Are you planning to travel to Morocco and visit Essaouira? Are you still looking for the essentials to see and do in Essaouira for a great weekend? Then this article is made for you!
What to see and what to do in Essaouira?
Essaouira is mesmerizing and can only seduce anyone who visits it for the first time. What a contrast with Marrakech or the other cities of the Kingdom… The storks of the red city give way to the gulls who flock in their hundreds in the fishing port and all around the fortifications of Essaouira, this city which would almost resemble Saint-Malo.
After the essentials to see and do in Marrakech, we change our air to finally find calm, the great outdoors and take full advantage of the Atlantic coast. The first step, visit Essaouira!
We take full eyes with these colors so bright, white, and blue being the master colors of this magnificent painting. It is not for nothing that many international artists have decided to settle there …
There is also this mixture of powerful smells where the iodized air swept by the sirocco is mixed, with the subtle scents of the alleys of the medina with woody notes accompanied by scents of orange blossom or jasmine. There is also this surprising and spectacular marine decor that amazes us at every moment …
Did you know that the Essaouira medina is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Whether on the fishing port with these blue boats piled up by the hundreds, or on the ramparts of the old town with the Atlantic as far as the eye can see in the background, in short, we take your eyes full of it …
When it comes to flavors, we are far from being disappointed, especially if we are fond of fish and seafood!
Listen and you will hear the song of gulls on the ramparts, but also, in the squares and at sunset, the sound of African percussions which resonates in all the alleys of the medina… Yes, Essaouira also lives to the rhythm of Gnaoua music, famous all over the world. Besides, the Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira attracts many visitors every year.
Take note in your diaries, the 23rd edition of the Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira will take place from June 25 to 28, 2020!
This port city of 70,000 inhabitants is also recognized for the quality of the know-how of the craftsmen who work with cedarwood, leather, and copper.
We also discovered the artistic side of Essaouira with numerous art galleries where local artists are exposed, not to mention the beautiful street-art installations in the alleys of the medina.
If you are still looking for things to see and do in Essaouira, here are our favorites to enjoy the best of this city.
At the end of the article, you will find lots of information and practical advice on transport, the budget, and many others. Have a nice trip! Do you want to do other activities? Here is a link to book activities in Essaouira.
Walk around the port of Essaouira: Visit Essaouira
The port of Essaouira is one of the most spectacular and lively places in the city, especially when the fishermen return. Imagine the scenery: there are dozens of trawlers in the shipyard and many blue wooden boats moored in close rows in the large harbor basin.
The fishermen deliver and negotiate their freshly caught fish and seafood on the quay, and there are countless gulls and seagulls arriving by the hundreds to feast on the remains all around the auction!
A friendly, authentic hubbub that disconnects from reality. A major attraction of the city not to be missed!
Once the sailors return to the port, they deliver their goods to the city’s restaurants but also to the many barracks located between Place Moulay Hassan and the port. Finistère, Morbihan, Quimper, Brest, they all have very original names!
You only have to choose the fish and seafood you want to taste, and the vendors prepare them for you before your eyes, grill them on the barbecue, and bring them to you at the table.
A treat to the good banquette for less than 150 Dirham for two, and the guarantee of savoring fresh products throughout your stay.
Admire the view from the ramparts of Essaouira: Visit Essaouira
You cannot leave Essaouira without going to the famous ramparts of the citadel to admire the sunset and the raging Atlantic Ocean…
A wonderful spectacle! For our first evening in Essaouira, we had sandwiches made in the main lane of the medina, then savor them at the ramparts. We keep an unforgettable memory of it, the setting is magical and it is a luxury that is priceless.
Historically, the city’s first ramparts were built by the Portuguese in the 16th century to protect the Castelo Real fortress from French, Dutch and Spanish invaders.
The city of Mogador (old name of the city) was a commercial port of great importance … After the destruction of the first fortifications in the 18th century, it was Théodore Cornut, a pupil of the famous architect Vauban who built, at the same time as the medina of Essaouira, the ramparts as we can see them today.
