Home » Morocco

16 Best Things To Do in Essaouira

  • by
Things to do in Essaouira: Rows of wooden blue colored fishing boats docked in the port

Straddling the Atlantic Ocean, the alluring port town of Essaouira is probably Morocco’s most relaxed city that has long been a favorite haven for surfers and backpackers. With its fascinating history, temperate climate, quaint blue-and-white medina, fairy-tale ramparts, crescent-shaped sandy bay, colorful harbor, rolling waves, and friendly townsfolk, Essaouira is as enchanting a place you will ever see. It’s a perfect spot to break a journey between the bustling centers of Fes, Marrakech, Tangier, and Casablanca.  Here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Essaouira.

Please note that this article contains affiliate links. Learn more about it on our Disclosure page. We use ads to support our small business – we hope you don’t mind them too much.

How to Get Around Essaouira

Essaouira is best explored on foot and the city is very compact and pretty easy to navigate. Virtually all the must-see attractions in Essaouira lie within the medina or along the beachfront down to the Quartier des Dunes or “Dunes Quarter.”

The medina is pedestrian free and orienting yourself around its twisting alleyways is fairly simple, unlike say in Fes or Marrakech. Even if you do get lost, you can always refer to your GPS or ask the locals for directions. 

The main entrance into Essaouira is from the southeast, along the beachfront boulevard Mohammed V from where the medina can be accessed via place Moulay Hassan, Bab Sbâa, or Bab el Menzeh. The medina can also be accessed via Bab Marrakech and Bab Doukkala.

There are a few petits taxis (blue in color) usually hanging outside the medina, but you’ll only really need a taxi if you don’t want to walk to the bus station.

Things to Do in Essaouira

While there are a fair amount of things to do in Essaouira the major attraction here is the city itself. Similar to most places in Morocco, Essaouira offers a rich sensory experience that is immediately fascinating and thrilling. 

Below we have compiled a list (in no particular order) of the best things to see and do in Essaouira.

  1. Survey Essaouira’s Ramparts
  2. Wander Around the Port
  3. Explore the Medina
  4. Go Shopping in the Souks
  5. Feast on Some Delectable Moroccan Food
  6. Check Out the Thuya Wood Workshops
  7. Stay at a Traditional Riad
  8. Get Your Adrenaline Pumping
  9. Gaze at Some Intriguing Street Art
  10. Enjoy Live Music
  11. Visit an Argan Oil Cooperative
  12. Take a Stroll on the Beach
  13. Get Acquainted With the Mellah
  14. People Watch in the Place Moulay Hassan
  15. Witness an Amazing Essaouira Sunset
  16. Uncover Essaouira’s Art Scene

1. Survey Essaouira’s Ramparts

Essaouira: View of the Skala de la Ville ramparts and the whitewashed buildings of the medina

Essaouira’s ramparts are probably the best place to begin exploring the city. But before I talk more about them, let me just quickly get a bit of history out of the way since this is crucial to understanding their significance. 

Although the Phoenicians founded a base on the site where Essaouira now stands in the 7th century BC, it was the Portuguese who founded a mercantile and military base here in the 15th century. They named the town Mogador, after the original Phoenician name Migdol meaning “watchtower.”

Even though the Portuguese built a couple of forts, Essaouira‘s current layout can be traced back to 1765, when the enterprising Alaouite sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah wanted to redesign the port and set up a naval base here.

The sultan hired a French architect to redesign Essaouira and had the town surrounded with a heavy defensive wall, much of which still stands. Besides defensive purposes, the ramparts protect the medina from the crashing Atlantic waves.

As you survey the walls, you’ll notice that the outer walls facing the sea are similar to European fortifications while the inner walls are Islamic in style. 

Essaouira: People strolling on the Skala de la Ville ramparts in the evening. PC: Sulo Letta/Shutterstock.com

The most prominent features among the ramparts are the two fortified sea bastions—Skala de la Ville, in the northwest section, and the Skala du Port, in the south. The Skala de la Ville is absolutely fantastic and a stroll on its long esplanade is one of the best things to do in Essaouira.

The Skala features a crenelated platform with a cavalcade of Portuguese brass cannons still pointing out to sea. Its northern bastion, Bab Ljhad, is a popular rendezvous point for the town’s folk and offers a picturesque view of both the Atlantic Ocean and the medina. 

