Are you planning your vacation to Zanzibar and looking for the best things to do in Stone Town?
Then this guide is for you!
Stone Town, also known as Mji Mkongwe by the locals, is one of the oldest parts of Zanzibar. Located on the western part of Unguja Island (Main Island).
The Town is known for its rich of the History, Culture, architecture and street foods with high influences from Arab, India, Persian, and some European influences. This is the must visit attraction for all tourists who are really interested in History and Culture of the Zanzibar locals.
This guide will help you explore more things to do in Stone Town during your Zanzibar vacation!
Okay, lets start….
Stone Town Tour
This is a 3 hours historical walking tour operated by ZANZIWORLD TOURS (Us). This tour is the best way to learn more about Zanzibar peoples and culture because you will have a friendly and Professional Local Tour Guide who will explain things in detail.
You can book a Stone Town tour whether you stay in Stone Town or outside the Stone Town. For those tourists who are staying outside of stone town, we will prepare a private return transport from their Hotel.
Here are the different places you will see in the Stone Town tour;
House Of Wonders
Also known as Bayt el Ajaib in Arabic, this was the first largest building to be built in Zanzibar in 1883 by the Sultan Barghash bin Said al-Busaidi, and was the first house to have an elevator in East Africa, that’s why it is called “house of wonders”.
The House is now located between the Old Fort and Palace Museum in Stone Town. The construction materials of this house consisted of a combination of coral rag, Stones, Concrete slabs, Mangrove shoots and steel beams.
Former slave market
It is said to be as the last slave market in East Africa which was closed in 1873. It is located in Stone Town Zanzibar at Mkunazini street.
In 1879, the British missionaries built Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican church), and today it is the most significant tourist attraction in Stone Town.
Freddie Mercury House
Located in the same house where Freddie and his family stayed in his childhood at Gizenga Street, Stone Town Zanzibar. The museum is small but it is worth visiting especially if you are a fan, this is the must visit place in Stone Town, you will have more information of Freddie Mercury’s childhood life in Zanzibar.
Amazing paintings inside the museum and different handwritten lyrics. Within our Historical Stone town trip, you will also have a time to see this place and our guide will provide you with more information about the place.
If you stay in Stone Town or want to visit Stone Town, then this is very important local market to experience the livelihood of Zanzibar locals or if you want to buy some gifts for your loved ones when you go back Home.
This is the Historic, unique and the biggest Market in Zanzibar. Darajani Market is the main Bazaar located in Stone Town Zanzibar, was built under Sultan Ali bin Hamud who was the eighth Sultan of Zanzibar from 1902 to 1911.
Old Fort/ Arab Fort
The Old Fort, also known as Arab Fort and ‘Ngome Kongwe’ by the locals. Is one of the Historic and oldest buildings in Stone Town, Located next to House of Wonders facing Forodhani Park. The Fort was built by Omani Arabs rules after expelling the Portuguese in 1699.
Around the 19th Century it was used as a garrison and prison, and during 1905-28 officially used as a terminal of the Zanzibar railways which was connecting Stone Town and Bububu village. Now it is one among the tourist attractions in Stone Town.
Forodhani Park is one of the best free places to chill and watch the sunset in Stone Town, it is located in front of House of Wonders and Zanzibar Old Fort.
The park is facing the Indian ocean which creates an amazing breathtaking atmosphere in the Garden. Normally, this is the last place to visit in our Stone Town tour.
In the evening, there is a special Night Market where you will have a variety of fresh cuisines like Zanzibar Pizza, Chapati, Grilled Lobsters, Octopus, Squid, Fish, and many more.
Prison Island tour
Prison Island, also known as ‘Changuu Island’ by the locals. This is one of the popular things to do in Stone Town Zanzibar.
In this tour you will do Swimming and Snorkeling, feeding the Giant Tortoises and you will play with them, learning the short history of the Island, and you will be aware why it is called ‘Prison Island’.
Stone Town is a departure place to prison island, and actually we have two places for departure; Infront of Mizingani Seafront Hotel or sometimes in front of Livingstone Beach Restaurant near Forodhani Garden.
Relaxing on Nakupenda Sandbank
If you are interested in beaches and the ocean, then Nakupenda Sandbank must be on your list! In this tour, you will do Swimming and Snorkeling, Sanbank relaxation, Sunbathing, and you will enjoy fresh seafood BBQ prepared on the sandbank with mouth watering tropical fruits like Mango, Pineapple, Watermelon, Banana.
