Discover The Unexpected

Top Things To See & Do In Stone Town, Zanzibar

Stone Town isn’t your typical African town; it is a celebrated area where you can wander for hours through a maze of narrow streets and architectural angle, easily losing yourself in centuries of history. It is a sensory experience not to be found anywhere else in the world as each twist and turn brings something new — a Persian bathhouse, a former palace, exquisite gardens, or even a coral-stone mansion with ornately-carved doors and high-reaching balconies… all of it hugging the Indian Ocean. Once you arrive, you can tell almost immediately that Stone Town has stories to tell!

Also known in Swahili as Mji Mkongwe, which means ‘Old Town’, Stone Town is the oldest part of Zanzibar and was constructed from coral stones between the 19th and 20th century. In the year 2000, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which uplifted the image of the historical city, made famous for its rich cultural heritage of Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and now African elements. Since the entire historical part of the town is protected, visitors can really walk in the same environment that the sultans of old once did. Here are the top things to do and see in the area:

FORODHANI GARDENS

Set right on the coast of the Indian Ocean, Forodhani Gardens is a social hub for tourists and locals alike. Originally laid out in 1936 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Khalifa, the gardens offer a wonderful food market every night where several food alfresco stalls serve up a delicious selection of local Zanzibar cuisine. You can eat your heart out for a few dollars here — from the famous Zanzibar pizza to fresh seafood, meat kebabs, chunky sweet potato, coconut bread, garlic chapati, grilled cassava, and even amazing fresh fruit selections. The beautiful ocean breeze gives off a relaxed ambiance and there is even a children’s play park to enhance the fun. Be sure to stop by after dark and spend a charming evening in these fine gardens.

THE OLD FORT (NGOME KONGWE)

This structure is especially notable for its impressive architecture and history. With its pale-orange ramparts overlooking Forodhani Gardens and the ocean beyond, the fort was constructed in the late 17th century on top of an even older building and was used as a means of defense against the occupying Portuguese forces. In the 19th century, it became a prison and then became a ladies’ tennis club just before the 1964 Revolution. Today, the scale of the fortifications is still impressive and if you’re lucky, you may catch a live performance on the 400-year-old amphitheater inside the fort. Visitors may enter the fort for free and explore the towers and battlements, as well as the art gallery, curio market, and a pleasant cafe that turns into a bar in the evening.

HOUSE OF WONDERS

stone town

(c) http://world-adventurer.com
Unofficially known as the House of Wonders, the National Museum of Stone Town is located right on the seafront. It is the tallest and largest building in Stone Town and was built for ceremonial purposes by Sultan Barghash in 1883. This landmark structure rises in impressive tiers of slender steel pillars and balconies overlooking the waterfront. It includes a clock tower and some enormous carved doors, which are said to be the largest in East Africa as they were built so wide for the sultan to pass through on an elephant. In its heyday, the House of Wonders was likened to a David Copperfield chamber because it was the first house in Zanzibar to have electricity, running water and an elevator. Sadly, a large section of the balcony collapsed in 2012 so the building’s interior is closed to the public pending the completion of renovation efforts, but the exterior is a monumental sight in its own right.

DARAJANI BAZAAR

This is the hub of Stone Town’s commerce where traders sell a wide range of groceries, pans and traditional kangas to fresh fish, meat, and other local produce from all over Zanzibar. Taking place every afternoon, several stands also sell items that make perfect souvenirs to take home as mementos of your time in here Stone Town. If you’re up for it, a trip to the fish aisle is a great local experience that always attracts plenty of action as the locals bargain and barter for the best fish prices amidst a competitive atmosphere of banter and bravado! You can also buy tons of food here for just a few dollars as there are several stalls displaying some of Zanzibar’s finest spices, freshly baked bread, fruits and vegetables all beautifully arranged in neatly stacked piles. The best time to head there is around 5 pm, when the evening traders begin setting up for the busy night ahead at the same time as the closing day traders are closing for the day, resulting in an exciting riot of noise and color.

