cap spartel tanger tetouan al hoceima maroko morocco tangier

Tangier – gateway to Africa

Tangier is the 2nd most important port of Morocco after Casablanca. For me, the city was a 2nd home during my stay in the country.

How to get to Tangier?

How to get to the city of Tangier by different means of transport – by car, train, plane or ship.

By car

Tangier is located 252 km/2 hours 46 minutes by car northeast of Rabat, the capital of Morocco. The route is charged.

By train

It is connected to Casablanca, Morocco‚s largest city, by the high-speed TGV train, which travels at a speed of up to 320 km/h. So instead of the original 4 hours and 45 minutes, the journey takes only 2 hours and 10 minutes. The journey to Rabat was shortened from the original 3 hours and 45 minutes for 1 hour and 20 minutes. You can buy tickets directly at railway stations in Morocco. The plan is to extend the line through Marrakesh to Agadir, 800 km southwest of Tangier. This will mean that the journey to Marrakech, which today takes more than 10 hours, will be shortened to 4 hours and 45 minutes.

By plane

I was flying from Aeroport de València in Valencia, Spain to L’aéroport international de Tanger-Ibn Batouta in Tangier, Morocco. The flight lasted an average of 1 hour and 25 minutes. Due to the time difference of 1 hour, the flight actually took 25 minutes there and 2 hours and 20 minutes back. The return ticket cost 143.96 euros. The price included 1 checked bag up to 20 kg and 1 hand bag that fit under the seat in front of me. In addition, I could choose a seat on the plane both on the way there and back. I checked in online a few days before my flight.

Read in the article Morocco before the 1st visit what I experienced at Tangier airport!

By ship

The Spanish city of Tarifa (40 km northeast) is only 45 minutes away by ferry from Tangier. The route crosses country borders and the starting point (Tarifa) is in a different time zone.

What to do, see and visit in Tangier?

When visiting Tangier, don’t miss the old town (medina) with its gates, viewpoints and adjacent squares. You can also choose from museums, galleries, cultural centers or choose to relax on the beach.

Old Town (Medina)

We will start the tour of Tangier by entering through the gate (Bab Al Kasba) in the northwestern part of the medina. The fortress tower (Borj Al Kasba) stands on the left in front of the gate. After entering, you will find yourself at the Spanish Camp Square (La place du Tabor espagnol). The dominant feature of the square is the Borj Naam tower, which houses the exhibition dedicated to Ibn Battouta (Espace d’Exposition de la mémoire d’Ibn Battouta). He was an important traveler of the 14th century. In 29 years, he traveled to the current 44 countries from North Africa to the Far East.

Kasbah Museum or Kasbah Museum of Mediterranean Cultures (Musée de la Kasbah)

Continue west from the exhibition and you will pass the Governor’s Palace (Le palais du gouverneur) on your right. It currently provides its premises for the city’s archaeological museum and exhibition spaces for contemporary art (Musée de la Kasbah – Espace d’art contemporain). It maps the history of the city from prehistoric times to the 19th century. Explanations are only in Arabic and French. Unfortunately, the website of the National Museum Foundation is only in French. The entrance to the museum is from the Place de la Kasbah square. The ticket costs 20 mad/2 euros/person.

The gates of the Place de la Kasbah square

Three gates open onto the square. The Bab Al Bahr Sea Gate in the northern part of the square allows you to step out of the medina and enjoy the view of the new fishing port and the Strait of Gibraltar. Opposite it, in the southern part of the square, is the Bab el-Assa gate, which will take you deeper into the medina. Finally, there is the 3rd Bab Haha gate, beyond which after a few meters you will find yourself in the inconspicuous Place Amrah square, which leads to several streets of the medina. The main street still belongs to traditional craft workshops.

Mendoubia Garden and Grand Square (Grand Socco)

When you finally emerge from the narrow streets of the medina, the vast Mendoubia Garden (Le Jardin de la Mendoubia) opens up before you. The garden invites you to lie down on the grass and enjoy sweet idleness. Another gate (Bab al Fahs) separates it from Grand Socco or Place 9 Avril 1947 square.

