Pexels Piotr Arnoldes 6313437

Essaouira, once called Mogador, is a picturesque port city on Morocco’s western coast. Unlike the bustling cities of Casablanca and Marrakech, Essaouira offers a calm escape for visitors. As you wander its medina, you’ll find vibrant markets and bright spots that pop against the white buildings and blue sea.

Don’t miss the lively fish market and the historic Sqala fortress, which has been protecting the city for five centuries. Essaouira is a must-visit during your Moroccan adventure.

This guide is here to give you all the details about the best things to do in Essaouira and around, along with helpful travel tips to make your trip even better. Learn more about this peaceful city and get ready for a memorable experience.

What are the best things to do in Essaouira?

1. See The Medina of Essaouira

Medina Essaouira

The term “medina” usually refers to the walled center of an Arab city. Essaouira’s medina is a stunning example, capturing the essence of Moroccan style. Its streets are lined with white-washed facades and bustling, colorful souks. These markets are brimming with local souvenirs like handicrafts, rugs, and ceramics. As you explore, don’t forget to take in the picturesque views of the medina set against the backdrop of the blue sea. It’s a sight that beautifully blends urban charm with natural beauty.

Click for location

2. Climb Sqala du Port d’Essaouira

Sqala Essaouira

Sqala is the most renowned landmark in Essaouira. It’s a fortress constructed around the year 1500 during the period when Essaouira was under Portuguese control. Originally built for defense, it served to alert the city of incoming pirates and potential enemies. Nowadays, visitors can climb to the top of the tower. From there, you’ll get the best views of the city, the surrounding walls, and the island of Mogador—a perfect spot for a panoramic glimpse of Essaouira’s historical and scenic beauty.

Click for location

Entrance fee : 10 Dirhams (€0.90) Opening hours : Mon-Sat 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

3. Relax and have fun at the Essaouira Beach

Essaouira Beach

Essaouira is not only known for its charm and authenticity but also for its beautiful beaches. Essaouira Beach, with its fine, golden sand and ideal waters, is perfect for water sports like surfing and windsurfing. From the beach, you can enjoy sweeping views of the entire bay, the Mogador islands, a lighthouse, and the mausoleum of Sidi Magdolul.

There are plenty of activities to enjoy on the beach too. You can go horseback riding, take a camel ride, join a yoga session, embark on a quad excursion, or take surf lessons. Prices start at around 10€ for 20 minutes of horseback or camel riding, 10€ for an hour of yoga, and 30€ for an hour on a quad. For surfing, you can check rates directly with the surf school here.

Click for location

4. Visit Essaouira port and fish market, two must-see places

Essaouira Port

The port of Essaouira is a bustling hub, central to the city’s economic life and a vibrant showcase of local culture. Here, the daily life of Essaouira’s residents unfolds amidst a fleet of blue wooden boats that continuously bring fresh fish to shore. Just a stone’s throw from the port, you’ll find the city’s Fish Market—one of Essaouira’s most characteristic and unmissable spots.

At the market, you not only get to select from the freshest fish available, but you also immerse yourself in a truly unique experience. The crowded port, enthusiastic vendors calling out to passersby, and the mouth-watering aroma of fish grilling right there on the spot offer a perfect slice of local life and an opportunity to savor Essaouira’s culinary delights firsthand.

Click for location

5. Visit The Essaouira craft workshops

Essaouira Craft Workshops

Essaouira’s craft workshops constitute an essential element of the city’s cultural identity. Renowned for the refinement of their woodworking, these workshops produce a wide variety of objects, from carved furniture to decorative sculptures and small handicrafts.

Essaouira’s most skilled artisans are also known for making the guembri, a traditional Moroccan musical instrument. Visitors can explore the workshops, and observe up close how these wonderful works of art are created, and many workshops even offer the opportunity to purchase and take home authentic Essaouira souvenirs.

Click for location

6. See Place Moulay el Hassan

Place Moulay El Hassan

This lively square by the waterfront captures the vibrant cultural essence of the city in a modern, relaxed setting. It’s a popular spot where both locals and tourists gather. Surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and craft shops, the square is perfect for enjoying a drink while watching the Atlantic waves.

At the heart of the square, you’ll find the statue of Sultan Moulay el Hassan, adding a historical touch to the area. Nearby, colorful markets offer a variety of souvenirs, allowing you to take a piece of your experience home with you.

Click for location

7. See Bab el-Assa, the emblematic gate of the Medina

Bab El-Assa

Bab el-Assa is the most famous entrance to the Essaouira Medina for its beautiful architecture and carved wooden decorations that capture the essence of local craftsmanship. The gate was built in the 18th century and today tourists can enter the narrow streets of the medina through it.

