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Looking for what to do in Stone Town Zanzibar?
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I visited Zanzibar and the UNESCO World Heritage site Stone Town on one of my solo female travel trips. You might wonder “Is Stone Town worth visiting?” My answer is Yes! Below you will find a collection of tried and tested ideas on places to visit in Stone Town Zanzibar.
💵 If you have been wondering “Was Anja paying with cash or card in Stone Town?”, you will find the answer hidden in the blog.
Stone Town, or Mji Mkongwe (“old town”) in Swahili, is the historical center of Zanzibar City, the capital of Zanzibar. Back in the day, it was the capital of Oman, a spice trade center, and a slave trading town.
It is known for its beautiful architecture, narrow alleys, and rich history which you can learn all about on a Stone Town walking tour. It is a perfect starting point for visiting Zanzibar beaches, Spice farm, and Prison Island on a day trip. Stown Town also offers opportunities for spice shopping and bargaining on markets. Here you can try amazing Zanzibari food and have the best cup of coffee.
There’s no shortage of amazing Stone Town Zanzibar things to do and the list of Stone Town Tanzania tourist attractions will help you plan your perfect Stone Town itinerary.
for FUN and INTERESTING facts:
• Zanzibar Quiz: How well do you know Zanzibar?
• 23 Fun facts about Zanzibar you probably didn’t know
for ITINERARY idea:
• HOW TO SPEND TWELVE DAYS IN ZANZIBAR: PERFECT ITINERARY
for Zanzibar TRAVEL TIPS:
• 15 Best Things To Do in Stone Town Zanzibar
• WHAT ARE THE BEST BEACHES TO STAY IN ZANZIBAR
• ZANZIBAR COST OF TRAVEL AND DETAILED BUDGET BREAKDOWN
• HOW TO BARGAIN ON YOUR TRAVELS: 17 ESSENTIAL BARGAINING TIPS
• 73+ Essential Swahili Travel Phrases for Travelers to East Africa + Free Download
for ACCOMMODATION suggestions:
• STAYING AT NEW TEDDY’S ON THE BEACH IN JAMBIANI, ZANZIBAR
• TOP 12 MOST AMAZING BEACH HOTELS IN JAMBIANI, ZANZIBAR
• 15 BEST PLACES TO STAY IN STONE TOWN, ZANZIBAR
for CAPTION IDEAS:
• 115 BEST ZANZIBAR CAPTIONS FOR INSTAGRAM – CUTE AND WANDERLUST
• 107 FANTASTIC PALM TREE CAPTIONS FOR INSTAGRAM – LAVISH AND STRONG
• 77 EPIC COCONUT CAPTIONS AND COCONUT PUNS – TROPICAL COCONUT BONANZA
• 77 BEAUTIFUL PINEAPPLE CAPTIONS FOR INSTAGRAM – SWEET AND JUICY
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• BEST WAYS OF TRACKING TRAVEL EXPENSES DURING A TRIP
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• 5 ULTIMATE REASONS WHY ARE HELICOPTER TOURS WORTH THE MONEY
• ULTIMATE TRAVELER SAFETY GUIDE: WHAT TO DO DURING AN EARTHQUAKE
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1. Is Stone Town worth visiting?
Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is located in the historic part of Zanzibar City, the capital of Zanzibar, on the southwest part of the Unguja island.
Stone Town was once one of the most prominent port towns in East Africa. It was established in the early 19th century, by Arabs as a trading town. For spices – thus the name Spice Island – and for slaves in East Africa.
Being a bustling trading town, meant that it was an important port of entry for a mix of cultures. From Arab and Persian to Indian and European cultures, which influence you can still find today. In diverse architecture, maze-like alleyways, intricate wooden doors, and vibrant markets, it’s a place that tells stories of centuries gone by.
With the town’s historical significance as a former capital of Oman, a spice trade hub, and a center for the transatlantic slave trade, Stone Town is an absolute must-visit place in Zanzibar. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a foodie, or an adventurer, Stone Town has it all.
2. List of best things to do in Stone Town
2.1. Have a meal at a rooftop restaurant
One of the unmissable things when visiting the historic part of Zanzibar City is dining in a rooftop restaurant in Stone Town.
