What not to miss when in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Things to do in Zanzibar

The island of Zanzibar is a must visit in Tanzania if one wants to enjoy the nature’s best-kept secrets. Located in the Indian Ocean about 25 km away from the mainland Tanzania, Zanzibar is an archipelago which is a magical combination of pristine blue beaches and beguiling history. While one can head to Nungwi, Kendwa, Pongwe etc, to enjoy the gorgeous beaches located around the Island, to explore the history and culture one can visit the Stone Town.

Related post: How to plan a trip to Tanzania

Stone Town

Things to do in Zanzibar

Things to do in Zanzibar
Floating house on the shores of Zanzibar

Stone Town, which is one of the oldest functioning towns of East Africa is an eclectic mix of Swahili, Arabic, European and Indian cultures. Once served as the Seat of Sultanate of Oman, Zanzibar thrived as a center for trade mostly spices and slaves. The town still boasts of the rich architecture and culture in its old houses and bazaars, and hence it was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000. When I was planning my trip to Stone Town, I was a bit overwhelmed and excited about all the interesting places I across. I had about 2 days in this historic town and I wanted to do the most of it. However, during my stay the heat was a bit too much for me, I had to cancel out a couple of activities and take it easy on the touring. But that is not to say, I wouldn’t want you guys to miss out on all the amazing places and activities. Hence this post is solely dedicated to all things you cannot miss while in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

Stroll through narrow streets and alleys

Things to do in Zanzibar
Details on the windows
Things to do in Zanzibar
Narrow alleyways

Stone Town is a beautiful maze of narrow alleyways, which will give you a glimpse into the rich Zanzibari architecture. Admire the traditional houses, that still boasts the beautiful masterwork in the eye-catching wooden balconies and fancy doors. Get lost in time as you walk around these old streets, admiring the historic buildings, getting a peek into the local life.

Things to do in Zanzibar
Pretty details everywhere!

 

Savor the traditional Swahili cuisine

Things to do in Zanzibar
Uroja Soup

Just like the inherent culture, the Swahili cuisine is a delectable blend of Indian, Arab and British flavors. My personal favorite and also a famous dish among the locals is the Uroja Soup, which is a delicious concoction flour, raw mango, coconut milk and local spices.

Related post:A vegetarian delight in Tanzania

Watching the Sunset at the Africa House Hotel

Things to do in Zanzibar

Stone Town is blessed with several restaurants offering the panoramic view of the sunset across the Indian Ocean. But I would highly recommend the rooftop restaurant at the Africa House Hotel as the view here is utterly gorgeous. Admire the golden hour as you sip on a cocktail, watching the sun glisten across the ocean, saying its goodbye for the day.

Forodhani garden and Zanzibari Pizza

Things to do in Zanzibar

Things to do in Zanzibar
Zanzibar Pizza in the making

As the sunsets, the Forodhani Garden located near the Old Fort lits up with street vendors selling local delicacies. Although there was a wide range of food stalls, being a vegetarian I choose just to have the famous Zanzibari Pizza, which technically is a rice crepe with fillings like mango, Nutella etc.

The famous doors of Zanzibar

Things to do in Zanzibar

The famous doors of Zanzibar might not go unnoticed by any person strolling through the streets of Stone Town. The elaborately designed doors are a prominent part of the Zanzibari house as it signifies the house owner’s occupation, social status etc. The two distinct types of doors one might find are the arched tops of the Indian owners and rectangular doorway of the Arab house. The distinctly rich wooden carvings on the doors are the crowning glory of the Stone Town’s historic art and architecture. 

Things to do in Zanzibar

Explore the Palace Museum

Famously known as the ‘Sultan’s Palace’, the Palace Museum is a treasure of historic artifacts and collectibles from the Royal household of the Sultanate of Oman. One of the interesting aspects of the Museum is the memorabilia of Princess Salme, who fell in love with a German Merchant and fled the Island to marry him. 

The Old Dispensary and the House of Wonders

Things to do in Zanzibar
Old Dispensary

The Old Dispensary is one of the finest buildings in Stone Town which was originally built by an Indian businessman as a hospital for underprivileged. It has very striking and vibrant balconies and stained glass windows.

Things to do in Zanzibar
House of Wonders

The House of Wonders is a historic landmark of Stone Town, located right opposite the waterfront. The building which was once the residence of the Sultan was one of the first to have electricity and an elevator in the Island. The House of Wonders is currently a museum solely dedicated to Swahili culture.

Half day trip to Prison Island

Things to do in Zanzibar

Take a 30-minute boat ride to the famous Prison Island, which was served as the punishment place for slaves and a quarantine zone for yellow fever patients. The island currently is home to the Giant Tortoises which was brought originally from Seychelles Island.

Explore the Old Fort

Built in the 17th Century by the Omanis to protect themselves from European invasion, the Old Fort is a stone fortress near the waterfront. Currently, the fort houses cultural activities like dance and music shows in the courtyard.