THE OLD DISPENSARY

This impressive four-story building with green ornate balconies and a sculpted clock tower was first built as a dispensary during colonial times in the 19th century. It is one of the most attractive landmarks on the waterfront and boasts a rather long and interesting history. The Old Dispensary was commissioned by an affluent Ismaili Indian, Tharia Topan, who also acted as financial adviser to the sultan at the time. It served as a charitable hospitable for the poor before housing a couple of apartments, and has now become the town’s cultural center with its own restaurant along with several offices and shops. In fact, there’s a hookah bar on the second floor for those looking to bask in the town’s the nightlife as they overlook the beautiful scenery unfolding from the ferry terminal and the waterfront. Entrance is free so be sure not to miss this symbol of multicultural Zanzibari architecture in your travels to Stone Town.

CHANGUU ISLAND

stone town

Also known as Prison Island, Changuu is a 20 to 30-minute boat ride away from Stone Town. It is home to dozens of rare Aldabra giant tortoises (thought to have been brought to Zanzibar from Seychelles and weighing an average of 200 kg), some of which are over 150 years old. There will be a chance to touch and take photos of the tortoises along with the colony of beautiful peacocks that inhabit the island. Back in the days, the prison was built to house violent prisoners and sick people from the mainland. Today, however, Changuu’s sandy white beaches, crystal clear waters, and the surrounding reefs make for a great snorkeling adventure. Visitors also have the opportunity to see some of the former cells that housed prisoners back in the 19th century. The view of the island is pretty amazing so if you’d rather not indulge in the tours, you can simply relax under the warm glow of the sun, until you head back to Stone Town.

HAMAMNI PERSIAN BATH

Commissioned by Sultan Barghash bin Said between 1870 and 1888, the Hamamni Persian Baths were the first public baths in Zanzibar. ‘Hamamni’ means ‘the place of baths,’ and it was called ‘Persian’ because it was built by Shirazi (Persian) architects. Given the high entrance fees, however, the baths were only accessible to the wealthy and were used as such until 1920. Although they are no longer in use as the tubs are all dried up and could use some serious restoration work, you can still peer through their gates and try to picture the social elite gossiping and bathing in a steamy setting, hundreds of years ago.

ZANZIBAR COFFEE HOUSE

No adventure is complete without your daily dose of caffeine and the Zanzibar Coffee House delivers beautifully. This is not some instant coffee-flavored powder mixed quickly with boiling water, but an authentic African brewed coffee made from roasted coffee beans directly from the plantations in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. As the home of the best coffee in Zanzibar and set in the heart of Stone Town, the Zanzibar Coffee House evokes the nostalgic feeling of lost Arabian Nights. The Coffee House have their own professionally trained baristas who not only provide amazing varieties of coffee, but also assortments of freshly baked confectionaries and savory sandwiches. If your wallet agrees, head on up to the roof terrace to take in the view of the town as you indulge in a delicious breakfast or brunch.

OTHER NOTABLE MENTIONS

  • St. Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral
  • Malindi Mosque
  • Palace Museum
  • Princess Salme Museum

HOW TO GET TO STONE TOWN

THERE ARE TWO MAJOR WAYS TO GET TO STONE TOWN:

By Plane — The airport in Zanzibar is connected to the major tourist destinations on the mainland via scheduled flights. If you are coming in from Kenya, the principal carrier is Kenya Airways, with a transit stop in Nairobi. Direct international flights to Zanzibar are rare as they usually stop in Dar es Salaam.

By Ferry — There are several sea ferry companies plying the waters between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar every day. Keep in mind that some of these companies only accept dollars, pounds, or euros so be sure to have some cash in hand.

GETTING AROUND STONE TOWN

stone town

The taxi ride from the airport to Stone Town is only around 10 km away and is pretty straightforward. Of course, if you already made arrangements with a hotel, then they will arrange your transfer direct from the airport and even around the island. Once you are in Stone Town, you will hardly need taxis, since the sights are usually within walking distance of the recommended hotels and lodges.

WHEN TO GO

Zanzibar is a year-round destination, but the peak season runs from December through February. The so-called rainy season is from April to June, but you can still expect some showers regardless of the season, even though they never last long.

Categories

Tags

Related Articles

Check Out These Tours For You!

