Essaouira is an easy 2 1/2 hour trip from Marrakesh. It might seem a little far to go and come back in a day, but it’s definitely worth it – it is difficult to resist the charms of this beautiful, friendly and relaxed town.
Founded in the 18th century, Essaouira was built to be a rival city to Agadir. Formerly known as Mogador, meaning small fortress, it was designed as a fortified town surrounded by Vauban-style ramparts. Essaouira played a major role as an international trading seaport, linking Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa with Europe and the rest of the world.
Today, Essaouira has become the most popular coastal town in Morocco. Car-free and clean, Essaouira is known for its fishing port and its blue fleet of wooden fishing boats. There are lots of great dining options for lunch (we’ll give you a map with our favourite ones marked on); close to the port there are tables set up where you can choose your lunch from fish and seafood that has literally just been pulled out of the water.
The Medina of Essaouira is one of the best maintained medinas in Morocco. Its numerous craft shops and art galleries attract visitors from all over the world. The city is proud to count artists like Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix among its biggest fans. Welles shot several scenes of his film Othello in Essaouira. If you visit in late June, you’ll be joining a big crowd who travel to Essaouira every year to attend the world-renowned Gnaoua Music Festival.
There are several “must-sees” in Essaouira – the Skala by the Port, the wood souk below the ramparts, where local artisans produce amazing sculptures, boxes, chess boards etc with beautiful Thuya wood local to Essaouira, the ramparts with the cannons still in place from the Portuguese era, the labyrinth of streets with the wonderful blue front doors, the Jewish Synagogue, the beach and so on…