WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT TANGIER?
Morocco starts in Tangier. It’s often the first city that travelers arrive when taking a ferry from the European mainland, as a mosaic of Moroccan, Moorish, and Andalusian architecture clings to the medina’s hillside and welcomes all within its walls.
Wandering through the intricate alleyways of the kasbah, the old walled fortress of the Moroccan city, is inviting yourself to get lost (in a good way). Enjoy its essence without a precise direction. Just let go and take a fascinating and evocative journey through this fabled city.
What to Do & See in Tangier
The Bay of Tangier, which faces the Strait of Gibraltar, opens onto both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Tangier, nicknamed The City of Foreigners, has been a cosmopolitan crossroad in Morocco for centuries. Keep the following tips in your back pocket so as to not to miss the essence of the city and its surroundings.
1. Tangier Kasbah: This car-free, open-air “museum” features immense architectural and historic treasures. Meandering through the Grand Socco (Large Bazaar), you will be dazzled by the intoxicating spectacle of the colors, sounds, and smells of this bustling market. Of course, don’t miss the Petit Socco, a stone’s throw from its big brother, which is even more famous for tasting local gastronomic specialties. Did you know that you can discover the Berber neighborhood in the highest part of the medina? Don’t miss this explosion of color that permeates every facade in blues and that inevitably reminds us of Chefchaouen. The drawings, made by the locals show scenes related to their culture. After exploring the old part of town, it’s time to flip the page and walk towards the Place de France, the starting point of the European part of Tangier. Walk there to admire the huge residences overlooking the ocean.
2. Kasbah Museum – Set in the former Governor’s Palace, commonly known as Dar al-Makhzen or Dar al-Sultan, this monument was built by Pasha Ahmed ben Ali ben Abd Allah al-Rifi (1691-1740) during the reign of Moulay Ismael. Art aficionados will be delighted by a world of wonderful patios, lattices, coffered ceilings, and gardens. Note the mosaic brought from the Roman city of Volubilis that decorates the floor of one of the interior rooms, it’s a true treasure.
3. The Tangier American Legation Museum is a must. It served as the official seat of American diplomacy in Morocco for 150 years. Interestingly, Morocco was the first country to recognize US independence, and the TALIM is the only US National Historic Landmark in a foreign country. Take time to explore the five floors worth of history, and pay special attention to the Beat Generation. Tangier accommodated famous stars like Paul Bowles, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Truman Capote during the American countercultural movement that attracted a whole group of artists to Tangier in the years after World War II. Although things might have changed in 60 years, a touch of boho spirit still remains in the air.
4. Hercules Cave: According to legend, Hercules slept in these caves before performing the eleventh of his Twelve Labors: grabbing the apples from the Garden of the Hesperides in the world’s westernmost corner. Myth or reality, that’s not the question. A visit to the cave of Hercules is certainly worth the detour. Don’t judge a book by its cover (or rather, a cave by its entrance), and go into the cave to reveals its wonders. From the inside, you can admire the ocean through the mouth of the main cave, known as “The Map of Africa,” because its silhouette resembles that of the continent.
5. From the heights of the mountains of Cape Espartel – just 6.2 miles west from Tangier – the Strait of Gibraltar is at your feet. Where the Atlantic embraces the Mediterranean, here both waters merge, its famous lighthouse was the first to settle on the Moroccan coasts. Of course, on a clear day you can see the Spanish coast, only 8.7 miles away, as well as the famous lighthouse, which was the first to settle on the Moroccan coasts. There’s little to do but admire the horizon and have a coffee, but it’s a nice detour if you’re looking to find peace and relaxation outside of the bustling city.
6. Shopping is one more reason to visit Tangier. The city where high-end hotels and antique shops coexist with the traditions of Morocco is a source of fascinating objects.
With a certain decadent essence, Tangier is one of those corners in the world that is generous in authenticity.
FOOD & WINE IN TANGIER
In Tangier, every meal is a chance to taste Morocco’s culture and geographical delicacies:
✧ FOODS NOT TO MISS
- Couscous A staple dish, you will find it all over Morocco! Note the different styles of couscous: couscous with chickpeas and whole chicken is the most family-friendly dish, while couscous with vegetables is a mainstay of Moroccan cuisine. Couscous with raisins and onions is the finest, dchicha made with belboula couscous is a winter dish from barley semolina, and finally, Maasal couscous is the ultimate reception dish.
- Bissara is the essential dish of any good Tangier resident. This budget-friendly yet filling dish is similar to split pea soup and is served in small kiosks in the streets.
- Caliente is a Jewish specialty made from chickpea flour, typical of Tangier and North Africa. When cutting the portion, locals sprinkle on salt and cumin.
- Harcha: A true specialty of the North. This is a cornmeal pancake that can be eaten sweet or savory. Harcha is quite difficult to make, which is why it is sold in markets or in malbana (a small shop where dairy, sandwiches, and fresh juices are offered). They can be eaten with cheese (the famous red cheese called jbane d’bola) or plain.
- Harira is a chickpea or lentil soup traditionally served during Ramadan, accompanied by sweets and dates. However, don’t let the festivities mislead you – harira makes for a delicious dish in any season. The dish is made of diced meat – with its offal – onions, saffron, chickpeas or lentils, all diluted in boiling water with flour until the mixture is fluid. Locals prefer to have it for dinner or as a snack.
- Fish: With more than 30 kilometers of coastline, Tangier is bursting at the seams with delicious and fresh seafood. Look for the daily catch of squid (delicious when stuffed), sea bream (with olives!), Whiting (fried with eggs or liquid chermoula), shad, sea bream, and, of course, the inevitable sardines that will be grilled on a brazier in an alley in the medina!
- Mahia, a 40-degree fig alcohol is a specialty of Marrakech and the surrounding area (especially Demnate), and is often served in Tangier.
✧ WINES FROM MOROCCO
With over 7,000 hectares of wineries and hundreds of delightful bottles of red, white, and rose wines, Morocco has solidified its spot as the second largest wine producer in the Arab world after South Africa. We invite you to check our invite you to check our Moroccan Wine Regions guide to discover the passionate African wine region, with three AOC’s and 14 AOG’s (Appellation d’Origine Garantie).
WHERE TO STAY IN TANGIER?
Top: Hotel Le Mirage | Bottom left: Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay | Bottom right: Saba’s House, Tangier
For the utmost in luxury and style, the 6-room Saba’s House (Riad Dar Saba) is a boutique hotel in the truest sense of the word. The only five-star hotel in the city, guests are treated to a feast for the eyes from the moment they step inside. The modern Moroccan décor is complimented with paintings from the personal collection of the owner, and guests can even visit the private gallery to get a better look. Each room is named and decorated after a famous celebrity that visited Tangier: think leopard print and gold accents in the Liz Taylor room, or guitars and colorful tiles in the Mick Jagger room.
With plush accents, sprawling grounds, and an unbeatable view of the coast below, feel like a royal at Le Mirage. Located on the outskirts of Tangier, Le Mirage is a welcoming oasis of serene peace and quiet. Enjoy swimming in the infinity pool, relaxing at the spa after a day of exploring, or the 2 kilometers of private beach that surround the property.
Last but certainly not least is the Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay, a stunning resort that blends the romanticism of a retreat with the charm of Morocco’s culture. Each of the villas at Tamouda Bay comes with a pool and make the perfect choice for a honeymoon getaway, or a reunion with family or friends. In the resort’s own words, you’ll be whisked away to a “modern Moroccan sanctuary.”
Paladar y Tomar is committed to finding the accommodation that best suits your personality, needs, and itinerary. For more information or to book, please don’t hesitate to reach out.