In addition to the new town, Essaouira offers a picturesque medina (old town) surrounded by seawalls and city walls, designed by a French architect in the 18th century, a harbor with fish market, and a long beach with numerous water sports opportunities. Once a hippie hangout, Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens spent some time here. Orson Welles filmed part of his Othello in town; west of the medina there's a square named in his honor.
Get in edit
By plane edit
By bus edit
- 2 Supratours (just down the street from the beach and close to the medina entrance at Bab Marrakech). Runs coaches from their office in Marrakech (immediately next door to Marrakech's new train station). 80 dirham per person for standard bus, plus 5 dirham for each piece of stowed luggage.
- 3 CTM, ☏ . Runs a coach service from Marrakech's bus station (or the CTM Offices in the Gueliz, on Zerktouni street) for 80 dirham (add 5 dirham per piece of stowed luggage) taking about 3 hours to Essaouira. CTM buses also connect Essaouira to Agadir (3 hours) and Casablanca (6 hours) about four times per day.
- 4 Gare routière, Avenue 2 Mars. Small and unappealing station which local buses depart from. Local buses from Marrakesh bus station cost 55-60 dirham but they might try to ask tourists for more, these buses are sometimes less comfortable and slower, but they depart more frequently than the CTM buses. Many ticket sellers and semi-touts are running around the buses and station, trying to organise your trip and luggage. Note, official prices are posted inside the terminal, so do not get told it is more expensive than that. Also be curious about any luggage fee—not common, especially for luggage on-board.
Tickets are rarely available for the next departing coach with Supratours and CTM. Try and book your tickets the day before, or further in advance during peak travel periods.
Between Essaouira and Agadir it is very easy to catch an intercity bus anywhere along the way. During the day there is one bus about every hour. While CTM and Supratours are not allowed to pick up additional passengers, local intercity buses do not have such a restriction. This is a great way to explore the coast including Taghazout between these two cities without issues. The regular price for the full distance is 50 dirham.
By taxi edit
A whole grand taxi from Marrakech costs 450-800 dirham, depending on your negotiating skill, where you are, the mood of the driver, etc. It is about 80 dirham per place if you wait and take a grand taxi (six passengers, leave when full).
Get around edit
The walled center of town, the Medina, is supposedly restricted to non-motorized vehicles, but this rule is widely ignored in the case of mopeds which are an increasing nuisance. Other than that, there are occasional donkey carts to dodge.
Taxi costs a flat fee of 7 dirham during day and 8 dirham after 20:00 (as of Jan 2018).
Essaouira is a perfect example of a late 18th century fortified town, with the original canons still in place and where Orson Wells shot his Othello, "The Moor of Venice".
The UNESCO World Heritage Listed medina: check out the fish market at the west end, watch the sunset from the seawall at the Place Moulay Hassan, visit the Scala (wall tower north east of the Place), walk through the markets towards Bab Doukkala at the east end, and check out the artisan's shops near the eastern wall.
- 1 Essaouira Ramparts.
- 2 Essaouira Citadel. 09:00-17:00. 60 dirham for foreigners.
- 3 Mogador island (about 1.5 km from the city). It's a nature reserve, and thus can't be visited without an official authorization. In the 19th century, it was used as a quarantine station for pilgrims returning from Mecca.
Diabat town edit
- 4 The nearby town of Diabat. is at the south end of Essaouira's beach, and is allegedly where Jimi Hendrix once spent some time. Even if the stories aren't true, this long, windswept beach with its ruined fort is a fantastic walk. Diabat is an empty, concrete Berber village that is practically devoid of attractions except the Hendrix ruin and a Hendrix Café. It's best visited in the early morning via taxi and then return to Essouiara via a short and very romantic walk on the beach past the castle in the sand of Hendrix fame.
- 5 Dar Sultan Palace. Walk south along the beach, cross the shallow river Oued Igrounzer and in the hills to your left you will see the ruins of a once magnificent 18th century palace used by Sultans and Kings. A path leads there; you can still find some old floor mosaics and thankfully the ruins offer some shade.
