Essaouira, Morocco: Top 10 Unique Things to Do!
Essaouira is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in Morocco and, moreover, one of the most popular destinations in the country. And there are so many fantastic things to do in Essaouira! This charming harbor town is especially well-known for its white medina, a fascinating old town in a magnificent location directly on the sea and surrounded by an imposing fortress wall. Romantic alleys, cozy cafés and oriental souks also conjure up an ambience as if from 1001 nights. Among the most important attractions of Essaouira are the Portuguese fortress, the old town and the picturesque fishing port, which can best be explored via a short stroll. But also the wide sandy beach is absolutely idyllic and a popular destination for surfers, kiters and beach vacationers. But what are the most stunning things to see in Essaouira and which places should not be missed?
In this travel guide we give you all the important information and tips about Essaouira in Morocco. We show you great pictures, the best things to do in Essaouira, exclusive insider tips, and where you can find the best accommodations.
General Information about Essaouira
Essaouira is a city of 88,000 inhabitants on the Moroccan Atlantic coast, about 190 kilometers from Marrakech and 175 kilometers from Agadir. Also named as Magador, as Artist Metropolis or as Windy City, this place is nowadays highly trendy as a tourist destination and certainly, one of the most beautiful attractions in Morocco. Well known is the old town from the 18th century, the Medina of Essaouira, which is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year 2001. And, of course, Essaouira’s long, crescent-shaped beach, which attracts surfers and kite surfers from all over the world thanks to the trade winds.
Visitors love the relaxed atmosphere that you can really enjoy at every corner in Essaouira and that attracted the hippies and also stars like Jimi Hendrix to this charming coastal town back in the 60s-70s. Especially couples, individualists and all those who are looking for that exceptional Moroccan feeling will certainly find their personal travel happiness with Essaouira. Moreover, the many charming riads and hotels of the coastal town are fabulous and guarantee grandiose conditions for an unforgettable vacation by the sea.
Best Things to Do in Essaouira
During a vacation in Essaouira, you can look forward to a whole range of attractions worth seeing. Most of them are located directly in and around the old town and can be explored on your own during a leisurely tour. So that you don’t lose the overview, we have summarized the best things to do in Essaouira at a glance:
The Medina of Essaouira
The medina of Essaouira, also known as the White City, forms the heart of the coastal metropolis. Founded in 1773 by the Portuguese under the name Magador, this old town is today on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A special feature is the symmetrical layout with the streets running in a straight line, which is actually completely untypical for a Moroccan medina. Among the most important attractions are the fortress that encloses the medina and the 3 city gates, Bab Sbâa, Bab Marrakech and Bab Doukkala, which still grant access to the historic center. It is also interesting to visit the local history museum, Bayt Dakira, where you can learn more about the history of Essaouira.
Exploring the medina is one of the absolut best things to do in Essaouira. In the car-free medina, many picturesque alleys with the traditional whitewashed house walls are so enchanting, and especially the many pretty blue doors and shutters are popular photo motifs. Countless small stores and galleries offer their artistic goods, and fabulous restaurants and cafés invite to enjoy. Also worth a visit is the colorful souk in the heart of the medina, where you can shop and haggle as you please.
Tip: Directly in the medina you will find some of the best riads in Essaouira. Stunning is the Riad Chbanate in a unique location on the city wall with a view of the medina.
Fortress & City Wall
The Portuguese Fortress, also known as Fort des Portugaises, is one of the most important attractions of Essaouira, together with the city wall. The fort was built in the 18th century, when the city was then developed into the largest seaport in Morocco. The fortification wall “Scala de la Kasbah” with its towers also dates back to the Portuguese colonial period. From the fortress, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the pretty blue and white medina of Essaouira, which together with the rushing sea conjures up a backdrop like on a postcard. The walk along the city wall, which is lined with numerous bronze cannons from Spain and from where you can enjoy a great view of the blue boats of the fishing port, is also breathtaking.
Tip: One of the best things to do in Essaouira is to come here towards evening to admire the spectacular sunsets from the top of the fortress.
Moulay Hassan Square
The Moulay Hassan Square is the central meeting point for locals, but also for tourists setting out on their sightseeing tour. It is located right in the heart of Essaouira’s bustling downtown, between the medina, the fishing port and the fortress to be exact. This town square is surrounded by whitewashed houses with pretty cafés as well as fabulous restaurants, and also the little trees conjure up an absolutely charming ambiance. In addition, at Hassen Square stands sells freshly grilled fish, calamari and shrimp, there are stalls selling squeezed juices and street musicians provide entertainment.
