Exploring Essaouira: A Journey into Morocco's Coastal Gem

Nestled on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, just 190 km west of Marrakech (a 2.5-hour drive), Essaouira welcomes travelers with its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural beauty. This charming port city has long been a favorite for those seeking both cultural immersion and relaxation.

Top Things To Do in Essaouira

Here’s a glimpse into our experience and recommendations of the top things to do in Essaouira for your visit to this captivating seaside town:

1. Wander through the Essaouira Medina

Stepping into Essaouira’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Medina felt like entering a time capsule. We loved getting lost in its labyrinthine alleyways, stumbling upon hidden gems like artisan workshops and cozy cafes tucked away in ancient buildings. Strolling through the medina unveils a blend of traditional Moroccan craftsmanship and European architectural styles, showcasing the town’s rich and diverse history.

cat in essaouira
Local cat lounging in the sun near Gallery Kasbah

2. Discover the Port

One of the highlights of our visit to Essaouira was exploring its lively fishing port. Watching local fishermen skillfully unload their catch amidst the cries of seagulls early in the morning was incredibly immersive. The fishing port stands out as one of Essaouira’s top tourist attractions. What made this experience even more special was the chance to buy fresh fish straight from the fishmongers and have it cooked at one of the open-air restaurants near the port. Whether you prefer your fish grilled at a nearby stall or served at one of the bustling eateries with wooden chairs and tables, which are charmingly nameless and unlisted, the atmosphere is vibrant and bustling. It’s an experience not to be missed, despite the challenge of navigating vendors vying for your attention. Take your time, compare prices, and choose a spot that resonates with you—it’s all part of the lively charm of Essaouira’s port scene. 

essaouira port
oyster stand in essaouira port

3. Visit The Sqala du Port

To the right of Bab el-Marsa, a fortified bridge leads to the Sqala du Port d’Essaouira, an artillery platform longer than the casbah’s. It defended against attacks with battlements, watchtowers, and bronze cannons facing the sea. Engraved on one side of the castle is the inscription “Barakat Mohammed” (blessing of Mohamed), the city’s motto. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the medina, port, bay, and Mogador island, where seagulls gracefully dance in the air, adding to the spectacle. Mornings witness the return of fishing boats, while dusk brings a theatrical ambiance. Don’t miss this historical gem for its vistas and cultural immersion in Essaouira.

Old cannon pointing out to sea, a reminder of the city's strategic importance
Old cannon pointing out to sea, a reminder of the city's strategic importance

4. Visit the Skala de la Ville

The Skala de la Ville, with its stunning views of the ocean and Medina, left us awe-struck. Climbing the ancient ramparts and imagining the town’s rich history amidst the sound of crashing waves was another highlight of our trip. This historic site has been featured in films such as “Othello” (2001) directed by Oliver Parker and popular TV series “Game of Thrones”, showcasing Essaouira’s picturesque setting and historical charm on the silver screen. The ramparts of Essaouira are a must-see.

5. Relax or Indulge in Watersports on Essaouira's Scenic Beaches

The golden sands of Essaouira’s beaches offered a perfect escape. We spent lazy afternoons lounging under the sun, occasionally dipping into the refreshing Atlantic waters. Kitesurfing enthusiasts will find the steady breeze ideal for their adventures. Essaouira Bay, just south of the city, provides consistent winds and calm waters, making it perfect for kitesurfing, windsurfing, and Wing Foiling—especially suited for beginners. Sidi Kaouki, 25 kilometers further south, is renowned for its strong winds and consistent waves, drawing surfers and kitesurfers alike. This region, including the charming fishing village of Sidi M’Barek  15 kilometers south of Essaouira, offers excellent conditions for kitesurfing and windsurfing, making it a haven for water sports enthusiasts along this stretch of Morocco’s coast.

surfing essaouira

6. Immerse in Art and Culture

If you’re planning a summer trip, Essaouira offers a captivating blend of art and culture. Explore local galleries like Gallery Kasbah and Centre d’art Le Real Mogador, showcasing traditional and contemporary Moroccan art. Experience the soul-stirring rhythms of Gnaoua music, a unique fusion of African, Berber, and Arabic influences deeply rooted in the town’s cultural fabric.

Consider timing your visit with Essaouira’s vibrant summer Gnaoua and World music festival in June, which draws around 500,000 visitors. This dynamic event transforms the town into a lively hub of music, art, and culinary delights, offering an unforgettable Moroccan adventure on the Atlantic coast and providing a rich glimpse into Morocco’s musical heritage.

gnaoua festival essaouira
gnaoua festival essaouira

7. Indulge in Local Cuisine

Our taste buds danced with delight at the flavors of Essaouira. From savoring aromatic tagines bursting with spices to enjoying fresh seafood dinners by candlelight, every meal felt like a culinary adventure. Don’t forget to try the local specialty, grilled sardines!

Special Recommendations:

  • Dar Baba: For an authentic and cozy dinner in Essaouira, look no further than Dar Baba. This charming restaurant boasts a candlelit ambiance and a retro-kitsch aesthetic that creates a unique atmosphere. With its traditional Moroccan hospitality and beautifully restored setting, Dar Baba offers a peaceful retreat, perfect for relaxing after a day of exploring Essaouira’s delights.

