While some may be visiting Zanzibar Island for its pristine beaches, we opted to stick around historic Stone Town during our relaxing 6 day vacation. The old maze of buildings that make up Stone Town are a lesson in architectural and cultural history. Pair this with delicious food, talkative locals and perfect weather, and you have the beginnings of a delightful vacation. Here’s how we recommend spending time in Stone Town!
1) Get lost in the maze of Stone Town
The best way to spend your first day is simply walking around the old town to get a feel for the layout! It’s guaranteed that you’ll get lost, but being such a small area, you’re sure to wind up somewhere familiar. From the Old Fort, walk directly east and you’ll eventually end up at Darajani Market, where you can browse and buy all the spices the island is known for. Look for the beautifully carved doors on every building. Ask a local to show you the difference between the Arab, Indian, and Swahili doors!
2) See the grounds of the former slave market, now a solemn museum
Zanzibar was one of the largest ports for the Indian Ocean slave trade. The grounds of the former market have been turned into a solemn memorial and a museum that will expand and challenge your knowledge on the subject of slavery. The museum cost about $5 entry.
3) Follow in the footsteps of the Sultans
The legacy of the Omani Sultanate can be found in various palaces scattered around Stone Town. Next door to the Emerson Spice Hotel, you’ll find a museum dedicated to Princess Salme bin Said, the first Arab female to author an autobiography, Memoirs of an Arabian Princess of Zanzibar. Here you’ll also see a map with other points of interest including the Palace Museum, and the House of Wonders (which was closed for renovation when we visited in October 2018). Each of these museums cost about $5 entry.
4) Drink all the fruit juice, eat all the Zanzibari pizza
Finding spots to stop in for coffee and snacks is definitely a highlight of Stone Town. For a memorable evening, make a dinner reservation at the Emerson Spice Hotel rooftop— it was the most expensive, but also the best meal of the trip for us! We also really enjoyed their second restaurant, the Secret Garden at Emerson Spice. However, there are plenty of budget friendly dining options, like Lukmaan’s Restaurant near the slavery museum, where you can fill up for less than $5 on curries and a huge menu of fruit juices with every combination you can imagine. Stop into Zanzibar Coffee House to get your coffee fix for about $2.50. Another good place for happy hour during sunset was Mercury’s, where Queen albums are always on repeat. And don’t miss the food stalls that set up every evening in the main park area, because you definitely want to try the island’s specialty, Zanzibar pizza, which can be had for less than $2!
5) Hang out at the public beach
The beach in front of the Hyatt is the place to be in the evenings. You’ll see lots of fishing and tourist boats coming in from the day’s work, families playing together as the sun sets, and lots of young men doing group exercise routines and swimming races.
Stone Town is the kind of place to slow down and have a simple day surrounded by beautiful waters, cultural history, and new friends. Don’t overthink your itinerary, just enjoy. Hakuna matata!