The square got its name thanks to the speech of King Mohammed V, who arrived in Tangier on April 9, 1947. At that time, the city had international status, and the king expressed the country’s desire for unity and independence in his speech. This event affected not only the city, but all of Morocco. The square connects the old and new city of Tangier. The square is dominated by the historic building of the Rif cinema (Cinémathèque de Tanger – Cinéma RIF), which is still in operation. Since for me the square was the real center of the city, I chose it as a starting point for individual attractions, businesses and institutions.

Rue Siaghine

The busy shopping street Rue Siaghine, an important axis of the medina, connects the large Grand Socco square with the small Petit Socco square.

Small Square (Petit Socco)

The small square (Petit Socco; 300 m/4 minutes walk northeast of Grand Socco), located in the heart of the medina, is lined with cafes. If you’re lucky like us, you’ll see an acrobatic family performing their latest rehearsed stunts. I recommend a glass of hot mint tea and something sweet to go with it at sunset on the roof of a 4* hotel in the eastern part of the square.

La terrasse des paresseux/Place Faro

From the square Place Faro or the terrace La terrasse des paresseux you will have an interesting view of the port of the city. You can recognize the lookout by the 4 cannons that are ready to attack the enemy coming from the sea. I read that from the viewpoint you can see as far as Gibraltar in good weather, we were not so lucky.

What else to do, see and visit in Tangier?

In the city of Tangier, you can also visit the Tangier American Legation Museum (350 m/4 minutes on foot east of Grand Socco). Morocco was one of the first countries to recognize the United States of America a year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The ticket costs 20 mad/2 euros/person for Moroccans and foreigners with permanent residence in Morocco and 50 mad/5 euros/person for foreigners without permanent residence. A guided tour costs 100 mad/10 euros. Almost the entire bay of Tangier is bordered by a wide public sandy beach with a promenade and children’s playgrounds, which is especially popular with locals. Entrance to the beach is free. All lovers of culture and art will definitely find a cultural center and several art galleries in the city.

What to do, see and visit around Tangier?

Around the city of Tangier, follow in the footsteps of Hercules in the Caves of Hercules, see the place where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet at Cape Spartel or „cool off“ in the Perdicaris Park.

Caves of Hercules

Hercules Caves are located 15 km/23 minutes by car southwest of Grand Socco. According to legend, in the caves Hercules rested after completing the 10th difficult task, which was the separation of the European and African continents (known as the Pillars of Hercules). According to another legend, he separated the continents from each other only because he did not want to cross the Atlas Mountains. He then allegedly kicked the cave wall, in which you can still see a hole to this day. The shape of the hole in the wall resembles the shape of Africa. When you look from the inside, it will be obvious to you that Africa has a slightly different shape, you have to look at the opening from the sea.

According to another legend, a tunnel leads from the caves to Spain, which explains how the African macaques got to Gibraltar.

Useful information

Before the trip to the caves, they advised us to take some extra clothes, because it will be a little colder in the caves. No, you really don’t need to take any extra clothes in the summer months. At the end of July, I hardly noticed the difference between the temperature outside and inside. The caves are a little different from caves in Slovakia. They placed lights under the tiled floor, which illuminated the cave effectively. Also, don’t expect any drops or karst formations.

In the cave, you can wear traditional Moroccan clothing and take a photo in it. There were several stalls with souvenirs. The whole visit reminded me of an amusement park. Caves because there are two of them. One is free to enter and the other costs 10 mad/1 euro/person. We visited the free one. For an additional fee, you should see artificial statues, Greek murals and a waterfall.

Cape Spartel

Cape Spartel (14 km/23 minutes by car west of Grand Socco) is often cited as the most northwestern point of continental Africa. The symbol of the cape is the lighthouse, which is still functional today. It marks the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The lighthouse is not accessible to the public from the inside. Since it is a nature reserve of the same name, you will see a spectacular natural theater in and out of the location. The Atlantic meets the Mediterranean here. At the point of collision, water eddies occur that drag the ships to the bottom. Apart from the lookout and the restaurant, this place doesn’t have much to offer, but you should definitely not miss it on your way to or from Hercules Caves.

Perdicaris Park

Perdicaris Park (or also Rmilat Park; 7 km/17 minutes by car west of Grand Socco) is a botanical garden where Mediterranean and Atlantic flora flourish. The park was named after Ion Perdicaris, a wealthy American of Greek origin. He had the park built for his wife, who fell ill with tuberculosis. They recommend visiting the park in the afternoon and early evening, when we also visited the park. Still, I’ll never forget how hot it was. The trees did not provide the much needed coolness. You can see the Atlantic from some places in the park.

