Things to do in Essaouira: beach and Atlantic pearl of Morocco

Things to do in Essaouira

   If you are looking for a place in Morocco that combines the photogenic of a historic city with that spectacular Atlantic beaches, you must visit Essaouira. Away from the developed Moroccan north and the inland area of the Atlas, Essaouira is the tourist reference of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, a quiet enclave away from the hustle and bustle of the medinas of the big cities of the Alawite country.

   In this article, we will know a little more about this attractive historic city.

History of Essaouira

   Essaouira has a Portuguese past. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese country occupied different cities on the Moroccan Atlantic coast, among them Tangier. In this expansion, King Manuel I also ordered the construction of several coastal fortresses, including the Castelo Real de Mogador, the seed of the current Essaouira.

   The fort only lasted four years (1506-1510), but it served as a starting point for the various attempts of conquest by the Spanish, English, French, and Dutch, who tried to take the old Mogador, now Essaouira, during the sixteenth century.

   The characteristics of the roadstead of Essaouira have allowed the place to be a historic port since ancient times, both for military and commercial purposes, with the export of sugar, mining, and other goods.

   The modern Essaouira starts under the reign of Mohammed III, King of Morocco, who establishes in Mogador a port to serve as an exit to the city of Marrakech. Thus began the construction of a new fortress, “Souira” (small fortress). Engineers and architects designed the city, from the port to the buildings. To enhance the site, the king ordered to move off the traffic and the population to this new port that would become, in the 19th century, the most important in Morocco.

Things to do in Essaouira
Discover the charms of Essaouria

Things to do in Essaouira

   Essaouira is a good place for a couple of days of vacation in which to combine a visit to a small historic coastal town with beach tourism.

Medina of Essaouira

   Undoubtedly, the medina of Essaouira is the main place of interest in the city. A monumental complex declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco that combines the elements of a coastal military fort of the eighteenth century with those of an ancient city preserved within the walls.

   A stroll through the medina of Essaouira is essential to soak up the spirit of this city. Its three fortified access gates (Bab Marrakech, Bab Sba, and Bab Doukkala) anticipate the importance of this Atlantic square in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The unpaved streets reveal the presence of multiple workshops of artisans and other merchants, between arches, arcades, and busy squares.

Medina of Essaouira


   Inside the medina of Essaouira, we will find the souk of the city. Unlike other Moroccan souks, the souk of Essaouira is quieter and more pleasant to explore, with numerous stalls that bring color and animation to the city. What to buy in Essaouira? Undoubtedly, leather products, fabrics, and slippers stand out, with lots of variety.

   Although here the star product is argan oil, from this tree common in this area of the Maghreb. It is an excellent opportunity to buy, bargain of course, and take some of these products as souvenirs.

Things to do in Essaouira
Souk of Essaouria

Royal Castle

The Castelo Real takes us back to the origins of Essaouira when the Portuguese established a coastal fort here in 1506. Although the original castle was completely demolished in the 18th century prior to the construction of the new city, the fortification that stands on the site today has nothing to do with it. Only the stones, were used for the so-called Sqala du Port, a military bastion built in 1769.

   It should be noted that in the same Scala, Orson Welles shot several scenes of the film Othello, as well as recalls the nearby square dedicated to the director.

Port of Essaouira

Another charming element of Essaouira is its port, which retains that romantic air where small traditional activities and colorful boats still survive crowded on the pontoons, protected from the scourge of the tides by the long dyke. The fishermen are still present here and the smell of fish and the sound of the seagulls are the protagonists of this seafaring scene, so unusual in other places. There are still fish stalls, where the sellers themselves can prepare the fish on the spot.

Port of Essaouria

Mulay El Hassan Square

   Mulay El Hassan Square is the epicenter of life in Essaouira, a square full of cafes, restaurants, and other food stalls that breathes a great atmosphere punctuated by the usual performances of street musicians. It is inevitable to pass by here.

Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah Museum

The Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah Museum is one of the main cultural centers of Essaouira. This museum has a historical and ethnographic character, with rooms dedicated to the evolution of the city and the region from prehistoric times to the present day, as well as numerous collections of objects of all kinds, such as jewelry, clothing, coins, or traditional musical instruments.

   Two of the main and most important are the collection of locally produced carpets, as well as the Roman amphorae found in the depths of the coast, some 2,400 years old.


  If there is one more element that stands out in Essaouira is its majestic wall. The walls surround the medina both on the inner side and on the side facing the sea, forming part of the image of the city from the Atlantic. A beautiful picture of a crenelated wall of clay-colored bathing in the sea and on which rest the white houses of the city.

   It is possible to walk along some sections of the ramparts of the wall of Essaouira, allowing the visitor to explore it in detail. Walls dating from the second half of the eighteenth century, like much of the city.

Things to do in Essaouira
A tour of the wall of Essaouria

Beaches of Essaouira

Essaouira has some of the best beaches in Morocco, which is undoubtedly another reason to visit this area of the country. More than 15 kilometers of fine sand overlooking the wildest Atlantic at the gates of the city. One of the main characteristics of the beaches of Essaouira is that they lend themselves to the practice of sports such as windsurfing and kitesurfing, thanks to the trade winds that blow in the area. We can also find camels for a ride, as well as boat trips to the island of Mogador.

   In Essaouira, we can distinguish the urban beaches from those outside the city. On the one hand, the town has the homonymous beach of Essaouira, in the city center, and the island of Mogador in front.

   A comfortable sandy beach at the foot of the city that has continuity in the great beach of Tagharte, which leaves the city to the south. Taggart has an area of dunes in its interior and even the ruins of a defensive formation on the coastline, the Borj el Baroud, as well as the remains of the castle of Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdellah. Next to the dunes of Tagharte, we find the village of Diabat, a hippie refuge in the 70s.

Enjoy the sea in Essaouria

   If we go along the coast from Essaouira to the north we will find more beaches. Already from the walls of the city, you begin to glimpse a narrow sandy beach, it will be like bathing at the foot of the ramparts! However, as soon as the city ends, the gigantic Safi beach begins, a wild sandy area open to the Atlantic, empty of tourists and surrounded by a field of dunes. The access is a bit complicated, as you have to explore the roads leading to the center of the beach unless you come from the southern end of the city.

   A little further away, both north and south of the city towards Agadir, the beaches multiply and we can choose from numerous options.

Where to eat in Essaouira

   Essaouira is pure Atlantic Ocean so the fish and seafood are the order of the day, as you can see in a simple walk through the souk or the port, where you can eat the goods put on sale there. However, if we are looking for a restaurant where we can enjoy a good table, Essaouira boasts a good offer at very low prices.

   If we had to make a small selection of the best restaurants in Essaouira, we would opt for:

  • D’jazy: a real reference at the entrance of the medina. This small restaurant combines its exceptional home cooking with live music that enlivens the atmosphere. A perfect place to enjoy a good fish.
  • Nomade: located inside the medina, this small but elegant restaurant surprises with its original menu where we will find dishes from the land and the sea, with the fish of the day or the traditional sardine of this area.
  • Elizir: a retro-futuristic style of the 70s hides the best of Moroccan cuisine fused with Italian and Spanish touches.

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