Click for location

8. Visit Dar Souiri

Dar Souiri

Also known as the “House of Poets,” Dar Souiri is a magnificent 18th-century building that was once home to a wealthy family of the era. Today this space is dedicated to culture and the arts, where you can attend exhibitions and literary events. It also hosts concerts, films, and presentations.

Click for location

9. See Bab el-Marsa

Bab El-Marsa

The fort, built by the Portuguese on a marina, is a replica of a fort in Lisbon. This beautiful site offers a stunning glimpse into Essaouira’s maritime history, with picturesque views of the port and the ocean. It’s a perfect spot to appreciate the blend of architectural heritage and scenic beauty.

Click for location

What to see around Essaouira?

1. Diabat Beach

Beach Diabat

Located a few kilometers from Essaouira (around 15 minutes by car), it is one of the beaches richest in history and culture thanks to its ancient ruins, such as those of the ancient Portuguese city of Almohad, and because it is one of the least crowded beaches. This beach is ideal for travelers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a quiet and beautiful location.

Click for location

2. Mogador Island

Mogador Island

Just one kilometer off the coast of Essaouira, opposite the Sqala, lies the island of Mogador. Named for the abundance of molluscs that the Phoenicians harvested here to extract precious purple pigment, it is the largest island in the Purple Islands archipelago and a captivating sight.

While the Purple Islands are now a nature reserve and off-limits to visitors, you can still experience the beauty of Mogador Island. At the port, you can rent a boat for a tour around the island. From the boat, you’ll have the opportunity to spot various birds, including the endangered Eleanora falcon, and view the remnants of a 19th-century prison, adding a historical dimension to your scenic excursion.

3. Marrakech


Located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, about 190 km from Essaouira, Marrakech is one of Morocco’s most captivating and significant cities. It’s a place full of life and things to see.

Your first stop should be Jamaa el Fna Square, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This vibrant square is the heart of Marrakech, bustling with food stalls as the evening approaches.

The city’s souks are a feast for the eyes, filled with colorful rugs, ornate lamps, and handcrafted ceramic plates. The most famous souk, Laksour, is in the Medina. Near the square, you’ll find the Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech’s main mosque. While non-Muslims cannot enter, it’s still worth visiting for a stroll along its scenic, palm-lined promenade.

If you’re exploring the area, consider taking a day trip between Marrakech and Essaouira. Many companies offer these trips, providing a chance to experience both cities if you have the time. Prices start from around 18€.

How to get to Essaouira

Essaouira Airport

By plane

Essaouira is served by its airport, Essaouira-Mogador Airport (ESU), which receives direct flights from some European capitals and other Moroccan cities, with Royal Air Maroc as the main airline. However, most people travel to Essaouira from Marrakech due to its proximity.

By Public Transport

The distance between Marrakech and Essaouira is about 191 kilometers, and it typically takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes by road. Numerous companies are offering regular transport between these two cities. The most straightforward option is to head to the Marrakech bus station and buy a ticket directly there. Bus fares range from 60 to 100 MAD (approximately €5.74 to €9.56).

Car rental or taxi

If you prefer driving, car rental is available, though be mindful that road signs are primarily in Arabic, so having a GPS is essential. If you’re bringing your car, make sure to contact your insurance company to include Morocco in your policy.

Alternatively, you can share a taxi with others. The cost of renting a car or taking a taxi depends on the terms you negotiate with the rental agency or the taxi driver.

Best things to do in Essaouira in 1 day

Medina Essaouira

It is possible to visit Essaouira for 1 day you can book an excursion from nearby towns such as Marrakech. However, many tourists prefer to spend more time on the coast to enjoy the beach and surrounding attractions.

In any case, here are the best things to do during your visit :

Where to eat in Essaouira

Food At La Cle De Voute Restaurant
La Cle de Voute Restaurant

Given its coastal setting and bustling fishing industry, it’s no surprise that fish is a staple in the local cuisine, typically enjoyed grilled, with the port being the prime spot to savor such dishes. But if fish isn’t to your taste, don’t worry—you’ll also find a variety of other local and international dining options throughout the city.

Here’s a list of our favorite restaurants in the city:

Where to stay in Essaouira

Riad Kalifa Essaouira
Riad Kafila

In Essaouira, you can choose from a range of accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets, from budget riads in the medina to luxury hotels overlooking the sea.

Here are some of the recommended accommodations that we tested during our travels:

Tips for your trip to Essaouira

Essaouira Nature