- The beach dominates the Essaouirans' leisure time. Although the strong wind and currents makes relaxed tanning and swimming a little difficult at times, it is perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing. With good winds for most days of the year, Essaouira is a watersports' paradise. The best spots are reported to be Essaouira Bay, Sidi Kaouki, Cape Sim and Mouley Bouzertoune. Equipment can be hired from various hire centres on the beach front. However, this is not the ideal place to learn watersports, particularly kitesurfing. There tends to be a bit of a catch 22 - either its calm and you can't go out because there's no wind or its windy and you can't go out because there is a huge shore break. In addition the water can smell of sewage.
- Camel and horse rides, quad-bikes, near the southern end of the main beach. A crowd of salesmen offering any type of rides can be found there throughout all day long.
- Ecotourism, walking tours, 8 bis rue houmman el fatouaki Médina Essaouira, ☏ . half day. Guided eco-friendly tours of the amazing countryside around Essaouira. You can discover the Argan Woods, the Thuya Forests, and the Dunes, take mint tea in a Berber village, and learn the secrets of a unique ecosystem at your own pace. Price per person per day: half day is 200 dirham and full day is 400 dirham (including a traditional meal with Moroccan family). Transport from town to the departure point of each walk is included.
- World Music Festival. In June.
- Club Royal Essaouira, Bd Mohammed V,, ☏ , email@example.com. Kitesurf, surf and windsurf directly on the main beach. Recent equipment.
- [formerly dead link] Azur Art & Spa, 15 rue Khalid ben Walid, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. A mix of art and spa, as per the name. Patrons can enjoy viewing art while having spa treatments.
Essaouira's craftsmen are renowned for their woodwork and lacquerware. Intricately inlaid boxes, chessboards and curios can be found for good prices in the city's hundreds of shops; however, be aware that extensive deforestation is taking place in the area due to these woods not being replanted. Artwork of all kinds can be had here.
- 1 Baguette+. Great bakery. Anything without cream of chocolate is great. Go there in the morning to early afternoon. 2 dirham per piece.
- 2 Rhassoul/ghassoul merchant. Essaouira seems a good place to get this product. This merchant sells proper rhassoul/ghassoul, i.e. wash soil. They sell natural and perfumed ½ kg bags. 8 dirham natural, 10 dirham with perfume.
Although Essaouira is on the sea, seafood sold to tourists can be quite expensive. Fishermen sell their catch through the market hall and you can have it cooked at the small stands nearby. Prices are clearly marked by weight on the large pricing board at the end of the fish market stalls, but this seems to make little difference to the chances of being hustled. Sample price: 5 dirham for pack of fresh sardines (10 one of them) in fish market. Carefully evaluate how much you are being charged. A cheaper option is to buy Harira (a spicy soup) for 2-5 dirham or a sandwich (i.e. at Blue facade for 10-20 dirham, walking at the street from fish stands to the Medina).
One of the best options is to buy your seafood from the dock (haggling sometimes required) where they sell everything from eels to sharks, then take your fish to the central market side streets (follow the smoke!) where they will grill it for you for only 5 dirham a grill rack, they will also grill your vegetables or make Moroccan salad. Seeing locals carry frozen fish in their hands around the corner to these stalls is common.
- 1 Fish Market, Essaouira local market. If you are a fish enthusiast, you should not miss the food in the market. Buy your fish (cheap, shrimps are 50 dirham/kilo, sardines 5-6 dirham) take it to the small kitchen/restaurant and let them cook it for you. They add salad, olives and bread for 25 dirham. buy the fish + 25 dirham for the baking.
There are many reasonable restaurants and cafés on the main streets and squares.
- Berber Cafe, Ibn toumert (At Bab Kasbah take Derb Lalouj towards the sea;then take the second left turn down Ibn toumert. The cafe has a big pink door). Small friendly cafe, seats about 8 for meals and decor is mainly old boxing posters (husband used to coach), but the small menu is good and the prices are great. 30 dirham chicken/veg tangine, 20 dirham bean stew, 5 dirham tea, 4 dirham per sardine.
- Chez Omar (In the Rue Khabdazine with 10 other restaurants with low prices.). Small street with restaurants that serve great and cheap food in huge quantities. If you order fish they buy it fresh from the market. 10-30 dirham chicken/veg tangine, 10 dirham bean stew, 20 dirham for a good fish tagine with bread.
