Guide to visiting Stone Town in Zanzibar

Guide to visiting Stone Town in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a lovely island, that has a lot to offer. You can come here to visit local culture, beautiful beaches, wildlife and even see part of the history of this island. Visiting Stone town is mainly about history. This famous town is small and historical, with a lot of stories. It is easy to get lost there, so I hope this guide will help you to go around.

Visiting Stone Town

Visiting Stone town in Zanzibar

Stone town is a historical center of Zanzibar city, which is the capital of Zanzibar. Here you have an opportunity to get lost in history, find interesting places and eat like a local. Keep in mind that there are a lot of things to see. And first, let me give you a list of what to see.

Birthplace of Freddie Mercury

Birthplace of Freddie Mercury
Birthplace of Freddie Mercury is now a hotel

This might strike as a surprise but it is true. Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar. Even though the place where he used to live is now a hotel, you can still go around. Right in front of this hotel is a couple of boards to tell his story.

Getting lost in Stone town streets

Zanzibar doors
On my way around Stone town, I found a lot of gorgeous doors

I’m not even kidding, getting around when visiting Stone town can be difficult. The town is full of very small streets and most of them look the same. The obvious answer to these would be just to use Google maps. Well, not all of the streets are in these apps, so be ready and enjoy it at the same time.

House of wonders

The building is called the House of wanders because it is the first place in Zanzibar where they had electricity. I think it is pretty hilarious but anyway, it is one of the biggest buildings in Stone Town. Unfortunately, it is currently under renovation, so it is possible just to admire it from outside.

Old fort

Old Fort in Stone Town

Here we are truly approaching the colonial times. Both House of wanders and Old fort belongs to this era. On Zanzibar, this is a unique opportunity to go inside a colonial building and see what was going on there.

Visiting Stone town dark history – the Anglican cathedral

Slave trade statue

It might look like Stone town is just a happy town with some historical places to offer. Well, not completely. It does have a dark past and the Anglican cathedral is a witness of that. This church is built on a former slave market. The place where slaves were chained to a tree, waiting for a new buyer is still marked even in the church. You can also still see the slave chambers down there. it is heartbreaking to watch, but in a way, it is important to see that.

Visit Prison island

Prison Island
place with a heartbreaking history

If you are not too fed up with slave history, you should make sure to visit Prison Island. It is easy to catch the ferry there – you can just ask fishermen to get you there and pick you up a little later. It takes about 15 minutes to get from Stone Town to Prison Island by boat. And you can spend about 2 hours on the island and not get bored.

So what to see there? Well, first of all, the tortoises. The rumor goes that in the past century, the slave masters were also buying tortoises. After the slave trade was banned, they sort of just let them in Prison Island. Tanzanian government bought them. And now everyone can go and feed them.

And now to the sadder part of the island. Up till the slave trade was banned, this place worked as a quarantine. This is the place where slaves went first, and later they would separate the healthy ones and the sick ones would stay here. You can still see where they had a shower and where were the chains.

More tips and tricks for visiting Stone Town

The view from Swahili house
Don’t miss the view from Swahili house when visiting the Stone town

First of all, let me give you some safety tips. Stone town is a safe place, but you still need to be careful about petty theft that is going around sometimes. There fore, try to not wear a big bag, that just brings too much attention. Also, I already mentioned that it is easy to get lost in the town. But walk confidently, even when you don’t know where you are.

Now a little bit more about how much time do you need. I would say that one day is enough. The walk inside of the city doesn’t take that much time, and the same goes for visiting Prison Island. There is only one beach in Stone Town and it is not the best beach I have seen, so visiting Stone town might be good as a day trip from your beach resort.

And finally one last thing. Especially if you decide to stay here for a day or two, Stone town has beautiful sunsets. For an even better experience, you can go to Swahili house for drinks while watching the sunset. Swahili House is the tallest building in Stone Town and you will have a perfect view from here.

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28 Replies to “Guide to visiting Stone Town in Zanzibar”

  1. I would love to visit Zanzibar one day. I have always been fascinated by their beautiful traditional doors. Looks like an interesting island full of history.

  2. Zanzibar sounds lovely, even with the slave history. It is an important part of the history and would be fascinating to learn about, although more than a bit depressing.

  3. I have a serious case of wanderlust reading your post. My family have been visiting Tanzania for a long as I can remember. I am aiming to visit with my husband early next year. Pinned your post for tips when I start planning my trip.

  4. I was recently in Stone Town and loved the cobblestone paths and the lovely boutiques. However, it was unbearably hot and humid while we there and couldn’t see all the sites that you described. Next time!

  5. My friend visited Zanzibar for a resort holiday a few years back and loved the food and the friendly people. I would love to visit prison island and learn about the slave trade.

  6. That´s an awesome guide! I would love to visit Zanzibar one day! It looks like a perfect combination of learning a bit history and plenty of choices to relax and rest!

  7. I’ve been to Zanzibar when I was younger and I had no idea it had such a sad history.. Thank you for opening my eyes about it! I remember going to an island with massive turtles but no idea what it was called..

  8. Just went to Zanzibar last month. I was really short on time so I only had a few hours in stone town so i did a food walking tour in stone town and learned/ate a lot. Zanzibar is the first place I ever wanted to visit and Tanzania was country #55. definitely an emotional trip for me. Great tips for a short stay in Stone Town

  9. Great post! I’ve been to Zanzibar but didn’t spend any time there. I was on the other side of island diving. I didn’t realize how much there is to see there and would love to go back! 😁

  10. I had no idea Freddie Mercury was from here! I like that you’ve included some of the sadder historical parts of Zanzibar. I always think it’s super important to learn about the history of a place.

  11. I’ve never heard of Stone Town but this looks like such an interesting place to visit in Zanzibar. It sounds like it has a very interesting, but sad, history.

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