I decided to elevate my dining experience in the morning and had an amazing breakfast and a cup of spiced coffee at Zanzibar Coffee House Cafe.
You can dine at the rooftop restaurant in Stone Town also for lunch or at dinner time. For the best ambiance go to top of Emerson Spice hotel and have tea at Emerson Tea House. You can have lunch at Swahili House, or enjoy dinner at Mizingani Seafront Hotel rooftop. There you can enjoy delicious Swahili cuisine and beautiful panoramic views of historic town and Indian Ocean.
For an even better experience, stay at a traditional Stone Town Swahili hotel and enyoj two of your meals on a rooftop!
• 15 Best Places to Stay in Stone Town Zanzibar
2.2. Take a photo in front of Freddie Mercury’s house
Queen’s iconic frontman, Freddie Mercury, was born in Zanzibar. He spent his childhood as Farrokh Bulsara in Stone Town.
His birthplace is a modest building in pale yellow. In front, there is an information board and photos of ‘his royal highness’. Visiting Zanzibar and Stone Town became more popular among Queen enthusiasts from all over the world after the Bohemian Rhapsody movie.
Inside the house, there is a rather small museum, with Freddie’s photos and souvenirs. I didn’t go inside and was happy just with shots from the outside of the building.
If you are a Queen music lover, you can spend the night in Freddie Mercury Apartments, or you can book a room at Tembo Palace hotel or Lost and Found and admire the building from across the road.
2.3. Get lost in Stone Town street maze
Stone Town is like a labyrinth. And getting lost in its maze of narrow, winding streets is an adventure in itself. I loved it. It is one of the must-do things in Stone Town and I highly recommend just walking and wandering the streets on your own.
This is all about finding the beauty of getting lost on purpose. Wonder the streets, amble through the narrow passages, admire the Zanzibari doors. Peek into tiny shops selling colorful fabrics, spices, and handcrafted trinkets.
Once you get the feeling of it, you can’t really get lost.
I enjoyed walking in the labyrinth streets of UNESCO World Heritage Site Stone Town even more, after taking a Stown town walking tour. Which is another thing that should be on the list of best things to do in Zanzibar City.
2.4. Sign up for a Stone Town walking tour
I’m not going to lie. I’m a tour guide and was a bit skeptical about having a private tour. But other solo travelers were telling me all about those tours in Jambiani, and then again in Nungwi, so I had to see it for myself. The praises were true. Stone town walking tour is worth it!
You can choose between a private Stone Town walking tour or a group tour. I had a private guide.
Walking Stone Town tour is the best way to learn about the Stone Town’s history and feel the culture in this UNESCO World Heritage site. The tour lasts from 2-3 hours and your travel guide will show you all of Stone Town Tanzania’s tourist attractions. Plus gives you a knowledgeable commentary about each of them.
You will learn about architecture, religion, spices, trades, families, and the history of Zanzibar’s vibrant past. You will learn about famous people living in Stone Town, hear some funny anecdotes, and get to know the best places to eat in Stone Town.
Tour will take you from the Freddie Mercury Museum, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, to Jaws Corner, formet slave market in Stone Town, to Darajani market, cemetery, Old dispensary and Hamamni Persian Baths, which were the first public baths in Zanzibar. However, you will not go past The Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA), the only music school in Zanzibar, located in the south of Stone Town.
Going on a Stone Town walking tour should be the first thing you do. Even if you are not a history fan.
2.5. Wander through the Old Fort
The Old Fort (Ngome Kongwe in Swahili) or Arab Fort, is a must-visit Stone Town Zanzibar attraction. It was built in the 17th century by the Omanis after they conquered the Portuguese. It is the oldest building in Stone Town.
Old Fort was constructed to protect Zanzibar from potential invaders, from the massive coral stones. In the past, it was used as a garrison, prison, and also as a tennis club.
There is no entrance fee and inside the fort, you can find locals selling their crafts and a cafe that turns into a bar in the evening.