If you’re a film and TV buff, you’ll probably recognize as having seen the ramparts of Essaouira before. Orson Welles’s 1951 film Othello was largely shot in Essaouira and opens with a now-famous panning shot of the ramparts, in which Iago is suspended above the sea and rocks in a metal cage.

Game of Thrones diehards may know the town better under its fictional name Astapor and should be able to recognize the Skala de la Ville esplanade from the episodes in which Daenerys acquires the Unsullied army 😉

2. Wander Around the Port

Things to do see in Essaouira: Rows of fishing boats docked in the port

The compact fishing port in the southwest corner of the city is definitely one of the notable points of interest in Essaouira. Formerly the largest seaport in the country, the port of Essaouira was responsible for about 40 percent of Atlantic sea traffic.

It became known as “Port of Timbuktu” because most African products for export ended up here for export to Europe. Today,  it is Morocco’s third-largest (after Agadir and Safi) and is a very photogenic and idyllic place to stroll about. 

Throughout the day, the famed port of Essaouira is a hubbub of activity, jam-packed with fishermen tending to their nets and boats, preparing to set sail, bringing in the day’s catch, and enthusiastically calling back and forth about the day’s perfect fishing spots.

Essaouira: Rows of wooden blue colored boats with the Skala du Port in the background

Along with the stream of boats arriving and departing, you can also observe traditional wooden boats being repaired or constructed up-close in the boatyard.

The sight of hundreds of blue boats bobbing in the water is one that lingers in your memory!

Essaouira: People strolling through the daily fish market in the harbour. PC: Elena Odareeva - Dreamstime.com

Try to see the daily market here if you can, which kicks into life between 3 pm and 5 pm with the arrival of the day’s catch. Be entertained as the wide assortment of seafood is auctioned off and sample freshly grilled sardines from the stalls at the edge of the port.

To add to the lively atmosphere, there’s an ever-constant flurry of screeching seagulls. Being a cat lover, I also loved seeing the copious felines lurking about, sometimes lounging in the sun, desperately hoping some fresh fish would come their way.

Essaouira: Handsome man posing for a photo at the ramparts on a sunny day

The port is also the location for the second of Essaouira’s bastions, Skala du Port, a rectangular tower surmounted by battlements. Climb the bastion for an unforgettable photograph or selfie of yourself through a round opening in the wall.

FUN FACT: ESSAOUIRA IN POP CULTURE

Besides the aforementioned Othello and Game of Thrones, Essaouira has memorably popped into the consciousness of Tinseltown on a couple of occasions. It was featured in Terry Gilliam’s cult 1981 classic Time Bandits, Ridley Scott’s 2001 epic Gladiator, and his 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven, in which it doubled as Jerusalem. Visits by Cat Stevens (a favorite in Morocco for having converted to Islam), Frank Zappa, and Jimi Hendrix firmly established Essaouira’s place on Morocco’s hippie trail in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

3. Explore the Medina

Things to do in Essaouira: Various people walking on a busy street in the medina

As in many of Morocco’s big cities, Essaouira’s medina is a labyrinth of twisting narrow streets. It is, however, not as difficult to navigate, as it is rather compact and bisected by one long, straight street. So the chances of you getting lost are quite slim. 

Designed by French architect Théodore Cornut in the late 18th century, the medina is the very essence of Essaouira. The medina has found its way on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site List due to its eclectic blend of European and North African styles.

As you stroll through the medina’s spice-scented lanes and palm-lined avenues, you’ll see that it has remained virtually unchanged since its inception. 

Essaouira: Man walking on a narrow alley surrounded by whitewashed buildings. PC: Checco2/Shutterstock.com

The medina is a glorious place to spend a couple of hours, both Jacky and I were completely besotted with its whitewashed buildings with blue shutters and ornate doors. Try to go through as many alleys as you can, you can be certain to encounter new sights and scents.

INSIDER TIP

When strolling through Jemaa el Fna or Marrakech in general, remember to take photographs responsibly. Don’t go shoving your camera or phone into people’s faces haphazardly assuming they’ll be happy to have their photos taken – women especially. From my experience, most Moroccans are averse to having their photo taken and will generally make it known they don’t want to be clicked. Always ask permission before taking people’s photographs, and be aware that some locals will expect payment in return for that perfect snap.