Bird’s eye view of the town at the Emerson Spice

Things to do in Zanzibar
View from top of Teahouse Restaurant
Things to do in Zanzibar
The Tea House Rooftop Restaurant at the Emerson Spice Hotel was my favorite in Stone Town, not only for the delicious food they served but also for the bird’s eye view of the historic Stone Town.
Things to do in Zanzibar
Date Honey milkshake

The Slave Market

The Island of Zanzibar was once the center for the slave trade in East Africa. As a memorial for the slaves, Anglican Cathedral was built in the location that was formerly the largest slave market of the Island. Take a tour of the slavery museum which is located next to Cathedral to get a better understanding of the hardships and history of slaves.

Escape to the exotic beaches

To relax and unwind after the tour of the historic town, hit the beach and swim in the azure blue sea. You can also book a scuba diving or snorkeling adventure to explore the spectacular sea life. Mnemba Atoll is one of the most favored locations in the Island and one that boasts of rich marine life.

Related post: Some beach time in Nungwi, Zanzibar

Hope you guys enjoyed my guide for things to do in Stone Town. If you have any more must-do activities in Stone Town then do share in the comment box below. Also, share and subscribe for future updates

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21 thoughts on “What not to miss when in Stone Town, Zanzibar”

  • I loved strolling the narrow lanes at Stone Town, and observing those beautiful doors too! The architecture in Zanzibar reminds me a lot of Arabian architecture and when I saw that, I researched it only to find out that Zanzibar was actually a part of Oman until some years ago. No wonder 🙂 I also did the sunset from Africa House Hotel’s terrace bar, it was beautiful!

  • Zanzibar looks like a quaint little town. Loved the little lanes and the hoses lining it. But what I found most interesting is the prison island and the slave target.

  • I kinda was guessing what Prison Island means, so from the name itself is where punishments for slaves were brought. That was interesting tho, that it also became a home for big tortoises. I have not personally seen a giant one and I would love to, maybe here. I would not also miss the soup here that contains coconut milk! It is one of my favourites! But since I’m a beach lover, I’d indulge myself in the exotic beaches! Something that I put on my list, first and foremost! haha great list tho! All in one!

  • Wow what a great find. Stone Town is such a mix of architecture and culture as you rightly said and it can clearly be seen in the buildings and food I would live to visit this place. The swahili cuisine looks interesting and the sunsets over the Indian Ocean is stunning. Thanks fir sharing a great post n

  • Wow. This is incredible. Zanzibar was never on my list, but I’m thinking I’m going to have to visit. I love that the cuisine is a mix of Indian, British and Arab cuisines – that sounds so good! I also love all the colors and patterns in the pillows – lol, I want those for my house!

    Is the Uroja soup savory or sweet?

  • Zanzibar looks so beautiful, I wish I made the journey here when I was in Tanzania. The old dispensary is very striking, and I’m intrigued to try a Zanzibar pizza too. The beaches look stunning, and the views a dream!

  • Such an alluring place, your pictures are amazing. One of my friends visited last year and she was all praises about Zanzibar. The architecture of the houses are simple yet elegant, i would want to go there someday. How was the Slave museum experience?

  • You’re right – Zanzibar is a secret destination! Thank you for ideas on what to see. And you captured those doors magnificently!

  • Trying the local cuisine is always my favourite thing to do when visiting a foreign destination! Swahili cuisine sounds very interesting. To have Indian, Arab and British flavors all in one dish? That must be quite a treat!

  • Lovely! I was invited to a friend’s wedding in Zanzibar last year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go, but I told the couple that I would come to visit them soon! It could be this year! It really looks beautiful there.

  • So nice to see Zanzibar here. The architecture and those doors looks so charming.
    Nice learning about the food also. That soup sure sounds delicious. 🙂

  • Zanzibar —first time I’ve heard of the place was through a video game called Metal Gear. We would love to visit here. The old architecture and buildings of Stone Town have a certain charm to it.

  • Zanziabar in general looks amazing and Stone Town looks beautiful and also enriched in culture. I would love to try the local cuisine – it sounds like such an interesting mix of flavours, I think I would really love it! Would love to visit. And watch beautiful sunsets every night!

  • Vivid description yet crisp. India and aftica had had a long history of comnercial exhanges, of exotics spices and slaves and scholars. Even today there are remains of sidi african sultans’ tombs in maharashtra. Sidi and babi dynasty. so next year definetely visit this stone city which is replete with history. Thanks to gift such a beautiful article

  • My husband was posted in Tanzania for few months and he had told me about Stone Town. Though I wanted to see Zanzibar, I actually missed the opportunity to go there.
    Now I know what a loss. This looks just like a place that I would have loved. Slow and easy, quaint lanes, Zanzibari architecture and so much history. makes it a must visit.

  • Stone Town in Zanzibar looks and sounds very interesting, and so interesting to learn that it is the oldest functioning towns of East Africa, with such a diverse influence from a range of different cultures. The famous door from a Zanzibari house looks divine – I am loving how grand it looks…ohh imagine if the walls could talk! The birds eye view from the Tea House Rooftop Restaurant sounds and looks interesting – I totally would love to enjoy a meal and drink, while enjoying the amazing view that surrounds.

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