Upon arrival at the Zanzibar Serena in Stone Town, you can't help but be impressed by the colonial grandeur of its facade. A white frontage with carved dark wood looks beautiful and historical. It is set on the white sand beachfront, a quiet beach with plenty of passing boats to watch as they go by. The lobby is huge and grand, decorated with more dark ornate furniture but retaining a light and airy feel with a view to the sea beyond. The dark wood staircases take you up to rooms whose entrances face the road or a small courtyard, many (all?) of the rooms have a sea view. Our room had a small balcony with chairs with a great view out over the pool area and to the sea beyond. Perfect for watching the sunset. Our room had two single beds with mosquito nets and designed with the dark wood, carved furniture. With the beach right outside, a lovely pool area and all of the main Stone Town attractions nearby this hotel is a great option, although the rooms themselves are not large.
We decided to get our bearings while it was still light and walked past some other higher-end hotels but whom of us, had a less quality and authentic looking exteriors. We wandered through some back streets and stumbled across Freddie Mercury's birthplace which had attracted a group of camera-wielding tourists. It is now a souvenir shop. We chose a narrow street to explore, and it turned out to be a shopping street so were greeted with calls of "Jambo, Karibu, you are welcome in my shop". There were all kinds of souvenir items for sale - many of them based on local handicrafts - wooden and fabric items, beaded jewellery as well as many Tshirts and clothing items.
We were easily able to find many options for reasonably priced, interesting presents for people at home although our bargaining skills may be a little rusty!
We stopped for a drink to watch the sunset - the first one we have seen on Zanzibar because on the east coast the sunset is not visible from the beach resorts. We watched the locals playing football on the beach as the orange orb sunk low into the sea, complemented by dhows and other boats sailing through the sunset.
After the golden sunset, we headed over to Forodhani Gardens where the night market was in full-swing. Skilled salespeople showed us their wares - all kinds of delicious looking offerings - stalls selling sweet and savoury pancakes, fruits, skewers of every kind of seafood and fish imaginable, samosas, pakoras, different breads, a wide choice of juicy flavoured meats. It all looked very tasty, and you could buy a dinner for much less than at a conventional restaurant. Stone Town has many restaurant options, and the in-house one at Serena has a lovely waterfront setting, and many others have rooftop restaurants looking out over the town or the sea. We opted for a seafood option again as the options straight from the sea are so tasty here.
While we took all the usual precautions while walking around, even at night Stone Town felt safe to walk around as we did until 9 or 10 pm. The area we stayed in felt calm and quiet.
If you’re looking for some peace and relaxation, look no further. This is certainly a sight to behold with its well-designed architecture, gorgeous sunsets, eye-catching views, fresh air of the ocean, fresh decedent cuisines and friendly locals.