Things to do in stone town
Besides just wandering around the streets, there are lots of things to do in Stone Town. This is the perfect city to really get a better understanding of Zanzibar people and culture.
Here are a few things we recommend checking out in Stone Town:
Take a guided tour
Walking without a guide in stone town is tempting, however you will be at a risk of getting lost and missing out on some hidden gems and lots of stories about the town
We offer guided day tours around the city and I definitely recommend doing the tour with a guide. All the tourists you’ll see walking around are led by guides. You will learn so much more information with a guide and it’s not expensive either! and you won’t regret it! Your guide can also tell you about the dark past of the island.
Admire stone town’s intricate doors
The fascinating architecture of the buildings starts with their doors! As you wander through the streets, make sure you look around at the beautiful, carved doors that are a special feature of the city.
The designs and carvings of the doors tell about the residents who lived there. You can also tell whether the doors are Swahili, Indian, or Arab based on the shape and design!
See the birthplace of Freddie mercury
If you love Queen, don’t miss out on the chance to see where Freddie Mercury was born – it is located right in the city center, so you won’t miss it! (Or just search Freddie Mercury’s birthplace on Google Maps). Some people say this might not be the real house (because his father moved several times when Freddie was young), but it’s still a great opportunity to learn a little more about the background and upbringing of this amazing singer!
Admire the old fort
This is exactly what the name says it is! Take a look around a unique piece of history and check out The old fort. This is an old fortification built by the Omani Arabs in 1699. It is also one of the oldest buildings in town.
A more recent addition to the fort is an open-air amphitheater where you can watch local shows or other events. You can ask at the tourist information desk at the fort if there are any upcoming events that could fit into your Zanzibar travel plans.
Visit the house of wonders
This is the tallest and largest building in town and was originally a palace facing the town’s central square. The building is now home to the National Museum of History and Culture.
Learn about the slave trade at the slave museum
The island has a dark past. This market was the last functioning slave market in the world and it only closed in 1873. Although this might seem like a bit of a downer, it’s an important part of the history of the region.
Thousands of Africans were brought to the island as slaves to work on plantations. Slave traders also used the island as a base camp before sending slaves on the long journey to the East to be sold in Persia, Arabia, the Ottoman Empire, and Egypt.
At the Slave Museum, you can tour chambers where they kept slaves before they were sold.
You can go down to see the “rooms” where slaves were kept – a 12 by 12-foot basement with one tiny window near the ceiling. They kept over 30 people in these types of rooms. Although this happened hundreds of years ago it still can have you in shivers as I you stand there!
The museum is open every day from 8am to 6pm. There is a $5 USD entrance fee and you can expect to spend about an hour in the museum.
Visit one of the rooftop restaurants
Because the city is right on the water, something you HAVE to do while in Stone Town is to enjoy the amazing view from a rooftop!
After a long day of taking in the sites and the culture, it is recommend finding a rooftop restaurant for dinner and a drink as the sun sets.
-The Tea House Restaurant is recommended. It’s a great place to see the sunset, but make sure to make a reservation in advance! The restaurant gets busy with other tourists who want to enjoy the view as well.
-Another option is The Beach House Restaurant, which has an amazing outdoor balcony overlooking the water. The food is a mix of Italian, French, and Mediterranean and it’s delicious!
-You can also check out 6 Degrees South, which is perfect for a romantic dinner looking out at the ocean.
Wander around darajani market
While you’re there, why not wander around the main bazaar in town? You’ll definitely get a taste for life in Zanzibar – and a whiff as well! I found the market to be a really authentic experience.
There is an indoor section of the market, but also a lot of pop-up vendors on the surrounding streets. You’ll be able to experience a lot of traditional Zanzibar food and ingredients, as well as admire clothes, shoes, and traditional hats.
NOTE: Be prepared for the smell as part of this market is a fish market!
These are not actual “gardens,” this is the central square of Stone Town with only small gardens. It has lots of trees and is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. It is recommended going after sunset and enjoying the street food market. To get the full experience, look around for the stands that have the longest lines of locals and try some authentic Zanzibar dishes here (this means the food is good!).
PRO TIP: it is recommended to avoid the seafood here though – it’s not always fresh!
PRO TIP 2: As a central spot for tourists, be careful of people trying to overcharge you or pretending to be waiters. Some tourists have had issues with “waiters” trying to charge them ridiculously high prices!
Drink coffee at jaws corner
It might take you a while to find it as it’s among the narrow streets, but Jaws Corner is a small plaza. You can stop by and try the Arabic-style local coffee. Just be prepared – it’s definitely not like a cup of coffee with cream and sugar like you might be used to! It’s typically served black and bitter, and it is VERY strong.
Do some shopping
There are so many little boutique stores all over Stone Town. There’s a bunch on Ginzenga Street, Kenyatta Road, and Changa Bazaar Street. You’ll also be sure to see some great stores for souvenirs as you’re wandering around.