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. If you decide to spend two days in Stone Town, you will get to know a lot about local culture, hearth breaking history, and fell in love with the local vibe. This famous town is small and historic, with a lot of stories. It is easy to get lost there, but that is part of the charm.
Two days in Stone town
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 and museum
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. Part of this building is also a museum.
The museum that you can find here covers his childhood in Zanzibar. You will get a very detailed story of how he grew up in the Stone Town up until the moment his family decided to move to England in 1963.
Freddie Mercury museum isn’t interactive, so you will find here a lot of pictures on the wall with explanations. If you are a hard-core Queen fan, this is a must. Especially if you have whole two days in Stone Town.
If you are planning a visit, you can come here every day from 10 am and the entrance fee costs 10 USD.
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.
House of Wonders is at the same time a palace museum and a place, where sultans used to live. You will have an opportunity to visit the exotic historical palace that is filled with interesting architecture and amazing decorations inside.
The building was under renovation for a long time so you could just walk around the place. However, in January 2020 it opened up again for the public so you can visit some of the sultan’s rooms and see how they used to live.
The entrance to the museum costs 6000 TZS for an adult and you can visit it every day from 10 am to 6 pm.
Here we are truly approaching the colonial times. Both House of wanders and Old fort belongs to this era. It is perhaps the oldest building in Stone Town since it is here since 1699.
It was used as a prison through most of the 19th century and. But don’t get fooled not all parts of the Old Fort in Stone Town are there since the building was made. For example, the amphitheater that is one of the key parts of it now was build just in 1990.
Around the Old Fort, you can find a little market with people offering all kinds of things from henna painting to local craftsman showing you their art.
The Old Fort is opened every day from 10 am to 6 pm and you can get in for free. At least to the general part, where you can see the ruins of what used to be a prominent mansion.
Getting lost in Stone town streets
I’m not even kidding, getting around when visiting the 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.
But take a walk around Stone Town, it has a unique atmosphere and you can find hidden treasures in the form of exotic-looking doors, little side markets and charming old buildings with an exotic look.
You might also find a lot of good local places to eat or see the local artists in their little shops.
Anglican cathedral and the slave markets
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.
Aside from that, there is the church that was founded by one of the followers of David Livingstone and it is also where you can see David Livingstone cross. It is cross from the tree under which was his heart buried. Here is an interesting story about that. David Livingstone was a missionary in Africa and tried to stop slavery. He was traveling around Africa with two women who used to be slaves. When he was dying on malaria, he knew that his body will be shipped back to London but he said that they should keep a piece of him in Africa. So once he died, they cut out his heard and buried it in Zambia.
David Livingstone was very influential when it comes to ending slavery. He is mentioned numerous times in the local slavery museum, where you get to know everything about how slaves were treated differently by different nations and what happened when slavery ended.
You can visit the Anglican cathedral every day from 8 am to 6 pm. If you are planning to visit the museum, you would pay 11 USD.
Day 2 in Stone Town:
Visit Prison island
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. The boat to Prison Island should cost 20 000 TZS at max.
So what to see there? Well, first of all, the tortoises. It was a gift from the British governor of Seychelles. The tortoises very quickly bred and in the ’50s they reached a number of 200 of these animals just on this island.
Later on, a lot of them were stolen and sold to foreign countries as a pet or source of food. Luckily that is not the case now. The Prison island belongs to the Tanzanian government and Tortoises are well kept. The oldest one is around 160 years old and still fit. If you want to visit them, you would have to pay 5 000 TZS as an entry fee to their protected area.
Prison part of the island
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.
At the same time, this island worked as a prison for rebellious slaves who served their sentence here before it was decided what should be done with them.
You can also pursue fishermen to bring you to one of the islands close to Prison Island where you can snorkel. The thing is that this place also was a corals mine. Not anymore. But there are still corals and interesting little fishes all around the place.
So you may try to ask local fisherman if they can take you for snorkeling after visiting the Prison Island. For that, they might ask you for an additional 20 000 TZS.
