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Planning a trip to Morocco and wondering if you should add Essaouira to your itinerary? The town of Essaouira is a picturesque hidden gem along the Atlantic coast of Morocco and I can tell you from experience that it’s a great addition to any trip to Morocco. We’ll explore 13 of the best things to do in Essaouira Morocco.

The coastal town of Essaouira has the distinctive blue and white architecture in the medina that is seen throughout Morocco but with a laid-back vibe. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or somewhere for a little adventure, Essaouira Morocco has it all.

I spent a few days in Essaouira after a last minute change in our Morocco itinerary and I’m so glad I did. While I love the city of Marrakech, Essaouira was a nice break from the crowds and chaos that Marrakech is known for.

Discover the best things to do in Essaouira and why this seaside town should be included in your own Moroccan Itinerary.

Top 3 things to do in Essaouira

  1. Shop in Essaouira’s Medina
  2. Visit Essaouira’s port and ramparts
  3. Hang out at the beach

3 blue boats on the walkway at the port in Essaouira Morocco - things to do in Essaouira

About Essaouira

Essaouira has a diverse history that spans centuries. Originally inhabited by Berber tribes and later settled by the Phoenicians and Romans, it wasn’t until the 18th century that Essaouira flourished by becoming a strategic port and a thriving hub of trade.

Merchants from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East came to Essaouira because of its strategic location which facilitated commerce in goods such as spices, gold, and ivory. The Essaouira port played a crucial role in the trans-Saharan trade routes and was a link between Morocco and the world.

Today, Essaouira’s medina is an UNESCO world heritage site with its well-preserved ramparts, whitewashed buildings, and bustling souks selling crafts, spices, and textiles.

Best things to do in Essaouira

Essaouira Morocco has an array of attractions for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re a solo traveler, retired couple, or family traveling with kids, Essaouira has something for everyone to enjoy.

History and culture enthusiasts will appreciate Essaouira’s historic ramports and multicultural past. With 300+ days of sunshine per year, beach lovers can enjoy a range of water activities or just relax on the beach.

Essaouira is also a great destination for families with kids. The relaxed atmosphere and slower pace of life in Essaouira makes it easy to navigate with children. And you won’t find the same kinds of crowded spaces that you do in Marrakech.

With an abundance of outdoor activites, Essaouira is a great destination for families looking to create lasting memories.

Let’s get into the list of things to do in Essaouira Morocco!

1. The Essaouira Medina

While a lot of medinas in Morocco, such as in Fes and Marrakech, have a maze of twisting alleys that are easy to get lost in, the Essaouira Medina is not like that. It’s hard to get lost in this medina.

It’s pretty small but the Essaouira medina still has a great variety of shops and cafes. There are plenty of unique souvenirs to bring home from the Essaouira Medina. From handmade baskets to local artwork, you can find pretty much anything in the medina.

It might seem weird but what I loved the most about the Essaouira Medina was the decor. I’m a sucker for cute decor and the shops and restaurants in the medina are all nicely decorated. I couldn’t stop taking photos of them! Essaouira and Chefchaouen Morocco are easily the two prettiest cities in Morocco.

2. Sqala du Port

It would almost be impossible to visit Essaouira and not visit the Sqala du Port. The Sqala du Port is the main defensive tower of the walled city that was built in the mid 1700’s and is one of the best things to see in Essaouira.

Located in the port, the Sqala was built by re-using stones from a demolished Portuguese castle that was once in the same location.

The Sqala is one of Essaouira’s most recognized landmarks and was built to defend the port. You’ll find old cannons there that were once used to defend the city.

The Sqala du Port is one of Essaouira’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is open to visitors to explore.

3. Walk along the ramparts

If you’re a fan of HBO’s hit show, Game of Thrones, then this thing to do in Essaouira might become your favorite! A few episodes of Game of Thrones were filmed in Essaouira and specifically on the ramparts.

The ramparts are the fortified walls that were built around the Essaouira medina to protect it from attacks. Today, walking along the ramparts is one of the most popular things to do in Essaouira.

You’ll find 19 bronze cannons lining the fortified wall that used to protect the city. From the top you can take in panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the port below with its iconic blue fishing boats.

4. The Essaouira fishing port

The Essaouira port was once a major trading hub between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Today it’s main purpose is a fishing port. You can walk through the port as fishermen arrive with their catch and clean it right there in front of you.

