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Once a fashionable residential address, Sliema is now an unlikely holiday resort, set on a peninsula with two distinct faces. On the Tower Road waterfront, high-rise hotels face the Mediterranean, bordered by rocky 'beaches' and lidos. On the Sliema Ferries waterfront, shops and bars overlook the busy dockside which is the embarkation point for a flotilla of pleasure boats and the ferry to Valletta. Behind the two waterfronts, Sliema is still almost completely residential.
Sliema has no sand beaches, though in Malta any stretch of waterfront that gives access to the sea is termed 'beach'. On Tower Road, in front of the Preluna Hotel, a broad expanse of large smooth sandstone rock slabs bordering the sea becomes a summer 'beach' with metal handrails (set into the rocks) giving safe access for bathers. Alternative swimming and sunbathing is offered by a number of seafront lidos, both on Tower Road and on the point of the peninsula, known as Qui-Si-Sana. There are neither beaches nor lidos on the Sliema Ferries/Strand side.
There are no visitor attractions in Sliema but various boat trips depart from Sliema Ferries including: Grand Harbour cruises (highly recommended); round-the-island cruises; catamaran cruises; glass bottom boat cruises; and cruises to the island of Comino (also recommended, preferably on a weekday out of season). A 10-minute ferry ride links Sliema to Valletta. The tiny capital, built in the mid-16th century, is one of the architectural gems of the Mediterranean and a walk through its golden sandstone streets and around its fortifications is time very well spent. Valletta is also home to numerous visitor attractions, most connected with the fascinating history of the island. Must-see attractions are St John's Co-Cathedral and the Grand Master's Palace.
There are surprisingly few children's attractions on the island and none in Sliema. The Great Siege of Malta in Valletta (Republic Square) is a lively special effects-laden audio-visual exhibition of Malta's romantic history that is designed to appeal to all the family. Mediterraneo Marine Park and Splash & Fun Water Park share a site on the coast road at White Rocks, 8km (5 miles) northwest of Sliema. Both parks are very small though the Marine Park, which features dolphins and seals, does offer the chance to swim with dolphins at a very reasonable price.
Malta is a very small island and it's possible to visit anywhere quite comfortably within a day from Sliema. Once you have ticked Valletta off your list visit Mdina, the ancient capital; the Hypogeum, a fascinating prehistoric underground temple; and the neighbouring island of Gozo.
One of Malta's favourite and longest established French restaurants is Christopher's at Ta' Xbiex ('tash-byesh') Marina in the next bay along the waterfront from Sliema Ferries. By contrast, Qui-Si-Sana restaurant at the Fortina Spa Resort (Tigné Seafront, 'The Strand') (www.hotelfortina.com), is an acclaimed newcomer where haute cuisine meets healthy eating. The Fortina is also an excellent place for pampering yourself.