Well known as the Windy City amongst the rest of Morocco, Essaouria’s charismatic people and calm nature left quite the mark on us. In fact, after 8 weeks of travelling, it was our favourite city in Morocco. Looking for things to do and places to visit in Essaouira? Read on and discover why we fell in love.

— Visited in November, 2021

A girl walks within the Essaouira Medina

Within the first moments of walking through the ancient medina gate, we could tell we were going to love this place.

We found Essaouira to function as if it has a different culture to other Moroccan cities. While still having all the features that make the ancient Moroccan medinas ever-intriguing, there is an adscititious haze of calm that accompanies the day to day making the place feel (dare we say…) manageable for a traveller not used to the normal hustle that is evoked while in Morocco.

After 8 weeks of travelling through a bountiful of Moroccan cities and landscapes, we looked back very fondly on our time in Essaouira. It’s the type of city one plans to visit for a couple of days and ends up never leaving. It’s a part of Morocco we will definitely visit again and recommend you include it as part of your Moroccan adventure.

To give you a head start on your planning, we’ve put together a guide on the places to visit in Essaouira. This should give you a good mix of things to do amidst the cups of mint tea we know you’ll be enjoying in the sun.

Explore the Medina

Essaouira’s Medina is a lot smaller than those of other Moroccan cities. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm and is the perfect place to start your time in Essaouira. The Medina of Essaouira, formally known as Mogador, is quite modern in comparison to the other cities. Founded by Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abd Allah in the late 18th-century, the city reflects a more contemporary European look.

Two characteristics stand to mind when considering Essaouira, preservation and space. Due to its more recent construction, in comparison to some other Moroccan cities, Essaouira’s medina has not been tested to as many years of hardship. For this reason, a lot more of the traditional buildings are preserved as they always have been, giving a true glimpse into the past. The streets of the medina are also a lot wider than other medinas and have a fitting seaside style in shades of blue and white. All of these features give a feeling of openness to the place, removing the common claustrophobic feeling that spending a lot of time in a Medina can bring on.

While getting lost in a medina is not usually a difficult task, the layout of Essaouira actually brings some ease to finding your way. There are two main streets within the medina, Avenue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah and Avenue Mohamed Zerktouni. Everything else in one way or another connects to these streets giving you a quick sense of direction.

Another major positive when it comes to exploring the medina of Essaouira is the people. While we definitely cannot say this about every city in Morocco, in Essaouira meaningful and genuine conversations were not hard to come by. With locals always open to a chat, we found them to be more intrigued in conversing stories as opposed to pushing for a sale. This can really have a big impact on a city and think it’s a big reason we loved our time here.

The medina of Essaouira can easily be discovered solo. But as we have found during our time in Morocco, a local tour really gives a better understanding of the city. Whether it’s a better understanding of its quirks or a corner of the medina you would not have found by yourself, there is always more to be discovered. This 4-hour tour is a highly reviewed option for discovering Essaouira.

Shop in the Souks

Essaouira is a great place for buying souvenirs! Especially for those who don’t enjoy haggling.

Lots of the stalls within the medina have fixed labelled prices. The prices may not be as cheap as what you could haggle down to in other cities, but after our time we can honestly say they weren’t far off. After some of the haggling experiences we had across our trip, we would have more than happily paid a few euros more if it meant zero back & forth.

Having fixed prices really suits the mood of the city and may in some ways be a big reason it is the way it is. It’s common to wander the souks without a single seller calling you into their shop, and if they do it may only be for a friendly mint tea. This experience personally gave us the time to enjoy the experience of souk shopping and converse with the sellers knowing there were no secret tactics going on.

Catch the Fish Market at First Light

In many ways, the harbour market is as it always has been. With the smell of salt in the air, the sailors present their fresh catch of fish in preparation for the days market. This is a process that has been the case for a long time and wandering its activities gives a true glimpse into the local lifestyle in Essaouira.

If you’re a fan of fish then there is no place to get a fresher catch. Of what we can only detail as a local tip, it’s possible to purchase your pick of the day from the market and take it straight to a restaurant to be grilled for a small fee.

For those not wishing to make a purchase then the location is still not to be missed. Whether you have an eye for photography or purely enjoy people watching, this place will present you with a new scene wherever you look. A heated haggle between local and sailor or a cheeky cat sneaking away with a stray catch from the cart, take the time and observe as you’ll never know what incredible display may just bechance.

The fish market by the harbour is one of the places to visit in Essaouira at any time of day. But in our opinion, it’s best to get there for sunrise.

As first light starts to rise, the fishermen return with their daily catch. While the boats get unloaded, the market stalls start to populate their tables ready for the daily process to begin. The soft light gives a different perspective to the scenes unfolding and you’ll find yourself amongst a spectacle of only locals.

Check the View from the Ramparts

From our time in Morocco, we found that walking the medina walls is quite a rarity. But Essaouira is one place where it is possible at the site of the old city ramparts.

Built-in 1760 by the French military architect, Theodore Cornut, the ramparts were constructed to protect the port from raiders. Based on the sheer size of the walls and the unblemished condition of the city, they seemed to do the job.

The ramparts are a beautiful piece of history providing both a wonderful view over the medina and along the rugged windy coastline of Essaouira. As an added bonus, the walls still consist of the original cannons!

As is the case with a lot of newly found tourist hotspots. Essaouira is featured in the ever-telling list of Game of Thrones locations. The ramparts were the main feature in the show so if you’re a fan then this is definitely one of the places to visit in Essaouira. Take your time and walk in the footsteps of Daenerys as you ponder both the beautiful and imposing feel to this place.

