Windswept beaches, a laid-back medina, buzzing local art scene and deliciously fresh seafood are just a handful of reasons to put Morocco’s coastal town, Essaouira, at the top of your travel list. From 1st May, EasyJet will start flying direct from Luton, making this beautiful spot accessible to everyone.
We have compiled some of our favourite bits from a recent trip to help inspire your next visit to this North African gem.
Much touted for luring in the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens in the 60s, Essaouira, located roughly two hours drive from bustling Marrakesh, has retained much of its relaxed vibe.
A trading port since the Middle Ages, the fortified walls surrounding this fishing town have been present since the late 18th century, lending Essaouria much of its whitewashed charm, offset by the stunning, local, Mogador blue.
Essaouira has seen an increase in beautiful hotels in recent years, but we opted to spend a leisurely week at the imposing and rather decadent Heure Bleue Palais, located just inside the medina walls. With its nod to Morocco’s colonial past, it’s easy to while away happy hours in the hotel’s luxurious courtyard, on the rooftop and at the spa.
Compared with Morocco’s more prominent tourist destinations like Fez and Marrakesh, Essaouira’s souks are almost serene. The narrow roads are vibrant with life, adorned with market stalls and artists ateliers, restaurants and shops, but the laid-back attitude of the locals allows for undisturbed discovery of the old town.
The pottery Morocco is most famous for originates from Fez, but most stalls trade the same wares. For the best quality, traditional finds, visit Tilila on Rue Attarine. If you’re after local art, Galerie la Kasbah, on Rue de Tetouan is a must visit with room after room of antiques mixed with contemporary pieces by local artists.
Situated so near the ocean, as you might imagine, Essaouira provides endless choice when it comes to seafood restaurants. Chez Sam, located at the end of the port, is a popular choice for both tourists and locals. La Licorne is perfect for a traditional Moroccan meal as is the less formal Restaurant Ferdaouss. One Up, a recent opening, is a refreshing mix of eclectic Parisian design with contemporary French and Moroccan dishes. We missed out on the famed Elizir, which was closed for refurbishment when we tried to book.
Venturing beyond the old town walls, the beaches are a wind and kite surfers paradise. The blustery winds may deter you from sunbathing, but the miles of coastline are beautiful and worth exploring, whether that be by foot, camel or horse.
Our week in Essaouira was an absolute dream. We recommend you book soon before direct flights from the UK transform this quiet little bolthole into the bright lights and new builds of its neighbour to the south, Agadir.