It is usually possible to take a day trip from any of the beach resorts that you may be staying at in order to explore the World Heritage Site that is Stonetown, but a much better way is to spend a night or two here in a charmingly converted old merchant's house, or small hotel.
The truth is, though, that guided tours can vary hugely in quality, and you might get a much richer experience from doing a little bit of research first, maybe borrowing a map and guidebook from where you are staying, followed by just exploring the narrow winding streets on your own.
In addition to the 'classic' tourist sights listed below, you should also aim to spend time just wandering around Stone Town's vibrant markets and shops, where, if you wish, you will be able to buy tropical fruits and spices.
The range of architecture to be found here is immense, its most famous features being the tall wooden wonderfully carved doors, and covered balconies. Many of the doors are heavily brass-studded: originally these were spike covers, placed there to prevent elephant raids during the wars in India.
The history of Stone Town is, of course, inextricably linked with that of the Slave Trade, and the starting point for many tours is the Anglican Church of Christ built by Bishop Steers in 1874 on the site of old slave market. Here you will see the tiny and dingy room where slaves were kept (The Slave Chambers) before reaching the auction table in the Old Slave Market.
The church’s high altar stands in the exact location of the Weeping Post, to which slaves were tied to determine their sale value. If they cried and squirmed this meant that they were less strong, and hence their value was lower.
Then the National Museum (The House of Wonders) contains many interesting relics from the time of the Sultans and the early explorers. In the Forodhani Gardens you will see the Old British Consulate (where Dr David Livingstone’s body was kept, before being transported back to Britain).
Nearby you will find the Old Arab Fort, the Palace Museum (the old Sultan’s residence), the High Court building, the old German Consulate, the former English Club (now the Africa House Hotel, which we feature elsewhere), the traditionally Arab house occupied by the notorious slave trader, Tippu Tip, and the Old Harbour area.
The effective capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town offers a fascinating glimpse into the past, including reminders of the infamous slave trade.
Zanzibar's Northern tip is where it's all happening - the watersports, the night life and the maximum density of other tourists. Depends what you are after - activity or quiet.
Many visitors seem to be unaware that Zanzibar's West Coast offers equally good beach and watersport facilities to other areas, together with much closer proximity to Stone Town and the airport.