Marrakech might be fun, but there’s a new contender for the crown of top spot in Morocco. The vibrancy of Morocco’s capital is undoubtedly an experience in itself, but if you prefer a calmer cultural break then look no further than Essaouira. Here’s why you should hot-foot it to this beautiful seaside city.
1. The vibe
Essaouira has long been known as a hippy retreat and was visited in the 1960s by the likes of Bob Marley, Cat Stevens and most famously, Jimi Hendrix. Nowadays there’s a healthy surf population, who make sure that bohemian fun is still very much a way of life. The slow pace is only occasionally interrupted by the sound of locals shouting “ballak, ballak” — if you hear this jump out of the way quick before you’re hit by a cart carrying goods to market!
2. The warm hospitality
There’s no shortage of places to stay in Essaouira, from cozy and homely Riads to plush hotels. Whether you choose to go all inclusive or opt for self-catering is really dependent on your budget. There’s a fantastic array of food shops and markets if you are planning to cater yourself. Equally, Moroccan hospitality will ensure that you won’t go hungry on your all-inclusive break or any break in Morocco, for that matter.
3. The fresh seafood
Essaouira is renowned for its fresh seafood. If you’re partial to fish then a trip to the seafood market down at the port is an absolute must. Browse the stalls and peruse the latest catch, which usually includes lobster and shrimp, scallops, crab, and calamari. Select your fish of choice and then watch it be cooked for you on the grill, before tucking in with bread and salad. This is simple street food at its ultimate best.
4. Spectacular views
The best place to see this magical city is from Skala du Port, which is situated down at the harbor. There is a fee of around 10dh, but the view of the walled medina, or old town, with the waves crashing against the rocks and obligatory seagulls circling overhead, will make you glad you paid the money.
5. Relax in the spa
If your legs are aching from all the sightseeing around the medina’s narrow windy streets, then why not pay a visit to one of Essaouira’s best-kept secrets, the Azur Spa? This is a traditional hammam, or steam bath, with a touch of luxury. You can let your cares drift away while you enjoy a traditional massage. Just don’t forget to take some drinking water for afterward.
In many ways, visiting Essaouira is like stepping back in time. If you’re looking for a relaxed break where you can fully immerse yourself in this distinct North African culture, it’s definitely the place for you