The Voyage: 48 Hours in Essaouira, Morocco

September 18, 2017

To fully understand the beauty of Essaouira, the picturesque port city and resort on Morocco’s Atlantic coast (and the backdrop of our September Lookbook), you have to first understand its history — one that dates back to the day it was founded in 1765. Dubbed “the beautifully designed,” the coastal town has always boasted tremendous sights and natural resources, from miles of sand dunes and argan forests, to pristine beaches for days.

That magical appeal is as potent today as it has been for centuries (it recently served as the setting for Astapor city in Game of Thrones, and not forgetting Orson Welles’, 1949 epic, Othello), and it’s little wonder why: Between a UNESCO World Heritage site-designated old city, a plethora of world-renowned artisan industries, a prime watersports climate, and a vibrant culinary scene, the destination offers everything a wanderlust lover could ask for in a weekend getaway — and then some. Here are your 48 hours best spent in the majestic city.

Day One

8am: Dive into Harbor Life
Greet the morning with a trip to the town’s lively fishing port, where you’ll likely want to stay a while to take in all of the morning bustle. This is Instagram heaven: Small blue fishing boats, salty ocean air, and local fisherman selling the freshest catch of the day.

9am: Breakfast at Patisserie Driss
Once you’ve worked-up an appetite, walk five minutes north to this locally beloved bakery, where a wide array of French and Moroccan pastries adorn the shopfront windows. Couple up a mint tea with any one of their specialties — be it a croissant, nut biscuit, or date cake — and snag a seat outside to take in the passersby.

11am: Shop the Souks
Located in the middle of town, the local marketplace offers a variety of traditional ceramics, rugs, argan oil and jewelry. Let this be your first of at least two visits to the stands — you’ll likely want to take time perusing the goods (and possibly start some vendor negotiations) before committing to any big purchases.

2:30pm: Lunch at Ocean Vagabond
For breezy beach vibes and a brasserie-inspired menu, head to this café and restaurant, where the team plates up everything from burgers and salads, to sushi and wood-fired pizzas. Once you’re well fueled, check out the venue’s lineup of water sports and try your hand at windsurfing or paddle boarding.

6:30pm: Embark on a Camel Ride
Welcome sunset with a camel ride – there will be photo opps galore. Most tours pick up and drop off directly at your hotel, with a two-hour ride exploring the beaches, dunes, and forests of the city aboard the region’s most iconic animal (but perhaps not always the most charming- watch out for spitting).

9pm: Dinner at Caravane Café
Come for all-day café fare (think expertly crafted coffee, sandwiches, salads, and pastries), but stay for the evening entertainment: On certain nights, this hangout features live traditional music, dancing, and a fire show.

Day Two

9:30am: See the Mansions of the Medina
Enter the bustling medina through the inner city’s Bab Doukkala, or northern gate, and take the way that will lead you through the “mellah” (i.e. old Jewish quarter). It’s here that you’ll encounter a myriad of ancient mansions, along with a sign outside the steam baths where Orson Welles filmed scenes for Othello.

11am: Shop with Souks — With a Plan
Now that you’ve experienced the souks once, come back today with a game plan for the goods you want most — and what you’re willing to pay for them. Just inside the Bab Marrakech entrance visit the woodwork and metalwork craftsmen of Ensemble Artisanal, and along rue Lattarine you’ll discover a slew of leather goods, in addition to the handmade sandals of local shoemaker Mohammed Schumacher.

2pm: Lunch at Gusto Italia
Just a hop skip from the beach and medina, this restaurant features refined Italian fare that is made from scratch on the daily. Choose among a medley of house favorites, such as fish ravioli, beef tenderloin, burrata, and marinara clams.

4pm: Get a Culture Dose at Musée Sidi Mohammed
Named for the founder of the city, this museum showcases the history and culture of Essaouira via an array of artifacts such traditional jewelry, coin collections, and musical instruments.

8pm: Explore the Ramparts
Constructed in the 1760s, these walls were originally built as a city defense system — and today serve as the perfect place to catch the sunset. Ascend the Bastion Nord to admire the views of the Atlantic and the medina, then check out the famous rampart cubbyholes that originally housed ammunition and livestock before today’s artist workshops.

9pm: Dinner at Gaia
Top off your stay in true local fashion with a stop at this mainstay, where a from-scratch menu of French-Moroccan eats welcomes diners around the clock. The cuisine changes daily but is bound to include regionally-inspired items like nut-quince tajine, bone-in duck breast with sautéed potatoes, and, of course, an ample selection of just-caught seafood.