Travel

January 9, 2018

48 Hours in Essaouira

Visit Morocco’s windy city for a chilled coastal retreat away from the intensity of Marrakech

  • Written by Kayleigh Gray-Layton
  • Photography by Kayleigh Gray-Layton

Eat with the locals

Head down to the 18th Century port between mid-afternoon and sunset to see the fisherman parading their wares at the nearby fish auction. Take your catch to one of the beachfront stalls where they will cook it for you. Once you’ve eaten yours, head high above the ramparts to Cafe Taros for a sundowner with the surfers whilst the seagulls eat theirs. tarosessaouira

Escape to the chateau

For a retreat inland away from the salty air, head to Val D’Argan, Morocco’s first organic vineyard, which was opened by Charles Melia in 1994 after he left his family’s vineyard in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Ask for a tour of the 30-acre site, enjoy a long lunch, take a dip in the pool and don’t forget the wine buffet! valdargan.com

From rugs to riches

Unlike Marrakech, the souks in Essaouira are calm and comforting with a grid system making it easier to navigate. The thrill of the haggle is less apparent than in its counterparts Tangier and Fes but there are still ceramic, wool and leather bargains galore to be found.

Get cooking

Discover the secret ingredient in a traditional tagine with a cooking workshop at L’Atelier Madada, set in a former almond warehouse and run by generations of dadas (traditional Moroccan female chefs). If your attempt doesn’t quite match up to the real thing, head downstairs to the best seafood restaurant in town, Le Table Madada, and try the spider crab gratin washed down with some vin gris from Val D’argan whilst you listen to local live music. latablemadada

Post-surf sardines

Head to surfers’ paradise Sidi Kaouki, and post-ride, grab lunch at Mouette et les Dromadaires, a small shack on the beach. You won’t find fresher sardines. LaMouetteEtLesDromadaires

Room with a view

Essaouira’s answer to La Mamounia, and Jimi Hendrix’s old stomping ground, Heure Bleue is a former palace built into the medina wall. Spend a day relaxing in the haman or rooftop pool. heure-bleue

Go beachside

For a break from the tightly packed alleyways of the medina, head to the beachfront for some European fare at Chalet de la Plage, open since 1893 and run by Frenchman Jeannot. This is a fishy institution that won’t disappoint. Order the sea urchins followed by grilled gambas. Le_Chalet_de_la_Plage-Essaouira

Hide away

For a secluded escape from the beachfront, head to the secret hideaway of Riad Bassoula. Hidden in a eucalyptus grove and with just seven rooms, the only interactions you are likely to have are with the owner’s dog or the local donkeys. baoussala.com

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