The 8 Best things to do in Essaouira, Morocco | 2024 Guide

If there was ever a time we were grateful for having a flexible travel schedule, it was in Essaouira.

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We arrived in Essaouira the day after our Sahara Desert disaster, having spent 8 long hours in a tow truck sharing a tiny, stinky driver’s seat between 3 people in 35C heat. The idea of finally reaching Essaouira, one of Morocco’s famous coastal towns, was the only thing that kept us sane. Sun, sand, warm ocean… ahhhh! We were so ready!

But this medieval fishing town wasn’t quite what we expected. We dumped our belongings, put on our bathing suits, and headed straight for the beautiful long crescent stretch of sand, Plage Tagharte. That was where we learned why Essaouira is known as the Windy City.

We kicked off our shoes, stepped onto the warm sand, and were immediately greeted by Alizée, Essaouira’s famous coastal wind that whips the Essaouira beach and works hard to ensure that this lovely place does not turn into a beach town overrun with tourists.

Within minutes we were covered in sand, and the strong currents that accompanied the wind made the waters of the Atlantic Ocean equally uninviting. This was our first and only beach outing in Essaouira.

But it wasn’t the beaches in Essaouira Beach that made us linger here for significantly longer than we originally expected. It was very likely the same thing that made Essaouira Game of Thrones territory!

Plage Tagharte, Essaouira beach. Morocco
Plage Tagharte, Essaouira’s beach
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Locals playing football on Plage Tagharte. Essaouira. Morocco
We watched locals playing football on Plage Tagharte while visiting Essaouira
A deceiving sunny day on the beach in Essaouira. Morocco
A deceiving sunny day on the beach in Essaouira

Undeniable Medieval Feel

Walking along Essaouira’s ramparts that date back to the 18th century, we were immediately transported to the scenes of Game of Thrones that were shot on this very spot. (Season 3 Episode 4 where Daenerys meets The Unsullied Army) This part of the old town is one of the best things to do in Essaouira, making it one of the popular Morocco tourist attractions. 

Misty mornings along the fortified city walls were particularly striking. Uninhabited. Abandoned. Silent. Only the sounds of the waves crashing against the fortress and the lonely cries of seagulls permeated through the air. It was absolutely magical!

The ramparts proved to be much more popular as a sunset spot, crowded with tourists on the hunt for the perfect sunset shot. This part of town is the main reason a lot of tourists visit Essaouira, so you can expect large groups later in the day, especially during high season. Essaouira is a popular destination for a day trip from Marrakech and other Moroccan cities. 

Essaouira’s ramparts, Morocco
Leading up to Essaouira Game of Thrones ramparts!
Essaouira's fortress. Morocco
Essaouira Game of Thrones setting
Essaouira's fortress. Morocco
The top of the walled city, Essaouira.  Game of Thrones fans should recognise this spot!
Early morning at the Essaouira rampants
Early morning at the Essaouira ramparts
Morning fog sets in on the coast of Essaouira, Morocco
Morning fog sets in on the coast of Essaouira. Game of Thrones, eat your heart out!
Waves crash against the rocks on the coast of Essaouira, Morocco
Waves crash against the rocks on the coast of Essaouira
Essaouira ramparts at sunset. Morocco
Essaouira ramparts at sunset
Beautiful view of Essaouira's fortress at sunst. Morocco
Beautiful view of Essaouira at sunset
Our best Essaouira sunset shot. Captured fro the top of the ramparts. Essaouira. Morocco
Our best Essaouira sunset shot. Captured from the top of the ramparts

Things To Do In Essaouira 

1. Visit The Medina

The medieval feel continued inside the medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that served as the hub of activity in Essaouira. We were happy to discover that despite the impressive size of the medina, it managed to retain its laid-back vibe, infused with a touch of intrigue.

2. Enjoy The Cafe Culture

We spent every morning enjoying our simple yet delicious breakfast at our favourite cafe, Casa Mounia, taking our time people-watching while sipping on our mint tea and fresh orange juice.

