If you are like us and you’re not backpacking through Tanzania and Zanzibar, chances are you won’t be choosing to stay in the island’s capital. However, you will want to spend at least one day exploring the city with these 10 things to do in Stone Town Zanzibar.
I absolutely loved the whole island, and its capital has something special and unique. It might be the narrow streets, the impressive doors, walls made of coral, or the smell of food and joy in the air.
No matter where you choose to stay on the island, make sure to go on a day trip to Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You won’t regret it!
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Other useful Zanzibar resources to read next before you go:
- Your perfect one week Zanzibar itinerary, with map and everything else you need to know
- What to pack for Zanzibar
How to get to Stone Town, Zanzibar?
The island’s capital is located at the center of its western side, really close to Abeid Amani Karume International Airport.
When you are traveling by plane, you will land only a few kilometers away from Stone Town, making it easy for you to stay here overnight before you begin your Zanzibar adventure.
On the other hand, if you choose to stay in a resort in another region on the island, you can always visit Stone Town on a day trip. Viator has the most tour options for Zanzibar, and once you book your tour, you won’t have to worry about a thing.
We went for this option, and the driver took us from our resort in Uroa all the way to Stone Town, where we met our guide for the day.
The third option is to rent a car and visit the island at your own pace.
The price for renting a car for a week in Zanzibar is affordable, you have the flexibility to make your schedule as you wish, and you can go wherever you feel like going. Discover hidden gems and feel like a local.
My go-to option for renting cars is always Discover Cars.
It is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change. Get your offers here!
You will need a temporary Zanzibar driver’s permit to drive on the island, but this will be organized by the rental car company before your arrival when you book online. The temporary permit will be available for 3 months, and minimum documentation is requested (only your valid driver’s license and a photo).
How long do you need in Stone Town?
While we only went on a day trip to Stone Town, I think spending 48 hours and staying overnight in the island’s capital would be a better idea.
This way, you will have enough time to experience all the best things to do in Stone Town, without having to rush from one thing to the other.
What should you wear in Stone Town?
As a woman in a mostly Muslim destination, I decided to respect their local traditions and dress rather conservatively. That doesn’t mean having to cover from head to toe, it is a warm destination after all, but following some simple guidelines:
- cover your shoulders
- wear a skirt or dress over the knees
- I chose colors and you’ll see that most people in Zanzibar love colors, so that would be just fine
Where to stay in Stone Town
If you choose to spend the night in Zanzibar, the best thing to do is staying in a traditional Swahili hotel.
Those are not only beautifully designed, but also infused with history. Arabic-style arches, carved doors, and colorful decorations, perfectly located in the heart of the city.
Here are a few hotels worth looking at:
Is it safe to walk around Stone Town?
The short answer to this question is yes, definitely!
We didn’t feel unsafe for a minute, people on the island are friendly and open to help, and at any step of the way, you can feel the laidback, relaxed “Hakuna Matata” vibe.
10 things to do in Stone Town, Zanzibar
Eat your heart out at Forodhani Gardens Food Market
As night falls, head to the seafront, where tens of tents with delicious food will lure you in.
Try some of the delicious local cuisines, from freshly caught seafood to pilau or biryani packed with spices, meats, and dried fruit. Take your food to go, and enjoy it by the sea, with the salty breeze in your hair.
Stay at a traditional hotel
When you choose to stay the night, go to one of the local Swahili traditional hotels mentioned above, you won’t regret it.
Go on a stroll on the alleys of Stone Town
That’s the best way to experience the city.
We went on a Stone Town walking tour with a guide and learned a lot about the local traditions and history.
Learn about sultans at the Palace Museum
Built back in the 19th century, as the residence for the Sultan’s family, that years later has been transformed into a museum.
See the Freddie Mercury House
I must be honest and say finding out that Freddy Mercury’s birthplace is in Zanzibar was news for me at the visit to the island.
While there isn’t much to see but a two-window display honoring the famous artist, this cannot miss any list of things to do in Stone Town.
Shop at Darajani Bazaar
The unofficial heart of Stone Town, the market is where you can experience the authentic life in Zanzibar.
Countless types of fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish are on display waiting for you to negotiate for them with their sellers. If however, you cannot handle the strong smells at the meat and fish market, head directly to the area where they sell spices.
Changuu Island (Prison Island)
Easily reached by a small boat from the harbor in Zanzibar’s capital, Changuu Island, also known as Prison Island should be on anyone’s list of things to do in Stone Town.
The island that has once served as a starting point for those sold as slaves in the West, has now been turned into a sanctuary for giant turtles. They have been received over one hundred years ago from the British Governor of Seychelles.
Additionally, the water surrounding the island is one of the bluest I’ve seen, and the small beaches are stunningly beautiful.
Visit the Old Fort
Dating from the 17th century, built on the original Portuguese fort, today this is the cultural heart of Stone Town.
Everything linked to culture from music, fashion, movie festivals takes place here every year. Additionally, here is where you can come shop for souvenirs to bring home, and even get some traditional henna tattoos done by local women.
Spend some time at the beach
While you won’t come to Stone Town for the beach, with so many other dreamy destinations for this, spending a few hours by the sea is always a good idea.
Mingle with the locals, watch them dance, feel the breeze in your hair, take pictures with the colorful fishing boats, and simply relax.
Admire the famous Zanzibari doors
These ornate wooden doors, some dating back hundreds of years, are unique to Stone Town. They feature intricate carvings depicting scenes from local folklore or religious beliefs. The best ones are at the Old Fort, St Augustine’s Anglican Cathedral, the House of Wonders Museum, and the Slave Lodge.
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