See What Our Clients Have to Say

LoveTravel259094
LoveTravel259094
August 8, 2023
Asante Gosheni and espacially Hassan Nous tenons à recommander Hassan car nous venons de passer un séjour mémorable avec lui. Grâce à son expérience, sa connaissance parfaite du monde animal et des parcs, Hassan nous a permis de voir de nombreux animaux en étant extrêmement bien placé.
Bien évidemment les big five (même le rhinocéros!), la traversée de la rivière par les gnous et bien d'autres animaux.
En faisant un safari avec Hassan vous trouverez tout ce que vous êtes venus chercher.
A l'avenir si nous décidons de refaire un safari, nous voudrions repartir avec Hassan.
Myriam D
Myriam D
August 8, 2023
Hassan is the best guide !!!! Nous avons eu la chance de faire un safari de 8 jours dans les parcs nationaux du nord de la Tanzanie avec Hassan comme guide. Hassan est un guide très expérimenté.
Grâce à lui et sa grande expérience nous avons découvert et appris énormément de choses sur la Tanzanie, les animaux, les végétaux etc. Hassan est un véritable passionné qui aime transmettre son savoir.
En plus de ses connaissances, Hassan a un véritable œil de lynx et sais débusquer le moindre animal caché.
Grâce à Hassan nous avons eu la chance de voir beaucoup d’animaux et tous ceux du « Big Five ».
Parmi tous les véhicules présents lors des safaris, Hassan sait se frayer un chemin pour nous permettre d’avoir toujours le meilleur point de vue.
Hassan sait où se placer pour nous permettre d’avoir une vue sans égal sur les animaux, en les observant de très près.
Hassan est également un excellent conducteur. La route n’a aucun secret pour lui.
C’est également un guide très attentionné, toujours aux petits soins pour nous et d’une extrême gentillesse.
Nous recommandons Hassan les yeux fermés et si nous devions refaire un safari, nous demanderons d’être guidés par Hassan sans hésitation.
Merci encore à Hassan pour ces merveilleux moments qui resterons gravés dans notre mémoire !!
bonny l
bonny l
August 6, 2023
amazing Safari experience wiz gosheni nice trip wiz our amazing guide Samir We saw all the wild animals during Safari
thx a lot for the thoughtful and excellent service
highly recommend
FENG Y
FENG Y
August 6, 2023
愉快的非洲之旅 幸运的选择了gosheni Safari,我们的向导samir服务非常好,小朋友们都很喜欢他,非洲五霸除了犀牛没有看到外,其他都替我们找到了,寻找动物经验丰富,在超远的地方就能看到目标。可以在众多的车子中抢到一个很好的观赏位,办事灵活。
Vladimir T
Vladimir T
August 6, 2023
Great experience! Great experience! Starting from the trip planning the communications were very clear and smooth to organize the tour and select itinerary. In the end we opted for 5 days/4 nights route including the Tarangire, Serengeti and Lake Manyara nations parks as well as a visit to the Ngorongoro crater. The tour itself was excellent and very punctual, here kudos to our guide Wilson who is very experienced and knowledgeable about his job and also went well beyond his duty and gave us a nice summary of country’s history. It was really a pleasure to spend time with him and we managed to see the big 5:) Accommodations were superb: great camps, an amazing farmhouse close to Ngorongoro, meals were also good and picnic lunches well organized.
In summary the experience was highly satisfying, I sincerely recommend Gosheni Safaris and to ask for Wilson as a guide.
Allison B
Allison B
August 5, 2023
Great Taste of Tanzania Had a great 5-day tour. Our guide James was very dedicated to making sure we saw amazing sights. He asked us our favorite animals to see and made it his mission to help us spot them. The food was good, the lodging was very pleasant, and enjoying a glass of wine on lunches was a nice touch. Favorite lodging was definitely the Farmhouse by Ngorongoro. Beautiful landscapes along the entire tour, covered a lot of ground and got a great introduction to Tanzania.
Sukhraj S
Sukhraj S
August 5, 2023
Gosheni number 1 What an unforgettable 6 days, courtesy of Gosheni Safari and our guide/driver Zadock!!!
I booked this holiday back in 2020 but then had to cancel due to Covid. That was after a lot of research of tour companies and finally picking Ghosheni. The time was right to get this once in a lifetime trip set up again, so working via email with William at Gosheni we compiled the agenda…he was so helpful and we settled on one day in Tarangire, one day in Lake Manyara, three days in Serengeti and one day in Ngorongoro Crater…I’m now on the way to Zanzibar after an amazing experience, Gosheni took care of the whole package for my wife, three teenage sons and I.