Best breakfast in Essaouira. According to us. Dar Mounia, Morocco
Best breakfast in Essaouira. According to us, as Dar Mounia inside the medina

3. Souvenir Shop

There was no shortage of shops to explore inside the medina (we kept going back day after day) but unlike the attitude we experienced in Fez and later in Marrakech, no one hassled us in Essaouira.

No one tried to show us around the medina or lure us into their shops.

Shops in the Essaouira medina. Morocco
Exploring the shops in the medina at your own pace is one of the best things to do in Essaouira

4. Get Lost!

We took our time getting lost in the alleyways (as you do in any Moroccan medina), peeking into all of its nooks and crannies and stopping to say hello to many of the adorable stray cats along the way. Of course, if getting lost isn’t your kind of fun, then you can also sign up to a Essaouira Full-Day Tour, which takes in all the major sights of the city, including the medina, with the helpful insight of a local guide.

Cat in Essaouira, Morocco
Meow!

5. Check Out The Art Scene

At first glance, the medina of Essaouira didn’t look any different than any other medina in Morocco. Yes, it’s cleaner and it’s less touristy, but the carpet-clad streets were still filled with souvenirs pouring out of the shop windows. But it wasn’t all cookie-cutter pottery stalls and rug shops…

Roaming around town, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that Essaouira is home to many small arts and crafts businesses, art galleries, and unique cafes and restaurants serving up fragrant Moroccan food.

There is also a big women’s cooperative in town, making and selling organic Argan Oil, handmade bohemian-style clothing, and textiles.

Souvenir shops line the main street in the medina. Essaouira. Morocco
Souvenir shops line the main street in the medina.
Arty cafe in the heart of the medina in Essaouira. Morocco
Arty cafe in the heart of the medina in Essaouira.
Colourful buildings in Essaouira's medina. Morocco
Colourful buildings in the medina of Essaouira

READ NEXT: Moroccan Food: 10 Dishes You Must Try in Morocco

6. Indulge In A Relaxing Treatment At A Spa

Essaouira spas are known for providing excellent Hammam experiences. Hammam is a traditional Middle Eastern treatment that involves a steam bath, exfoliation with argan oil and sea salt, and massaging. Variations of Hammam and supplemental treatments like reflexology or purifying wraps are available as well.  

7. Visit The Lively Fishing Harbour

It was the last place we visited before saying goodbye to this medieval town, but one that left a vivid mark on our Essaouira experience. The port was flourishing with activity, with fishermen selling their fresh catch directly to locals, skipping the fish market and grocery stores. Workers were deep in the elbow grease, getting the fishing boats ready for tomorrow’s sail, while the fishermen crowded around peddling their daily catch. This was an awesome experience, witnessing locals and restaurant proprietors buy fresh fish for the day.

The pungent fish aroma was impossible to escape, but the harbour filled with blue fishing boats rewarded us with plenty of postcard-worthy shots.

Blue boats lined up in the harbour. Essaouira. Morocco
Blue boats lined up in the harbour
Artist works on a painting in Essaouira's port. Morocco
Artist works on a painting in Essaouira’s port. Morocco
Essaouira fishing port, Morocco
Essaouira fishing port

8. Surf Essaouira 

While Essaouira beach isn’t great for beach bums or bathers, Essaouira is one of the best surf spots in Morocco! There are a number of beaches in Essaouira where you can catch a wave, and learn to surf, or if you fancy branching out, kite surfing is also big here. 

Essaouira Bay is great for beginners, but if you’re more experienced and looking for a more challenging surf Essaouira experience, then head to Safi Beach, which is just north of the city. Safi Beach has a wild, natural feel to it, featuring a long stretch of coastline backed by sand dunes. The remote nature and strong winds of this beach make it a popular spot for kite surfers. 

If you do want to give the surf a shot, then you can sign up for a full-day Essaouira Surfing Trip from Marrakech. It’s a great introduction to the sport and to the waters and waves of Essaouira. 

Max & Oksana in Essaouira, Morocco
With love from Essaouira. Yours truly, O&M!