Traditional Sunset Dhow Cruise
This is the best romantic thing to do for a couple in Stone Town. It takes one hour and half tour with a traditional Zanzibar sailing boat. The departure place of the tour is in front of Livingstone Beach Restaurant in Stone Town.
We recommend you to do a Stone Town tour with the Sunset Dhow cruise to make the best day experience.
Normally, the Sunset Dhow Cruise starts at 17:00, from the Livingstone Beach Restaurant ahead to the Mtoni beach area and then return to Stone Town while the sun is slowly going down with a beautiful view of the Stone Town from the sea. On board, you will have local made snacks and soft drinks.
Go the Spice Farms tour
Yes! It is possible to do a Spice farms tour while you are staying in Stone Town. A Spice farm tour is very cost effective if you are staying in Stone Town rather than other places like Nungwi beach.
Because the farms are nearest to Stone Town and you can combine the trip with other different activities like Prison Island and Jozani forest. In this tour you will find why Zanzibar is nicknamed as the Spice Islands.
The tour will cover all spices that are grown in Zanzibar and our guide will provide more details on how they are planted, harvested and used in Zanzibar cuisines.
Trying Seafoods at Forodhani Night Market
This is the best thing to do in Stone Town Zanzibar at night. If it is your first day in Stone Town and looking to get something to eat during the night time, then Forodhani night market is your stop.
This is a nice place to explore what the seafoods Zanzibar can offer.
Not only seafood, there are a variety of foods you can order; Zanzibar Pizza, Fried Breadfruits, Cassava and fresh spiced sugar cane juice. Forodhani garden is located just in front of House of wonders in Stone Town.
Dining at Capetown fish market
If you are looking for the special and unique Restaurant in Stone Town, then Cape Town Fish Market is for you.
This is the floating restaurant located at Forodhani Garden, one of the greatest places to watch the sunset. It’s such a nice Restaurant to have your romantic dinner with your partner.
Their menu is spectacular and amazing, they cater both for meat-eaters and vegetarians and they offer a carefully selected range of the finest South African wines.
Buying Tanzanite in Stone Town
In Stone Town, you can buy almost all things which are available in Zanzibar and Tanzania as a whole. You can check our guide on Shopping in Stone Town.
You can buy a variety of jewelry made by Tanzanite in Stone Town;
Engagement rings, Earrings, Pendant, Necklaces and so on. The original and scientific name of Tanzanite is “blue-violet zoisite”, the name “tanzanite” was given because the world’s only known tanzanite deposit is in the northern part of Tanzania near Kilimanjaro mountain.
Best Tanzanite shops in Stone Town are; Blue Gems Zanzibar, Tanzanie Gallery, Zenj Treasures, Johari Treasures.
Enjoy the drone view of Stone Town
Stone Town is an oldest part of Zanzibar with a beautiful mixture of architectural designs from different ethinic groups; Persians, Africans, Indian and a little bit west.
In order to enjoy an amazing view of the Stone Town buildings, we recommend you to go to one of the rooftop restaurants to see how big the Stone Town is and how it looks.
In our Historical Stone Town walking tour, our guide will take you to Swahili house rooftop to show you the drone view of the Stone Town.
Watching Traditional Music in Stone Town
You can pass time at Dhow Countries Music Academy to watch different Zanzibar cultural music known as Taarab and Kidumbak. This music academy is located near the Palace museum close to Mizingani Seafront Hotel. Entrance fee is 10000 TZS which is equivalent to $5.
Buying Spices at Darajani Market
Spices is one of the major products that tourists are asking for when they visit Zanzibar with us, they always ask where they can do spice shopping.
This makes us put it on the list of things to do in Stone Town. Yes, you can purchase a variety of spices at Darajani Market like Cinnamon, Cardamon, Vanilla, Nutmeg, Cloves and so on.
Spices which are sold in Darajani are already packed to make it easier for you to travel with them in your bag. In case you want to buy spices from the farms, then you can follow this guide on best Zanzibar Spice Farms Tours including lunch and fruits.
Have a lunch at Luqman Restaurant
Luqman Restaurant is the cheapest restaurant and it has a lot of Zanzibar local cuisines. It is located at Mkunazini street in Stone Town. Situated near the formar Slave market (Anglican Cathedral).
Luqman is one of the best restaurants in Stone Town. Many travelers and locals are always going to this restaurant for their breakfast, Lunch and dinner.
The list of things to do in Stone town can’t be finished without talking about Souvenirs shopping. If you are intentionally going to Stone Town for Souvenirs shopping, then make sure to have a big enough bag to carry your things.
