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What’s It Like Living In Sliema, Malta, As An Expat

From the muddy fields of Worcestershire in the UK to the crystal blue waters of the Sliema seafront, I couldn’t have grown up in a place that would further contrast with where I live now. 

Sliema, located a 15-minute drive away from Malta’s capital Valletta has become a home away from home for me; its comforting surroundings and traditional Maltese buildings provide a complete sense of adventure and wonder.

If you are considering relocating to Sliema, here are a few things to look out for, features you may miss if you’re only visiting for a week and need to gain the local knowledge of someone who lives here.

What’s Sliema like

Whenever I describe Sliema to visitors, I always split it into two halves. One side is a lot quieter than the other.

If you’re looking for a lively bar with an intense atmosphere open late into the night, then the south side is where you’ll want to go. It is home to a stretch of bars offering live music and excellent cocktails.

The Black Sheep in the heart of Sliema is perfect if you enjoy live music and a good IPA.

Restaurants such as Gabbana’s and Surfside offer a welcome relief from the sun and good food to go with it. Gabbana’s Diablo pizza is a personal favourite of mine. If you are a fan of quieter restaurants with a scenic sea view, take a 10-minute walk to the peninsula’s north side.

Between the two sides, a hill emerges like a jungle of traditional Maltese buildings. One of my favourite things is getting lost admiring the architecture and stopping off (reasonably regularly) at little pubs and bars hidden on the side roads.

In the peak of summer, this can be a draining activity. The hills and beaming sun can catch you off guard, so apply sun cream and ensure you know which general direction you’re walking.

While taking a stroll myself, I came to find my home away from home, the Salisbury Arms, an English-style family-run pub in Sliema. This pub is a kind reminder of the UK with its warm rustic interior and friendly staff. George couldn’t be more welcoming to visitors needing a cold Cisk.

Housing and property in Sliema

Property and housing in Sliema can be a minefield. Firstly, because of Sliema’s seafront views and location, it can be costly. Secondly, finding an ideal option can take some time.

The majority of the property on the coastline is apartments. They might be expensive, but they offer breathtaking Mediterranean sea views. You don’t have to live in a penthouse; even a first-floor apartment will look out over the promenade.

If you are in Malta for the foreseeable future, buying might provide you with a more stable, cost-efficient solution. If this is what you are after, read our Buying A Property In Malta guide. It will tell you how to safely buy a property in Malta, avoid the pitfalls, understand the process, and do your due diligence.

On the other hand, renting is better if you think you may only be in Malta for 2-3 years.

Renting is reasonable in Malta country-wide. Depending on your budget, you can find a one-bedroom studio for €500 pm plus bills.

If you’re looking for an apartment with a kitchen and living space, you can pay between €600 and €1,200.

From my own experience renting in Sliema, it can be the luck of the draw. Once an apartment becomes available, it usually gets snapped up.

I’d recommend using the Facebook marketplace to find rental properties. You can contact the landlord directly, saving you a lot on estate agents’ fees.  

Where to live in Sliema

For living purposes, I recommend the north side of the peninsula.

My partner and I have lived there for over a year now. It is quiet and peaceful, but a short 10-minute stroll takes us to either St Julian’s or a bar on the other side of Sliema, not to mention the sea is only a 50-metre walk away.

If you’re looking for better value for money, then areas such as Gzira and Msida are close. They’re only a 10-minute walk away and will likely get you more for your money.

The cost of living in Sliema

Compared to the US or UK, the general cost of living in Malta is lower. Some products come at a premium; this tends to be related to the lack of big discount stores we’re used to at home. 

By choosing the local produce and buying the same goods as the locals, you will enjoy an excellent standard of living for around 20% less than in the UK and US. 

Monthly utility costs also tend to be lower. Living in a large apartment of around 90m2, your essential utilities, including electricity for heating and cooling plus water and gas, will be about €100 monthly.