4. Go Shopping in the Souks

Things to see in Essaouira: Various goods on the street in the souks. PC: Dinozzaver - Dreamstime.com

No visit to Essaouira would be complete without a visit to the colorful souks of the medina. The souks are cluttered with small shops piled high with colorful goods and are often the place to purchase traditional Moroccan souvenirs.

Together, the small shops form a beautiful kaleidoscope of sights and sounds including Berber carpets, jewelry, kelims, kaftans, leather goods, wrought-iron work, brass and copper, woven blankets, colored scarves, brassware, lamps, dazzling ceramics, djellabas (robes), and food items like pastries and spices.

The town’s main souks can be found on Avenue de l’Istiqlal and Avenue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah lie within the medina beyond Place Moulay Hassan. Essaouira has long been a bastion of jewelry making and the jeweler’s souk is a good place to go shopping.

The small souk has plenty of purveyors of gold, silver, and precious jewels. The real draw here is traditional Berber jewelry, decorated with turquoise, jade, ivory, wood, and amber. You can pick up beaded necklaces, bracelets, trinkets, and amulets.

The Spice Souk is also worth checking out. It is chockablock with vendors selling all sorts of exotic spices such as black and white pepper, red paprika, saffron, cayenne, chili, piled high in fragrant pyramidal towers. 

Essaouira: Pyramidal mounds of colorful spices on display in the souks

You can also purchase baskets of green henna leaves, camomile, ghassoul (clay used in face masks), rosebuds, antimony, and olive soap here. In addition, several apothecary stalls (sometimes called Berber chemists) offer more outlandish ingredients required for medical cures, aphrodisiacs, and the odd magical spell.

One of the things I liked about shopping in the souks of Essaouira was a general lack of hassle from shopkeepers, especially compared to the Marrakech souks. Before deciding to buy, take some time to compare what is on offer in different shops. You can also hone your haggling skills here.

Haggling is a fundamental part of Moroccan life and culture and bargaining in the souks is expected. Start your negotiations well below the asking price (a third is often advised).

5. Feast on Some Delectable Moroccan Food

Having a nosh on authentic Moroccan cuisine is one of the best things to do in Essaouira. Moroccan cuisine is rich and varied having been by people from around the Mediterranean, Africa, and the Middle East. Here are some of the dishes that you should consider eating while in Essaouira:

Moroccan food: Harira, a rich soup with chickpeas, lentils, beans and lamb stock

Harira: a rich soup filled with chickpeas and often beef or lamb stock. Occasionally, you’ll find harira with rice, beans, and lentils as well. Harira is typically served throughout the month of Ramadan to break the day of fasting. 

Pastilla: One of my favorites, this crispy pie is an intriguing blend of salty and sweet. Traditionally, this was made with shredded pigeon meat, though these days chicken and seafood are often used.

The mixture is enclosed in a filo-like pastry, which is topped with lemon, sugar, saffron, and cinnamon. A festive dish, it is prepared for great dinners and wedding ceremonies.

Moroccan cuisine: Couscous with lamb and carrots

Couscous: Though popular throughout the Maghreb, couscous remains Morocco’s national dish. Couscous is basically hand-rolled semolina grain steamed until plump and fluffy.

Meat, often beef or lamb, will be served with couscous, though having the dish with vegetables such chickpeas, courgettes, turnips, tomatoes, and carrots is also an option. 

Tajine: Named after the distinctive earthenware pot with a conical lid in which it is cooked and served, tajine is probably the most-known dish throughout the country. It is a slow-cooked stew or casserole that utilizes a mixture of spices and generally includes potatoes and carrots.

Different variations of tajines use lamb, chicken, beef, fish, goat, and eggplant as central elements. Tajines are absolutely scrumptious and I strongly recommend trying one.

Moroccan sweets: Chebakia coated with honey syrup and sesame

Moroccans are famed for their sweet tooth and there is a motley of fantastic sweets and desserts worth trying. I highly recommend trying chebakia, a cookie or pretzel made of strips of dough shaped into a flower, deep-fried until golden, then coated with honey syrup and sesame. 

