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One day in Essaouira: The essential guide

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Morocco

Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 16/06/2024, 11:45

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

If you’re spending a couple of days in Marrakech and you finally get tired with the hustle and bustle, you can very easily get to Essaouira – a small coastal town. Here the cool breeze, blue skies, and laid back atmosphere will relax and calm you. It’s an amazing little place, which you will remember for a long time.

I made a one day trip to Essaouira from Marrakech in December. It was a very warm, sunny day, but cool enough for a long walk along the beach and visiting the narrow alleyways of this charming port town. I found Essaouira exceptionally picturesque and a very nice break from dusty and noisy Marrakech. I spent a whole day there and while walking around I could easily imagine myself staying for a few days to chill out.

I’m always the happiest when I’m by the water.

If you have enough time, I would recommend making a day trip from Marrakech to Essaouira, or stopping there for a while longer. If you like the sea and laid-back lifestyle, then you won’t be disappointed by visiting the town.

When to visit Essaouira?

The climate in Essaouira is similar to the one in Marrakesh. The best time to come is in Spring, or Autumn. The town is a little bit cooler than the Red City, so if you visit Morocco in the Summer, then the sea breeze will help you to cool down.

How to get to Essaouira from Marrakech?

Essaouira is only 3 hours drive from Marrakech. It’s very easy to get there without much hassle. You can choose one of several options.

From Marrakech to Essaouira by bus

If you want to spend one day in Essaouira on a budget, then this is the best solution. I took a bus from the CTM bus station. A taxi from the Medina cost me 40 Dirham. Establish the price first before you get on, or ask the driver to put the meter on. If he refuses, find a different ride.

CTM bus station is apparently very crowded during the high season. In December it was very quiet and half empty. I bought the ticket an hour before the bus. If you’re visiting in the peak time, purchase it a day before. The cost is 80 Dirham per person, one way.

In December the station was empty.

The whole journey was very comfortable and pleasant. I even managed to see the legendary goats sitting on an argan tree, which was an ultimate highlight for me.

From Essaouira to Marrakech by taxi

This is a bit more expensive option, but if you would like more freedom and comfort, then renting a taxi in Marrakech would be a great idea. Most drivers will take you there and wait for you for a couple of hours for around 100 Euros. If you share the car with someone else, it will be a really good deal.

A day excursion with a guide

Hiring a private guide for one day in Essaouira is a great way of seeing the town from a slightly different perspective. There are a few on offer and you can choose between those offered by the local tourist agency, or book one online. The prices vary, from 20 Euros to 100 Euros, depending on what’s included.

I can recommend a tour with Withlocals, a company that connects guides with tourists. Personally, I only took a trip with them to the Atlas Mountains, but was more than happy with their services.

During your one day trip to Essaouira you will be able to see off the beaten path places and see attractions that are not in any tourist guides, like some beautifully renovated Riads. The guide will also help you to choose the freshest fish and find you a cook that will prepare it for you. The trip to Essaouria with Withlocals takes a whole day and costs 94 Euros.

One day in Essaouira – Don’t miss these sights!

Right, let’s get to the most important part. If you’re in Essaouira for one day you are able to see most of the sights without rushing through. Luckily, most of it is free and out in the open air.

The citadel and the city walls

At the far corner of the old town, protecting the houses from the water, you will find the ancient walls. You can easily climb to the top of them and walk on a wide pavement, especially made for people to enjoy. It’s a very nice viewpoint from which you can admire the view over the ocean.

The walls are great for watching the ocean.

The citadel is known as the Scala du Port and will be a nice surprise for the fans of Games of Thrones as some of the scenes were made just here!

The Medina

The Medina in Essaouira is a very interesting place. You can walk here for hours, get lost in narrow passageways and stop for some tea every now and again.

The Medina is lively and colourful.

The traditional souk

A souk is a place where the locals come shopping. It’s a fresh market as well as a place for all kinds of other trades. During my stay in Marrakesh, souks were my favourite places to visit.

The shops here are so colouful!

Moulay Hassan Square

A very laid back place, where you can spend a whole afternoon drinking tea, eating and people watching. But if you’re only spending one day in Essaouira, then I recommend you come here for an hour, or so, to chill. There are a couple of restaurants and bakeries around. There are usually some buskers singing reagge or traditional Moroccan music.

The square is a lovely place to chill out.

The port

This was the highlight of my trip to Essaouira. I loved it so much! The port in the town is a very traditional and a very local place. You can observe the fishermen trading their daily catch and bargaining. The stalls here offer a variety of fish, some of them you might have only seen in a ZOO.

This is a lively, fascinating place.

Grill your own

If you know a thing or two about fish, you can buy it at one of the stalls and then ask the local restaurant to grill it for you.

In Essaouira you can first buy your fish and then ask a cook to grill it for you.

Once you enter the port and walk for a few meters, on your right you will see a wall with a small door. On a sunny day there are grills outside of it and you can ask the staff there to barbecue your purchase. If the weather is not so good (which doesn’t happen that much in Morocco), you can just walk in inside.

Enjoy the beach

There is a small beach in Essaouira with cool water and clean sand. The town is known for good winds, so if you’re a fan of water sports, you can go surfing, windsurfing or kitesurfing.

Essaouira is definitely windy, but it’s such a nice change from Marrakech.

Where to stay in Essaouira?

Essaouira is a small town, but offers a wide variety of accommodation. Here are some choices for you.

Sol E Luna – The individually- The Hotel Restaurant Sol E Luna is located a 10-minute drive from Essaouira’s Medina and the beach, 2 km from the golf of Mogador and 10 km from the airport. Decorated rooms at the Sol E Luna have a private bathroom and toilet. Guests are invited to relax on the terrace or in the large garden.

Dar Latigeo – Located in one of the oldest parts of Essaouira, the Medina, near Moulay el Hassan Square, the Riad Dar Latigeo welcomes you to a comfortable and refined environment. Choose among 6 rooms that combine Moroccan tradition with European influences. Breakfast featuring a wide variety of products is prepared daily.

Riad Le Grand Large – Boasting a superb view over the medina and situated in the heart of Essaouira’s historic centre, this enchanting guest house is set around a luminous patio, which leads to a Moroccan living room.

Essaouira is a really small town, so you don’t need much time to spend here. It’s definitely a nice break from Marrakech and it will allow you to rest, relax and eat the cheapest fish and seafood!

Have I forgotten anything? Would you like to add something? Do you have suggestions? Would you like to share your experiences? Don’t be shy! Leave a comment!