From slave markets to Sultan's Palace, soak up centuries of culture in this historic old town of Zanzibar.
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.
Sonja BrandAfrica Travel Specialist
Explore the Stone Town map
When to visit Stone Town
January to mid-March
Summer in Stone Town
Mid-March to May
Rain season in Stone Town
June to October
Best time in Stone Town
November to December
Short rains in Stone Town
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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...