You will still find the old Portuguese cannons, all lined up facing the ocean. At the foot of these, on the medina coast, you can find many small shops selling local crafts, but also the Mega Loft restaurant bar that we particularly loved …
Where to go out in the evening in Essaouira? : Visit Essaouira
The Mega Loft
Even if the dishes are quite good, it is not for the kitchen that we fell for the Mega Loft but for the retro and vintage decoration. As well as the friendly atmosphere and a hipster / alternative touch of the place!
Othman, the owner of the place, found many objects in the markets to make a unique decoration in the 60s and 70s style. By also adding elbow grease to make unique DIY furniture. We like the old cash registers, the old colored telephones with circular dials that our grandparents had. The old cameras fixed to the wall, the colored ceiling with a light fixture made in audio cassettes. The industrial style furniture, the manufactured benches with wooden pallets, etc … In short, we love it.
Every evening local singers and musicians perform on a small stage but do not expect to attend a concert of traditional music, but rather a friendly beef with friends, to the tunes of Patrice, Keziah Jones, or Selah Sue.
I highly recommend this address, you will have a good time in this establishment which breathes creativity, originality and brings an alternative touch by sublimating the identity of Essaouira.
If you are looking for a little atmosphere, head to Cafe Taros, located at the corner of Moulay Hassan Square. From the terrace on several levels, you can enjoy the panoramic view of the square and the port.
In the evening there are many activities with live music. Admittedly, there is a large majority of tourists, and the prices are equivalent to those practiced in Europe, but the atmosphere remains nice and friendly.
A word of advice, don’t go there for dinner but rather to have dessert, have a drink, and enjoy the musical groups.
Getting lost in the alleys of the medina of Essaouira
The best way to discover the medina is to lose in its many alleys, and I can assure you that the stroll remains an essential experience, especially at night.
Keep in mind that it is quite easy to find your way in the old town because it is not a labyrinth as in other cities, but rather a grid structure due to the influence of the French architect who designed the premises.
We discover small shops, art galleries, antique dealers, booksellers, grocers, we stroll, we take our time, we chat with passers-by, we meet schoolchildren dressed in white blouses who go to the cycling school, we look up to observe these beautiful white facades with blue shutters that contrast with the colorful carpets that enhance dozens of street angles and small squares.
The atmosphere is much quieter than in some places in the medina of Marrakech, but hey, it’s different!
What to see and what to do in the Essaouira region
The first stage of the road trip is Diabat, a very small village located 3km south of Essaouira, known for its ranch which shelters around thirty horses for hikes on the large beach but also known for having hosted many hippies and singers in the 70s, including Jimi Hendrix who stayed there for 3 days.
He drew inspiration from the ruined, sand-filled palace “Dar Sultan” to write the song “Castle Made Of Sand”. There is a very colorful bar with many paintings representing the famous guitarist. Worth a stop to watch 😉
Surfers, kitesurfers, windsurfers, or just want to get away from it all in an atypical village by the Atlantic?
Rent a car or go by bus/taxi to Sidi Kaouki, a very nice and peaceful little village located about thirty kilometers south of Essaouira, which will take you back in time, in the 70s!
Don’t be surprised if you come across Moroccans with dreadlocks, surfboards under their arms, smoking a firecracker while listening to Bob Marley’s Redemption Song or Sympathy For The Devil of the Rolling Stones!
After enjoying sea sports, horse riding or riding a camel, you can enjoy a glass of mint tea on the terrace of a café while admiring the sunset over the ocean.
We continue further south and at the turn of a bend, we come face to face with this spectacular view which dominates the bay of Tafedna, a charming little authentic fishing village which has only a cafe and a few “hanouts” ( small stores).