Just be careful of the seagulls overhead. They’ve learned that this is an easy way for them to get some food and they’re all waiting to scoop in and get the unwanted parts of the fish.

5. Eat fresh fish from the port

Every day fishermen return to the port with their catch and take part in daily fish auctions. Visitors can witness local fishermen gather to sell their fish to buyers and wholesalers. This is an authentic glimpse into the traditional ways of the local fishing industry.

You can also purchase fresh fish from them and have it cooked at one of the stalls in the port.

6. Walking Tour

A walking tour is a great way to get to know the area and even better when you can do that with someone from the local area. These guides will show you all the major highlights of the city, make recommendations on things to do in Essaouira, and tell you the best places to eat.

Choose from local guides in Essaouira to show you what to do in Essaouira and show you places most tourists don’t know about.

7. Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah Museum

Want to understand more about the cultural heritage and history of Essaouira? The Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah Museum is the best place to do just that.

Named after Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah, who played a pivotal role in Essaouira’s development in the 18th century, the museum features a range of exhibits that highlight important aspects of Essaouira’s history.

You’ll find exhibits that highlight Essaouira’s maritime heritage, Berber culture, local craftsmanship, and the trade connections Essaouira has had with Europe and the Middle East. Explore artifacts, photographs, and multimedia displays that shows the city’s evolution over time.

8. Sunset from a rooftop

With the white and blue buildings in the medina and the Atlantic Ocean just outside the medina, the best way to take it in is up on a rooftop overlooking it all. Most riads in Essaouira have their own private rooftops for guests to enjoy.

However, if you happen to be staying at a place that doesn’t have rooftop access, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes in Essaouira that do have rooftops. Chose a restaurant, grab a drink, and enjoy the stunning views of the area.

9. Argan oil cooperative

One of Morocco’s most important goods is Argan Oil. Argan oil is a highly sought-after product that comes from the argan tree and has been produced in Morocco for centuries. Morocco has a protected area of argan forests in the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve where the majority of it’s argan products come from.

Morocco’s argan oil cooperative are community based cooperatives where local women come together to collectively produce and market argan oil products. These cooperatives provide women with opportunites for economic independence and skill development.

At these co-ops you can learn about the process of extracting oil from the kernels of the argan tree. The local Berber women have intricate knowledge of the process that has been passed down through generations.

We stopped at a women’s argan oil cooperative about 20 minutes outside of Essaouira on our way from Marrakech and learned all about the argan oil process. There’s also a small cafe right next door where you can grab a drink and snack.

Argan Oil Cooperative - women work to extract Argan Oil from the kernels

10. Sidi Kaouki

If you plan on being in Essaouira for a few days, take a quick daytrip to the coastal village of Sidi Kaouki. The picturesque village is about 20 minutes south of Essaouria. Sidi Kaouki is very popular with travelers seeking outdoor adventure.

  • Beach: there’s a long stretch of sandy beach where you can sunbathe, swim, and go beachcombing.
  • Surfing: Sidi Kaouki is a great place for experienced surfers as well as beginners to catch a wave or take a surfing lesson.
  • Windsurfing: Morocco’s Atlantic coast has strong winds that make it the perfect place for windsurfing or kitesurfing. If you’ve never done it before that are places that offer lessons.
  • Horseback Riding: Sidi Kaouki has wide open beaches and you can explore the coastline on horseback. Take a leisurely ride through the dunes or gallop along the shore and take in the views of the ocean and landscape.

11. The Beach

You don’t have to leave Essaouira for the beach because Essaouira has it’s own! You won’t find this in Marrakech or Fes so while you’re here take advantage of it!

You can relax and get some sun BUT there are also a lot of other beach activities you can try while there. From kitesurfing, quad biking, camel rides or horseback riding, there are a lot of things to do in Essaouira at its beaches.

Camels and horses on the Essaouira Morocco beach

12. Bayt Dakira Museum

The Bayt Dakira Museum is a unique cultural institution dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich heritage of Morocco’s Jewish community. “Bayt Dakira” translates to “House of Memory” in Arabic and the museum’s mission is to honor the legacy and contributions of Morocco’s Jewish population.

Bayt Dakira Museum showcases the traditions of Morocco’s Jewish community that dates back over 2000 years. Learn more through artifacts and exhibits, photographs, and multimedia displays that tells the story of Jewish life in Morocco.