Travelling around Sliema

Sliema is very narrow, so transport is accessible wherever you are. Bus stops are dotted everywhere.

Buses are a favourite transport option and will take you anywhere on the island. Google maps show you where the bus stops are and what numbers to catch to reach your destination.

The buses can drive fast and are often busy, so be prepared for that.

For shorter journeys, you’re better off using alternative transport. To get to Valetta, I recommend taking the ferry; it’s only a couple of euros for a return, and you get a stunning view of Valetta and Sliema when crossing.

Be warned of the hill you must walk up after getting off the ferry, and it’s not for the faint-hearted.

If you feel brave, you can take an electronic scooter to whiz wherever you need to. These are very handy for short journeys. You’ll need to download the Bolt app first, but it’s an excellent way to get around. Handling scooters can be tricky at first so take it slow.

Shopping in Sliema

At the very tip of Sliema, you have Pjazza Tigné, where Malta’s most prominent retail centre, The Point, is. The Point hosts the largest concentration of exclusive brands in Malta, all conveniently located under one roof.

Shopping in Malta might not be as good as you are used to back in your country, but it does offer brands you may not find at home. 

Dahn John and Pull and Bear offer nice clothes for a lower price. Pull and Bear is similar to Primark but better quality; great if you need a nice pair of shorts or a t-shirt.

The Point is part of the Tigne Point development that offers residential, office and leisure facilities. Here you can find modern seafront apartments, heritage sites, walkways and the lovely scenic views of Tigné Point.

There are also restaurants, bars and cafés, exclusive boutiques and shops and a shoreline swimming pool. 

Tigne Point is an excellent spot for breakfast and coffee. Just across from the Point you have a bridge which connects the promenade with the shopping centre. The bridge offers fantastic views of Valetta and Sliema harbour.

Sliema’s beaches

Depending on your tolerance for cold water, you can usually swim safely in the sea from May through September. Occasionally even in October, you can enjoy the water.

Sliema offers a lot of great spots to go for a dip, but some are a lot more accessible than others.

You will find long stone beaches if you head toward the northeast side. There are quieter spots on this stretch of rock to soak up the sun.

If you want to swim, I’d recommend heading to a site with a ladder to enter the water. The rocks can be very slippery when wet, and once you get to the water, it’s immediately very deep.

When I first moved to Sliema, getting used to the rugged rock beaches took time, but you grow to appreciate not being covered in the sand every time you get out of the water, and the refreshing crystal-clear sea makes it all worth it.

If sand is a must for you, I’d recommend the short walk down to Balluta bay. You’ll find a small sandy beach where you can walk out into the sea. You’re also surrounded by bars and restaurants as it’s on the road heading to the busy town of St Julian’s.

It’s worth taking a bus to explore other parts of the coastline. In the northwest of the island, you’ll find Golden By, the largest sandy beach in Malta.

It is possible to swim on the Valetta side of Sliema, but due to the number of boats and busy promenade, the water here could be more pleasant.

Final thoughts on living in Sliema

Sliema is one of the best locations in Malta, especially for singles and couples. It offers good amenities, great nightlife, cafes and restaurants, beautiful seafront scenery and amazing beaches.

Another advantage of Sliema is that you don’t need a car here. Everything is on your doorstep. Sliema is very walkable and is a short ferry ride from Valetta.

If you feel adventurous and want to venture further afield, you can use Malta’s bus service.

The downside might be the cost. Sliema, together with St. Julian, is one of the most expensive areas to live in Malta, but the lifestyle might well be worth the price.

You might find helpful:

  • Living In Malta – The Expat’s Guide: everything you need to know to move to and settle in Malta – visa and residency options, property matters, healthcare, taxes, etc.
  • The Best Places To Live In Malta For Expats – an overview of the most popular expat locations in Malta that can help you research where in Malta you want to live.
  • Visit our Malta Country Guides page for more guides and information on Malta.
  • Haven’t found what you were looking for? Contact us or comment below with your question, and we’ll do our best to help.