The town’s name means ‘little picture’

Essaouira is a vibrant, coastal town situated on the Atlantic west coast of Morocco. The name of the town, which means “little picture” in Arabic, is due to its incredibly picturesque setting. The charming blue-and-white Medina, encompassed by sand-colored ramparts and stone gates, is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage city and is a model of a fortified town from the late 18th century.

The bustling streets of the Medina are an artist’s haven, with colourful souks, charming boutiques that showcase local artisan products, and friendly proprietors lounging outside their shops and art galleries. It is easy to navigate too, with a series of interconnected streets forming a central backbone that leads directly from the northern gate, Bab Doukkala, to the main square, Place Moulay Hassan, by the waterfront.

Well-known for its relaxed atmosphere, this bohemian walled-town became a popular destination for creative types in the 60’s. Jimi Hendrix even made a stop in Essaouira in 1969 and there is a café named after the legendary musician.

Essaouira is also nicknamed the “Ville du Vent” because of the local Alizés winds, which make it a favorite spot for windsurfers. Even in the winter months, the weather remains mild and sunny.

Whether you prefer to take advantage of the waves, explore the local art galleries, or wander the medina, Essaouira has plenty of interesting things to offer first-time visitors.

Some key attractions to visit in Essaouira include the Skala Port Ramparts, the fishing port, the fortress tower Borj El Barmil at the port, the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah Museum, and the Sunday open-air market (Sunday Souk). You can also enjoy the beach on foot, by horse, camel, or quad, visit the Jimmy Hendrix sandcastle (Dar Sultan Castle) in Diabat, admire the craftwork of local artisans, enjoy a hammam, have your hands painted with henna tattoos, and try surfing and kitesurfing.

Here on the coast, the only crowds are of seagulls, whipping and turning above the harbour like the kite-surfers’ sails that flock further down the broad, biscuit-coloured beach. The air, straight-off-the-ocean salty, is made headier by the smoky scent of fish rubbed in charmoula – a lemony mix of paprika, cumin, garlic and coriander – grilling on hot coals at the stalls around the harbour, with its jumble of blue-tailed fishing boats.

Tara Stevens – Conde Naste 

Here’s what others have to say about Essaouira…

Lonely Planet Essaouira is coastal serenity
Telegraph Visit Essaouira, the laid-back alternative to Marrakesh
Independant Essaouira: a mini-break in Morocco
Tripadvisor Essaouira, Morocco
Arte France TV Essaouira, la bonne fée d’Orson Wells