If you're seeing Stone Town only as part of a day trip, you're missing out on the real treat. As evening falls, people gather to gossip and recline on the barazas (the raised seating that lines many of the buildings) while the smell of cooking permeates the air. There are a number of good restaurants, the best of which are reviewed below, but if you're looking for a casual beachfront bar/restaurant, Livingstone's (tel. 077/316-4939) is the most buzzy, with canvas safari chairs and timber tables settled into the sand a stone's throw from the water's edge. They serve average fare with the emphasis more bar than restaurant, and the loud pop music pumping from the massive cinema-size TV screen inside can be a bit disconcerting, but head outside and time your visit for a sundowner (those traveling with laptops may want to note that Livingstone's also offers free Wi-Fi). Mercury's (named after Queen lead singer Freddy Mercury, Zanzibar's most famous son) is another good sundowner choice and, as it's located farther east, may suit those staying in hotels on that side. Coffee lovers should make a beeline for Zanzibar Coffee House in the heart of historic Stone Town (near the market); not only do they serve the best coffee in town, but their selection of cakes and light meals is also some of the best. If you're in the mood for Italian, the most convivial venue is Amore Mio, located on the western coast on Shangani Street just before Africa House (tel. 024/223-3666), which has great ocean views. Pizzas and pastas will run you around $9 to $15 (cash only), and they're open daily 10am to 10pm. Alternatively, head for Kidude . Whatever you do, make sure you spend at least one evening at Forodhani Gardens night market, snacking on what is correctly billed by some as the best street food in Africa. Here you'll find numerous small barbecues on which skewers of fish, lobster tails, and prawns are smoking, along with vegetarian samosas, cassava, and Stone Town pizza (more a frittata than a pizza). It's vibrant and atmospheric (though frequented by tourists rather than locals) and offers incredible value for money (around Tsh3,000 for a dozen small prawns on a skewer, Tsh12,000 for a lobster tail), but flavors are pretty bland. If you want a superb introduction to Swahili cooking, don't miss the Swahili buffet hosted around the pool at the Serena Inn. Much of the food is cooked on barbecues in front of you, so the seafood is fresh and succulent, and the various coconut milk curries typical of Swahili cooking are utterly delicious. Get there early and you'll also catch a great performance by one of the best taarab groups.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.