Today the Old Fort is a cultural centre, a place for musical performances and a venue of Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), also known as Festival of the Dhow Countries.
Don’t leave the Old Fort without going up the walls, before continuing to the Hosue of Wonders (former Sultan’s Palace), next door, or Forodhani Gardens.
2.6. Try Zanzibari cuisine at Lukmaan Restaurant
Lukmaan restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Stone Town, Zanzibar. It serves traditional Zanzibari food and Swahili dishes. Meals are prepared with traditional recipes, ensuring you get the genuine taste of the island.
The restaurant is always busy and lively, so be prepared to wait for the table at peak times. Besides regular dishes, they offer many vegan and vegetarian options.
I loved eating there. I tried many juices, but my favorite was mango-avocado, and had tiger prawns, avocado salad and sweet potato. It was delicious with authentic flavors and reasonably priced.
Before or after having a meal at Lukmaan’s Restaurant, visit Old Slave Market and Anglican Cathedral, that are just a short walk away.
FRIENDLY REMINDER: I was warned by a local, that some people get ‘ripped off’ at Lukmaan’s. In many cases, this happens when the waiter offers a shared seafood platter. If you decide to go for it, check the price of the platter first,or be prepared for a really high bill.
2.7. Learn about the old Slave Market and Anglican Cathedral
Visiting Stone Town slave market Zanzibar is a sad and extremely dark part of Stone Town’s history. Slave market in Zanzibar (Tanzania), was the largest and last slave market in East Africa closed in 1873.
The major role in the abolition of slavery played Dr. Livingstone. He is famous for discovering the Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, and many African lakes.
There is a 10.000 TZS or ($5 USD) entrance fee and I recommend seeing the site with a guide! The visit was well worth it but it felt me a bit uneasy. Especially visiting the underground slave chambers.
The guide will show you the Christ Church Cathedral, an Anglican church, built directly on the site of the former slave market. You will walk to the Slave Market Memorial that honors more than 50.000 slaves sold from different parts of East Africa.
You will also visit the slave chambers, one for women and children and another for men, where they kept the slaves before they were sold. There is also The East African Slave Trade Exhibit (EASTE) where you can learn about slavery in Africa not that long ago.
2.8. Make a trip to Prison Island
Despite a dark slave trading history, Prison Island was not really a prison. It was built with the intention to be one, but it never really served that purpose.
The British constructed a prison complex on the Changuu island, but no prisoners were ever housed there. It was soon transformed into a main East Africa’s quarantine station, since the British were afraid of the spread of cholera, yellow fever and bubonic plague.
Travelers had to stay on the island from one to two weeks to get ‘clear’ of the yellow fever symptoms.
Today, the island is famed for being a tortoise sanctuary and home to the Aldabra giant tortoises. Aldabra Tortoises are originally from another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. They are the second largest tortoises in the world, weighing up to 200 kilos, and living up to 150 years.
Visiting Changuu Island is one of the must things to do in Zanzibar City. Prison Island tour is a perfect day trip from Stone Town offering an escape from the bustling streets of Mji Mkongwe. Here you can visit the old prison complex, meet the Aldabra tortoises, and have a swim in the Indian Ocean.
FUN FACT: The term Quarantine comes from Italian “quaranta giorni” meaning 40 days. It originates from the 14th century, from the time of the Great Plague. Before entering the city of Dubrovnik (at the time under Venetian rule), people had to be isolated for 40 days before entering the city.
2.9. Shop at Darajani Market
Exploring Darajani Market is a vibrant and lively part of the Stone Town experience. This bustling marketplace, full of different smells and sounds is located at the heart of the town. With fish auctions, spices, coffee, and food, this is a perfect opportunity to taste everyday life in Zanzibar city.
Much like Stone Town’s slave market history, Darajani Market bears its own historical significance as a hub for trading spices and other goods. You will come across an array of spices, fresh produce, textiles, and handcrafted souvenirs.
Do buy some spices and souvenirs but don’t forget to bargain for the price. I purchased everything vanilla, a lot of cinnamon, and spiced coffee.
FRIENDLY REMINDER: Don’t flash your valuables and keep your phone and wallet in a bag. Not in your pockets! Only keep a small amount of cash in your ‘shopping’ wallet.