Being a coastal city, Essaouira is a haven for seafood lovers with a wide array of options such as sardines, shellfish, red mullet, squid, oysters, shrimp, langoustine, mussels, and crab to choose from.

6. Check Out the Thuya Wood Workshops

Essaouira: Exquisite wooden products in the wood-carving ateliers of the medina. PC: Bibobhj, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the many things that Essaouira is famous for is its production of high-quality thuya woodwork. The thuya tree, which is a short, scrub-like conifer found only in northwest Africa, grows abundantly in the region of Essaouira and has played a key role in its prosperity.

It produces a dark-orange or reddish-brown wood whose excrescence is highly sought after by craftsmen for its rosewood hue, speckled appearance, and fragrance. Built into the ramparts along the Rue de Skala are a number of Essaouira’s renowned marquetry and wood-carving ateliers.

Highly skilled craftsmen and cabinet-makers apply all their finesse and imagination to make novel shapes and decorative motifs. The cabinet-makers shape the wood into all manner of pieces such as chess boards, jewelry boxes, coffee tables, polished animal sculptures, letter holders, and salad bowls.

Essaouira: Exquisite wooden products in the wood-carving ateliers of the medina

Although shops selling thuya products are found all over Morocco, these workshops are known to be the best place to buy (and to watch the manufacturing process). Intricately carved boxes and containers carved by a master woodcarver are some of the best souvenirs you can buy in Morocco.

7. Stay at a Traditional Riad

Morocco Riad: Elaborate courtyard of a traditional riad. PC: Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock.com

In my opinion, a must-do when visiting Essaouira, or Morocco in general, is to check yourself into a riad. Although the assortment of hotels in Essaouira offer more facilities and sometimes better value for money, staying in a riad is a more unique and culturally rewarding experience.

Only by staying in a riad in the medina that you can hope to immerse yourself into the local culture and aesthetic. 

A riad is a traditional Moroccan dwelling with an interior garden or courtyard. In Arabic, the word riad literally translates to “garden”. Riads typically have no windows onto the street outside, and all windows instead open inward to an open-air central courtyard.

They still retain much of their original decorative and structural elements including colorful zellij tiles, antique furnishings, silky tadelakt walls, painted cedar wood ceilings, and arched colonnades. Most riads are 18th- or 19th-century medina town-houses and come in all sizes and levels of luxury.

Each has its own unique style that is a personal reflection of the owners themselves. Inside you’re more than likely to find romantic bedrooms with a touch of Moroccan decor, welcoming service, fantastic rooftop terrace vistas, and delectable breakfasts.

Regardless of whichever riad you opt for, it’ll be an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime!

8. Get Your Adrenaline Pumping

Essaouira: Kitesurfers in the Atlantic Ocean

Essaouira and its environs offer some great opportunities for thrill-seekers. Quite a few travelers visiting Essaouira are drawn by the wind, which generates much-sought-after waves for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Even in summer, the water is always a very cool 16–20 °C.

Due to the local topography and weather conditions, it is crucial to understand where the wind and wave conditions are best for each sport in Essaouira and the surroundings. In Essaouira Bay, conditions are mostly suited for kitesurfing.

When the wind picks up, the best conditions for windsurfing can be found at the small beach of Moulay Berzouktoune, 20 kilometers north of Essaouira, and at Sidi Kaouki, 10 kilometers south of Essaouira.

There are a number of surf shops and schools in Essaouira and you can opt for kitesurfing or windsurfing lessons depending on your interest. Instructors speak good English and are well-trained for beginner windsurfers, kitesurfers, and surfers to explore what they can do with the wind and on the waves.

Another option is to go on an equally exhilarating quad-bike tour. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take your sunscreen for outdoor activities.

9. Gaze at Some Intriguing Street Art

Things to see in Essaouira. A vivid street art mural

One of the slightly more unusual things to do in Essaouira is seeking out some of the top-notch and creative street art on offer.

Although street art wasn’t so prominent in Essaouira until recently, official endorsements from civic authorities have led to a street art boom over the city. 

Things to see in Essaouira. A vivid street art mural

These splendid and vivid murals are transforming some of the dilapidated landscape of the medina into veritable Instagram worthy locations. The art often makes use of geometric forms, Islamic designs, and incorporates underlying social and cultural concerns.

