Top Things to do in Stone Town
Stone Town is known for many things – history and culture, food and spices, grand architecture, alleyways and Zanzibari doors. The UNESCO World Heritage site is a popular destination in Zanzibar city with a long list of things to do to keep you busy at every hour of the day. Whatever you decide to do, the Old Town will offer you an unforgettable holiday. If you’re planning a trip to Zanzibar, here are the top things to do in Stone Town.
Experience Sunset Dhow Sailing
A sunset Dhow sailing is one of the biggest treats you can give yourself in Stone Town. Feel the excitement of sailing an authentic Dhow during sunset and enjoy the unique Zanzibar landscape from the water. A Dhow is one of the most beautiful local boats to sail, it is an Arab sailing vessel constructed out of mangrove timber and spread with a lateen mainsheet. As you sail in the sunset, feel the sea breeze on your face as the wind pulls you forward in such a mystical atmosphere. Enjoy sitting on the boat while one side gets closer to the water without you getting wet or falling into the sea. It’s really a fun experience as you relax on the sunset boat and watch Stone Town pass by slowly.
Take a Trip to Prison Island
Located about 30minutes boat ride from the Zanzibar Island, Prison Island is home to giant Aldabran tortoise, some of which are more than a hundred years old. The endangered species were imported from Seychelles, as a gift in the late 19th century. The island, also known as Changuu Island was once used as a confinement of refractory slaves but was never used to imprison prisoners. The prison was built by Lloyd Mathews in 1893, you can visit the building to learn more about its history. It was later used as a quarantine place for yellow fever outbreaks. Visit and explore the island, you can indulge in snorkelling activity if you’ll like play in the water.
Visit the Former Slave Market
Discover the sinister side of Zanzibar in its slave trade history. The island was one of the largest slave trade ports dominated by Arab slave traders in the Indian Ocean slave trade era. There is presently an Anglican Cathedral built on the site of the former slave market after the abolishment of the slave trade. There are still relics and artefacts left behind by the slavery era on this spot. Learn about the dark piece of the history of Stone Town as you explore the cathedral, the altar allegedly is built on the spot of the thrashing tree where the slaves were beaten with a throbbing branch. It’s really a heart-rending site built with a white marble circle surrounded by red to represent the blood of the slaves.
Take a Spice Tour
No visit to Zanzibar is complete without a trip to the spice plantation areas in Stone Town. The spice tour will give a clue to the connection between the island and its spices, how the spices, herbs, and fruits are grown and what they are used for. Enjoy a walking tour of the spice plantation farm – walk amongst cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric root, vanilla pod vines and fields of lemongrass. Smell and taste a variety of spices and enjoy a delicious local lunch at the spice farm. You can also buy some fresh spices to take home. It is a journey worth taking when you are in Zanzibar.
Visit the Old Fort
Also known as Arab Fort, the Old Fort of Zanzibar is one of the oldest forts in East Africa and it’s located in Stone Town. The fort is a colossal bastioned structure built in the 17th century by the Omani’s and was used protect the Arabs from the Portuguese, and was also used an execution point and prison. The Old Fort is one of the most popular attractions in Zanzibar, and it’s now home to the Zanzibar Cultural Centre, offices of the Zanzibar International Film Festival and an open-air theatre which host a wide range of events and festivals. You’ll also see a restaurant and an array of shops where you can purchase some souvenirs in the fort. Visit the Arab fort and learn more about the history of Zanzibar.
Eat at Lukmaan Restaurant
Lukmaan is one of the best local restaurants in Stone Town, which serves a variety of Zanzibari foods at affordable prices. You don’t need a menu to know what to eat at the restaurant; they serve their food in buffet style at the 1950s counter, so you can choose whatever you want before getting a seat. If you have not tasted the national dish of Tanzania – Ugali, you can order it here. Ugali is the most common staple food of the people.
Visit the House of Wonders
Built in 1883 by Sultan Barghash, the House of Wonders is a spectacle of history and architecture. The building is the symbol of Stone Town as it rises in striking tiers of emaciated vertical pillars with balconies offering the magnificent views of the waterfront. It has massive carved doors bordered by two bronze canons with inscriptions written in Portuguese. The House of Wonders is one of the most magnificent architectural structures on the island.
Drink Local Coffee at Jaws Corner
The Jaws Corner is located within the labyrinth of alleyways, an extraordinary place you can find when exploring the town. You can order a small cup of the Arabic-style local coffee brewed in a metal kettle over a charcoal stove. An early morning coffee here can keep you going until you find a place to eat.
Watch the Big African Sun Drop Below the Horizon
Sit and relax at on a rooftop terrace or an open garden and watch the sunset in Stone Town. Enjoy a tasty and refreshing cocktail and the balmy atmosphere of the evening as you hear the Muslim prayers floating over the town. If you’re lucky, you may see the green flash as it dips and you can make a wish.
Haggle With Traders at Dharajani Market
Culture vultures and foodies will love what they see at Dharajani Market- a chaotic market is filled with a wide range of activities. This is the main market that supplies most of the things that the locals eat, from fresh fruits, spices to meat. There is a local cooking class you can take if you want to learn about cooking with the spices and buy ingredients beforehand.
Get Lost in the Labyrinth
Get lost by exploring the Stone Town – forget about your map and just walk. The labyrinthine streets will keep you busy as you make your way through it. The coolest aspect of your getting lost is in the narrow alleys that will keep you walking until you find your way out.
See the Emerson Spice House
Everyone talks about the Emerson Spice House. It is a charming rooftop hotel and restaurant that was a former residence to the last Swahili ruler of Zanzibar. There are thousands of oyster shell and abalone in the inner court, a show-off of a pearl jewellery shop that was once here. This place smells of lost opulent and luxury.
Enjoy a Delicious Dinner at Forodhani Gardens
In the evening, visit the Forodhani Gardens to enjoy a delicious dinner and experience the action of the night market by the sea. The night food market serves a wide variety of seafood and local delicacies you would definitely enjoy. Enjoy a thirst-quenching, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, have a taste of Zanzibari pizza and try out the skewers of lobsters, crabs, and prawns. Forodhani Gardens also features the stunning night views of the Stone Town, especially the Old Fort and the magnificent House of Wonders.