Within the alleyways of the less touristic eastern part of Stone Town, lined with crumbling buildings and peeling facades, Zanzibar Coffee House is an authentic local lodging choice. Narrow lanes make it impossible to get here by car so you’ll need to be dropped off nearby – about five minutes on foot, so worth booking your airport transfer through the hotel, as this will include the driver helping you with your luggage directly to the front door.
All major sites are walking distance away (though this is the case for most Stone Town hotels); the Darajani market in particular is very nearby – a three-minute stroll. The breakfast view of the surrounding rooftops is wonderful. Like most Stone Town hotels you will likely be woken by the haunting call to prayer from a nearby mosque – an awakening I personally love.
Style and Character
The house was built in 1885, still has much of its original architectural detailing and has been carefully renovated – the end result is a higgledy-piggledy layout and character-filled atmosphere. The owners have followed through with an uncluttered décor style that features Zanzibar antiques and Moorish-style furniture against unclad white-washed or ochre adobe-style walls.
Service and Facilities
This is essentially a b&b, with a café below and rooftop above. The café is hugely popular with visitors from all over Stone Town, so your arrival welcome may be a tad underwhelming as hotel staff double up as waiters, but once identified as a hotel guest you are soon whisked up to your room (no lift; the mostly all-female staff will sometimes carry your bags balanced on their heads). On-site facilities are limited, but manager Rebecca Gamma is wonderful, and recommendations and bookings for dinner and activities can be made on your behalf. An honesty fridge on the second floor is stocked with beers, cider and wine.
There are eight individually styled rooms at Zanzibar Coffee House, with size and configuration differing quite considerably: the three entry-level rooms each have a private bathroom but are not en suite; all are furnished with comfortable Zanzibar single, twin or double four-poster beds. Of the three suites (worth the extra if you can), Arabica is the top choice. Amenities are limited to air conditioning; there are no coffee- or tea-making facilities (but an award-winning barista awaits downstairs) nor minibars. Bathrooms feature showers only; some apparently with intermittent pressure.
Food and Drink
Breakfast is unfussy but good – cereals, yogurt and seasonal fruit; freshly baked pastries and breads served with homemade jams; pancakes and eggs made to order, avocado when in season. The photogenic top deck, with its wraparound views of Stone Town’s rooftops, is a major plus – grab a table for two on the balcony between the flowering plants, or inside, with arched doorways on every façade thrown open to the breeze.
The interlinked rooms that comprise the ground floor café bustle soon after it opens at 8.30am; it closes at 6pm but there are several dinner options within walking distance. The Café offers a simple snack-style menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and excellent freshly baked pastries and tarts – all washed down with delicious coffee, harvested from sister farm Utengule, roasted on site, and expertly brewed.
Value for Money
Double rooms from US$95 (£74) in low season; rising to US$110 (£86) in high. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities?
No. The guesthouse is on multiple stories accessed by stairs only.
There are special amenities for families but they are welcome.