I didn’t expect to fall so in love with Essaouira, Morocco‘s windy, blue and white city.
But fall I did. I highly recommend Essaouira to any traveller heading to Morocco, and have put together this little Essaouira travel guide. The coastal town provides such a wonderful contrast to Marrakech’s dusty streets and busy, electric atmosphere.
We were limited by time on our trip to Morocco, but being able to visit both Marakkech and Essouira was the perfect way to get to know Morocco – and to make us desperate to go back!
– ESSAOUIRA TRAVEL GUIDE –
tips and advice for your trip to Morocco’s beautiful seaside destination
GET TO ESSAOUIRA
From Marrakech, you can drive to Essaouira or get the bus. Lucky Londoners can fly direct to Essaouira from Luton with EasyJet!
A tourist bus is an easy, comfortable way to get to Essaouira.
Supratours buses leaves from the bus station in Gueliz, right next to the Marrakech train station. We got a taxi there from near the Jamaa el Fna in the medina for 60 Dirham.
The bus costs 70 D and takes 3 hours. The air-conditioned coach will make a stop en route for snacks and a chance to use the bathroom.
Once you get to Essaouira, you will be surrounded by men telling you about their accommodation, and offering to take your bags.
We weren’t sure how to find our accommodation, as the instructions we were sent didn’t seem to be from where we were, so we got one of the men to carry our bags in his big blue wheelbarrow and lead the way. It cost 50 D.
WHERE TO STAY IN ESSAOUIRA
I usually use Booking.com to find accommodation from the road. Our travel style means we usually book our accommodation a day or two in advance. For our trip to Essaouira, we searched for reasonable prices, good location, breakfast included, and a riad was a must, after we fell utterly in love with them in Marrakech.
We chose Riad Saltana, located in a tiny little alley off another narrow alley close to the large walls surrounding the medina. The owner, Geraldine, is really friendly and gave us great advice on where to eat and drink. We felt really at home. Our room was stunning white and blue, and breakfast on the roof terraces was a lovely way to start our day.
Our room was €37 per night, including VAT, plus tourist tax.
There are a few big hotels outside the medina, by the beach, if you fancy something a little fancier. However, I really recommend staying inside the medina for a more authentic experience. Another high contender on our list of possible places to stay was La Maison du Cinema, which looked really pretty and was in a great location.
FOOD IN ESSAOUIRA
One word: seafood.
Essaouira is a seafood lover’s paradise. Eating freshly caught crab, fish and prawns served up with bread and salad is an unmissable experience. The seafood is brought in to Essaouira’s harbour and served from stalls near the square, Place Moulay Hassan.
More seafood can be munched on in many of the restaurants around the town. We enjoyed a gorgeous seafood meal at Bab Laachour on Place Moulay Hassan.
Aside from seafood, we ate delicious tagines, kebabs, pigeon pastilla, salads and pizza from the many restaurants and cafes dotted around the medina.
The town has French influences and so there are lots of crepes and cakes on offer.
As for breakfast, we enjoyed a typical Moroccan breakfast of flatbread, yoghurt, fruit and juice from our riad’s rooftop terrace. The only downside was when we went for coffee at one of the little cafe’s we were envious of the reasonable breakfasts served there. You can get orange juice, coffee, bread and a pastry for 25D.
Mint tea and verbena tea are made for sipping in Essaouira. There’s also a nice ice-cream shop on Place Moulay Hassan square, which is a nice place to go for a late night dessert.
Cost of food in Essaouira
To give you an idea of prices:
50D for a set menu of Moroccan soup, a sardine tagine with chocolate cake and olives and bread in a little restaurant hidden down one of the side streets.
110D for a beer and a glass of wine at Taro’s, the rooftop bar with live music.
70D for that delicious plate of prawns pictured above
10D for coffee, mint and verbena tea
75D Tomato salad, water, chicken skewers & Coke
WHEN IN ESSAOUIRA, SPEND TIME…
Essaouira has that lovely, laid-back beachy feel, and so lingering over a coffee while people watching or or lying on the sand listening to the waves feels so right.
We spent our days strolling up and down the colourful streets, taking it all in, and eating delicious seafood and snacks.
Photography fans will be reaching for their cameras at all times. I could have taken millions more photographs of beautiful doors, side streets and sunsets.
See the harbour
A visit to Essaouira would be incomplete without exploring the bustling harbour, where fishermen bring in their haul that is sold to haggling customers. We spent ages wandering through the crowds, and people watching from above.
Walk the Ramparts
Wander the old Portuguese ramparts that embrace Essaouira. The ramparts make for excellent viewing points, where you can see the waves crash dramatically as seagulls fly over the old medina stretched out within the walls.
Admire Crafts & Art Galleries
Essaouira is home to many craft makers and artists. It is also home to argan oil. Argan, a wonder beauty product, is made from argan fruit grown near Essaouira. There are women co-ops in the area that produce argan products. Don’t leave without picking some up for yourself!
The nearby old Berber village of Diabat is worth a trip for Jimi Hendrix fans. There’s a Hendrix cafe there.
I didn’t get to try this, but the idea of riding horseback across the beach sounds idyllic. You can also ride camels on the beach.
Gnaoua Festival of World Music takes place in Essaouira each year. It combines jazz, pop, rock, soul and contemporary world music, while celebrating North African culture. A definite one to add to the wishlist!
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