Tangier is a fascinating city in northern Morocco and a popular spot on many Mediterranean cruise itineraries. Situated on the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangier is just twenty miles from the coast of Spain.
Here you’ll likely find a plethora of Spanish and French visitors, especially during the summer months. With our guide to Tangier you won’t miss out on anything the city has to offer!
Many of Tangier’s residents are multilingual and can easily communicate in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and their native Arabic – no doubt due to the influx of tourists from neighboring European countries. Tangier is dirty and chaotic, but it is also wonderfully authentic, colorful, and pulsing with life.
Since ascending to the throne in 1999, Moroccos’s King Mohammed VI has pledged billions of dollars to revitalize northern Morocco’s infrastructure and strengthen its tourism industry. Tangier is currently undergoing several changes, namely in the form of a lux marina, handsome seaside pedestrian promenade, and modern beachside cafés. The commercial shipyards will one day be relocated, and in place of the dilapidated harbor will be the slips for gleaming cruise ships.
The idea is to transform this North African city into “Morocco’s San Tropez.” While Tangier is enjoying a renaissance, there is much to see and do within the old city walls. Snaking streets, traditional Islamic architecture, and quirky shops full of knickknacks make the city visually irresistible. Whether you are visiting for a day or a weekend, here is our guide to Tangier, Morocco:
What To See and Do
No guide to Tangier is complete without telling you to order a mint tea and people watch. This may not sound like a conventional tourist activity, but in Tangier café culture is king. Nothing says Morocco like a quick cigarette and coffee break at one of the local open-air cafés. Whether you choose to light up or not, grab a table with a good vantage point and take a load off like a local. We recommend Café Tingis in the Petit Socco (aka Zoco Chico), the rooftop terrace at Café Baba in the Kasbah, and Grand Café de Paris off of Place de France. In lieu of people watching, head to the historical and gritty Café Hafa for beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Explore the Kasbah. Tangier is divided into three general zones: Kasbah, Medina, and the New City. The Kasbah is perched at the top of the Medina and was historically used as a defense station. As the highest point in the city, the Kasbah boasts panoramic ocean and city views. Most of the Kasbah’s structures have been converted into boutique hotels and private residences, but a stroll around the area is a great way to take in a big part of Tangier’s history in a short amount of time. It takes about an hour to see the entire Kasbah on foot and a guide is not necessary. A map near Bab Haha gate highlights a walking path. Things to do in Tangier’s Kasbah include visiting the Kasbah Museum (off Place du Mechouar), which is open Wednesday through Monday 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is 10 DH.
Wander the Medina. Tangier’s Medina, or Old City, is a labyrinth of cobblestone streets and a mixture of several architectural styles including Moorish, Andalusian, and European colonial. Its vibrant atmosphere and quirky shops make it the perfect place to wander aimlessly. The street plan in complex and many are uphill climbs, so be sure to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes and don’t forget your camera. If you lose your way, most of the locals can point you in the right direction. Rue Les Almohades is where you’ll find the largest concentration of shops selling things like antique doors, coffee tables, fabrics, mirrors, and other decorative items. Most stores will gladly ship your goods internationally. In this guide to Tangier, we recommend Boutique Majid for its large selection of furniture, jewelry, and ceramics. If you’re in the market for an authentic Berber rug or kilim, visit Coin de L’Art Berbère (53, rue des Chrétiens).
Aside from shopping, you can visit the Grand Socco. It is the main square of Tangier that separates the Medina from the modern city. From here, several avenues will lead you back into the Medina, but if you are feeling brave, take a walk through the covered Grand Socco food market. Here, butchers, farmers, and fishermen have their goods crudely on display. The smell can be overwhelming, but it’s an interesting experience to say the least. Another (cleaner) option is to pay a visit to the American Legation Museum, which is the only U.S. National Historic Landmark outside the United States. The museum is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Visit Town Beach. Tangier Beach, or Town Beach, is about a 15-minute walk from the Medina along a palm-lined promenade. The area is undergoing major renovations, so try to look past the construction. The beach itself is not safe for swimming, but there are some modern restaurants at the edge of the beach where you could grab a coffee or ice cream. A camel ride across the beach costs about 10 DH per person.
Book a full day tour of Tangier here!
Our Hotel Pick
Dar Nour Guesthouse: This posh boutique hotel is tucked away on a quiet street in the historic Kasbah neighborhood. Dar Nour, or “House of Light,” was created by three European ex-pats with a flair for art and a love of hospitality.
Dar Nour’s unassuming white exterior gives way to a warm and inviting space that incorporates local knickknacks and handsome wooden furnishings. Each of the ten charismatic guestrooms is decorated differently and provides a cozy escape from the hustle and bustle of Tangier. When you’re not relaxing in your room, kick back in Dar Nour’s elegant sitting lounge or on the gorgeous rooftop terrace. The terrace boasts several reading nooks and views of the Medina and Tangier Bay in the distance.
Dar Nour is perfect for couples and families. Our favorite rooms are the Nour Suite and the Salam Mini Suite. If you desire a specific room, be sure to request it at the time of booking.
Dar Nour belongs in our guide to Tangier because of its eclectic décor, ideal location, and striking rooftop terrace.
