Set off the iconic coast of mainland Tanzania lies an idyllic little archipelago called Zanzibar. It’s a tropical oasis in the Indian Ocean, full of rich, multicultural history. Zanzibar offers a true escape from every day normalcy with clear turquoise waters and soft white sands. Any visitor will instantly fall in love with the culture, beaches, and amazing Zanzibar restaurants.
The capital, Old Stone Town, is a unique heritage harbor, with African, Arab, and colonial influences. The wilderness is ripe for outdoor adventure, with everything from spotting endemic and endangered species to scuba diving to explore the underwater world.
It’s aptly nicknamed Spice Island, for the famous spice plantations covering the landscape. As such, the culinary scene here leaves nothing to be desired. Flavorful fares from all over are served up in exciting, exotic settings.
Chow down on authentic traditional dishes or contemporary takes on classic plates. An eclectic range of eats can be found here, from Italian to Indian. Treat yourself to a fancy feast of fresh sustainably sourced seafood. Here are all our favorite Zanzibar restaurants.
The Best Zanzibar Restaurants
The Rock (number 1 Zanzibar Restaurants)
As you may have guessed The Rock is located on just that, a giant rock that sits majestically in the bright blue waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s one of the most scenic settings we could possibly imagine, a must-try novelty in Zanzibar. While the location is enough of a reason to venture here on its own, the food also happens to be fantastic.
The menu compliments the magic of the environment, featuring local style seafood fresh from the surrounding sea, fitting seeing as it was once an outpost for fishermen in the community. The Stewed Rock Lobster and Cous Cous comes highly recommended. It’s a simple eatery that lets the unparalleled views and tasty plates speak for themselves. You can arrive by foot at low tide and by a complimentary boat ride at high tide.
We will say that if you can’t get a seat here, seeing the establishment from the water is still one of the best things to do in Zanzibar!
La Taverna is the place to go for authentic Italian eats in Zanzibar. It’s a long-time staple of the foodie scene in Stone Town and is family-owned and operated by several generations of Italian chefs. High-quality ingredients are often imported from Tuscany, Roma, and Napoli for almost every dish.
They offer a variety of handmade pasta, like gnocchi, tagliatelle, and bucatini. Start your meal off right with some antipasti, especially the cured meats platter or tuna carpaccio. The pizzas are cooked to perfection over a wood-fired oven using family recipes that have been passed down over generations. They also boast an extensive wine list to pair with any plate.
One of my top Zanzibar travel tips is to visit this area on at least one night on your trip! Forodhani Gardens refers to a public park in Stone Town, set right in front of its most famous buildings, Old Fort and House of Wonders. It’s also sometimes referred to as Jubilee Gardens, Forodhani Park, or just the main town square.
Regardless of what you call it, head there after sunset and you’re in for a veritable smorgasbord of street food delights. The open-air food market vendors sell mostly Swahili and Zanzibari cuisine, such as samoosas, seafood, and kebabs.
It’s such a fun way to experience the local culture and try as many classic culinary concoctions as possible. It’s also one of the more affordable places you can eat in Zanzibar.
Taarab Restaurant is a rooftop gem in Zanzibar. Dine while gazing out over all of Stone Town and the stunning Indian Ocean. It’s a breathtaking backdrop for a bite and for soaking up all of the scenic surroundings.
We love to go for sunset for the a la carte menu and awe-inspiring ambiance. The indoor seating offers a cozy and intimate atmosphere as well. The Special Coconut Crab Soup is served in an actual coconut. I’m not sure it gets more Instagrammable than that. There are plenty of vegetarian plates to pick from here as well.
Lukmaan is a local institution in the area, frequented by travelers and residents alike. It’s generally pretty packed, but after you eat there it’s easy to understand why. Just look for the red roof and striped awning, and even if there’s a line out the door, it’s well worth the wait.
The menu is quite eclectic, offering plenty of eats for everyone to enjoy, from the pickiest palates to adventurous taste testers. You’ll find pilanis, biryanis, curries, and more. Every dish is made fresh and is seasoned so well.
The rooftop is delightful if you wish to dine al fresco as well. The atmosphere is simple with a Swahili feel to it and it’s one of the most affordable Zanzibar restaurants. Be sure to try one of the fresh fruit smoothies here, they’re incredible.
