Welcome to Essaouira: an initial overview

Smaller and more relaxed than Marrakech, Essaouira is definitely one of the most attractive cities on the Moroccan Atlantic coast. A coastal city, still fortified to this day, with a wide range of architectural styles, whitewashed houses with blue shutters, tranquil squares, art galleries, and beautiful beaches perfect for windsurfing. Within the blue and white walls of the medina of Essaouira, you'll find a different side to Morocco. Compared to Marrakech, the medina of Essaouira is smaller and quieter, but no less beautiful. This seaside town is famous for sports such as surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. It's a very pleasant place to visit because of its slightly hippie side, with good restaurants, varied shops as well as charming accommodation inside or outside the medina, as well as beautiful cottages with swimming pools in the countryside. Most importantly, it maintains its own rhythm of life, independent of the influx of tourists, which makes it authentic and welcoming.

Where to stay in Essaouira: Riads

Riads are traditional Moroccan houses converted into boutique accommodation, with interior courtyards decorated with tiles and mosaics. They offer a peaceful and cosy atmosphere with unique rooms, panoramic terraces with sea views and personalised attention. They are ideal for immersing yourself in Moroccan culture and enjoying an authentic Essaouira experience. You can see in the link below our collection of the best Riads in Essaouira, where they prepare delicious breakfasts, organise massages, spa visits, transfers, as well as culinary classes, horse, camel or jeep rides in the dunes. If you prefer to have a charming villa with a swimming pool outside the medina or a holiday flat inside the medina where you can cook, we can help you find the ideal place as not all of our rentals in Essaouira are listed on our site. In the medina you can buy fresh produce at the local market to cook for yourself. The supermarkets where you can buy everything are in the more modern area just behind the medina. Don't miss our list of the best Riads in Marrakesh.

If you are looking for something more special we invite you to visit our collections:

History of Essaouira and its charms

In the 15th century, the Portuguese established an important military post here, which they called Mogador, but lost it to the Saadians in 1541. The port lost importance (the port of Agadir was preferred) until the arrival of the Alaouites, who again diverted maritime trade to Essaouira.

The town as such was founded in the 18th century by Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah. This port city on Morocco's Atlantic coast is characterised by its unique architecture that fuses European and Moroccan elements. Its imposing defensive walls and its history as an important trading port give it a special charm and character. In 2001, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site.

Essaouira has attracted artists and musicians and has been home to an artistic community for decades. Its tribal art finds its inspiration in myths, Arab Berber history and the African origins of Moroccan culture. This small

Intellectual elite are often self-taught, ranging from woodcarvers, jewellers, painters, photographers, musicians and philosophers. ....

Its Gnaoua and World Music Festival is an annual event that attracts musicians from all over the world.

The Adventure Begins in the Medina of Essaouira

The medina is very well preserved, with clean, well-kept streets, and no motorised vehicles are allowed in; transport is by carts. It is interesting to stroll around early in the morning before the shops open, as the calm settles in and you can experience another side of the city in a quieter way.

In Essaouira, there is a special sense of calm, and the locals don't seem to be in a hurry. I recommend trying a traditional hammam, a Middle Eastern steam bath experience that you can combine with various types of massage and the star product, argan oil, known for its hair and skin care benefits.

Essaouira's beach is within walking distance of the medina, and the water maintains an average temperature of 18 degrees all year round, making it refreshingly cool in summer. The waves are generally gentle, but the wind often blows. On the beach you'll find several beach bars, including surfing and kitesurfing schools, where you can hire equipment.

Culinary delights in Essaouira

Essaouira is a coastal town with markets offering fresh fish and seafood. The harbour is filled with boats, from small fishing canoes to large, more professional fishing boats, with seagulls hovering around them. In the mornings, fishermen set up stalls in a kind of market to sell their wares. It's incredibly fresh, but as you'd expect, it has a rather peculiar and strong smell for sensitive noses.

About 200 metres from the port, you'll find one of several entrances to the medina, with a large square. Restaurants in this area often allow you to take fish bought at the market and have it prepared for you for a small fee. In the souk, spice stalls offer traditional Moroccan spice blends, such as ras el hanout, as well as fresh local herbs, vegetables and fruits.

We recommend a few restaurants:

  • Superbe Pastilla - Sunset Seafood with a Spanish Twist
  • Zahra's Grill - Homestyle Moroccan Lunches
  • Chez Mizar
  • Snack Chamali
  • Maison Gourmande
  • L'Atelier Bistro
  • Triskala
  • La Fromagerie
  • Seafront La Grotte in Sidi Kaouki

The village of Zaouit Bouzarktourne is 20 minutes north of Essaouira and is an enclave for windsurfers, with two lively bars.

What to visit in Essaouira and what to do?

The town offers a variety of activities, from water sports such as kitesurfing and windsurfing to horse and camel riding, excursions in the Sidi Kaouki dunes, Moroccan cooking classes, wine tasting and more.

Visit the Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah Museum, which presents the history of craftsmanship and folk traditions of the region.

The souks are excellent places to buy clothes, textiles, carpets, woodwork, metalwork and jewellery, leather goods and traditional Moroccan products.

As for the beaches, we recommend Plage Tagharte and, if you have time, Plage Safi, Cap Sim and Sidi Kaouki, which is great for strolling along the dunes.

Opposite the square, you'll find the city wall, an 18th-century Berber construction. A walk along it is a must in Essaouira. It is interesting to know that this wall was one of the settings for the well-known series "Game of Thrones", and you will certainly find a reference to it during your walk along the wall.

Mulay el Hassan Square is the heart of Essaouira, where the streets converge on one side and the wall and the sea on the other. It is an ideal place to sit down in the late afternoon and have a coffee or tea on one of its terraces.

Visiting the argan forests is also an attraction for nature lovers and eco-tourists, as they offer opportunities to explore the unique flora and fauna of the region, as well as to observe the traditional harvesting of argan fruits by local communities.

Tips and information to get to know Essaouira better

In Essaouira, you don't need a car, as you can do everything on foot. The car is parked outside the ramparts, as it is not allowed to enter with it, and you have to pay a daily ticket, which is not very expensive.

It is always advisable to carry cash, as not all shops accept credit cards, but there are several cash machines where you can withdraw money without any problem.

Some restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol, and there is a shop where you can buy everything from beer to wine; your accommodation will be able to tell you where it is located.

In terms of climate, Essaouira enjoys a pleasant climate all year round, with temperatures averaging between 16°C and 26°C. Spring and autumn are ideal. Spring and autumn are ideal, with mild temperatures and less wind. Summer is warm, with sea breezes, while winter is mild but can have occasional showers.

In terms of cultural respect, Morocco is a conservative society in many respects, so it's important to dress respectfully, especially when visiting religious sites, where shoulders and knees should be covered. Bikinis are permitted on the beach.

It's important to avoid tap water to prevent stomach problems. And as everywhere in Morocco, when shopping, you should always bargain respectfully until you get at least a third off the price.