Where to Eat
El Morocco Club: Created by ex-pats Vincent Coppe and Oscar Badji, El Morocco Club shines as one of Tangier’s best restaurants. Modern furnishings and sleek décor give this restaurant/piano bar/cocktail lounge a refined feel and romantic ambiance. Leather sofas and textured wallpaper only add sophistication to the space. El Morocco Club’s menu tastes as good as the place looks – fine cuts of meat, local spices, fresh produce and classic French cooking techniques make it difficult to choose. Once you’ve finished with your meal, head down to the basement bar for expertly crafted cocktails in a sultry lounge setting. El Morocco Club is conveniently located in the Kasbah. Reservations are recommended.
Why we love it: for its adult vibe, attention to detail, and generous portions.
Riad Tanja: Hands down the best place to sample to local cuisine is at Riad Tanja. What used to be one of the city’s best-known hotels has recently become a restaurant-only venue. Riad Tanja, or “House of Poetry,” is situated inside a traditional Moroccan riad. The space is inviting and dreamy, with plenty of comfy lounge seating and candlelight to set the mood. Guests are escorted into an intimate dining space where they can enjoy the house specialty – tajine. This centuries-old Berber dish can be prepared several ways, but it is always cooked in a cone-shaped earthenware pot that maximizes flavor while slow cooking the ingredient to perfection. The kitchen can make a tajine just the way you like it, whether you’re craving vegetarian or a juicy cut of lamb. Riad Tanja is located close to the fish market in the Medina.
Why we love it: the live music and family-style hospitality makes you feel as if you are dining in someone’s home.
Other Dining Suggestions: Salon Bleu, Le Saveur du Poisson, and Anna & Paolo.
If you are planning to stay in Tangier several days, we highly recommend taking day trips to experience more of northern Morocco’s natural beauty and culture. Below are three of our favorite day trips from Tangier.
Asilah: This popular seaside town used to be a Phoenician settlement before becoming part of Portugal, Spain, and eventually Morocco. Its defensive bastions are still intact, giving the walled historical quarter a unique look and feel. Meander the bastions and medina and enjoy the bold murals painted by local artists during Asilah’s annual culture festival. If you visit Asilah, do not miss the spectacular sunset from the ramparts! Get there early to grab a seat and don’t forget your camera. Asilah is located about 30 kilometers south of Tangier (about 40 minutes by car).
Cave of Hercules: This mythical cave complex also known as Les Grottes d’Hercule, is a popular day trip from Tangier. Legend has it this is where Hercules rested after completed the 12 feats that guaranteed his immortality. The caves are partly natural and partly manmade. Visitors enter to find a vast cavern. Inside, vendors are eager to sell you fossilized seashells or take your picture in front of the impressive cave opening, which looks like a reversed silhouette of Africa. The opening, known as the “map of Africa,” changes colors throughout the day and as the tides shift and the time changes. The Cave of Hercules is located 14 kilometers west of Tangier (about 30 minutes by car). Admission is 10 DH per person.
Check out our episode of The Caves of Hercules in Northern Morocco
Chefchaouen: Known as “Morocco’s Blue City,” Chefchaouen is located inland from Tangier in the Rif Mountains. As one of Morocco’s most beautiful towns, Chefchaouen impresses with labyrinthine medina and blue-tinged buildings. The best way to see the medina is to just get wonderfully lost. If you’re craving a delicious meal, we have just the place to eat in Chefchaouen. Skip the tourist traps in the main square and head to Tissemlal Restaurant in the Casa Hassan Hotel. It serves up divine traditional fare for affordable prices, plus it’s perfect for groups of all sizes. Begin with some cold starters and salads before delving into a grilled meat platter or chicken tajine. Plan on spending a full day in Chefchaouen, as there is much to see! Chefchaouen is located 129 kilometers southeast of Tangier (about 2.5 hours by car).
Tip: Remember that people live and work here, so remember to be mindful of what you are taking pictures of, especially children and open doorways.
General Travel Information
Official Name: Kingdom of Morocco
Capital City: Rabat
Languages Spoken: Arabic, French, Spanish, English
Currency: Moroccan dirham (DH)
Electricity: 220 Volts (two-pin Europlug)
Airport: Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport (TNG)
- Bring a closed pair of shoes and get ready to walk! Tangier is best explored by foot.
- Be aware of scams, which are most commonly carried out against single travelers or couples. A common scam is when a local offers to be your guide even though you say no, then demands money after he has followed you around giving you tidbits of information you did not ask for. Another, more dangerous scam, involves a local becoming your friendly unofficial guide for a few days, then robs you at knifepoint at the end of the trip. In order to avoid situations like this, it is best to use a certified tour guide if you feel you need one. These men and women are licensed by the tourism board and wear badges. Ask your hotel to help you arrange this, or contact the Tangier Tourism directly.
- It’s okay to bargain! Bring your game face and be patient. For more shopping tips in Morocco, watch our short video here.
- By day, the medina is a wonderful place, but at night the vibe can change dramatically. Be aware of your surroundings, as muggings are common, especially among single travelers and couples returning to their hotels.
- If you are being offered something you do not want, refuse politely the first time. If a vendor becomes pushy or aggressive, you need to stand your ground and refuse again until he leaves.
- Respect the Muslim culture. Ladies should dress conservatively (jeans and t-shirts are O.K.) to avoid unwanted attention. Hair covering is not required. Being drunk in public is not socially acceptable and can result in an arrest.
- Enjoy yourself! Tangier is gritty and grimy, but also colorful and inspiring. Be smart, stay alert, say no when you have to, and don’t be pressured to buy anything you don’t want. Take lots of pictures and try the local cuisine. We are sure you’ll be glad you came.
If you found our guide to Tangier useful and are interested in more information about Morocco, click here.
Flying into Tangier? Book a airport transfer to Tangier here!
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