- 2 La Decouverte, 8 bis, rue Houmman el Fatouaki, ☏ . If you are tired of tagines, disappointed by Italian-Moroccan pasta, give La Decouverte a try. A French couple cook in a Moroccan style but with a French twist. Nice atmosphere, good prices. Mains 50-80 dirham.
- 3 La Licorne, 26 rue Scala, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. A great place in Essaouira for a romantic dinner, or between friends, to enjoy Moroccan dishes along with one of the country's finest wines. Tagines 85-95 dirham, couscous 80-110 dirham, meat or fish 85-130 dirham.
- 4 Patisserie Driss, 10 rue El Hajjali (close to the main square). A great place for cakes and snacks.
- 5 Shyadma's Vegan Food, 20, Rue Laalouj - Place El Khayma. Lovely vegan/vegetarian spot in the middle of Place El Khayma, a less visited place with many restaurants. Shyadma's is tiny, but everything is made from seasonal vegetables and fruits from the nearby market. You will most likely have to wait 15-20 minutes for your food, but it's well worth the wait. If you call this Moroccan slow food, you will be very right. A refreshing delight for foodies, especially vegetarians and vegans!
- 6 Taros, 2, rue de la Skala, ☏ . Combines a French-Moroccan restaurant, a gallery and a terrace bar with live local music and "5" (rue Youssef el fassi) for its elegant ex-pat vibe.
Some of the hotels have licensed bars, but it's hard to beat the terrace bar Taros for its view over the lively Place Moulay el Hassan and the harbour. Popular with locals and tourists, has decent music
An off-license, the only one in town, can be found outside of Bab Doukkala on the Boulevard al Massira, to the right. Just inside this gate is the "black market" for alcohol on religious holidays and at night. Just ask the boys selling loose cigarettes!
- 1 Il Mare, 43, Rue Yaman. Has a nice terrace with a view over the sea and the bastion where you can have a drink. Although it scores mainly bad reviews from the tourists.
If arriving by bus, local women will surround you as you exit offering discount riads or accommodation in their homes for as little as 150 dirham (can be negotiated down to 75 dirham), though you will not get a view of the ocean for this. There are many hotel options available so feel free to bypass them. You can always return to the bus station and they will still be there.
- 1 [dead link] Hotel Palais Des Remparts, N°18 Rue Ibnou Rochd Médina Essaouira Morocco (Essaouira Medina), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Luxury Hotel Essaouira Singles/doubles start at €80.
- 2 Essaouira Wind Palace, 15, Avenue l'istiqlal (Essaouira Medina), ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. A few meters from the port, the beach, Skala, the place and the souks. Restored in authentic Arab-Andalusian style. Room rates (November 2023) listed on their site as Double 55€, Superior Double 60€, Suite with balcony 70€.
- Villa Maroc, 10, rue Abdellah Ben Yassine (Essaouira Medina), ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Dar 91, 91 rue Chbanat (Essaouira Medina), email@example.com. Private, self-contained house with its own roof terraces, in the walled old town. The house is a chilled-out and authentic ‘home from home’, which is let out as a whole, rather than ‘by the room’.
- Dar Lazuli (firstname.lastname@example.org), 7 Moussa ben Noussaire (Essaouira Medina, 2 mins from beach). 200-year-old riad. £60 per night.
- Dar Leila, Essaouira Medina, ☏ , email@example.com. Restored, staffed riad sleeping up to 10 in the heart of the medina. It has 5 beds, 3 baths and a secluded roof terrace. Breakfast included, other meals available. Minimum 2 people per reservation. From £500 per week.
- Dar Zahira, Medina Essaouira. Relaxed retreat hidden in one of the medina's narrow alleys. The small riad is built around a courtyard and sleeps a maximum of 6 persons. The house can be rented as a whole. Breakfast is served every morning. Wi-Fi available.
- 3 [dead link] Hotel Orson Welles, rue al akaba n°19 borj 1 Essaouira (The hotel is near to beach 4 minutes walking.), firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Good hotel and good price with free parking facing the hotel. 400 dirham for double room with breakfast.
