Top 10 Things to Do in Stone Town, Zanzibar
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  • Post last modified:June 5, 2024
Top 10 Things to Do in Stone Town, Zanzibar

Stone Town is the historic and cultural heart of Zanzibar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that showcases the rich and diverse influences of Arab, Persian, Indian, and European cultures. Whether you are interested in history, architecture, food, or shopping, Stone Town has something for everyone. Here are 10 of the best things to do in Stone Town that you should not miss.

1. Explore the Old Streets of Stone Town

One of the best ways to experience Stone Town is to simply wander around its narrow and winding streets, admiring the beautiful buildings, carved doors, and colorful shops. You will find mosques, churches, temples, palaces, and museums along the way, as well as friendly locals who will greet you with a smile. You can also join a guided walking tour to learn more about the history and culture of Stone Town.

2. Visit the Old Fort

The Old Fort, also known as Ngome Kongwe, is the oldest building in Zanzibar, dating back to the 17th century. It was built by the Portuguese as a defense against the Omani Arabs, who later captured it and used it as a fort, prison, and ceremonial site. Today, the Old Fort is a cultural center that hosts various events, such as music festivals, art exhibitions, and performances. You can also visit the small museum inside the fort and browse the souvenir stalls around the courtyard.

3. Admire the Beauty of St Joseph's Cathedral

St Joseph’s Cathedral is a stunning example of Gothic and Islamic architecture, built by French missionaries in the late 19th century. The cathedral features a high vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, and twin spires that dominate the skyline of Stone Town. The cathedral is still in use today and welcomes visitors of all faiths. You can also climb up the tower for a panoramic view of the city and the sea.

4. Spot the Stunning Century-Old Zanzibar Wooden Doors in Stone Town

One of the most distinctive features of Stone Town are the ornate wooden doors that adorn many of the buildings. These doors are more than just entrances, they are symbols of the wealth, status, and culture of the owners. The doors are carved with intricate designs, such as flowers, animals, geometric patterns, and Arabic inscriptions. Some of the doors also have metal studs, which were originally used to protect them from elephants. You can find over 500 different doors in Stone Town, each with its own story and style.

5. Hang Out with the Locals at Jaws Corner

Jaws Corner is a popular meeting place for the locals, especially the men, who gather here to chat, play games, and drink coffee. The name comes from the shark jaws that are displayed on the wall, a reminder of the fishing heritage of Zanzibar. Jaws Corner is a great place to observe the daily life of Stone Town and interact with the friendly people. You can also try the local coffee, which is strong and sweet, and served in small cups.

6. Learn More About the Terrible History of Slave Trade in Zanzibar

Zanzibar was once a major hub of the slave trade in East Africa, where thousands of people were captured, sold, and shipped to other parts of the world. The Anglican Cathedral of Christ Church, built in 1873, stands on the site of the former slave market, where the slaves were auctioned and whipped. The cathedral has a memorial that depicts the slaves in chains, as well as a museum that tells the stories of the victims and the abolitionists. You can also visit the underground chambers, where the slaves were kept in horrible conditions before being sold.

7. Enjoy the Food and Nightlife at Forodhani Gardens

Forodhani Gardens is a small park on the seafront, opposite the House of Wonders and the Palace Museum. The park is a pleasant place to relax during the day, but it comes alive at night, when it hosts a lively food market. You can find a variety of dishes, such as grilled seafood, meat skewers, samosas, salads, pizzas, and desserts. You can also try the famous Zanzibar pizza, which is a thin dough filled with cheese, meat, vegetables, and egg, and fried on a hot plate. The food is cheap, delicious, and fresh, and you can eat it while enjoying the views of the harbor and the stars.

8. Visit the Zanzibar National Museum of History and Culture

The Zanzibar National Museum of History and Culture, also known as the House of Wonders, is one of the most impressive buildings in Stone Town. It was built in 1883 by Sultan Barghash as his palace, and it was the first building in East Africa to have electricity and an elevator. The museum showcases the history, culture, and art of Zanzibar, as well as its natural resources and wildlife. You can see exhibits on the Swahili civilization, the spice trade, the sultanate, the colonial era, and the revolution. You can also admire the architecture and the decorations of the palace, such as the carved doors, the balconies, and the clock tower.

9. Take a Boat Trip to Prison Island

Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, is a small island about 5 km from Stone Town. It was originally used as a prison for rebellious slaves, and later as a quarantine station for yellow fever patients. Today, the island is a nature reserve and a tourist attraction. You can visit the old prison buildings, which are now a hotel and a restaurant, and see the giant tortoises that live on the island. These tortoises are over 100 years old and some weigh over 200 kg. You can also enjoy the white sandy beach, the clear blue water, and the coral reef around the island.

10. Shop for Souvenirs at Darajani Bazaar

Darajani Bazaar is the main market of Stone Town, where you can find everything from fresh produce and spices to clothes and crafts. The market is a bustling and colorful place, where you can experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Zanzibar. You can also shop for souvenirs, such as fabrics, jewelry, baskets, carvings, paintings, and books. Don’t be afraid to bargain, as it is part of the culture and the fun.


Stone Town is a fascinating and charming place that offers a glimpse into the rich and diverse history and culture of Zanzibar. It is a place where you can immerse yourself in the past, present, and future of this island nation. Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or education, Stone Town has something for you. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this unique and unforgettable destination.

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