  • Salut Maroc: For a magical end to your day, head to the boho-chic Salut Maroc hotel, a rooftop terrace restaurant offering panoramic views of the ocean. Savor delicious Moroccan dishes as the sun sets over the Atlantic, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink. On weekends (keep an eye on their schedule), enjoy the added ambiance of live local musicians providing a captivating soundtrack.

  • Ocean Vagabond: The sunsets in Essaouira are truly breathtaking as they sink into the Atlantic Ocean. For the perfect sundowner experience, head to Ocean Vagabond, where you can unwind with stunning views and a relaxing atmosphere. It’s also a perfect vantage point to observe dromedaries and horse riders along the beaches, adding to the picturesque scene of the coastline. This beach club exudes a charming blend of Moroccan and French Riviera vibes, offering both indoor and outdoor seating in a tranquil, tree-shaded setting.

cocktail salut maroc
salut maroc essaouira

8. Take a Day Trip

Beyond Essaouira, we discovered hidden treasures like the tranquil Argan forests, where we learned about traditional Argan oil production at a local women’s cooperative. The village of Diabat offered a glimpse into Morocco’s cultural tapestry, with a visit to Café Jimi Hendrix adding a nostalgic touch. Dar Sultan Palace, once the residence of high dignitaries and occasionally Moulay Abderrahmane Khalifa, the King of Mogador from 1822 to 1858, offering a fascinating peek into the region’s architectural heritage. Note that access can be sporadic; sometimes, you may need to park and walk to the site to appreciate the impressive ruins amidst the sand dunes south of Essaouira. For a luxurious retreat, Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa provided stunning ocean views.

sofitel mogador

For those craving adventure, we couldn’t resist the thrill of quad biking and horseback riding along the coast—truly unforgettable ways to soak in the breathtaking natural beauty of the region!

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9. Shop for Local Crafts

The bustling souks of Essaouira offered endless delights. We cherished bargaining with friendly artisans over handcrafted pottery, colorful textiles, and intricate jewelry. Each purchase felt like bringing home a piece of Essaouira’s soul.

ceramic essaouira
essaouira souk

Top Things To Do in Essaouira: Essaouira Adventures

Essaouira stole our hearts with its laid-back atmosphere, warm hospitality, and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re captivated by its ancient alleys, enchanted by its artistic spirit, or simply seeking relaxation by the sea, Essaouira promises a journey unlike any other. Embrace the magic of this Moroccan coastal gem and create your own cherished memories. What will be your favorite memory from Essaouira?

Thank you for reading: Discover the Top Things to Do in Essaouira: A Guide to Moroccan Coastal Adventures

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Where to Stay in Essaouira

For a stay in Essaouira, consider Salut Maroc in the town for a boho-chic experience with ocean views at sunset. Within the medina, Villa Maroc and Riad Chbanate offer traditional Moroccan hospitality. Outside the town, Jardin des Douars and Hôtel Domaine de L’Arganeraie provide tranquil escapes.

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, just 10 km away from Essaouira, offers a stylish retreat with a heated pool and BBQ buffet. Whether in town or countryside, Essaouira offers a blend of culture and relaxation for a memorable stay. If you’re staying in the medina and want a relaxing break from the town, consider getting a day pass at one of these boutique hotels in the countryside.

How To Get to Essaouira

Getting to Essaouira is straightforward, offering several convenient options:

By Plane: Essaouira has its own airport, Mogador Airport (ESU), with flights operated by airlines like Ryanair, Transavia, and EasyJet from cities such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Brussels, Madrid, and London. Upon landing, taxis and shuttles are available for the short trip to the city center.

By Bus: Traveling by bus is another popular choice, with daily services connecting Essaouira to major cities like Marrakech and Casablanca. Bus schedules can be checked and tickets booked online or at the bus station upon arrival.

By Car: For those preferring flexibility, renting a car in Marrakech or Casablanca allows for a scenic drive to Essaouira via well-maintained highways. The journey typically takes about 3 hours from Marrakech and 4.5 hours from Casablanca. Travelers from Europe can also drive by taking a ferry from Tarifa or Algeciras to Tangier, followed by a scenic coastal drive to Essaouira.

Now that we have all the information we need, it’s time to plan your trip to this captivating seaside town and experience the top things to do in Essaouira!

RECOMMENDED LINKS AND RESOURCES IN ONE PLACE

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Plum Guide: When it comes to indulgent stays, our top recommendation is Plum Guide. Their exclusive collection of high-end vacation home rentals undergoes stringent assessments for comfort, design, and functionality. 

Vrbo: For a wide selection of vacation rentals, Vrbo offers a variety of options, from beachfront properties to charming city apartments. Their platform ensures secure bookings.

Get Your Guide: For the best selection of tours and activities, highly rated by fellow travelers.

Discover Cars: For rental car price comparison and booking, with no hidden costs and the flexibility of free cancellation when you book your rental car through them.

Wise: When traveling abroad consider Wise. With their multi-currency account and debit card you can spend and withdraw money in over 40 currencies from local ATMs — much cheaper than using your local bank.  

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