- Riad de la Mer, 7-9 Rue Khalid Ben Oualid, Kasbah, ☏ . Very large 18th century riad, retaining original features and character. Stunning views of the ocean, centrally located just off the main square, 5 minutes from the beach. Sleeps 10. Think Villa Maroc, but smaller and cheaper. £47.50.
- Riad des Deux Rives, Medina of Essaouira, ☏ , email@example.com. An 18th-century riad. Double €60, suite €90.
- 4 Riad Lunetoile, 191, Rue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (Essaouira Medina), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 200-year-old family home with a beautiful terrace giving a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean, the bay and Diabet in the distance, as well as a lovely panoramic view of the rooftops and streets of the Medina. from €35, see website or call for special offers.
- Riad Malaika, 17 Rue Zayanne, ☏ , email@example.com. This former Moroccan home has been beautifully restored and converted and is in the center of town. The staff is extremely hospitable and courteous. It has a beautiful terrace rooftop perfect for private lounging. Rooms are charming and run from 500 dirham to 1000 dirham, including breakfast (discounts available in the low season and for longer stays).
- Hotel Smara, 26 Rue de la Skala, ☏ . One of the cheapest (and therefore most popular) hotels in town, so you may need to book ahead during peak season. The spartan roof terrace has nice views over the cannons used in the opening sequence of Orson Welles' Othello. The hotel is very cheap and popular with lovely views from the terrace, but unless you want to experience cold showers and non-flush toilets, consider paying a bit more and staying somewhere else. Singles/doubles with shared bath start from 47/96 dirham.
- 5 Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa, Domaine Mogador, Diabat, ☏ . Right on the beach, it will be happy to indulge your every whim, for a hefty price. Luxury suites are also available and there is a Sofitel-branded health spa next door for those in urgent need of a hydrotherapy session and facial. Singles/doubles start at 1400/1850 dirham during low season but can cost 1890/2430 dirham during the peak new year period.
- 6 Riad Bab Essaouira, 35 biss, bd my Abd Errahmane Eddakhil (5 mn walk from the big square Moulay Hassan), ☏ . Check-in: 08:00, check-out: 12:00. 4 ensuite accommodations in a designed riad with sub-Saharan African vibes. 2 roof terraces with a fantastic ocean view at 360. Dinner on site on request and concierge service. €85.
- Hotel Argana, Bab Doukkala. Rooms are clean. Toilets outside. Not for honeymooners, but rather for people who just need a clean and very quiet place to sleep. Nice grandma at Reception. Singles/doubles with shared bath start from 47/96 dirham; hot shower 5 dirham..
- Hotel Bab Doukkala, Bab Doukkala. Cheap and quiet hotel in the center. Prices are negotiable - no plain tariffs. One traveller paid 80 dirham for one night in room with bathroom outside and no window. It gets a little colder in the night there in winter, as the ocean is close. negotiable.
- Hostel Green milk, 26 rue ceuta. Previously Blue milk. This hostel in the Medina is a bit hidden but worth the search effort. From Av. Sidi Mohhamed Ben Abdullah find "Bob Music", Rue ceuta is a mostly covered road across from it. Continue down it the door numbered 26 with little 'why not!' graffiti on the arch next to it. Good vibe. 50-60 dirham/bed.
- Riad Dar Nafoura-Mogador, 30 rue Ibn Khaldoun (Medina), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Beach, free breakfast, free high speed internet (WiFi), 9 rooms. 290 dirham.
- Essaouira Lodge, ☏ , email@example.com. Luxury hotel residence, outside of town, with high-end hotel service, including shuttle. They also claim to have a great restaurant, which is around a heated pool and has a wifi connection.
Stay safe edit
Avoid the dealers selling "hash brownies" near the square, they are usually fake
Hashish is widely smoked in Morocco, but do not be fooled into thinking it is legal even if you see Moroccans smoking during the day. Smoking or being high in public is seen as a vice, especially near holy places, in the morning, or if you are drawing attention to yourself; use your judgement.
Go next edit
- Agadir — the modern resort city with its beaches.
- Marrakesh — city of hustle and stepping off point for the Sahara.
- El Jadida — A holiday destination for Moroccans that has similar history and sights.