lost one complete day of sightseeing. We really didn’t have a sense of where we were staying because we’d arrived in the middle of the night and it was raining heavily. However, I did remember that you are never far from the water on Malta, so we walked to the end of our street and voilá.
The lights surrounding the harbour were dancing on the surface of the water and the effect was magical. We decided to walk off our sleepiness and look for a place along the waterfront where we could have a nice dinner. That hadn’t been possible in Catania, this was a more romantic Mediterranean setting and we wanted to enjoy it to the fullest.
We ended up walking for almost an hour until we rounded a point where we stopped to admire a tower that was erected in 1658. It was dedicated to St. Julian, and the name was given to the bay that stretches inland from the tower, the bay that we had just been walking along, looking for a place to eat.
We walked along Tower Road, not really thinking about the distance we had covered because the sea air was so refreshing and this was new territory we were covering. We hadn’t purchased a guidebook for Malta because we were only going to be on the island for three nights and felt we could discover things on our own for once.
After rounding yet another headland and passing what appeared to be another old fortification, we eventually arrived in Sliema and found the eateries we had been looking for. As we walked we saw that there was now a wide esplanade on the land between Tower Road and the sea and there were several open-air restaurants and bars with inviting-looking seating.
We had a terrific meal at the Compass Lounge and the attentive waiter helped me to find a wine that I was confident wouldn’t give me a migraine – he selected a Malbec from Argentina and it was delicious. We sat for a long time, relaxing and making plans for the following day. We only two full days in Malta, but because our flight to Athens wasn’t leaving till early evening, we had some additional time on departure day to explore if we wanted to.
We decided to retrace our steps and walk all the way back to our hotel. The other option was to follow the winding streets that rose up and over the hills behind Sliema and then down again to St. Julian’s Bay. I was pretty certain that would be a perfect way to get lost, and it probably wasn’t a wise thing to do in the dark.
The whole area was almost unrecognizable from the Sliema I vaguely remembered from my first visit in 1972; there were no landmarks to guide me. Walking back along the sea made the most sense. Besides, now we were returning to the lights along the waterfront from the opposite direction, and it looked so beautiful I could have continued walking for hours.
On the way back we noticed a lively little restaurant called Kebabji that served Middle Eastern food and decided we’d eat there after exploring Valletta, Malta’s capital, the following day. Grilled kebabs and Lebanese salads are some of our favourite foods anywhere.