10. Enjoy Live Music

Things to see in Essaouira: Duo of Gnaoua musicians performing on the street. PC: Reimar/Shutterstock.com

It’s nigh impossible to get away from music in Essaouira. Intoxicating rhythms beckon from every corner, be it the soulful call of the muezzin from the mosque summoning the faithful to prayer, the contemporary sounds of rap and chaabi (Arabic pop) blaring from a jukebox, or various types of folk music.

However, Essaouira jives to the rhythmic tones of Gnaoua music more enthusiastically than any other. Wildly popular across the length and breadth of Morocco, Gnaoua’s heartland lies in Essaouira.

Gnaoua music has its origins in sub-Saharan Africa (Guinea, Senegal, Mali, and Sudan), and was brought to Morocco by slaves. Formerly shunned, Gnaoua music has been widely embraced by all Moroccans.

Gnaoua music is known for its distinctive blues-like style and its instruments: a three-stringed bass lute (gimbri) and a pair of metal castanets (garageb), which accompany the lead vocals.

The effect is immediately spellbinding inducing an almost trancelike effect on the audience. Besides entertainment, Gnaoua music but has a deeply rooted spiritual and healing purpose derived from Sufi Islam.

Since 1998, Essaouira has annually hosted the Gnaoua World Music Festival in late June, touted as “Morocco’s Woodstock”. Over the course of four nights, a festival atmosphere envelops the city and attracts crowds of 450,000 people.

You can listen to live music throughout the medina as well as at venues like Restaurant Café Des Arts, or one of the cafes in Place Moulay Hassan.

FUN FACT: JIMI HENDRIX & ESSAOUIRA

There are plenty of canards about Jimi Hendrix in Essaouira, the most popular one being that he composed “Castles Made of Sand” while stumbling upon the ruins of the Bordj el Berod fort on Diabat Beach, 5 kilometers south of Essaouira. Other myths are that the rock legend lived here on and off for a few years in the 1960s and that he owned a riad in which you can now stay. All these stories are purely apocryphal. Hendrix didn’t visit Morocco until July 1969, “Castles Made of Sand” was released in January 1968; he only spent a week in Morocco, of which two or three days were spent in Essaouira.

11. Visit an Argan Oil Cooperative

Essaouira: Argan oil bottles on display

If there is one thing Morocco is known for apart from its leather products, it would probably be Argan oil. Argan oil is a plant oil extracted from the kernels of the Argan tree which is native to Morocco.

Today, virtually all argan oil production in the world takes place in the Souss Valley region around Essaouira and Agadir in southwest Morocco. 

It is widely used in cooking in North African cuisine and has traditionally been used as a home remedy for stomach ailments, arteriosclerosis, rheumatism, poor blood circulation, and even fertility problems. However, in recent years the vitamin-rich oil has gained much popularity in the cosmetic industry due to its hydrating and anti-aging properties.

The kernel of the argan tree is covered by fleshy pulp which needs to be removed before the oil can be extracted. This flesh is of particular interest to the hoards of goats that graze the country’s green patches since it constitutes a major part of their diet.

Morocco: Goats climbing an Argan tree

In order to access them, goats are known to climb the trees and munch away happily. This unique phenomenon usually occurs at the beginning of summer when the Argan fruit ripens and is truly surreal to watch!

PLEASE NOTE

Witnessing the phenomenon of goats climbing Argan trees is something special and should only be enjoyed if the goats are going up the trees of their own volition. Although it is strictly forbidden, some hustlers (especially on the stretch of road between Essaouira and Marrakech) tie goats to the Argan trees against their will in the hot sun hoping to make a quick buck in exchange for pictures. If you come across this sordid practice, vamoose immediately. Please don’t take pictures in this case as this encourages animal cruelty.

Turning the nut around the kernel into oil is surely one of the most labor-intensive extraction processes in existence. It requires 30-40 kilograms of argan kernels and eight hours of intensive manual labor to produce approximately 1 liter of oil.

The work is mostly carried out by local Berber women. You can’t help but admire their work ethic while they sit on the floor with huge piles of nuts, shelling them with sharp pebbles, mashing them into a pulp, and squeezing the thick paste into oil.