The name is here because this building served as a dispensary building at the beginning of the 20th century. Up till today, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Zanzibar, where you can find the finest decoration of its kind.
Great thing is that it is free to visit, so it is really easy just to pop by. It is open from 9 am to 5 pm. The visit usually doesn’t take more than 30 minutes. There is nothing about history, so you will just walk and see the historical place for yourself without further interruptions.
Spice community shop
Zanzibar is supposed to be one of the main places where you would get spices. Any spices, you can find here all kinds of things being planted. And so you can also find here very original spice shops on every corner.
However, if you want to support the local community, there is one local shop in the middle of the market, that works as a community place. You can find there all kinds of spices from vanilla to anything else you desire. And you can buy things from them and take them home as a souvenir. I’m sure it is going to be one of the best souvenirs that there is. Spices here are also much cheaper than anywhere else.
Practical info about two days in Stone Town
How to get there?
So you have decided to spend at least two days in Stone Town. Or maybe it is your gate to beautiful Zanzibar beaches. Either way, there are several ways of how to get there, so let’s see.
By ferry from Dar es Salaam
Dar es Saalam used to be the capital of Tanzania. It is not anymore but there is still a direct connection from that city to Stone Town. So you can hop on a ferry and be there in 2 hours. There are several ferries during the day and it costs 35 USD for a one-way ticket.
Flying to Zanzibar
So, Stone Town is the historic part of Zanzibar city, which is the capital of Zanzibar. And there is an international airport with regular flights both internationally and within Tanzania. It is a good way to get around the country itself if you want to go to safari in Northern Tanzania.
You can get to a Stone town from Zanzibar airport by taxi. It is a relatively short drive, just 30 minutes. But you will get directly to or from your hotel, which is nice. The taxi should cost around 15 USD.
This is a name from local buses. And you can use them especially if you are coming from some of the beaches in Zanzibar. They go quite regularly and they are the cheapest option for getting around Zanzibar. It is the ideal option for backpackers.
Where to stay in Stone Town
Whether you are choosing two or more days in Stone Town, you need to stay in some hotel close by. Stone Town has a lot of really cool accommodations all around the town, that will suit your desire.
Luxury – Hilton hotels are always quite special and DoubleTree by Hilton Zanzibar is not an exception. You will see a great hotel that is fitting within the local style and get high-quality services. If you want to stay here, it cost 178 USD per night for two with breakfast.
Mid-range – Hikili house is one of the popular picks for anyone who would like some comfort but not lose a fortune over it. For the price of 55 USD per night for two, you can enjoy a big room with a super nice bathroom and breakfast as well.
Budget – Stone Town is a place where, especially if you are two, you can still enjoy the comfort of sultans, and Balcony house is a good example of it. For 30 USD you can get a luxurious room with a really pretty balcony. The only thing you will need to share would be a bathroom. But they are quite nice and clean.
Where to eat in Stone Town?
There are a couple of really good restaurants. And a lot of local restaurants with delicious food… and all kinds of restaurants, but these ones were my absolute favorites.
Swahili house – This place is a hotel but they have a great rooftop restaurant where you can see beautiful sunsets. The food here is a little bit more expensive but it is one of the first-class restaurants in Stone Town. At the same time, it is the tallest building in Stone Town, so you will have a good look around.
Lukmaan Restaurant – Proper African buffet. You can put anything on your plate, fishes, chicken, beef, vegetarian or vegan nom-noms. Anything you desire. The restaurant is open both for lunches and for dinners. You can also find here awesome smoothies that are made here at any time of the day. At the same time, this restaurant is quite cheap.
Mercury’s bar – If you are a hard-core Queens fan, this is your place. They have all kinds of drinks. The prices are mid-range and the staff is quite nice. You can come here and listen to Queens every evening.
Are two days in Stone town worth it?
Now a little bit more about how much time do you need. I would say that two days are 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.
But you should certainly visit Stone Town before you go. There is a good connection to the airport and the city is nice and safe even if you are planning to experience the nightlife here. there are some pickpocketers but you shouldn’t expect anything too bad or dangerous if you take precautions, you are safe and sound.
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