Stone Town

Stone Town

The heart of Zanzibar's capital, Stone Town, was constructed during the 19th century and remains largely unchanged. Labyrinths of narrow alleys lead to palaces, mosques and old Arab houses; tiny shops sell dotted tinga-tinga paintings, Zanzibari clocks and heavily adorned chests. The early-morning market on Creek Road is fabulous, as determined Zanzibaris haggle over fragrant spices, exotic fruit and enormous fish.

Stone Town is an easy place to explore on foot. You never need to travel by vehicle and indeed it's virtually impossible to get around the alleys in any other way than on foot – though determined locals wobble through on bicycles, and more recklessly on the occasional motorbike.

You should be aware that Stone Town can be noisy and there is nowhere to stay where we can guarantee silence. Five-times-daily calls to prayer from the mosques (including at dawn, and two hours before dawn), along with the hustle and bustle of town, are part of everyday life here. It's a lively, vibrant atmosphere, but don't expect tranquility.

Of the many options for staying in Stone Town, we've chosen a few of the best for you to consider in the menu on the left of this page. Some standouts include:

  • For a good-value hotel of reasonable quality with local flavour, start by looking at sister-hotels the Tembo Hotel and Dhow Palace Hotel; both offer good standards and value for money.
  • For a little more style, and still bags of authenticity, several old merchant houses have been beautifully restored: sister hotels Emerson on Hurumzi and Emerson Spice are very popular, especially with honeymooners, while Beyt al Chai is a small but bright rising star and Jafferji House is another fine conversion, with enchanting décor.
  • The Zanzibar Coffee House and Zanzibar Palace Hotel are small guest house full of character. The café linked with the Zanzibar Coffee House is worth a visit just to sample the delicious coffee.
  • For a larger hotel, with a more cosmopolitan mix of visitors, locals and the odd expat in the bar, try the Africa House Hotel. At the top of the scale, the Zanzibar Serena Inn has genuine sea front views, but it has recently been overtaken by the huge presence of the new Park Hyatt Zanzibar which now utterly dominates the seafront at the western-most part of town.
  • If you want to stay outside town, and perhaps just travel in for a day, then Mbweni Ruins Hotel is a possibility – a reasonable small hotel in extensive gardens by the beach.

We think a two-night stay in Stone Town is perfect, and if this is your last stop in Africa, then ask us about flights from Zanzibar airport to Dar, Nairobi or hubs in Europe or the Middle East.

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