Essaouira: Moroccan women shelling Argan nuts in an Argan Oil Cooperative. PC: Alexander A.Trofimov/Shutterstock.com

There are several argan production facilities, known as argan cooperatives. Virtually all the argan oil cooperatives in the region are women’s cooperatives. In recent years the argan oil industry has been a way to provide women with employment and a stable income. Today, more than a thousand women are employed in the processing of argan oil.

Argan oil can be relatively expensive when compared to other Moroccan souvenirs, primarily due to its labor-intensive production process. Argan Oil Cooperatives are also the best place to purchase authentic Argan oil.

Because of its high value, it is difficult to guarantee that the oil elsewhere you buy is really pure and not mixed with olive or sunflower oil. A visit to an Argan Oil Cooperative will definitely be worth your while.

If you have your own transport, Coopérative Féminine D’ huile D’Argan, in the commune of Imi N’Tlit,  50 kilometers south of Essaouira is a good option. Coopérative Ajddigue Argan, 30 km south of Essaouira is also another good bet.

12. Take a Stroll on the Beach

Essaouira: The famous crescent-shaped Essaouira beach

No list of essential things to do in Essaouira would be complete without mentioning the town’s beach. Essaouira’s crescent-shaped beach is one of Morocco’s best and is purely a long stretch of fine, golden sand extending for roughly three kilometers.

The town’s balmy year-round climate makes it ideal for blissful walks along the coast in the brisk Atlantic air. Although the surrounding Atlantic Ocean is usually calm enough for swimming, the strong winds that batter the “Windy City” often make it too cold for sunbathing and swimming.

The wind comes in from the north and gets stronger as you move further south. If you do plan on swimming, stick to the stretch south of town as the north beach (Plage de Safi) has dangerous currents. 

If you’re feeling peckish during your walk, pop into one of the many cafés and restaurants dotting the promenade to sample some fresh seafood.

13. Get Acquainted With the Mellah

Essaouira. A ruined building in the mellah of the Essaouira medina

If you’re looking for some offbeat things to do in Essaouira, you should definitely head to the mellah, the city’s intriguing former Jewish Quarter (once a small, walled-off city within the city). From the late 18th century to the mid-20th century, the Jewish community of Essaouira was a vital financial resource.

Jews made up nearly 40 percent of the city’s population and comprised the majority of Essaouira’s bankers, tailors, goldsmiths, and metalworkers.  A walk through the mellah will definitely be worth your while and give you a greater insight into the history and culture of Essaouira.

After the founding of Israel, there was a mass exodus of Jews and the Mellah subsequently lost around 98 percent of its population. While most Jews left for Israel, others emigrated to France and Canada. By the 1980s, there were hardly any Jews left and the quarter became abandoned. 

Although the mellah is now almost entirely Muslim, it still contains vestiges of its once-vibrant Jewish community. The mellah’s architecture consists of a delightful hybrid of Moorish and Art Deco architecture—many with the Star of David carved into the façade and some with inscriptions in Hebrew. The houses in the rundown quarter are now occupied by Essaouira’s poorest residents. 

Essaouira: Row after row of whitewashed graves spread across the Jewish cemetery

You can pay a quick visit to the Jewish cemetery which lies just beyond the walled medina. It is home to row after row of whitewashed graves dating from the beginning of the mellah itself are spread across the sprawling cemetery.

Some of the gravestones have been built with scripts carved in Hebrew, while others are undecorated with candleholders. It is free to enter. The keys are available on request from the caretaker.

14. People Watch in the Place Moulay Hassan

Essaouira: People walking in Place Moulay Hassan, a vast pedestrian-only square. PC: karel291, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Place Moulay Hassan is not only the focal point of the medina but also of the whole of Essaouira. This vast, pedestrian-only square is lined with several cafés and shops making it a perfect spot for spending a lazy morning.

When you’re walking around in the medina, you’ll inevitably pass through the vast square. Use this opportunity to unwind and lounge in one of the square’s inviting cafés and watch the flocks of people pass by while sipping on refreshing Moroccan mint tea.

15. Witness an Amazing Essaouira Sunset

Essaouira: View of Skala du Port at sunset with a flock of seagulls in the air

There’s just something special about catching a glorious sunset that makes even the most beautiful views in the world seem better.