The Souks of Essaouira
Essaouira is a true shopper’s paradise. Compared to the cities of Marrakech or even Fes, the markets, the so-called souks of Essaouira are much more relaxed. There is hardly any traffic and hustle and bustle in the alleys, the vendors are very cordial and of course haggling is an absolute must when shopping. In the market alleys you will find colorful cloths and chic scarves, clothes, bags, handmade jewelry and beautiful accessories, but also Moroccan spices and argan oil products from the region. Also unique are the colorful ceramics often displayed on the walls of the houses, as well as the popular woodwork made from thuja. Also worth a visit are the galleries, where you can buy real works of art at a reasonable price.
Tip: An insider tip is the gallery in the Centre d’art Le Real Mogador. Not only the exhibited art is stunning, also the pretty courtyard is worth seeing!
Port & Fish Market of Essaouira
The famous port of Essaouira is definitely a must-see of Essaouira that should not be missed on any trip to the coastal city! It is located on the edge of the historic old town, right next to the fortress complex and the beautiful harbor basin with the many iconic blue boats is one of the most photographed places in the port city. It’s also worth visiting in the morning, when Essaouira’s daily fish market takes place. That’s when you watch fishermen bring their catch ashore, mend nets in a cozy atmosphere, and vendors sell fresh fish. The sky is full of screeching seagulls, and also one or the other cat is looking for its treats here. An interesting spectacle that should not be missed.
The Beach of Essaouira
The 5 kilometer long Essaouira Beach is definitely one of the most beautiful attractions of the coastal metropolis. Only a few minutes’ walk from the gorgeous old town, you will experience a wildly romantic long sandy beach, which inspires with an indescribable flair and cozy atmosphere. The surfing and kiting scene also meets here, as the trade winds offer optimal conditions for water sports enthusiasts. In the warmer summer months, many vacationers also come to Essaouira to swim in the sea and soak up the sun. The water temperatures of 17 to 20 degrees Celsius promise a pleasant refreshment.
In addition, other activities such as camel riding and horseback riding are offered directly on the beach. Food and drinks are provided by the many small cafés, bars and restaurants along the charming promenade, from where you can enjoy the unique ambience while having Moroccan food, coffee or tea.
Tip: Directly on the beach are some fantastic hotels, such as the Atlas Essaouira & Spa in a prime location overlooking the sea, with pool and a great breakfast buffet.
The coastal town of Sidi Kaoki is an insider tip in the vicinity of Essaouira. This truly idyllic, quiet town is located about 25 kilometers away and is a fabulous destination for excursions. Sidi Kaoki is known for its almost 5 kilometer long sandy beach, but also for the incredibly relaxed atmosphere that has made this place a dropout paradise. In addition, Sidi Kaoki is one of the most famous spots for surfing in Morocco, with courses offered on site. If you like, you can take a long walk or ride a camel over the endless beach.
Essaouira: Excursions, City tours, Surfing & More
If you don’t necessarily want to explore Essaouira on your own, you have the option of joining a guided tour from Marrakech. On the online portal GetYourGuide you can also find exciting city tours, offers for camel riding and tours with the quad, as well as cheap excursions in the region!
The reviews are also really great, and you can compare them before booking.
Getting to Essaouira
Getting to Essaouira is mostly organized from Marrakech or Agadir. Although Essaouira has its own airport, Essaouira Airport (ESU), unfortunately there are hardly any international flights offered there. Therefore, it is best to book a suitable flight to Marrakech (2.5 hours from Essaouira) or Agadir Airport (3 hours away). From there, you can continue to the coastal city either by taxi, bus or rental car.
Where to Stay in Essaouira
In Essaouira, you’ll find a great range of fantastic accommodation options. From cheap backpacker hostels to stylish apartments, beautiful riads and beach hotels with pools, you’ll find it all. If you are looking for a recommended place to stay in Essaouira, we can give you these tips along the way…It’s worth a look!
- Stunning Riad: The Riad Chbanate is a great tip for a vacation in Essaouira. Guests love the beautiful rooms and the breakfast here is also extremely delicious!
- Dream Hotel with Pool: The Heure Bleue Palais is a luxurious hotel with a gorgeous pool on the roof terrace and with beautiful views of the medina.
- Beachfront Hotel: The Atlas Essaouira & Spa is a fabulous beachfront hotel in a prime location by the sea, with a pool and a terrific breakfast buffet.
- Backpacker Hostel: The beautiful Essaouira Beach Hostel is a fabulous choice for backpackers, and also for those who like to stay cheap in Essaouira!
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