Zanzibar’s Stone Town springs to life early as the call to prayer reverberates around its rabbit- warren streets. Tiny terraced shops are interspersed with fading architectural marvels that give a nod to the island’s rich culture. The bustling markets are a spice-scented splash of colour. There is so much on offer in Stone Town and a stay here is highly recommended to appreciate the unique beauty of the old part of Zanzibar City.
Our pick of things to do in Stone Town
Take a walking tour of Stone Town
We highly recommend taking a half-day guided tour of Stone Town early on in your stay. Learn about the layered history of Zanzibar and the Portuguese, Omani and British influences. A walking tour weaves through the labyrinth streets to visit the major historical and architectural points of interest. The Old Fort at the centre of Stone Town by the Indian Ocean is one of the oldest buildings in Stone Town, built by the Omani Arabs as they wrestled control of the island from the Portuguese in 1698. Most tours will start from here and it is possible to find qualified guides in this area. Other places visited on a walking tour are the Old Dispensary, the Sultan’s Palace, The House of Wonders, and the house where Queen’s Fredy Mercury spent his childhood.
A visit to the Forodhani Food Market
Each evening as the sun sets, Forodhani Gardens Park transforms into a giant open-air food market overlooking the Indian Ocean. Trestle tables and barbecues pop up everywhere groaning under a mountain of seafood. Calamari, fish, lobster and prawns from the day’s catch will excite any seafood lover. The ubiquitous Zanzibar pizza also beckons, a rectangle slab of goodness put together in front of you and filled with whatever you fancy. Grab a fresh -pressed sugarcane juice and take a seat along the wall beside the ocean to watch the passing parade. Young Stone Town locals come together at the end of the day swimming and somersaulting into the ocean against the setting sun. It’s a feast and entertainment in one!
Catch some live Music from the Dhow Countries Music Academy
Started by an NGO to preservice Zanzibar’s rich musical heritage, the Dhow Music Academy is the island’s only music school. They work in partnership with local hotels to put on special concerts. Listen to the lively traditional Taarab ensemble in the Secret Garden at the historic Emerson Spice hotel or some afro-jazz among the walls of Old Custom House. Be sure to check out their schedule here to see if there is anything happening during your Stone Town stay.
Visit to Darajani Market
On the outskirts of the old town, the Darajani Market consists of a labyrinth of buildings, winding alleys and heaving streets. There’s a pungent fish market, an open air butcher, live chickens in baskets and tables of fresh fruit and vegetables, some familiar, others not. It’s not just food; it’s possible every item that is a mainstay of a Zanzibari house can be found here. Colourful towers of buckets, enormous cooking dishes and Kufi caps balance precariously in impossibly packed stores. It is great for people watching and for buying authentic Zanzibar spices. If you want to try your hand at cooking Tanzania’s much loved rice dish, pilau, when you return home, here is the place to pick up pilau masala, the blend of spices that gives it its signature flavour. You can even make this from scratch if you buy cumin, cardamon, cinnamon sticks, cloves and black peppercorns.
Dinner at the Tea House at Emerson Spice Hotel
Stonetown calls for some rooftop hopping and our favourite experience is the 5 course seafood degustation on the roof of the historic Emerson Spice Hotel. Cocktails start at 6pm, in time to watch the sun cast a fiery orange over the city’s jumble of rooftops until it dips below the Indian Ocean in the distance. Dinner is served at 7 over the glow of lights and punctuated by the smells of Zanzibar spices cooking somewhere below and the sound of the evening call to prayer. It is a multi-sensory experience that is a must in Stone Town. Dinner is $40 per person and bookings are essential.
Exploring Stone Town in Tanzania is definitely one for your bucket list. But Tanzania has so much more to offer! At Safari Republic, we show you the authentic and off-the-beaten-track Tanzania in a sustainable and comfortable way.