The largest city in Morocco, Casablanca has avoided the onslaught of mass tourism, allowing those who do come here to enjoy the city as its unbridled authentic self. Dotted with Parisian-style Art Deco architecture and tree-lined boulevards flanked by chic boutiques, its French colonial legacy is clear for all to see. If nothing else, it is a delightful place to wander around and soak up the elegant sights and bustling atmosphere, but it is also a city steeped in history and mystique. And if you’re seeking further inspiration, here are twelve unique things to see and do during your stay.
1. Rick’s Café
It may present a rather ‘Hollywoodified’ vision of Casablanca, but the eponymous World War II movie has still left an indelible cultural mark. With some inevitably, the city has created its own tribute bar and restaurant called Rick’s Café, run by a former American diplomat and featuring a local pianists who may or may not go by the name of ‘Sam’. This is a great place to unleash your inner Humphrey Bogart while enjoying a relaxed drink or dinner in a stylish setting. Just remember to bring your quote book…
2. Old Medina
Perched behind the old city walls of Casablanca is the Old Medina, with its labyrinth of narrows streets and walkways leaving many tourists spell-bound – in a good way! The pace here is relentless, with children running riot and stallholders bartering at breakneck speed to try and get the best price for their traditional treasures. In fact the only sense of calm is provided by the men gently puffing on cigars in cafes and doorways. It’s a truly unique experience and one not to be missed by anyone visiting this captivating city.
3. Museum of Moroccan Judaism
Boasting the distinction of being the only Jewish museum anywhere in the Arab-speaking world, the Museum of Moroccan Judaism is set in a picturesque garden villa that once housed a Jewish orphanage. Focusing on Casablanca’s large Jewish community, it traces the 2,000-year history of Jews in Morocco through curated collections including ornate clothing, traditional tools and photographs. With division and conflict blighting the region, it is somewhat comforting to see that respect and appreciation for heritage still can still prevail in institution’s such as this.
4. King’s Palace
With a palace in almost every city across the country, the King of Morocco could sleep in a different bed every night if he wanted – and who knows, perhaps he does. For visitors, one of the most eye-catching royal abodes can be found here in Casablanca, nestled close to the city’s new medina. With the interior pretty much sealed off from public access, most visitors come to admire the palace from a large open square at the front. Be sure to bring a camera.
5. Riad 21
If you’re seeking a lavish meal in opulent surroundings, you won’t find anywhere better than Riad 21, one of Casablanca’s premier dining destinations. The gilded dining room is a sight to behold and the traditional Moroccan style food is equally impressive. For a more casual visit, the restaurant is also open for early morning coffees and breakfast.
6. Hassan II Mosque
Constructed less than 25 years ago, this modern-built mosque overlooking the ocean is the second-largest place of Muslim worship anywhere in the world. Gratefully for visitors it is also one of the few open to non-Muslims, meaning everyone can come and appreciate its splendour, regardless of their faith. In fact, the mosque’s beautiful interior can house up to 25,000 people at any one time, while the vast courtyard can accommodate a further 80,000.
7. Morocco Mall
In a city awash with earnest historical buildings and monuments, sometimes a little modern indulgence does not go amiss. Situated in the city’s La Corniche region is this vast shopping mall, one of the largest in Africa, where you can peruse an extensive range of shops, from western high street brands to international boutiques, as well as a popular souk (market) selling local wares. The mall also features an indoor aquarium, an ice rink and a fairground, making it ideal for an afternoon with the kids. There’s also air-conditioning, to escape the stifling Casablanca heat.
8. La Sqala Café Maure
Housed in an 18th century building, this traditional Moroccan restaurant nestled in the ramparts of Casablanca’s famous medina has a superb reputation and attracts large numbers of locals and tourists alike. Most visitors gravitate to the restaurant’s beautiful Andalusian garden which is dotted with pretty fountains and outdoor tables and umbrellas. As for the food, the varied menu offers classic Middle Eastern fare with an inventive flourish.
9. Parc de la Ligue Arabe
The city’s largest open green space, this is where locals come to relax and enjoy the great outdoors of a weekend. There’s walking trails that allow you to admire the distinctive flora, and you’ll always find some ball games that your kids can join in with. For refreshments, several small cafés offer tasty snacks and drinks. If you have time, be sure to check out the Cathédrale de Sacré, an Art Deco cathedral that has long since fallen into disrepair, situated on the edge of the park.
10. Sky 28
For a sky-high view of Casablanca, take the 28-floor journey up to this exclusive bar located in the 5-star Kenzi Tower Hotel. The cocktails are suitably extravagant, the live music tasteful, and the bar snacks are pretty good too. Try to grab yourselves a window seat and peer down on the souks and old medina that will feel a whole world away – and very nearly are.
11. Villa des Arts
Housed in a stunning Art Deco building dating back to the 1930s, the Villa des Arts is perhaps Casablanca’s number one cultural institution and is held in huge esteem across the country. Promoting contemporary arts in the context of Moroccan culture, the museum features more than 800 permanent artworks along with a number of temporary expositions by both native and international artists.
12. Venezia Ice
It can get seriously hot in Casablanca, and there’s few better ways to cool down than with a refreshing ice cream. For the best in town, head to the seafront where Ice Venezia serves up a mouth-watering choice of rich and tangy ice cream and sorbet flavours scooped to order, as well as smoothies and pastries. It’s a great spot for ocean views and people watching, too.