If you’re planning a holiday to Zanzibar (and you can start the planning by searching for flights on Cheapflights.co.za), it can be tempting to head straight to the island’s stunning coast. But don’t miss the chance to visit Stone Town on your way. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most historical part of the island’s capital, Zanzibar City, and is packed with culture, offering an intriguing peek into Zanzibar’s past. Here’s how to spend 24 hours in Stone Town, uncovering its unmissable sights.Search for flights to Zanzibar
Taste the local coffee and spices
Ease into your day at the Zanzibar Coffee House, a 19th-century Arabic style building which serves, arguably, the best barista style coffee in Stone Town. Choose from a long list of delicious coffees (the Tanzanian-grown coffee beans are roasted on site) and pair it with one of their delicious home-baked pastries. Grab a seat by the window or in the light-filled indoor courtyard where the coffee-roasting machinery is displayed behind a glass wall. Afterwards, take a two-minute walk to the House of Spices to pick up some herbal teas and spice-infused gifts.
Visit Darajani Market
A short walk from here leads you to Darajani Market, a place that’s packed with all sorts of sights, smells and noises, offering a real flavour of local Zanzibari life. Immerse yourself in the crowds and discover the stalls of fruit, vegetables, meat, fabrics, nuts and of course, spices (which you’ll get at a cheap price). It’s also worth going to watch the morning fish auction.
Visit the Old Fort
Head to the waterfront to see the Old Fort. This 17th -century structure, known for its striking ramparts and open-air theatre, was built by Omani Arab rulers to defend against the Portuguese. You can walk around the fortification and find market stalls and art exhibitions. It’s worth stopping next door to see the House of Wonders, the former palace of Sultan Barghash and take a five-minute walk to the Old Dispensary at the dock, a former hospital known for its beautiful latticework balconies and sculpted clock tower.
Shop for souvenirs
A walk up Kenyatta Road will lead you to Stone Town’s main souvenir shops and boutiques. To explore the authentic ‘bazaar’, head down Gizenga Street where vendors will enthusiastically show you their stalls and shops packed with African masks and beads, Swahili-style wood carvings and other curios.
Have lunch at Lukmaan Restaurant
For lunch, head to Lukmaan Restaurant on New Mkunazini Road. You’ll spot this open-air eatery when you see the long queues of locals spilling out of the door. Grab a tray and move along the queue as staff serve you various local specialities – such as biryani, fragrant curries, and boiled kingfish – cafeteria-style. The bonus is it’s cheap too.
Visit the East Africa Slave Trade Exhibit
After lunch, spend an hour or so exploring the East Africa Slave Trade Exhibit, located a few minutes’ walk away from Lukmaan Restaurant. The exhibit tells some harrowing stories, but it offers an important lesson on the island’s slave trade past. In the same area, you can see the Anglican Cathedral, underground chamber where slaves were kept and sold, and a poignant monument in memory of the people who lost their lives.
Go for a sundowner at Africa House
The rooftop bar at Africa House Hotel has some of the best sunset views in Stone Town. So, get there early for the best seats, order a cocktail and watch the sun sink into the Indian Ocean. You’ll also be kept entertained by the local guys who perform acrobatics on the beach.
Go on a ‘Taste Safari’ at the Emerson Spice Hotel
Take a 10-minute walk to the Emerson Spice Hotel on Tharia Street, one of the most photographed buildings in Stone Town. A former merchant’s house, it was owned by the last Swahili ruler of Zanzibar and has been beautifully restored. Book ahead for a place on the ‘Taste Safari’ Degustation Menu at the rooftop Tea House Restaurant. You’ll tuck into plates of freshly-caught seafood and authentic Zanzibari food. The views from up here are fantastic.
Day 2 – Morning
Have breakfast at Stone Town Cafe
Enjoy your last morning with a nourishing breakfast at the Stone Town Cafe – you can’t beat the avocado on toast they serve here. Order it with a cup of spicy Masala tea, which feels particularly ceremonial when it’s poured from a beautiful copper pot.
Shoot the breeze at Jaws Corner
Aptly named after the cartoon-like mural on the wall, Jaws Corner is a small courtyard where five of Stone Town’s streets meet. It’s also where locals gather to have a chat, sip on Arabic coffee and play dominoes and Bao, a traditional East African board game. It’s an interesting place to take five and watch the world go by.
Get a spa treatment at Singo Spa
Before your 24 hours in Stone Town is up, treat yourself to a spa treatment using the island’s indigenous plants and herbs. Ask for the Singo Scrub at Mrembo Spa on Cathedral Street, a detoxifying treatment traditionally used on Swahili brides. You’ll leave Stone Town feeling relaxed and renewed.