Emerson (Tea House and Secret Garden)
Emerson is an expansive foundation and an integral part of the community in the historical heart of Zanzibar. It consists of two heritage hotels and three highly regarded restaurants. There’s the Tea House at Emerson on Hurumzi, the Tea House at Emerson Spice, and the Secret Garden Restaurant there as well. We’ve eaten at all of them and they each provide a unique experience.
Emerson Spice boasts an intimate rooftop space that serves a set five course tasting menu. It’s seafood based, and it’s best to book in advance for this fancy feast.
Emerson on Hurumzi offers sweeping panoramas looking out over Stone Town and the Indian Ocean (it’s also one of the best Zanzibar hotels). It’s a Swahili style setting with an array of seating on thick Persian rugs at low tables. Traditional live music is a common feature here for some added ambiance. Most dishes are vegetarian Zanzibari food with some Omani influence. Last but not least, the Secret Garden is both magical and mouthwatering.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets, it’s truly an enchanting enclave. It serves an a la carte menu each night full of delicious local favorites.
6 Degrees South
This eatery is a lovely spot for some laid-back yet refined dining. The decor is modern and simple, and the terrace offers some stunning vistas overlooking the sparkling seas. An evening spent at 6 Degrees South is sure to be delightful. We like to go for a few drinks as well since the cocktails are well-crafted and the wine list is well-curated.
It’s a fairly affordable choice, and the local live music only adds to the authentic experience. You can get a light bite like a Spiced Chicken Sandwich or the Catch of the Day Melt. The hardy mains feature fresh and delicious dishes such as the Mishkaki with BBQ Beef or the Duo of Pates, both chicken liver and fish served with toasted crostini.
Bin Jabir Restaurant
Set along the beautiful Matemwe Beach, Bin Jabir is the definition of a no-frills local haunt. It’s a small, thatched roof open air structure that sits right out on the golden sands. Luckily there are a few small signs adorning the front so it’s not too hard to find. The catch of the day is the highly recommended choice here.
What could be a fresher way to enjoy some seafood than straight out of the warm sea in front of you, and with a side of refreshing salty breeze surrounded by swaying palm trees?
Get there early to enjoy the best of the selections of the day which are always sure to sell out. Everything is so scrumptious, plus, you’ll get large portions for a good price. This is easily one of the best Zanzibar restaurants to try.
Krishna Food House
This is a gem for any vegetarians, vegans, or Indian food lovers in Zanzibar. It also happens to be great value for money, with deals like the all you can eat Thali. The fares are always authentic, fresh, and come mostly from the northern region of India. When we were looking for cheap eats in Stone Town, we came here on multiple occasions.
The Cauliflower Tikka Masala and the Mushroom Paneer were both flavorful fantastic meals. Don’t skimp on the roti or the rice and it all goes down extra nice with a cold beer on the side. It’s tucked away on a small street, so it’s a bit off the beaten path.
Though the ambiance is nothing special, the delectable bites are certainly worth a visit, especially for anyone who enjoys a meat-free meal.
Travellers Cafe is a simple beachfront bar and restaurant chock full of rustic charm. The eclectic menu offers all kinds of cuisines, including steaks, burgers, seafood, and pizzas. It’s perfect for a long leisurely meal solo or with loved ones.
The views from the open-air deck are truly spectacular, and if you’re visiting Zanzibar in the dry season you’ll love sitting outside. The beach here can get busy, and it’s a popular spot for tourists to frequent so while it’s not the most tranquil spot it has a fun lively energy and is great for people watching.
It’s one of the best Zanzibar restaurants to go to for the sunset views alone, plus the happy hour drinks here are always a good idea.
For authentic Ethiopian eats, Abyssinian Maritim is an excellent experience. There are plenty of choices to pick from on the menu and the portions are ample, to say the least. The Ye’difin Misir Key Wot and Doro Tibs are especially tasty.
The service can be slow, so skip it if you’re in a rush, but everything comes out fresh and flavorful. There is a superb spot of refreshing beverages as well, boozy or not, from coffee to fruit juices to wine. We love how charmingly simple and traditional the atmosphere is.
The Silk Route
Set just steps away from the Indian Ocean lies the delectable dining destination the Silk Route. It’s a modern fine dining establishment cooking up Indian cuisine. Every dish utilizes local ingredients and innovative techniques to create something creative and delicious. The space is full of character with a cute and contemporary decor.