Stroll the Skala du Port

Unfortunately during our time in Essaouira, the Skala du Port was closed for renovation. Based on reviews, it’s one of the best places to visit in Essaouira for incredible views over the city.

Fortunately for us, the Skala du Port was just as impressive to view from the port where the fish market takes place. With its grand walkway, it makes for quite the backdrop to the famous blue boats of Essaouira.

Take a Stroll Along the Promenade

If you’re visiting in summer then it is likely that unless you’re an avid kite surfer, you’re not going to spend a lot of time at the beach. Known as the Windy City for a reason, sunbathing on the sands doesn’t quite go as planned here.

Luckily the modern city has been well thought out and a long concrete promenade spans for miles along the oceanfront. On a bright sunny day, take a stroll from the medina and enjoy the view out towards the hundreds of kites that scatter the chopped ocean. There is a number of little cafes and pop up ice cream carts to help you make the most of your day.

If you’re looking for a bit of an adventure along the beach and through the dunes located slightly south, then you may want to consider some of the alternate transportations in the area. Some well-recommended tours include the one hour horseback riding tour and the half-day quad bike tour.

Take a day trip to Sidi Kouki

If you’re overlooking wild camels, never-ending beaches and rolling waves, then it’s likely you’ve made it to Sidi Kouki. Just half an hour from Essaouira sits the sleepy little surf village that’s perfect for both beginners and pros.

A trip out to Sidi Kouki makes for a great day trip from Essaouira for both surfers and the rest. If you’re not looking to get salty, then there are a number of quaint restaurants to sit back at and enjoy the view.

Looking for a little adventure in Sidi Kouki? Then we recommend checking out one of the popular horse riding tours or extreme quad bike experiences that are available in town.

Visit the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah Museum

Though we didn’t find the time, from fellow travellers recommendations the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah Museum was seen as a great way of escaping the sunny streets during your time in Essaouira.

Perhaps not one of the top-tier places to visit in Essaouira, especially if you don’t speak French, as none of the information is in English. However, the display of traditional dresses, old musical instruments and weapons is well enjoyed and can be that museum fix that a lot of us look for in a city trip. There is also a fantastic blue staircase for those looking for a good snap!

Get Salty in the Ocean

While writing the “ocean” may be a stretch when it comes to listing the “places” to see in Essaouria, it’s enticing enough that we are going to allow it. Plus the range of water activities available means you must give at least one a try during a visit to Essaouira.

If you’re visiting in summer, the windy season, then you’ve no doubt spotted the many specks of kite surfers shooting across the chopped ocean. If there is one place in the world that you should try this sport, then it’s definitely Essaouira. For the convenience of avoiding the haggle, this kite surfing lesson is a great option for giving it a try.

Through the months of October to March, the Windy City becomes less true to its name. With the winds calming, the ocean swells start to show face and provide arguably some of the best waves we have ever ridden… and this is coming from an Australian! So if you visit during these months, it’s best to ditch the idea of kite surfing and try the original form. This 2-hour surf lesson is a great start for beginners.

While it’s possible to try both sports all year round, it’s definitely best to come in the right season to get the best out of your time. With the small price tag, it’s definitely worth taking on a bit of water activity during your time in Morocco.

Where to Stay in Essaouira

With our eyes set on a Riad in Marrakech, we desired the charm and social aspect that comes with hostel life while in Essaouira. We ended up going with The Chill Art Hostel and it certainly lived up to the reviews. Featuring many open social spaces, spacious and comfortable rooms, a necessary rooftop terrace and to our surprise, a Riad layout. It really was perfect for our time in Essaouira.

If Essaouira is the only city you’re visiting in Morocco and you want to tick off that necessary luxury Riad experience, then fortunately for you there are several to choose from. These are amongst some of the best-reviewed and still budget-friendly Riads in the city: Riad Maison Du Sud, Dar Ness and Riad Lyon-Mogador.

How to Get to Essaouira

How to Get to Essaouira from Marrakech

There are two bus companies (CTM and Supratours) that travel between Marrakech and Essaouira. The journey takes around 2.5 hours and cost us 70 dirhams per person with a little extra for stored luggage (about 10 dirhams).

Both companies are very good. However, for this journey, we recommend taking Supratours. The Supratours bus stop is at the entrance to the medina allowing you to walk while the CTM station requires a 20-30 dirham taxi (after some good haggling of course) to reach the city entrance.

Find the bus timetables on the websites linked above.

Getting from the Airport to Essaouira

Essaouira has a fantastic airport approx. 30 minutes from the city. We did a lot of research on public transport before arriving and it seems there is a public bus available but the frequency and location is very unpredictable. We tried locating it when we arrived but had no luck in this venture. Fortunately, the taxi to the city won’t break the bank and cost us only 100 dirhams.

Other airport options are Agadir to the south which requires a 3.5-hour bus to reach Essaouira or Marrakech with the bus journey described above. Timetables and prices for these routes can be found on the CTM and Supratours websites.

Thanks For Reading

Thank you for reading our blog post, we hope it gave you that little motivation to book your next adventure!

Any questions then let us know in the comments below or contact us via the contact page. Want to keep up with our adventures? Then follow us on our Instagram.

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waffles & lamingtons

A travel blog by Lynsey & Theo.

Giving tips on budget travel and itineraries all around the world.