The largest city in Morocco, Casablanca is a delight to wander around and soak up the intoxicating sights and bustling atmosphere of one of north Africa’s most unique destinations.
Despite its enchanting appeal, 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. Indeed, this is a city steeped in history and mystique. And if you’re seeking further inspiration for your visit, here are twelve unique things to see and do during your stay.
Take a wander around a labyrinth-like Medina
Perched behind the old city walls of Casablanca is the Old Medina, with its maze of narrows streets and walkways leaving many tourists spell-bound. 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 the magical city.
Join a guided city tour
One of the best ways to get to know a city is on an organised sightseeing tour. This half-day tour invites you to explore what many consider to be the cultural, historical and economic centre of Morocco, in the company of a friendly, expert guide. After a mid-morning hotel pick-up, you’ll be transported through the city via air-conditioned minibus, stopping off at some of Casablanca’s most notable landmarks and places of interest. During the tour your guide will regale you with tales and fascinating facts about the city before being returned to your hotel.
Peruse some exceptional contemporary art
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.
30 Boulevard Brahim Roudani Rue Abou El Kacem Chabi / Tues-Sun 9am-7pm Closed Mon
Step into a cafe honouring a silver screen classic
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 inevitability, 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…
Place du Jardin Public, 248 Boulevard Sour Jdid / Mon-Sun 6.30am-1am
Visit a top class museum
Small but perfectly formed, the acclaimed Abderrahman Slaoui Museum in downtown Casablanca is packed full of eye-catching, decorative Moroccan art spanning everything from figurative and landscape paintings to old posters, jewellery and crystal objets d’art. As well as the permanent works on show there is also a diverse programme of exhibitions showcasing the talents of contemporary Moroccan artists.
12 Rue Du Parc / Tues-Sun 10am-6pm Closed Mon
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 can still prevail in institutions such as this.
81 Rue du Chasseur Jules Cros / Mon-Thurs 10am-5pm Fri 10am-3.30pm Sun 11am-3pm Closed Sat
Get a taste of the city’s culinary scene on a food tour
Famous for its couscous, tagines, mint tea and more, Moroccan food is as delicious as it is diverse. Visitors to Casablanca can delve deep into the city’s own rich culinary culture by joining a guided food tour courtesy of Moroccan Food Tour, a renowned local company that runs a wide range of themed tours and experiences around the city. During your tour you’ll visit some of the city’s most renowned foodie hot spots, including the Central Market, the juice bars of Boulevard Mohamed V, and even enjoy gourmet teas/coffees in a fine dining restaurant. But perhaps the biggest highlight is picking fish from a local market and then seeing it prepared in a casual eatery. Along the way your knowledgeable guide will shed light on the country’s rich history and food heritage.
Explore a majestic royal 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, the King’s Palace, 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.
19 Rue de Rome
Indulge in some fine dining
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 restaurant’s stunning gilded dining room is a sight to behold and the traditional Moroccan style fare is equally impressive. For a more casual (and budget-friendly) visit, the venue is also open for leisurely early morning coffees and light breakfasts.
74 Boulevard Panoramique et، Avenue de Nador / Mon-Sun 7am-11pm
Indulge in some retail therapy at a vast shopping 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 the Morocco Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in Africa, where you can peruse an extensive range of retail outlets, 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.
Angle Boulevard Sidi Abderrahmane, Boulevard de Biarritz / Sun-Thurs 10am-9pm Fri-Sat 10am-10pm
Discover one of the Muslim world’s most important mosques
Constructed less than 25 years ago, the modern-built Hassan II 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.
Boulevard de la Corniche
Unwind in a vast public park
The city’s largest open green space, Parc de la Ligue Arabe is where locals come to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. There are 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.
Casablancaise, Boulevard Moulay Youssef / Mon-Sun 8.30am-7pm