I enjoyed walking through this desert village in the early afternoon, through these blue boats stranded on the huge beach. No noise, we feel alone in the world and time really seems to stop …
Traditional markets around Essaouira: Visit Essaouira
Every day there is an authentic and lively country market in the villages around Essaouira, where villagers come to buy supplies or sell their crops. The opportunity to immerse yourself more in local life, away from tourist circuits.
Monday: Tafetachte village
Tuesday: village of El Hanchane
Wednesday: village of Ida Ougourd
Thursday: Meskala village, Tidzi village
Friday: village of Sidi Ishak
Saturday: village of Kouraimate, the village of Akermoud
Sunday: village of Smimou, the village of Had Draa
Sports or leisure activities in Essaouira
We cannot talk about Essaouira without talking about water sports! Surfing, Kitesurfing, windsurfing, catamaran, paddle, etc … Essaouira is a popular destination for fans of the wave, and there are many agencies / Surf Camp in the medina or on the large beach that offer rental rentals material and individual or group lessons.
If you are not at sea, you can still enjoy a beautiful quad, motocross, mountain bike, camel ride, or horse ride, no doubt you will have a great experience, especially at sunset. sun in the dunes and on the beach!
Visit argan oil cooperatives : Visit Essaouira
If you want to buy food or cosmetic argan oil, I advise you to go outside the city as far as possible from tourist routes to visit a female cooperative specializing in the extraction of olive oil. argan.
It is quite difficult to find good quality oil because it is cut to other oils most of the time. Try to find those that have an ORGANIC and ECOCERT label, you will have a better chance of finding better quality oils.
For our part, we love edible argan oil, you can put it in your cooked dishes at the end of cooking, in salads, or simply enjoy it with a piece of fresh bread.
Transport Marrakech / Essaouira
Marrakech Essaouira by bus with Supratours
We made Marrakech Essaouira by bus with the company Supratours for only 8 € / person. The journey lasts 2h30 and we took a mid-term break in the city of Chichaoua (beware, tourist traps).
There are around 4 to 5 departures per day, the seats are comfortable, the bus has air conditioning and even has a WIFI connection. Depart from Marrakech central station and arrive in Essaouira to the left of Bab Marrakech, the square at the entrance to the Medina.
You can also take the local bus which takes longer to reach the two cities, which is also less comfortable than Supratours, but which costs only € 4 each way.
Marrakech Essaouira by car
3 years ago we rented a car via Ada to travel from Marrakech but also to be able to take advantage of the surroundings of Essaouira freely and discover the Atlantic coast through charming fishing villages like Tafedna
Marrakech Essaouira by taxi
There is also the possibility of making Marrakech Essaouira by taxi, but I do not think that this is the most interesting solution. You can negotiate your place at around 80 Dirham but you will be 6 in the taxi, plus the driver! Question of comfort: average, especially if it’s hot …
Where to sleep in Essaouira? : Visit Essaouira
Youth hostel in Essaouira
Count between 4 and 10 € per night to sleep in a youth hostel in the heart of the medina. The opportunity to meet backpackers from around the world and discover the city with others!
A riad in Essaouira
Riads, this is really not what is missing in the medina of Essaouira. There is something for all budgets and for all tastes, from 15 € per night in a small, simple riad up to 180 € for the Relais & Chateaux L’heure Bleue riad. The average price for a good quality riad in Essaouira is 50 € per night
A hotel in Essaouira
Just like for riads, there are many hotels inside and outside the medina for all budgets and all desires, whether you are traveling with family, couples, friends, etc …
I stayed two nights at the Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa, surely the most beautiful hotel in the region, located 6km south of Essaouira, after the village of Diabat.
The natural setting is magnificent, the lobby is luxurious, elegant, a beautiful fusion of contemporary design and local identity. This 5-star hotel has an upscale SPA, two large swimming pools, one of which has natural filtration with plants.
The rooms are spacious and comfortable and the famous Sofitel bedding is always a real pleasure, you feel like you are in a cloud … Count around 140 € per night for a superior room. Given the quality of the accommodation and the services offered, the price remains very attractive.
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