Essential Travel Info

Best Time To Visit Essaouira

Because of its location on the Atlantic coast, the weather in Essaouira is mild in comparison to other Moroccan cities. 

Summer is the high season, with most tourists visiting between the months of June and August. The weather is wonderfully warm and dry, with highs around 28℃ (82℉). Expect prices to be higher during this time, and for attractions like the medina to be crowded.

The winter months see the least amount of tourists, with January being the wettest and coldest month. Even so, temperatures only get down to about 9℃ (48℉), which isn’t bad for winter!

The fall and spring seasons are probably the best times to visit Essaouira if you want to enjoy the best weather without the tourist crowds. Every October, Essaouira hosts the Atlantic Andalusian Festival, an event that celebrates Morocco’s layered cultural heritage. Live music, traditional Moroccan cuisine, and cultural exhibitions can be enjoyed during this festival. If you visit during the spring months, remember that Ramadan takes place during this time. Keep in mind that businesses may close during religious festivals, and alcohol might not be available for purchase. Exact dates for Ramadan change every year, so it won’t hurt to do a bit of research before visiting.

READ NEXT: Best Things to do in Chefchaouen, Morocco

Getting Into Essaouira

Essaouira is a coastal town located some 200 kms west of Marrakech in Morocco. The easiest way to get to Essaouira is via shared taxi from Marrakech, which you can join for a very reasonable price. Alternatively, it is easy to rent your own car and travel to Essaouira on your own accord.

Getting Around Essaouira

The main attractions are the medina and the beaches in the small village, both of which are easily accessible on foot. There are plenty of bike rental places around town, and some hotels offer bicycles to guests.

Where To Stay In Essaouira

During our visit in October 2016, we stayed at Hotel Sahara, a nicely decorated budget hotel located right at the entrance into the medina. We loved our stay but were disappointed to find out that property taxes weren’t included in our booking price and that the final price per night was actually almost double what we had agreed to during the online booking process. Beware!

There are plenty of other options for Essaouira hotels and accommodation.

  • Riad Chbanate: is perfectly located, just a few minutes walk from Essaouira beach. It also has a beautiful rooftop terrace overlooking the medina. The hotel’s spacious rooms feature traditional Moroccan design, with fireplaces and luxurious bathrooms. Car rentals and guided tours are available through the hotel’s concierge desk.
  • Dar Dayana: is smack bang in the middle of the medina and boasts a peaceful garden, which is like a little oasis of calm in the midst of the city. You’ll be within a short walking distance from the beach, fishing port, and lots of shops. 
  • Villa Quieta: ideal place if you’re looking for Essaouira hotels with a little luxury. Again, the location is perfect, being right next to Essaouira beach. They also have an outdoor pool, which is great, since taking a swim in the sea isn’t easy! Bicycle rentals are available at the hotel, and staff are more than happy to help arrange excursions.
Inside our riad, Maison Hotel, in Chefchaouen. Morocco
A Moroccan Riad

Our View Of Essaouira, Game Of Thrones Country

If it wasn’t for our flight to Romania, we probably would’ve lingered in Essaouira for a few more days, enjoying the town’s perfect balance of medieval charm, bohemian feel, and laid-back atmosphere. But as all wonderful trips go, this one has run its course.

Have You Ever Heard Of Essaouira? Does It Remind You Of Any Other Towns You’ve Visited On Your Travels?

 

READ NEXT: 8 Destinations to Include To Your Morrocan Itinerary

 

5 thoughts on “The 8 Best things to do in Essaouira, Morocco | 2024 Guide”

  1. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find nearly
    all of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for.
    Would you offer guest writers to write content available for you?
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  2. Enola of Game of Hodor

    Thanks very much for sharing your beautiful pictures and makes me want to visit this place even more. You have captured them in its normal ambiance and yet very effective. Thanks a lot for your very informative tips I do have to remember them once I would be able to visit. And of course since it’s a GOT location it is indeed another great reason for the visit. It’s old look and feel is just great.

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