There are so many wonderful souvenirs to buy in Stone Town; They are authentic, attractive, handmade by mostly local women from Zanzibar islands and the Masai tribe from Tanzania Mainland.
Therefore when you purchase, you also support the local communities. Memories of Zanzibar is a famous destination to purchase your souvenirs, it is very famous among tourists who visit Stone Town since it has massive options for gifts.
Learn more about Zanzibar Doors
Learning about Zanzibar doors and Stone Town architectural design is among the reasons why many tourists visit Stone Town. The most memorable feature of the Stone Town streets are the spectacular carved Zanzibar doors.
There is a lot to learn from the History of Zanzibar doors. These doors are not just doors, but they also were used to indicate socio-economic status, ethnicity and customs of the owners.
In our Half day tour, you will learn more in details about Zanzibar doors with our professional local tour guide.
Snorkeling at Chumbe Island
If you choose to stay in Stone Town, you still have a better opportunity to experience an amazing snorkeling you could never find in many other famous snorkeling spots in Zanzibar.
The untouched Chumbe island coral park is spectacular with a variety of colors, this is the home and foods for the hundreds of the species that reside at chumbe corals.
Dining on the Rooftop Restaurant
Experience the sunset while dining with your loved one on one of the rooftop restaurants in Stone Town. This could be a memorable thing you have done in Stone Town.
There are different rooftop restaurants you can go to in Stone Town; most famous are Africa House Hotel, Swahili House, Emerson Spice Hotel, Tembo House Hotel.
Most restaurants are not necessary to be booked in advance, therefore you are limitless to explore the stone town and then you can choose one to go there.
Things to do in Stone Town: FAQs
Is it worth visiting Stone Town?
Absolutely yes! It is worth visiting Stone Town because it is the easiest way to explore the livelihood of Zanzibar locals. There are many other places to see and visit which are very crucial when it comes to Zanzibar history and cultures.
Why should I visit Stone Town?
Zanzibar Islands are known for its white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, snorkeling, swimming with Dolphins. But there are many other things Zanzibar is known for which are the reasons why tourists visit Zanzibar;
things like History, culture, traditions, Spices. All this you can explore in Stone Town.
Best time to Visit Stone town?
If you are in Zanzibar already and looking for the best time to visit Stone town, then we would recommend you to visit in the morning around 9:00am – 11:00am, or in the evening 16:00 – 21:00. These are the best times because it’s not sunny.
What to wear in Stone Town Zanzibar?
Remember that, Zanzibar is a country with high muslim population. Therefore, at least you can wear clothes that cover knees and shoulders, you can even wear modest clothes if you want to show more respect.
How long is ideal to spend in Stone Town?
If you are planning to stay in Stone town during your vacation to Zanzibar, then 2 days is ideal to stay in Stone Town and spend other days on the beach villages like Nungwi, Paje, Michamvi, Kendwa and so on.
Best Places to Stay in Stone Town
Luxury Hotels to stay; Park Hyatt Zanzibar and Hotel Verde – Azamz Luxury Resort and Spa.
Medium Hotels; Doubletree By Hilton Zanzibar, Tembo House Hotel, Mizingani Seafront Hotel, Zanzibar Serena Hotel.
Cheap Hotels; Swahili House, Zlife Hostel, Kisiwa House, Ten to Ten Hostel.
Is there a beach in Stone Town?
Yes, there is a beach in Stone town. Stone Town beach is a departure place for Prison Island, Bawe Island, Chapwani Island, Nakupenda Sandbank. Also, the ferry terminal is located in Stone Town. Learn more on How to get from Tanzania mainland to Zanzibar.
Best Restaurant in Stone Town
Another thing to do in Stone town is to try a variety of foods from different restaurants. Here are the best restaurants you can try; Puzzle Coffee Shop, Emerson Spice, 6 Degrees South Grill & Wine Bar, Zanzibar Coffee House, Luqman restaurant.
Facts about Stone Town Zanzibar
Now you already know what to do in Stone town Zanzibar, here are the facts about Zanzibar Stone Town that could help you think about Stone Town.
Stone Town is about 96 Hectares big.
There are 28 Mosques and 22 Churches in Stone Town.
It is called Stone Town because of the nature of the house built with local stones with an amazing street view.
Stone Town Map:
To sum up, if you are still planning your vacation to Zanzibar, here are the important Swahili Phrases for any travelers to Zanzibar.