Essaouira is a picturesque port town on the Atlantic coast of northern Morocco, characterized by its ancient 18th-century walls, colorful fishing port, and beautiful golden beaches, making it the perfect place for a romantic holiday with family, friends, or on your own.
It is a vibrant city all year round. Steeped in history, culture, and music, Essaouira offers a wide range of activities and attractions.
Here are 15 places to visit in Essaouira
If there is one thing to do in Essaouira, it is to visit the medina.
As you wander through the narrow alleys, you realize that the medina of Essaouira has changed little since it was built in the 18th century.
Because of its authenticity, it has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will find many shops selling local handicrafts.
Also, in the Medina of Essaouira, admire the whitewashed buildings with blue shutters and ornate doors.
Don’t miss the cafés on Moulay Hassan Square, where locals enjoy mint tea on the terrace.
Essaouira’s medina is a quiet contrast to the bustling bazaars of other Moroccan cities such as Marrakech and Fez.
A leisurely stroll through the narrow but brightly lit spice and jewelry markets of Essaouira is an authentic cultural experience.
The markets in Essaouira are a veritable treasure trove of souvenirs, selling traditional clothing, tapestries, ceramics, and even food.
What I particularly liked was the relaxed atmosphere, the vendors were enthusiastic and eager to talk about their products without putting pressure on the customers.
Taste traditional local cuisine
For us, one of the highlights of traveling is tasting the local cuisine, and Essaouira is no exception.
Moroccan cuisine is vibrant and diverse, having been developed by people from all parts of the Mediterranean, Africa, and the Middle East.
Walking through Essaouira’s medina, you will find countless stalls, cafés, and restaurants serving these dishes.
These include couscous, tagines (vegetable side dishes, beef or lamb), main dishes such as harira (chickpea soup), chebakia (honey and orange blossom cake), moussemen (puff pastry) desserts, and camel’s milk cheese, and the famous Moroccan mint tea.
Ramparts of Essaouira
Essaouira’s ramparts are truly magnificent, marking the border between the Atlantic Ocean and the Medina, and I particularly like the medieval character that these ramparts give the city.
It was built in the 18th century to turn a small fishing village into a royal port and trade hub.
It is truly remarkable that the fortifications protected the town from invasion from the sea and withstood the incessant waves.
See artisans at work
The city’s markets sell a wide range of handicrafts, including handmade pottery and pottery, leather goods such as bags and shoes, handmade rugs, musical instruments, and lamps.
Many of the local artworks are brightly colored and have broad brushstrokes, often incorporating Arabian imagery such as arabesques, geometric patterns, Berber, and Gnawa.
On the walls of Shala, you will find Essaouira’s famous marquetry and woodcarving workshops.
Watching skilled craftsmen and furniture makers use their know-how to create new forms of decorative motifs is a typical activity in Essaouira.
Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah Museum
Unlike many other cities in Morocco, Essaouira has more art galleries than museums. A visit to the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah Museum is recommended.
Housed in a 19th-century royal palace, the museum now houses a collection of antique ceramics, costumes, jewelry, woodcarvings, musical instruments, ancient coins, tapestries, and weapons.
Named after Mohammed Ben Abdallah, founder of the modern city of Essaouira, the museum is an ideal place to explore the fascinating centuries of Berber history in the region.
Enjoy the sounds of street music
It’s hard not to hear the sound of music on the streets of Essaouira… And it’s a good thing because it makes you live a good vibe!
Not only in the central square of Moulay Hassan but also in the many bars and restaurants in the medina, a popular meeting place for local artists.
The anecdote that Jimi Hendrix visited Essaouira in the summer of 1969 and fell in love with the city is a testament to its charm.
Gnawa and the World Music Festival
Are you a music lover? The Gnawa and World Music Festival, also known as the Woodstock of Morocco, is a good place to start.
Held every year at the end of June, this festival is a veritable springboard for Gnawa music, with more than half a million people gathering over four nights to put the city in a festive mood.
The festival is more than just a music festival, it is also an art and cultural festival, with musical, artistic, and cultural performances on more than six large stages set up throughout Essaouira’s medina.
You can enjoy contemporary funk, blues, jazz, reggae, and soul music with an African focus.
And the best part? Most events are free.
Visit Essaouira’s fishing port
The port of Essaouira is one of the city’s main attractions and we believe that no visit to Essaouira would be complete without a visit to it. Built in the 18th century, it was one of Morocco’s most important trading centers.