13. Visit Diabat

Located in a small village about 10 minutes from Essaouira is a town named Diabat, known for it’s scenic coastal landscapes and historic significance. In Diabat is the Dar Sultan Palace which is housed within a restored riad.

The architecture of Dar Sultan Palace reflects the heritage of Morocco with its intircate tilework and carved woodwork. Visit their spa and wellness center which uses traditional hammam rituals in their massages and beauty treatments. There’s a restaurant there with tradtional Moroccan dishes with locally sourced ingredients.

Explore the sand dunes on camel or take a tour of the local Argan forest.

Diabat Morocco has a special connection to rock legend Jimi Hendrix who visited the area in the late 1960’s. Hendrix stayed in Diabat and it’s said that he found inspiration from the area’s natural beauty. His visit left a lasting impression on the community and you’ll see all kinds of cafes and hotels using his name.

Where to Stay in Essaouira

The best area to stay in Essaouira is in the medina. That will put you close to everything including the shops, restaurants and port. Inside the medina you’ll find everything from budget to luxury hotels.

Luxury Options

There are quite a few places that are considered luxury (although it might depend on your definition of luxury) that you can stay in. Some are inside the medina but the larger ones are located just outside of Essaouira.

You can get an entire house if you rent Maison Insa that comes with a swimming pool and full kitchen and sleeps 10 people just outside of Essaouira. Because it’s located about 5 miles outside of Essaouira you will either need to rent a car or rely on taxi services to get around.

Located just inside the medina with ocean views is Hotel Maroc!. You won’t have the entire place to yourself but you will have a large suite with your own living room, rooftop access, a restaurant on site, and you’ll be within walking distance to everything.

Mid-Range Options

Magada Mogador is located in the medina is an amazing hotel with incredible ocean views and minimlist decorated rooms. There’s an on-site restaurant and you can even take cooking classes there. I’ve put this in the mid-range section but they do have some rooms that have luxury pricing because the rooms are almost like small apartments. I would put this one at the top of the mid-range option.

We stayed at Chems Bleu which is located in the medina. It’s a traditional riad style hotel with an inner courtyard, a rooftop terrace, and ocean views. The rooms are spacious and nicely decorated and the hotel is located in a great location just minutes away from the main area of the medina and the beach.

Budget Options

Even if you’re on a tight budget there are places to stay that pretty much offer many of the same things as the Mid-Range options. A king bed, private bathroom, and free WiFi…what more do you need? Wave Mogador is a great place to stay even if you aren’t on a budget. Use that savings for some of the things to see in Essaouira!

Dar Karam is located in the medina and includes a private bathroom, city views, and free WiFi. Some rooms include a private terrace and kitchen for just a few dollars more. Everything is within walking distance to this hotel in Essaouira.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to visit Essaouira?

Essaouira has lots of sunshine and great weather but when to visit depends on your personal interests.
Spring (March to May) is when temperatures are mild and there are fewer crowds.
Summer (June to August) has warm temperatures but you still get that nice ocean breeze which makes it enjoyable. However, you will find it more crowded during this time.
Fall (September to Novemer is one of the best times to visit for cooler temperatures which is perfect for outdoor activities.
Winter (December to February) is the rainy season and the time when temperatures are at their coolest when highs reach 20°C/67°F.

How do I get to Essaouira

If you’re coming from Europe you can get a direct flight from several cities such as Paris, London, Madrid, and a few others. If you’re already in Morocco the closest major city is Marrakech and you easily reach Essaouira from Marrakech by car or bus.

What’s the best way to get around Essaouira

The best way to get around Essaouira is by walking. Inside the medina cars are not allowed so walking is the only option. Outside the medina is the port and beach and those are also within walking distance of the medina. If you want to explore areas further away there are plenty of taxis available for hire.

How many days should I spend in Essaouira

2-3 days is a good amount of time to stay in Essaouira. This gives you time to explore the medina, check out many of the cafes and restaurants, and visit the city’s port. With three days you can use one of those days to take a daytrip to some of the nearby villages.

Final Thoughts

While there are several Moroccan coastal towns that you’ve probably heard of before such as Casablanca, Rabat, and Tangier, none of those come close to Essaouira. Essaouira Morocco has it’s own unique vibe and has the true feeling of what a beach town is.

Essaouira is one of those places you didn’t know you needed to visit! I would definitely rank it near at the top of must-see destinations in Morocco.

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