For two people who have not yet mastered a decent doggy paddle, can barely float, and are just a tad uncomfortable in deep water, a certain someone and I have the most uncanny love of the beach. Lounging in the sun, a book in one hand and a drink in the other, with the sounds of waves lightly crashing in the background; we like a lot. Energetic watersports or hours spent underwater; we like less.
We’re the lazy kind of beach bums, but beach bums none the less, and will jump at any opportunity for some sand between our toes and a sniff of the salty sea air. Even if this means arriving at the wrong time of year… In our defence, you’d struggle to find perfect beach conditions in Essaouira any time of the year. This sleepy seaside town on Morocco’s coast looks ideal for a spot of sunbathing but the reality is, it’s just far too windy! But as Wellingtonians, we’re used to a little gust of wind so decided it just had to be added to our Morocco itinerary.
Essaouira is compact, quiet and utterly charming. We spent our days there luxuriating in its laid-back atmosphere; we took in the sea views from the best vantage point on the old city walls, wandered through the medina at our leisure, and witnessed the incredible sight of thousands of seagulls swarming round the port! All this was punctuated with fantastic food so here are my top picks…
Patisserie Driss – The Quick Breakfast Spot
Moroccans know how to breakfast well; all of the riads we stayed in made it an elaborate affair with eggs, breads, fruit, and crepes, but by the time we got to Essaouira I was ready for a break. I am, rather naughtily, not a breakfast eater so was more than happy to trade that all in for a small cake or pastry with my mid-morning cup of tea. Patisserie Driss is unashamedly shabby and eclectic but it’s worth a visit for the great bakery selection where I swear nothing cost more than £1-2, basically an absolute steal!
Seafood Grills – The Freshest Fish Lunch
Right by the port are a row of wooden shacks, each with an identical set up – a bountiful fresh fish display and pre-set tables at the front, a large grill waiting for orders at the back, and the team’s best salesman waiting to pounce on all who dare walk the gauntlet. They’ll all tell you their fish is the freshest and their prices are the keenest but they’re all much of a muchness, just go with your gut and choose the one which charms you the most! Our lunch was cheap, generous and delicious, costing around £20 for a great selection of seafood and a quintessential Essaouira experience!
Umia – The Date Night Dinner
Tucked down a narrow street at the edge of the Medina, Umia is an elegant restaurant with a succinct menu of dishes with French and English influences – there’s a not a single tagine in sight! We instead dined on a wonderful duck confit and their famous Beef Wellington with foie gras; a dish thoroughly enjoyed by a certain someone which was just as well, as it was one of the most expensive dishes of our whole trip!
The Loft – The Casual Dinner
The first thing I noticed when stepping into The Loft was the stylish decor and quirky selection of items adorning the wall; this place is as much interior design store as it is restaurant and you’ll find yourself wanting to take home anything from the beautifully bright baskets to the novelty umbrella holder. Their food is vibrant and makes the most of the wide range of fresh produce available in the Medina’s markets. Come here expecting comforting dishes, simply put together and presented but all made with great care – we particularly enjoyed their mammoth salads and soups!
So Make a Move
If you’re already planning a trip to Marrakech, I’d highly recommend you add a few more days to the itinerary and squeeze in a visit to Essaouira. It makes for a fantastic contrast to the relentless hustle of Marrakech and will show you another side of Morocco altogether!
- Patisserie Driss, 10 rue El Hajjali, Essaouira
- Umia, 22 Bis Skala Street, Essaouira
- The Loft, 5 Rue Hajjali, Essaouira
- There are plenty of riads in the Medina catering to all budgets but we decided on something a little different for this leg of our trip, opting to stay at Le Medina Essaouira Hotel Thalassa which is just outside of the Medina.
- Easyjet now fly directly to Essaouira, or you can can take a short 2-3 hour bus ride from Marrakech. We came from Rabat via Casablanca which was a very long, 7 hour bus journey…
Have you been to Essaouira? Did you love the laid-back atmosphere as much as we did?!