Essaouira is by far my absolute favourite city in Morocco. I’ve been there 3 times, each time for at least a week. And I just don’t get bored there. Most people only visit Essaouira as a day trip from Marrakech, but that doesn’t do the city justice. There are so many things to do in Essaouira and I made a list of my favourites here.
The medina is beautiful, full of small stores selling handicrafts, nice restaurants and cafés. Here you can stroll and shop undisturbed, the vendors leave you alone as much as possible.
Just outside the city walls begins the beach, which invites you to sunbathe or go horseback riding, swimming and surfing.
And so, everyone finds what they are looking for on vacation here, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. If you stay a little longer, you might want to check out my post about day trips from Essaouira.
Introduction to Essaouira
Let’s start with a bit of history. The region of Essaouira was aready settled in prehistoric times. During the Roman Empire, the region experienced a boom as the blue dye found on the offshore islands was popular for dyeing the Romans’ robes.
During the time of the colonization of Africa by the Europeans, the city was an important port for shipping for salt, gold and, last but not least, slaves. Under the Portuguese, the fortifications that still border the city to the sea were built.
The medina was designed under Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah in the 18th century. He sought help for this from the Europeans, who at that time were already engaged in purposeful urban planning. Therefore, the medina of Essaouira differs from the other Moroccan cities by its orderly layout.
Things to do in Essaouira
Things to do in the medina of Essaouira
The medina is an experience in itself. It’s great to walk around, just drift and observe the residents going about their business. The layout is kept simple, there are 2 parallel main streets crossed at right angles by various alleys. It is best to orient yourself according to the city gates, the most important ones being Bab Marrakech, Bab Doukkala and Bab al Mechouar.
Relatively central on the street between Bab Doukkala and Bab al Mechouar you will find some small souks, the covered fish market and the Place du Marché au grains with various restaurants.
If you want to buy typical Moroccan souvenirs, I would recommend that you look for them in Essaouira. There is everything your heart desires and you will be much less harassed while shopping than elsewhere.
Here you can read which souvenirs from Essaouira I would recommend.
For some cool experiences have a look at these tours:
Museum Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah
One of the best things to do in Essaouira is visiting the Museum Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah. It is small but very beautiful. The architecture alone is worth a visit. There is a small natural history exhibit on the first floor that traces the formation of Essaouira. Upstairs you can find traditional clothing, jewelry, weapons and musical instruments. The entrance fee is 70 DH.
Skala de la Kasbah
From the museum it is a short walk to Skala de la Kasbah, the old fortifications of the medina. Here you can climb the city walls and gaze at the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean along the many old cannons. In the immediate vicinity there are many small stores with woodwork, ceramics and on one of the walls a local woman sells very beautiful paintings with motifs of the city.
The fish market in the city centre is located in a market hall, which you should not enter with pretty shoes. Here you can buy the catch of the last night and have it prepared in one of the directly adjacent restaurants.
However, I recommend taking your fish to a small restaurant not far away, Chez Fatima. If you go from the main road towards Bab Marrakech, after the first small gate turn left, along the wall. You can find the exact location on google maps (Chez Fatima). Fatima and her husband grill or fry your fish to order, you can get bread and tea, salad and fries for a good price.
You can find all my favourite restaurants in Essaouira in this post.
Skala du port
The Skala du port is another highlight in Essaouira. It basically forms the border between the medina and the port and offers great views of both. The entrance is to the right of the big gate on the medina side and you have to pay 60 DH entrance fee.
Things to do outside of the medina of Essaouira
Fish market and port
Below the Skala du port is the second fish market. Here the fishing boats arrive and you can watch the sardines being loaded. The smaller boats bring other fish, like monkfish, dorades and the one or other shark ashore. You can look around at your leisure, take photos and choose the fish you want to eat for lunch or dinner. For a small extra charge, they will be cleaned ready for the kitchen.
There are also restaurants that grill the fish here, but it is often windy and it smells like fish.
Recently, they started offering boat trips to the offshore islands, a reason for me to go back to Essaouira soon.
The beach starts just outside the medina near the Bab Sbaa and doesn’t end for many kilometres. The farther you get from downtown, the emptier it becomes. The water in the bay is relatively shallow and warm. Ideal for learning to surf. There are courses for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing and the wind conditions are good all year round.
You can also go riding by the hour, on horseback or camel. The prices for this are negotiable and as far as I know, one hour horseback riding costs about 150 DH.
When is the best time to visit Essaouira?
The weather in Essaouira is the same almost all year round. It is always windy, around 20 degrees in winter and 25 degrees in summer. The probability of rain increases in autumn and winter, but it actually never stays cloudy for a long time. In this respect, Essaouira is a great destination all year round.
Hotels in Essaouira
How to get to Essaouira
Bus to Essaouira
From Marrakech you can go easily by bus. Both CTM and Supratours offer several connections per day and the trip takes about 2.5 hours. Attention, the CTM station in Essaouira is not very central!
Essaouira has an airport, but there are international connections only from and to France. It is possible to fly from Casablanca, but this is hardly worthwhile considering the short distance.
You can also take a shared taxi from Marrakech. However, it will not be faster or more comfortable than the bus and only marginally cheaper. For a day trip to Sidi Kaouki, you can take the bus or a shared cab, the stop for both is just outside Bab Doukkala.
For more general information on Morocco, also check out these posts:
For your trip planning, also look at these posts:
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