When you think of Morocco, you are probably thinking about crowds, chaos and pushy vendors. Not exactly a destination you have in mind for a relaxed beach holiday. But that’s where you go wrong. Morocco is also a perfect destination to enjoy a beach vacation. With a more than 1800 kilometer-long coastline, there are plenty of gorgeous beaches. I recommend going to Essaouira. It has a broad beach, a modern promenade, an old medina full of colorful alleys, and no pushy vendors bothering you. Here’s my list of 10 great things to do in Essaouira, plus a few practical tips.
10 wonderful things to do in Essaouira + practical tips
1. Explore the GORGEOUS medina
The old walled Medina (the Arabic word for a city) is the biggest attraction of Essaouira. This is what makes this city so charming. The medina is built in the eighteenth century. Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdellah wanted to turn Essaouira into an important port city. And his plan worked, Essaouira became a stop on the trading route Timbuktu – Europe. Eventually, Casablanca took over the role of port city and Essaouira turned into a relaxed fishing town.
Super relaxed vibes
Relaxed and tranquil are actually the best words to describe Essaouira nowadays. The vendors do not bother the tourists too much and it is not that busy. Visit the souk, wander into the alleys, walk along the wall, and make a stop somewhere for a cup of sweet mint tea. Blue and white are the colors that dominate the medina, which made me think of cities in Portugal. During the Middle Ages, the city was actually shortly run by the Portuguese and they named it Mogador.
2. Take a nice long walk on the beach
Essaouira is known as the Windy City and is therefore attractive for water sports. During my preparation I read that chilling on the beach would not be an option. The wind would constantly throw sand in your face. And indeed, the wind was annoying. After a beach day, I would be covered in sand. Luckily there’s a simple solution: just take a good shower after a day at the beach and you’re good. Also, the nice thing about the wind was that the temperature in Essaouira was quite enjoyable. It was not too hot.
Extra tips for the beach:
- Unfortunately, I saw quite some plastic waste at the beach. This is not only polluting the beach, but it can also have deadly consequences for animals. So why not combine a long beach walk with picking up plastic waste? There are enough trash bins at the promenade to throw it away.
- There are quite some men riding around on horses or camels at the beach who offer rides to tourists. Are you an animal lover? Then do not climb onto the back of these animals, especially when the animal is looking poorly treated or tired. Do not use animals as entertainment.
- There is also another type of men walking around at the beach: the one with the plates with happy cookies. They like to walk up to young people because they like to get high, right? Luckily they are not pushy at all. When you say no, they easily walk away.
3. Book a hotel with a pool
Chilling in a bikini at the beach in Morocco is personally for me a no go. Enough tourists do it, but I don’t think it’s respectful. Morocco is for the most part a Muslim country and even though not every Moroccan woman is wearing a hijab, I most definitely did not see any local women walking around in bikinis. The best thing to do is to book a hotel with a pool. Then you can privately sunbathe there. However, there are not many hotels in Essaouira that have a pool. We booked our stay at Cote Ocean Mogador. It has a great location at the Mohammed V promenade, big rooms, and a pool.
4. Watching boats at the fisher port of Essaouira
I have to admit, I was not a huge fan of the fishing port. I do not eat fish, I hate the smell, and watching people filleting fish on the street is not my cup of tea. But what I did like about the fishing port were the characteristic boats. They have a lovely deep blue color and are a nice contrast with the brown colors of the city walls and towers.
5. Get active: take a lesson surfing or go supping
The wind is a big part of Essaouira and the water sports are grateful for it. Every day the sea is filled with professionals doing their thing, but as a beginner you are also in the right place. There are plenty of surfing shops with surfing lessons for beginners. My boyfriend took a beginner’s lesson and he loved it. The two of us also tried out Stand Up Paddling and that was already quite the challenge I can say. The tide was pretty strong which made it easy to drift away without noticing it.
We paid 275 Dirham (25 euros) for a surfing lesson (2 hours) for 1 person. Renting 2 Stand Up Paddleboards cost us 165 Dirham (15 euros).
6. Enjoy the iconic view at Skala du Port
Are you looking for the best view of the walled medina? Then I recommend going to Skala du Port. This old watchtower gives you an amazing view – through a sky filled with seagulls – at walled Essaouira. This is also the place where you can find the ‘hole in the wall’ view, the most iconic view of the city. They even installed a special stepladder so that everyone can take that iconic shot. Please note that that there is a different entrance fee for international visitors. Locals pay 10 Dirham (around 90 euro cents), international visitors pay more: 60 Dirham (around 5,50 euros).
7. Walk the wall: Skala de la Ville
Now you’ve seen the walled city from a distance, it is time to take a walk on the wall itself. To find the entrance to the wall, go to Skala de la Ville. This part of the city can be quite busy with organized tourist groups, because there is no entrance fee here to climb the wall. What also might play a role in its popularity: this was a filming location for Game of Thrones.
8. Love for Essaouira’s cats
It is hard not to notice it: the many street cats. These furry friends are practically everywhere, sleeping in the sun and enjoying every bit of attention from tourists. They are probably more active in the morning when the new fish arrives in the port. A perfect moment for the cats to hunt for the pieces that no one wants. In general, the cats looked pretty healthy and I think they are often fed by locals. I even saw a small cat house in the streets of the medina. One thing is for sure, there is a lot of love for Essaouira’s cats, from locals and tourists.
9. Spot street art in the souk
Essaouira also has some decent street art. I saw most of it in the side alleys of the main Souk street. Some murals looked quite old. The paint was often flaked and you really have to use your imagination to guess what the works used to look like. I think the salty sea wind has something to do with the state of the art. Street art itself is always something temporary as it can get painted over, but in Essaouira, works can disappear a lot quicker.
10. Get a sunset drink at Cafe Taros
Feeling like ordering a beer or a glass of wine? This is not always easy in Morocco as a lot of restaurants do not have an alcohol license or alcohol is pretty expensive. If you want to grab a beer, your best bet is the rooftop bars. Here consuming alcohol (haram in Islam) is less visible to the general public. The most popular place to have a drink is Cafe Taros, close to the fisher port. The price for a beer is still quite high (around 4 euros), but it is a nice place for sunset drinks.
And that was my list of 10 things to do in Essaouira. I really enjoyed this city very much, it was so relaxing. I cannot wait to go back and explore more of the region!
Have you ever been to Essaouira? What are your favorite things to do in this city?
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