What to do in Essaouira. Top 10 must-do’s
Are you planning a visit to Essaouira? Here we tell you the essential things to do in this beautiful city. The white city of Essaouira has a lot of charm. With its relaxed atmosphere, its centuries-old ramparts, its winding cobbled streets, its fishing port and its long sandy beach, you cannot miss its enchanting beauty.
A small port city located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, Essaouira is 180 kilometers west of Marrakech and 170 kilometers north of Agadir. To get there, you can rent a car, take a bus, a collective cab or simply book a day trip to Essaouira from Marrakech, for less than 30 euros per person. It must be said that one is quickly dazzled by the colors of the city, with its white houses, contrasting with the blue of the shutters, the boats, the sky or the sea. And its medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, is lively and authentic. The markets are very popular with the locals, who come to do their shopping on the great Zerktouni Avenue, around the souk Jedid.
1. The Medina
Visiting Essaouira means first of all soaking up the typical Moroccan atmosphere, and what better way to get to know the locals than strolling through the narrow streets of the Medina? Puis yes, one of the things to do in Essaouira is to stroll through the medina, wander the streets and enjoy all that it has to offer. You will go from the souks to the small restaurants, between shopping and tea tasting. The different souks offer all kinds of souvenirs and gifts: spices, olives, handicrafts … The charm of the historic center and the carefree merchants will make you spend a pleasant time.
Stop to chat with the people, the inhabitants of Essaouira are quiet and friendly, it is worth chatting with them, what better way to get closer to their culture?
The Medina is surrounded by fortifications that you can climb. If you are looking for something to do in Essaouira, the Medina is a must-see. In 2001 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
2. The ramparts of Essaouira
The walls of Essaouira were built in the eighteenth century to protect the city from foreign invasions. Essaouira was then the main commercial port of Morocco and Sultan Mohamed Ben Abdallah decided to build fortifications to protect it. The French architect Théodore Cornut was chosen to design the ramparts and direct the works. A student of the Marquis de Vauban, he created an enclosure around the Medina inspired by the fortifications of Saint-Malo.
On the city side, the fortress is pierced by monumental gates. Towards the ocean, you can climb the ramparts up to the sqala, and admire the twenty Spanish cannons pointing out to sea. From the top of the tower, you will have a view of the Medina, the sea and the islets of the coast.
3. The fishing port
Fishing port of Essaouira
The port of Essaouira is deeply linked to the history of the city and is a must for those who come to Essaouira. Once known as the “port of Timbuktu”, it served as a link between the trans-Saharan routes to Black Africa and the major maritime trade routes. Today it remains one of the three most important sardine ports in Morocco. It is undoubtedly the busiest place in the city, especially in the early afternoon. The fishing boats arrive and unload their catches of the day, under the watchful eye of seagulls, cormorants and cats that wait their turn with more or less patience. The sea bream, sardines and other crustaceans are then sold at the auction, in a cacophonous but organized atmosphere.
A few steps away, the gargots cook these fresh products for instant tasting. In summer, you may be lucky enough to witness an impromptu diving competition. The town’s children gather for increasingly impressive jumps, from the pontoons or even from the fortifications and towers. There is also a shipyard where wooden trawls are handcrafted. An interesting place to go if you are looking for something to do in Essaouira for a day.
4. The sunset
Admiring a sunset is one of the essential activities if you plan to visit Essaouira.
The geographical position of the city and its picturesque buildings offer a breathtaking landscape when the sun sets on the horizon. The birds with their shadows against the orange light will be your favorite models for a photo shoot.
where to see sunset in Essaouira
For the best places to watch the sunset, we recommend the sqala of the Kasbah, next to the canyons. You can also go to the port or stroll along the port sqala, to see the iridescent colors of the sunset reflected on the ramparts.
5. The souks
If you are looking for something to do in Essaouira, do not miss shopping in the various souks of the city. Less touristy than those of the big cities like Marrakech or Agadir, they have remained authentic
You will find an original and different craftsmanship from the rest of the country. In the jewelry souk, you will find jewelers who create handmade pieces before your eyes. The leather goods and marquetry workshops are also full of surprises.
As for food, we will take a look at the meat souk. The fish souk is housed in a building protected by a beautiful glass roof that gives it an undeniable cachet. You choose your fresh fish and have it cooked in one of the many stalls that complete the building. The spice souk will surprise you by its colorfulness, with piles of raz-el-hanout, cumin or paprika arranged symmetrically.
6. The beach of Essaouira
The main beach stretches several kilometers between the fortress and the south of the city. You can relax on the sun loungers, have a drink or taste Moroccan specialties while enjoying the sun.
The blond sand caressed by the waves makes the beach of Essaouira one of the most beautiful in Morocco. You will admire the arabesques of kite surfing sails in the blue sky, as well as surfers cutting through the waves and crossing each other in a well-oiled ballet.
For the more sporty, it is possible to take lessons or simply rent equipment. South of the beach you will find camels to take you for a ride, a perfect activity if you are looking for something to do in Essaouira with children.
7. The village of Diabat
Just 3 kilometers south of Essaouira is the charming village of Diabat. Its beautiful beach is ideal for water sports, and there are high-end accommodations and guesthouses. Diabat is home to the Dar Sultan sand palace, the former residence of Sultan Mohamed Ben Abdallah, which overlooks the Oued Ksob estuary. Diabat is also known to have been frequented by hippies in the 1970s. Singer Jimmy Hendrix stayed here and is said to have been inspired by the sand palace to write his famous song “Castle made of sand”.
8. Women’s cooperatives producing argan oil.
The argan tree, the tree that produces the fruit from which argan oil is extracted, only grows in Morocco. More specifically in the Essaouira-Tiznit-Taroudant triangle.
Argan oil production in Essaouira
A few kilometers from Essaouira, you will find cooperatives run by women who work the argan fruit to produce edible or cosmetic oil with organic certification. This miraculous oil, appreciated by both top chefs and cosmetics laboratories, provides income for Berber women and their families.
You will meet the workers who will explain the entire manufacturing process. You will learn that it takes 35 kilograms of dried fruit and 20 hours of work to produce one liter of argan oil. Visiting Essaouira will allow you to take home this luxury product directly from the producer.
9. The Simon Attias Synagogue
The Mellah is the old Jewish quarter of Essaouira. Until the 19th century, Essaouira was home to a large Jewish population, which left numerous architectural testimonies, such as the Simon Attias Synagogue. This religious building is remarkably well preserved.
Essaouira Jewish Quarter
These 500 square meters are spread over three levels, between the prayer hall, a cultural center and the museum of Judaism. Note the wrought iron mezzanine that was reserved for women. The synagogue was renovated in 2015 using antique materials to preserve its original appearance.
The hammam is inseparable from Moroccan culture and is a great activity when visiting Essaouira. Most hotels have a hammam, but to really feel the Moroccan atmosphere, we recommend that you visit a public bath.
It’s not easy to understand all the codes and rituals right away, but you’re sure to have a great time. For an even more perfect relaxation session, the staff also offers massages and scrubs.
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