Today, Essaouira is still mainly a fishing town. The harbor is so vibrant that every time we go there, it feels like a live show is going on right in front of us.
Fishing boats coming in and out of the harbor, seagulls repairing fishing nets, sardine sellers and buyers negotiating the price of the day’s catch. …… The venue is buzzing with activity!
You can buy the day’s fresh fish on the spot and have it cooked in front of you for just AED 25 (€2). For a further AED 25, you can add a salad, olives, and bread.
Essaouira’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in Morocco and it would be a shame not to visit them during your stay.
It is about 2.5 km south of the city center, with endless stretches of fine golden sand.
It is a popular spot for beach walks, but the trade winds are often strong, so it is more suited to watersports than sunbathing and swimming.
North Beach has a strong tidal current, so if you want to swim, stay close to town.
For solitude, you should be able to find a quiet retreat south of the beach where you can relax on a beach mat and spend the day with a good book.
Surfing and kitesurfing lovers
The strong winds that blow all year round and the beautiful waves they create make Essaouira’s beaches ideal for water sports.
There are shops along the beach where you can hire jet skis, surfboards, windsurfers and kitesurfers.
There are also lessons with local experts available for those who have never tried it before but would like to give it a go.
Fancy a sea sport that doesn’t require wind? Then it is best to visit Essaouira in winter, as it is always windy at this time of year (and less touristy in summer).
The beach at Essaouira is one of the most beautiful in Morocco and it would be a shame not to visit it during your stay.
The fine golden sand stretches for about 2.5 km south of the city center.
It is a popular spot for beach walks but is more suited to water sports than sunbathing and swimming, as the trade winds are often strong.
The beach to the north has a strong tidal current, so if you want to swim, stay closer to the town.
For solitude, spend the day with a mat and a book in a quiet retreat spot to the south of the beach.
We recommend these great options if you want to exercise your sense of adventure.
Camel or horse riding
If water sports are not your thing, Essaouira’s beautiful coastline is ideal terrain for a camel or horse ride.
From the dunes of the Sahara to desert beaches, argan forests, and mountains, there are a thousand different landscapes to explore, whether on a day trip or a multi-day trek.
If you still have time in Essaouira, the latter is recommended. Accompanied by a local English-speaking guide, you will learn a lot about Moroccan culture along the way.
You can also spend the night in a Berber tent and enjoy Moroccan food over an open fire.
Visit the argan oil cooperative
If there is one educational thing you must do during your stay in Essaouira, it is to visit the Argan Oil Cooperative (see address below). There, you can witness the unique production process of argan oil.
The processing of nuts into oil is mainly done by local Berber women, who have to marvel at the hard work of putting large quantities of nuts on the floor, peeling and crushing them with sharp stones, and pressing the thick paste into oil.
Who can tell? Walking among the argan trees, if you are lucky you can see goats climbing the trees and eating the berries.
If you are leaving Essaouira in the afternoon, the beach at Diabat, a Berber village a few kilometers south of Essaouira, is a good place to start.
A laid-back hippy town in the 1970s, today its biggest attraction is the popular Mogador Golf Club.
Diabat also has attractions such as the ruins of the old Kasbah and a bridge to exploring.
Borj el Baud is a watchtower and Dar Sultan is the ruins of a palace, which is said to have inspired the Jimi Hendrix song ‘Castles Made Of Sand’.
These special places are well worth a visit and we particularly enjoyed them. All of them can be reached along the coast on foot (about 1 hour is approx.), mountain bike, or horseback.
Attending the breathtaking sunset on the beach at Essaouira
With more than 300 sunny days a year and a great location on the Atlantic Ocean, Essaouira is perfect for those looking for a light-filled? What a sight to behold as the sun sets over the horizon, painting orange and purple highlights on the water.
If you want to experience the beauty of nature at the end of the day, head to the beach where you can watch the sunset.
The harbor can also be visited at dusk to admire the beautiful blue fishing boats against the orange sky.
Furthermore, the sunset glints off the stone walls, and the silhouettes of graceful seagulls can be seen at dusk.
