Essaouira has become the destination du jour, since easyJet started flying direct from London. A Moroccan seaside town, it’s quite the antithesis of Marrakech – more laid back, it enjoys strong winds making it much cooler, and perfect for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Avoid the sterile beachfront hotels, instead opting for a riad in the medina – there are plenty to choose from, but after extensive research and word of mouth recommendations, we couldn’t have been happier with our choice of Riad Baladin.
Located near the ramparts, down winding cobbled streets, the riad is large and beautifully decorated. Unlike the ornate glitz and colour of Marrakech, Riad Baladin is simple and bright, almost Scandinavian in it’s décor, with four-poster beds made from driftwood, a hot tub in the central atrium (available for private hire, with curtains and candles!), and a generous breakfast served on one of the rooftop terraces each morning.
Given the proximity to the sea, the medina can feel quite damp, but our room was breezy and comfortable – we slept fantastically on a hand-stuffed camel hair mattress in Chambre Ciel (rooms are distinguished by colour). The riad managers Nicole and Claudia gave endless recommendations to ensure our stay was perfect – the best of which I have included below.
A fantastic and reasonably priced choice – Riad Baladin costs around 77€ per night (breakfast included) – use the website contact form for booking enquiries.
Rue Sidi Magdoul 9, 44000 Essaouira, Morocco
Must-see sites & sights…
Essaouira is a fishing town, so be sure to wander down to the port to see the iconic blue fishing boats. You can grab a casual lunch from one of the fish grills – seafood doesn’t get fresher than this! Check out the souks too – still good for shopping, but not as crazy as those in Marrakech.
For hammam, spa and massage…
Azur Art & Spa is 5 minutes’ walk from Riad Baladin and offers guests of the riad a luxurious two-hour package deal for a hammam, exfoliating scrub and massage for 450 dirham (£30). Azur is lovely, with a black marble steam room, complementary traditional tea and fantastic treatments. Visit as a couple (more traditional hammams separate men and women), and spend twenty minutes oiled up in the steam room (hammam); followed by a thorough full-body scrub (gommage) lying on a marble table; and a 60 minute full body massage using Essaouiran argan oil. I recommend visiting Azur at the beginning of your stay, as sunburnt or tanned skin will be less grateful for the vigorous scrubbing!
There’s a row of watersports centres at the southern end of the beach (about 25 minutes’ walk from Riad Baladin) – I’d recommend Explora for all your surfing and kitesurfing needs. The staff are fantastic and friendly, and offer lessons or rental for all standards. As is the Moroccan way, things can feel a bit disorganised, but the staff are very happy to help.
Point to note that Essaouira is great for intermediate-advanced kite/windsurfers, but the gusty wind and large waves are super challenging for beginners.
Yousurf, nextdoor to Explora, is the most cost-effective centre for windsurfing hire and lessons. Camels, horses and quad bikes for hire are also located at this end of the beach, or chill out in a deck chair in the shady terrace of Ocean Vagabond beach bar (good food, beer and décor; terrible service).
Medina restaurants and bars…
One Up – contemporary Moroccan style restaurant for a date night dinner (£££)
Elizir – upmarket sixties timewarp restaurant for a date night dinner (£££)
Caravane Cafe – pretty courtyard restaurant with live music/performers (£££)
Mega Loft – for a casual dinner with live music (no alcohol) (££)
Triskala – casual vegetarian restaurant (no alcohol) (££)
Taros – a multi-terraced bar for drinks and live music (££)