The chefs here are often world renowned, all striving to achieve the perfect balance between sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. They have an entire section of fare made in a traditional Tandor, or clay oven, with delicious dishes such as the Chicken Tikka. For seafood, the Boatman’s Fish Curry and Bombay Prawns always impress.
There are also many vegetarian meals available here – the Navratan Korma, in particular, is a fan favorite.
Kijiji Restaurant is a part of that cute bright pink building you may notice while strolling around Stone Town. It’s conveniently located in Paje, one of the best Zanzibar beaches, though it is a bit off the beaten path away from the rest of the tourist fray. It feels a bit like discovering a local hidden gem and is a delight for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
It’s a small eatery with only a few tables and has a simple and easy-going feel, with large open-air windows, fruits hanging from the ceiling, and mismatched tablecloths. It’s adorably offbeat. The Swahili Coconut Seafood Curry is all around one of the best dishes in town.
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New Monsoon Restaurant
Get the authentic Zanzibar experience in all the cute and comfortable glory of New Monsoon. Grab a comfy cushion, have a seat on the floor and listen to the lovely sound of local musicians serenading you. The environment is warm and mellow.
The terrace looks out over Forodhani Gardens with the Indian Ocean in the distance. They cook up cuisine called Ba’arab, a unique mix of African and Arab fares found in Zanzibar. There’s a lot of fresh seafood on the menu, along with the traditional dishes of Mchuzi Wa Nyama, marinated beef, and Kuku Wa Kupaka, a popular chicken plate.
Stone Town Cafe
Stone Town Cafe is an enchanting little outfit made up mostly of a large patio surrounded by all kinds of green plants. They serve up Nicoise-style seafood and a few different types of pizzas in a cute and comfortable al fresco setting. It’s also the favorite place in Zanzibar to go for an all-day breakfast.
There’s crepes, omelets, and even spicy avocado toast. It’s one of the best ways to start the day, or any time of day really, on the island. The spice tea or coffee is served in an authentic golden pot and the pastries are baked fresh every day. Everything is super affordable here as well.
Where to Stay on Zanzibar
The most exclusive of all the resorts on Zanzibar is without a doubt Kilindi Zanzibar. The resort is near Kendwa on the Northwestern part of the island and is one of the top Zanzibar hotels on the beach. Its large grounds give plenty of privacy to its 15 villas that pop up from a lush hillside. The white-washed domed villas feel like a sultan’s palace that should only be fit for a king or a pop celebrity. In fact, the resort was formerly the private residence of ABBA band member, Benny Andersson. It’s definitely the best hotel in Zanzibar for honeymoon vacations.
Park Hyatt Zanzibar
The Park Hyatt Zanzibar is an exquisite hotel delivered in a way only capable of a Park Hyatt and is easily one of the top 10 hotels in Zanzibar. The hotel finds a perfect balance between the brands signature look and the former palace that the main building now occupies. The interiors of the hotel embody the atmosphere of Stone Town with features such as intricate chandeliers, archways, lanterns, trellises, carved wood, and crown molding.
Essque Zalu Zanzibar
Essque Zalu is one of the best beach resorts in Zanzibar. This Zanzibar hotel is not for the faint of heart, at Essque Zalu bigger is better. It is one of the largest resorts on Zanzibar, but the intimacy of Zanzibar has not been lost. Essque Zalu Zanzibar sits at the Northern end of Zanzibar, close by to Nungwi Beach.
Book A Safari in Tanzania
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
Another great option is Safari Bookings. Safari Bookings offer safaris all around Africa in every price range!
Zanzibar Travel Resources
- Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
- Travel Waterbottle: When we’re uncertain about the water supply we use our Grayl Purifier. It’s come in exceptionally handy around Africa.
- Bathing Suit: You’ll need a bathing suit for all these beaches. My favorite suits are made by Andies Swim.
- Sandals: Rainbow Sandals last forever and are great for the beach.
- Camera Gear: Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size camera and the Fujifilm XT-3 for a professional camera. Check out our favorite cameras for Africa.
- Travel Adapter: You’ll need a special travel adapter for traveling Africa. Get one before you get there so you don’t pay a premium on the ground.