With over 300 sunny days per year and a stunning setting on the Atlantic Ocean, Essaouira is a premier destination for anyone who loves to watch the sun drop below the horizon amidst a meditative play of oranges and magentas.

As the sun is lowering beneath the horizon, just take a back seat and be mesmerized by bright golds, oranges, reds, and violets magically build up all against a darkening blue sky.

On top of this, the dipping sun makes the stone of the ramparts glow and the setting is punctuated by silhouetted seagulls. The best place to witness a perfect sunset is from the ramparts or the beach.

16. Uncover Essaouira’s Art Scene

Things to see in Essaouira: Numerous paintings on display at a local art gallery. PC: Pavel Mora/Shutterstock.com

Famous for its scenic landscape, Bohemian culture, and slightly alternative lifestyle, Essaouira has long been a haven for both local and international artists. The town has a thriving art scene and there are numerous painters, sculptors, and other artists based in Essaouira.

Much of the local art uses vibrant colors and wide brush strokes, often integrating arabesques, geometric designs, Arab-Berber, and Gnaoua imagery.

You’ll see their work for sale in galleries and souvenir shops lining Avenue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah and even on pavements tucked into the various little streets of the medina. The most well-known is Galerie d’art Damgaard, which showcases the works of local artists.

Where to Stay in Essaouira

The best place to stay in Essaouira would undoubtedly be in the medina. Virtually all the must-see attractions in Essaouira can be found here, so it’s a perfect base for sightseeing.

Budget: Riad Saltana, excellent budget option in the heart of the medina.

Mid-range: Riad Malaïka, simple and stylish, featuring cozy rooms with beautiful interiors.

Luxury: Riad Dar Maya, one of Essaouira’s best luxury riads. All rooms are wonderfully decorated, creating the sumptuous look of a luxurious Moroccan home.

Essaouira Travel Tips

What is the best time to visit Essaouira?

Essaouira is renowned for its temperate climate with mild temperatures year-round. The best times to visit Essaouira are late autumn and early spring i.e. in the months of May and June and the months of September and October.

This is when the weather is most desirable, with almost no rainfall and the mass crowds of tourists are away. Essaouira is famous for its strong gust of winds, so don’t expect to swim before April or after October.

While the heat in the summer isn’t as oppressive as in other parts of Morocco, Essaouira has seen considerable heating in the summer in recent years and the mercury frequently goes above 35°C.

Avoid visiting Essaouira in July and August as these are the most popular months among travelers to visit Essaouira. Another peak period is the end of June when Essaouira hosts the annual Gnaoua Music Festival and the city is packed to the core, with hotels and riads booked up months in advance.

Winter in Essaouira is usually bright and sunny, and while the daytime temperature is very pleasant, it drops at night time and can be rather chilly.  Additionally, the wind and humidity increase the feeling of cold.

How Many Days Should I Spend in Essaouira?

Being a small town Essaouira as such possesses very few crowd-pulling sights and monuments. Most visitors are content to pass their time sunning themselves on rooftop terraces, strolling on the beach with regular forays into the medina and souks.

In my opinion, the city is best explored at a relaxed pace, so two-three days in Essaouira should suffice. Even if you are coming down on a day trip from Marrakech, one day in Essaouira will still give you plenty of time to wander about and enjoy the town.

Is Essaouira safe?

Yes. Overall, the security risk to travelers in Essaouira is low. Violent crime in Essaouira is rare and the most serious threat for tourists is always pretty theft.

Although you are unlikely to get mugged, the city does attract its fair share of bag-snatchers and pickpockets, especially in markets and other crowded areas. Use common sense and vigilance with valuables, and you will be fine.

Be careful when walking around the dark alleys of the medina late at night. The derelict areas along Rue Mellah and Rue Doukkala in the former Jewish Quarter are best avoided after nighttime in general.

How Does Tipping in Morocco Work?

As far as tipping in Morocco is concerned, it is customary to tip porters, chambermaids, other hotel staff if they are particularly helpful, and waiting staff.

You are expected to tip in restaurants and cafés unless a service charge is included. There are no hard-and-fast rules for the amount, although 10 percent would be appropriate.


Now, what do you think? What are some of the best things to do in Essaouira? And is Essaouira on your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.