2.10. Get new knowledge at Spice Farm
You can not leave Zanzibar aka Spice Island without the Spice Farm tour. You can add this olfactory adventure when going from or going to one of the best Zanzibar beaches. Or you can visit it on a Spice tour from Stone Town.
What makes a spice farm visit special is the opportunity to discover the origins of some of the world’s most sought-after spices. From vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg to cloves and cardamom, you’ll learn how these flavors are cultivated and harvested. You will be able to see, to smell, and to taste these fresh spices in their natural environment.
I visited a Spice farm on a guided tour. Guide provided insights into the traditional spice-growing techniques, how they use it in medicine and cooking, and the cultural significance of spices to Zanzibar.
2.11. Find stories behind the doors of Stone Town
Stone Town Zanzibar doors are the most famous icon of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
The oldest ones are dated to the 17th century and until today there are around 550 original Zanzibari doors in Stone Town.
Detailed Zanzibar doors are a legacy of the Stone Town being a trade city. A melting pot of different cultures and various architectural styles.
Doors were the first part of the building to be constructed, and the last part of the building standing. The doors also showcased the wealth of the family. Larger and more decorated doors showed higher social position and wealth.
Walking through Stone Town you can find two distinct door styles and doors that are a mix of both.
Arabic doors are square-shaped, have exquisitely detailed wooden carvings, and feature geometric and floral patterns that reflect the Islamic culture. They typically have elevated doorways. This meant a person had to ‘step over’ into/out of the house, which meant that the sanctity of the home was kept safe.
In contrast, the Indian doors have arches, inspired by Mughal architecture, and are often in vibrant colors. These doors may include brass spikes, that were used as protection against elephants that roamed the town (in India). There were no elephants in Stone Town and those brass knobs were only used as an aesthetic feature.
Taking photos of doors and finding the most beautiful door in Stone Town is one of the Stone Town Tanzania tourist attractions. Just like taking photos of the doors in Valletta in Malta.
2.12. People watch at the Jaws corner
Jaws Corner in Stone Town is a somewhat small square, affectionately named after its resident tea vendors, is a hub of local life and an ideal spot for a bit of people-watching.
What makes Jaws Corner special is the captivating blend of culture, community, and caffeine. Locals and travelers come here for a sip of coffee or spiced tea. They are catching up with the news or playing card games.
It is a perfect square filled with chatter and voice noises. To get the latest info about what is going on, there is also a telephone with a sign to make free international calls.
2.13. Bargain for souvenirs
No visit to Stone Town or Zanzibar would be complete without a bit of bargaining for souvenirs. What to buy in Stone town? You will find markets, shops and souvenir stalls filled with wooden animals, jewelry and spices. Haggling with local vendors is expected and is more than just about getting the best deal.
Bargaining is part of their culture, their tradition, and by not doing it you will actually offend them. Do it respectfully. Smile, ask for a lower price and meet the vendor somewhere in the middle. It’s about the experience.
If you are afraid to bargain for price, follow these simple bargaining tricks and tips. But if you really can’t make yourself do it, visit Memories shop. It is up the street from Freddie Mercury house and all the items inside have a fixed price.
💵 “Was Anja paying with cash or card in Stone Town?” With cash.
2.14. Eat at Forodhani Gardens food market
Forodhani Gardens is a beautiful waterfront park that comes to life in the evening with street food vendors serving local delicacies of Zanzibari cuisine. You just have to try Zanzibar pizza, fruit salads, seafood skewers, and sugar cane juice.
Visiting Forodhani food market is one of the best things to do in Stone Town Zanzibar at night. The market comes alive. You can walk around the different vendors, and choose the dishes you would like to try.
I tried roasted corn, coconut bread, grilled octopus, sweet potatoes and washed everything down with 3 different freshly squeezed fruit juices. And then I was too full to try anything else.
Forodhani Gardens market is a perfect place to try different Swahili dishes at affordable prices. So trust me and come here hungry. There are no tables but eating next to the Indian Ocean makes it even more special.
