Must see attractions in Zanzibar Island

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    House of Wonders

    An icon of Stone Town, the House of Wonders rises in impressive tiers of slender steel pillars and balconies overlooking the waterfront. Its enormous carved doors are said to be the largest in East Africa, fronted by two bronze cannon with Portuguese inscriptions dating them to the 16th century. Inside, the National Museum of History & Culture has exhibits on Swahili civilisation and the peoples of the Indian Ocean.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Island

    ZALA Park

    ZALA (Zanzibar Land Animals) Park was founded as a project to help local people appreciate the value of wildlife, with funds raised by tourist visits. The park itself appears forlorn today, as more energy and emphasis goes into tours exploring local woodland, mangrove shoreline and nearby villages, by foot, bike or kayak.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Forodhani Gardens

    One of the best ways to ease into Zanzibar life is to stop by this waterfront public space. It's a social hub for tourists and locals alike; there's a large restaurant jutting into the sea, two small cafes with outside seating, benches under shady trees, a children's play park, and food stalls in the evening.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Old Dispensary

    With its peppermint-green latticework balconies and sculpted clock tower, this 19th-century charitable dispensary is one of the most attractive landmarks on the waterfront. It was built by Tharia Topan, a prominent Ismaili Indian merchant who also acted as financial adviser to the sultan and as banker to Tippu Tip, Zanzibar’s most notorious slave trader. You’re free to wander through the interior, which now accommodates offices. In the airy courtyard on the ground floor is the Abyssinian's Steakhouse restaurant.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Princess Salme Museum

    Carefully curated by the renowned historian Said al Gheithy, this delightful little museum tells the story of Princess Salme, a sultan's daughter who eloped with a German merchant in the late 19th century and later wrote Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar. If Said is on duty, his guided tour of the museum adds depth to the story.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Anglican Cathedral

    The tall spire and grey-yellow walls of the Anglican cathedral dominate the surrounding streets in this part of Stone Town, while the dark-wood pews and stained-glass windows will remind British visitors of churches back home. This was the first Anglican cathedral in East Africa, constructed in the 1870s by the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) on the site of the former slave market after slavery was officially abolished.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Palace Museum

    Occupying several large buildings along the waterfront, this was the palace of Sultan Seyyid Said from 1828 until it was largely destroyed by the British bombardment of 1896. It was then rebuilt and used until the 1964 revolution when the last sultan was overthrown. Remarkably, much of the royal paraphernalia – banqueting tables, portraits, thrones and water closets – survives to now provide the human-interest story in this museum dedicated to the sultanate in the 19th century.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Old Fort

    With its pale-orange ramparts overlooking Forodhani Gardens and the ocean beyond, the fort was built by Omani Arabs when they seized the island from the Portuguese in 1698, and over the centuries it's had various uses, from prison to tennis club. Today the scale of the fortifications is still impressive, although there has been some modernisation inside, notably a line of souvenir shops and a pleasant cafe that turns into a bar in the evening.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Darajani Market

    Zanzibar's main market is a hive of activity, with everything – from spices, fresh fish, slabs of meat and huge baskets full of live chickens to sandals, plastic buckets and mobile phones – all set out in a series of covered halls and overflowing into the surrounding streets. If you're buying food, come in the morning when stuff is fresh, although it's much busier then. For a slightly less crowded and chaotic experience come in the afternoon.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Catholic Cathedral

    One of the first sights travellers see when arriving by ferry are the twin spires of the Roman Catholic cathedral. Serving the local Catholic community, including Goans, Europeans and Tanzanians from Zanzibar and the mainland, it was designed by French architect Berange, whose other work includes the cathedral in Marseilles, and built by French missionaries between 1893 and 1897. Entrance is free but a donation is requested. Mass times are posted on the porch.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Island

    Jozani Sea Turtle Sanctuary

    The aim of this community initiative is to help local people benefit from tourism and conservation. In three large pools you can observe sea turtles and fish-farming side by side. It's also a great place to see giant tortoises, translocated here from Chunguu Island as a gift from the president of Zanzibar. A helpful guide will show you around.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Kidichi Persian Baths

    Sultan Seyyid Said built this bathhouse at Kidichi (11km northeast of Zanzibar Town) in 1850 for his Persian wife, Scheherezade. The royal couple would come here after hunting to refresh themselves in the stylised stucco interiors. Although poorly maintained, you can still make out much of the carving and see the bathing pool and massage tables. Situated among some of Zanzibar's famous spice plantations, Kidichi Persian Baths is usually visited as part of a spice tour.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Mtoni Palace

    Overlooking the coast, away from the heat and hustle of Zanzibar Town, Mtoni Palace was built for Sultan Seyyid Said in 1828. It was home to the sultan’s only legitimate wife, many secondary wives and hundreds of children. According to contemporary descriptions, it was a beautiful building with a balconied exterior and a large garden courtyard complete with peacocks and gazelles. Now only a ruin remains with roofless halls and arabesque arches framing glimpses of tropical foliage and an azure sea.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Maruhubi Palace

    Maruhubi Palace was built outside Zanzibar Town in 1882 for Sultan Barghash to house his impressively large harem. A few years later it was destroyed by fire, although the remaining walls and arches, and the large columns that once supported an upper balcony, hint at its previous scale. The entrance is 4km north of Zanzibar Town, on the left (west) of the main road towards Bububu.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Island

    Zanzibar Butterfly Centre

    Protecting numerous butterfly species indigenous to Zanzibar, this centre is a huge tropical garden with net walls and roof. You can see the various life cycle stages of the butterfly, including some beautiful cocoons. Profits support local conservation and community projects. It's on the main road between Zanzibar Town and Paje, near the village of Pete, and about 2km west of the well-signposted Jozani-Chwaka National Park entrance.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Mercury House

    Freddie Mercury, the former lead singer of Queen, was born in Zanzibar in 1946 where his name was Farrokh Bulsara. His father worked for the British colonial service and the family lived in various locations in Stone Town, including this house which, for romantics, appears disappointingly modern. It's not open to the public but notices outside tell the story.

  • Sights in Mangapwani

    Mangapwani Slave Chamber

    This dark cell cut into the coral rock was used as a holding pen to hide slaves after the legal trade was abolished in the late 19th century. From here it's a short walk to a rock outcrop and small bay where slaves would be unloaded from boats.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Aga Khan Mosque

    In the Kiponda area of Stone Town, this mosque is one of the largest in Zanzibar, catering to the Ismaili community since 1905. The beautifully detailed building has pointed Arabesque windows, a large airy courtyard and an impressive Gujarati-style carved door.

  • Sights in Mangapwani

    Mangapwani Coral Cave

    This large natural cavern with a freshwater pool was originally used as a source of drinking water for local people and is rumoured to have been used in connection with the slave trade.

  • Sights in Zanzibar Town

    Mbweni Ruins

    The upmarket suburb of Mbweni, 5km south of Zanzibar Town, was a Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) base and settlement for former slaves in the 19th century. The ruins of St Mary’s School for Girls, built by missionaries for girls freed from slave ships, is now set amid the lush gardens of Mbweni Ruins Hotel. It's an evocative spot, but a long trek from Stone Town, so best combined with a visit to the hotel's restaurant or private beach.