Stone Town

From slave markets to Sultan's Palace, soak up centuries of culture in this historic old town of Zanzibar.

Overview

Stone Town lies at the cultural core of the idyllic island of Zanzibar.  Stone Town was where the spice trade and slavery created Zanzibar’s early wealth.  Indeed the town’s unique blend of Arabic and African influences originate from this 19th century period.

Its labyrinth of winding alleys, bustling markets, mosques can be easily visited on foot. Little shops and street stalls are thronging with Swahili traders. And it certainly does feel satisfyingly different from the rest of Tanzania, with its own unique cultures, traditions and architecture. Here Arab, Indian, Persian and European influences blend with local African traditions. Historic buildings show off elaborately carved wooden doors. And courtyard houses, shaded by balconies and verandas line the narrow alleys. So narrow that many parts of the old city can only be reached on foot or scooter.

All the town’s key attractions are easily accessible by foot including Forodhani Gardens, the Old Fort, the Old Dispensary, the Peace Memorial Museum, the Palace Museum, and the House of Wonders.

But Stone Town does offer very faded charm. Some may not like the bustling streets, the crumbling walls and the well-worn paintwork. Others will be fascinated and enjoy the distinct contrast with their beach resort. Each to his own.

Visiting Stone Town

If you enjoy history and architecture, we particularly recommend a night or two in  one of the atmospheric Stone Town hotels. See our selection of hotels below.

At the very least, we recommend a walking tour of the city, preferably on arrival on departure, or possibly as a day tour. Take a short walking tour to learn more about the history of Stone Town. Or simply to explore the little alley stalls in the narrow streets.

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Sonja Brand

Africa Travel Specialist
Our experienced band of Safari Planners can create a bespoke plan for you. More enriching, more restorative and making more of a difference. Discover how working with a specialist adds value to your African adventure.

Explore the Stone Town map

When to visit Stone Town

January to mid-March

Summer in Stone Town

Zanzibar has a tropical climate which means hot and humid for most of the year, with plenty of rain. There is a steady rainfall through the year apart from a fairly dry spell from June to September. However this rain takes the form of short, sharp thundery rain-showers, usually in the late afternoons. So in the summer months it doesn’t interfere with your beach time. As there’s plenty of sunshine at other times (averaging 9 hours per day). It’s a hot 32-33C during the day and a warm to hot 23-24C at night.
AVG RAINFALL 108mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

Mid-March to May

Rain season in Stone Town

This is the rainiest time of the year and not recommended for a Zanzibar beach holiday – especially April which sees nearly 400mm of rain in one month. It typically rains at least every other day during this time. This slightly cools down the temperatures but not by much! April is particularly cloudy with only 6 hours of sunshine. However late May sees the rain drying up and hotel prices and offers remain keen so this could be a good time to stay at some of the more expensive resorts.
AVG RAINFALL 108mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

June to October

Best time in Stone Town

This is a reasonably dry period with short showers every 4 days on average. It’s a wonderful time for some beach relaxation after your safari as temperatures are still hot (29C during the day) and a very pleasant 21C at night). Days are dry and sunny with 8 hours of sunshine on average.
AVG RAINFALL 108mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

November to December

Short rains in Stone Town

This is start of the “short” summer rains with hot and humid conditions and short, sharp thundery rain-showers, usually in the late afternoons. Rainfall tends to be higher at the start of summer (November and December) before settling down later on. However there’s still plenty of sunshine around.
AVG RAINFALL 108mm
AVG DAYLIGHT 7 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 17 ℃ / 63 ℉

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Zanzibar Serena Review

The Zanzibar Serena Hotel is right on the ocean on edge of the old part of Stone Town so great location. Lovely airy public areas with good sized pool. Much more conventional than Jafferji House so it would appeal to broader cross section. The restaurant had windows overlooking the ocean so great views.

However the rooms were somewhat old fashioned. Entry level rooms are fine but with a small bathroom with shower over bath. Most have sea rooms. Six premier sea facing rooms are actually same size but have a wraparound balcony with full-on sea views so they could be worth the extra if sea views are important. Not sure I'd pay the extra for a suite...

Cedarberg : Kate Bergh