2.15. Watch Sunset from the sunset bar
Zanzibar has some of the most beautiful sunsets. And the ones in Stone Town are almost as beautiful as the ones in Nungwi or Kendwa.
For the best sunset viewing spot in Stone Town, go to the 6° South Bar or to The Sunset Bar at Africa House Hotel. Both are located right on the beach and offer a front-row seat to Stone Town beach to watch the sun set into the Indian Ocean.
The 6° South Restaurant is one of the must-visit Zanzibar restaurants. It has a relaxed atmosphere and comfortable seating to create the perfect setting to unwind and finish your day in the Zanzibar capital. They have drinks and food menu, so you can order small bites while drinking your favorite wine or cocktail.
I was spending my last night drinking Hakuna Matata with cashews and peanuts followed by a tropical chicken salad.
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3. Final thoughts on the best things to do in Stone Town Zanzibar
Stone Town is the definition of Tanzania’s hidden gem.
I hope Stone Town Tanzania tourist attractions mentioned above, gave you some ideas on what to do in Stone Town and convinced you that Stone Town is worth visiting.
This UNESCO World Heritage site offers something for everyone. History and architecture, aromatic spice markets and bargaining for souvenirs. It is a destination for music lovers, budget travelers, luxury travelers, history enthusiasts, foodies and adventurous travelers. It is safe to wander the narrow Stone Town streets as a solo female traveler, as a couple on their honeymoon, or as a family.
To experience the town even better, book your stay at one of the best Stone Town hotels. Don’t forget to go on a guided walking tour to learn all about the town’s history and culture, or sign up for the day trip to Nakupenda, Prison Island, or visit a Spice farm.
And while Stone Town will undoubtedly leave a mark on your Spice Island trip, don’t forget to explore other popular things to do in Zanzibar. Beaches, Red Colobus Monkeys, Dhow boats and meeting a Maasai.
May every Stone Town step be an adventure,
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Is Stone Town Zanzibar worth visiting?
Stone Town in Zanzibar is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit. It has a rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture. Explore its maze-like alleys, intricate wooden doors, go on a day trip to Prison Island and Spice Farm, and enjoy local cuisine at the Forodhani Gardens food market. Stone Town is a must in every Zanzibar itinerary, whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or adventurer.
What is Stone Town known for?
Stone Town is known for its rich history, being the birthplace of Farukh Bulsara or Freddie Mercury, UNESCO World Heritage status, intricate wooden doors, and being a major trading town for spices and slaves, combining Arab, Persian, Indian, and European influences.
What to wear in Stone Town?
In Stone Town, just like Zanzibar, the majority of the population practices Islam religion. Thus, it is advisable to dress modestly, out of respect for the local culture. Since this is the tropics, bring light, breathable clothing that covers shoulders and knees, especially when visiting mosques or walking in the narrow streets of Stone Town. Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes for exploring the narrow streets.
What are the best things to do in Stone Town Zanzibar?
There are many things to do in Stone Town Zanzibar, with must-do activities like exploring the Old Slave Market, bargaining for spices at Darajani Market, visiting the Old Fort, taking photos in front of Freddie Mercury Museum, having a coffee at Jaws corner, finding meaning in the intricate wooden doors and tasting local cuisine at Forodhani Gardens food market in this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Is Stone Town safe for female solo travelers?
Stone Town is generally safe for female solo travelers and I felt very safe when visiting. It’s a welcoming destination, but it’s wise to take common-sense precautions. Dress modestly, respect local customs, and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t flash your money or valuables and use reliable accommodations and trustworthy tour guides for a secure and enjoyable visit.
❥ About Anja On Adventure
Anja On Adventure is a travel blog, a collection of insider tips and information on destinations, that I visited as a solo female traveler, tour guide, teacher, yacht stewardess, and Survivor challenge tester.
Anja, is a thirty-something adventure-seeking, sun chasing, beach hopping, gin-loving, tropics enthusiast with a creative mind and sarcastic spirit, who loves coconut and mango but doesn’t like chocolate and sweets. I am passionate about all things travel, maps, and puzzles. Click here to learn more About me.