Our guide and driver was Zadock, a humble, honest, genuine, proud and generous man. He did absolutely everything for us, answered every question and took us to all the places to see the big five up close, hunts and more.

The food was served every lunch time as a picnic, with plates, blanket, wtc whilst others had lunch boxes. The Jeep was cleaned daily, and was extremely comfortable along the difficult rough terrain…a credit to Zadock.

Zadock had so much knowledge not only of the animal kingdom’s hundreds of species but also the history of Tanzania, Africa, politics, and social customs, we felt as though he was part of our family.

Thankyou Zadock and Gosheni, I very rarely write reviews after holidays and I have travelled extensively around the world, but these guys are special and have made this so memorable for my family and I….I recommend to everyone if you are unsure about who, how, what, these guys will sort out the whole trip and at a very reasonable price.

Well done William, Gosheni and Zadock, and I really hope you get to be recognised as the number one tour company in Tanzania!
Eric W
Eric W
August 4, 2023
Extraordinary Safari with Gosheni I am so glad to have Gosheni as our tour operator. They provide excellent service starting from arranging the tour till the end of our safari.
As our city had quarantine arrangement due to COVID-19, we were so worry about our trip. Luckily, Gosheni is so considerate and try their best endeavors to rearrange our scedule. With their assistance, everything is set and we feel comfortable for all of their kind arrangements.

During the safari, we have a terrific tour guide, Edward! He takes care of all the stuff and administration including liaison with hotels, lunch packing, other add-on safaris so that we can fully enjoy the trip.

Not only Edward spots a lot a lot of animals and birds for us, including the top 5 in the trip, he also introduces us the habitat and features of the animals and birds. We are very impressed by his rich knowledge and do enjoy listening the "stories" of the animals.

Edwward is definitely experienced and propose the best programme during the safari, e.g. he tries to maximise our time for the game drive in different locations and tribe visit. We fully trust his expertise and professionalism.

We are very happy with Edward and Gosheni. We will absolutely consider them in our next Africam safari.
Priyank S
Priyank S
August 4, 2023
Amazing Safari with Gosheni and Ombeni Our guide, Ombeni, was the best part of our trip. He is really knowledgeable, friendly, and we trusted his expertise for the whole 9 days across Tarangire, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro. We were lucky to see some amazing things on our game drives. Having grown up in Kenya, I have been lucky to go on many safaris, and this is one of the best I've been on.
The food was excellent, and even on the all-day game drives we had a cooked, sit-down meal for lunch which was a big plus point. All the accommodation was excellent as well.

We had a bespoke itinerary which we planned in advance with William from Gosheni, and he was extremely helpful in answering our questions and accommodating our requests.

I would highly recommend Gosheni and especially Ombeni for future travels.
Banu
Banu
August 4, 2023
Dreams come true!!! Thanks to best guide Hassani I have been dreaming Serengeti Safari tour for a long time and Gosheni Safaris made my dreams come true. We completed our 5 days safari at the end of July and it was wonderful. We visited Central Serengeti, North Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
The company is very professional from beginning to end. Peter the owner of Gosheni Safaris helped us a lot about planning our itinary. I asked too many questions and he replied all of them everytime. Sometimes he can be in the bush and has no internet connection but be sure he always will reply your questions. Just be sure that you are in safe hands and Hakuna Matata☺️

Our guide was Hassani who is a perfect guide, safari driver, friend and everything. He always did his best to show us as much as possible. We always felt safe and witnessed lots of amazing moments by help of Hassani. Beside being a perfect safari guide, he prepared very nice lunch tables every afternoon. He is very funny person and makes lots of jokes during the safari. I higly recommend Gosheni Safaris which is best one and Hassani who is a very good guide. I want to thank Hassani in person for making our safari perfect and looking forward to meet again🙏🏻

Tips: I recommend ‘Morning Hot air Balloon safari’.

Destinations

Experiences