Monuments and archaeological sites in Essaouira
15-minute drive: diabat
A 15-minute drive from Essaouira (1 hour on foot) takes you to Diabat, a small village on the Atlantic coast surrounded by sand dunes. The ruins of an 18th-century palace said to have inspired a Jimi Hendrix song, are located here. Diabat also has a beautiful beach where hiking, quad biking, horse riding, and kite surfing can be enjoyed.
Argan oil is part of Moroccan culture and it is interesting to see how it is made. In Marjane, you can watch workers hand-pick argan nuts and buy the fruits of their labor on the spot. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for treetops, as goats can be found sitting on the road (laughs).
40 minutes later: the Sidi Mbalek waterfall.
South of Essaouira, on the Atlantic coast, lies the spectacular natural landscape of Sidi Mbalek with its waterfalls and green oases, a stone’s throw from the sea and close to the desert. Beautiful walks along the cliffs and the surrounding scenery are breathtaking and highly recommended.
2 hours 40 minutes by car: Marrakech.
Marrakech is a must-see city in Morocco and is recommended here because it is less than 3 hours from Essaouira. A Berber town, it is known for its walled medina with its maze of bazaars selling local handicrafts. Marrakech also has some very interesting museums showcasing Moroccan culture, not to mention magnificent architecture such as the ornate Bahia Palace and the romantic El Badiro Palace.
In four and a half hours, you will reach Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in the High Atlas.
Like Mont Blanc in France, Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in the Moroccan High Atlas and North Africa as a whole (4,167 m above sea level). If you have time during your stay in Essaouira, a hike is recommended to experience the valley and Berber village culture while admiring this spectacular mountain landscape.
How many days should you spend in Essaouira?
The small town of Essaouira has few attractions or monuments to draw the crowds – which is probably why most tourists choose cities like Marrakech over this Moroccan gem on the Atlantic coast! However, there is plenty to see and do in Essaouira, from strolling through the medina souks to beach excursions, sampling traditional foods, water sports, and much more.
In our opinion, the city is best explored at a relaxed pace, so two days should suffice. If you only have one day and plan your visit a bit, you’ll also have time to explore the main attractions of Essaouira.
Itinerary to visit Essaouira in a day
Have you chosen to holiday in Morocco and want to spend just one day in Essaouira?
You’ll need to manage your time, but that’s ok! It is possible. Here is a short one-day itinerary we have prepared for you.
In the morning.
– The Medina of Essaouira is known for its rows of whitewashed houses with blue doors. Spend most of the morning wandering around the bazaar admiring the local handicrafts.
– The harbor: go in the morning and you will see the bright blue small fishing boats bringing in the day’s catch. You can also admire the old 16th-century castle. At lunchtime, you can also taste delicious seafood on the spot.
– Shafting: if you want a panoramic view of Medina and the Atlantic Ocean, Essaouira is the place to go: these 18th-century buildings surround the old town and give it a medieval feel.
– Ride a camel or horse: Essaouira is famous for its beautiful golden sandy beaches, but why not take the opportunity to ride a camel? A walk along the seafront is a really nice experience. If you like, you can also go hiking.
– Sunset on the beach: at the end of a day of sightseeing in Essaouira, we recommend finding a quiet spot on the beach and enjoying the beautiful sunset over the sea and the walls of the medina.
Itineraries to visit Essaouira in 2 days
Planning to visit Essaouira in 2 days? Honestly, it’s the perfect way to see everything the city has to offer! We recommend checking out the itinerary above for day 1 discoveries and below for day 2 discoveries.
At the beginning of the day.
– Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah Museum: located in an old 19th-century riad, this museum (the only one in Essaouira) presents Berber culture through the heritage objects of this rich culture.
– See the work of artisans: especially towards the medina and the rocky side of the city walls, you can see the work of local artisans who have put their heart and soul into their creations. Essaouira’s artisans are renowned for their jewelry and artistic carpentry, but you can also admire beautiful leather goods.
– Beach activities: the beach in Essaouira is over 3 km long and it would be a shame to leave without taking a single dip in the sea. Adventurous surfers will love the numerous shops along the beach where they can hire surfing and kitesurfing equipment. It is also possible to take a course depending on your level.
– Argan oil cooperative: argan oil is a typical Moroccan product produced near Essaouira. Visit the cooperative to see how this precious liquid is made. The nearest cooperative from Essaouira is Marjan or Kawaki (less than a 20-minute drive from the city). On the way, you may see goats sitting on argan trees.
Plan an excursion to Essaouira with Marrakeshjourneys.