Stone Town  : One of the few remaining ancient towns in Africa : Stone Town in Zanzibar is a melting of cultures and is one of the last remaining ancient towns in Africa, the town features a labyrinth of chaotic alleyways interposed between towering limestone houses with ornately carved arched hardwood doors with brass finishing and terracotta roofs.

The Town offers a rare cultural and historical insight into a former era of trade and exploration on the coast.

The Stone Town is a popular historical center of Zanzibar City and is the capital city of the Zanzibar Archipelago.

For over a millennium, the town was used as a primary trading center / post for spices, silk and slave trade routes. Stone Town has been a unique meeting place for people from different parts of the world for so many years blending African, Indian, Arabian and European Cultures.

Stone Town is one of the few remaining ancient towns in Africa and because of its beautiful and historical value it has been listed as a World Heritage Site.

Stone Town is visually beautiful with old colonial building and exquisitely curved Zanzibari doorways, during your visit in this town will have your sense overwhelmed with the scent of the sea and spice and the calls to prayer echoing from the minarets.

The Stone Town is a perfect destination for history buff and culture addicts, the town has plenty of activities to do and a lot attractions to explore and it can take you about 2-4 days of exploration.

Things to do in The Stone Town

FORODHANI GARDEN MARKETS

Visiting the Forodhani Garden Markets is one of the most popular activities in Stone Town, this market opens in the late afternoon at 5 pm and runs until 9 pm. Here, the locals and tourists gather for some alfresco street dining – colorful stalls and grills that are lined with Kebabs, local fish, coconut bread, grilled cassava, roasted corn, sweet potato chapatti and fresh fruit drinks.

Forodhani Garden Markets is one of the liveliest areas of Stone Town and the food is not only tasty but very cheap.

DARAJANI MARKET

This market is another popular spot/ market in the stone town, Darajani Market is excellent for spices, fresh meat, fruits and vegetables. For travelers who prefer quieter market experience, it is best to go early in the morning when the sellers are still setting up and the produce is still fresh.

MTONI PALACE RUINS

These ruins offer an insight into the former administrative and trade power of Zanzibar, every Tuesday and Friday there is a concert with traditional melodies, dances and a buffet. The night begins with a guided tour of the ruins followed by a buffet with a final performance to finish off the tour. You can also attend the traditional coffee ceremony with coffee roasted in the local Zanzibar way.

OLD SLAVE MARKET AND THE CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST CHURCH

The old Anglican Cathedral of Christ Church was the first African cathedral in East Africa built by the British abolitionist symbolically over the old whipping post of the island’s largest slave market.

This cathedral offer beautiful architecture and important knowledge on the slave trade in the country.

HAMAMI PERSIAN BATHS

These baths were the first public baths built in Zanzibar by Shirazi architects from Iran, unfortunately, they are no longer in use but you can pop your head in and have a look at by seeking permission from the caretaker who will then unlock the gate for you at a small fee

SULTAN’S PALACE/BEIT AL – SAHEL

This magnificent sultan’s palace is one of the main historical buildings of Stone Town, during your visit to the stone town you can have an hour of touring this and learn more about the history of Zanzibar with a local guide.

THE OLD ARAB FORT

This impressive building was constructed in the late 17th century on the former Portuguese fort and it houses an art gallery and curio market as well as an impressive Amphitheatre. In February each year, the open air  ampitheatre hosts a live performance and the Sauti Za Busara Music Festival with Musicians from all over the Africa.

St, JOSEPH’S CATHOLICA CATHEDRAL

This cathedral was built in memory of European colonial presence in Zanzibar by the missionaries in 1893 – 7, the cathedral features twin spires that are a familiar feature to Stone Town, the cathedral’s front doors are only open during mass but you can enter through the back when the front doors are closed.

EXPLORING ON FOOT

Most sites in the Stone Town are within walking distance meaning you can explore them, Stone Town is known as a maze, a veritable labyrinth where maps are of less use, with this at the back of your mid, one of the best things to do in Stone Town is wander in whateva direction takes your interest. If you want to see a particular sight, ask locals and they will point you in the right direction.

If you prefer a guided tour of the city, walking tours usually last 3 hours and can cost $ 30 for a good private guide, these walks are filled with the history of Zanzibar and offer you a good grasp of the layout of the town.

SPICE TOUR

Zanzibar Archipelago is known exotically as the “Spice Island” for its historical and modern role as one of the main producers of spice in the world, a spice tour takes you on a walk through a spice farm to see cardamom cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, lemongrass, vanilla and nutmeg. This tour will give you a deeper insight in the how these spices are grown, being harvested and get a taste of them. Also this tour will help you appreciate the island’s rich history in the spice trade, spice tours also includes a traditional lunch.

Stone Town
Spice Island

Most of the spice farms are situated only 15 kilometers outside of Stone Town and can be reached by a taxi.

PRISON ISLAND / CHANGUU ISLAND

Prison Island is an excellent destination for a half day tour, this tour includes a beautiful 20-minute boat ride offshore to Prison Island which was used as a quarantine center.

On your visit to Prison Island, you will be introduced to the giant tortoises which the oldest being 192 years.

After the Spice tour, you can cool down and snorkel off the Nakupenda beach and also have lunch.

JOZANI FOREST TOUR

Jozani Forest is a protected area hosting one of the world’s rarest animals – the red colobus monkey, a variety of birds, butterflies and the bush baby. Taking a walking around the forest is made on boardwalks with assistance of a guide who will inform you more about several plant and animal species you will see.

Jozani Forest is reached by a taxi, dala dala.

Where to stay in Stone Town

There is a number of luxury hotels, boutique hotels and backpackers’ hostels offering accommodations and other facilities to travelers visiting the town.

  • The Lost and Found Hotel
  • The Emerson Spice Hotel
  • Jafferi House
  • Beyt al Salaam

When to visit Stone Town

The best time to visit Zanzibar, as well as the Stone Town, is during July – August and December to February, in this season to the weather is warm and there is less chance of rain ruining your planned excursions.

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