Where to stay in Tangier?

We were supposed to arrive in Casablanca on Sunday, July 24, 2022 around lunchtime. From there, the organizers of the summer academy ensured a transfer to Tangier. Of course, I always have to be different and that’s why I flew straight to Tangier on Sunday morning. So I had the whole day to myself. I did not know then that it was also the last day when I had a free schedule. So by the time everyone else arrived, I had time to deal with things, wash my things and play loud music for the entire campus. One would get the feeling that I have been living in the dormitory of the institute for a few months.

The dormitory of the Higher International Institute of Tourism in Tangier

My 2nd home became the dormitory of the Higher International Institute of Tourism in Tangier (Institut supérieur international du tourisme de Tanger in French, abbreviated ISITT; 3.8 km/47 minutes walk southeast of Grand Socco) for one week. We had a choice of single or double rooms. I chose a single room, got a double room, but, luckily, without another roommate (if I don’t count the ants). The room with a sink had a view of the garden of the complex. There was a shower with a toilet on each floor. Only cold water flowed in the shower on our floor, hot water also flowed on the floor above.

However, this shower was usually still occupied by someone. On the last day, I also managed to occupy it. But the shower pressure was so low that I regretted not taking a cold shower on my floor. The rooms did not have air conditioning. They had sliding windows. Since I also caught a fever in Morocco, I needed to sleep with the window closed for one or two nights. When I wanted to close the window on one side, it opened on the other and vice versa. There was such a hole under the door that I was in a constant draught during my entire stay. Otherwise, almost nothing bothered me there. 😛

Where to eat and where to go for coffee in Tangier?

In Tangier, we mostly ate at the institute. In addition, we tried several establishments – a modern restaurant, a traditional restaurant, fast food, several cafes and a bar. I will choose at least some of them.

Café Restaurant Vintage Tanger

I visited Café Restaurant Vintage Tanger (3.2 km/40 minutes walk east of Grand Socco) several times – the first day for a coffee break and dinner, and the penultimate day for tea. The first days, I didn’t have an upset stomach yet, so I was able to enjoy a full dinner and a cake with coffee. In the restaurant, they prepare an incredibly good lava cake, which they serve here with vanilla ice cream. I ordered an espresso for dessert.

For dinner I tried the traditional Moroccan Tajine dish. These are ground beef balls in tomato sauce. I noticed that in the country they serve bread or pastry with almost every meal. Dinner was also fantastic. Well, on the penultimate day, when I prescribed a strict diet, I only ordered Moroccan mint tea at Vintage, unsweetened in my case. I’m attaching a photo of how they serve it here, because I really liked it. You can pay by credit card in the restaurant.

Restaurant Bachir

Restaurant Bachir (750 m/10 minutes walk south of Grand Socco) is one of the best traditional Moroccan restaurants, recommended by locals (and travel guides). And that they were not wrong. One evening we went out into town and got over the loss of dinner at the institute. As my stomach problems were at their peak at the time, I opted for the Vegetable Tajine with a whole teapot of mint tea. Vegetables were complemented by potatoes.

I regret that I could not appreciate the taste of the food. Abroad, they use spices completely differently than in Slovakia. Another thing I noticed in Morocco was that food and hot drinks are always brought to your table so hot that they are still bubbling in the plate and in the glass. I paid about 40 mad/4 euros for the bill. I paid in cash, so I can’t tell you for sure if the restaurant accepts credit cards.

Prestige Garden

After arriving in Morocco, we had breakfast at the Prestige Garden cafe (3 km/40 minutes walk southeast of Grand Socco). I ordered a traditional breakfast which included: wholemeal bread, baghrir (a pancake made from semolina or flour, if you bake it properly it is leaky), rghayef (traditional flat bread), harcha (semolina bread), butter, honey, jam and a molten cheese. Of course, there was mint tea, coffee and orange juice. I would get used to this kind of breakfast.

Canteen of the institute

The organizer provided food for us in the form of full board. Breakfast was mostly similar to what I mentioned in the paragraph above. We always had a choice of water, juice and hot drinks, which included sweetened or unsweetened Moroccan tea and coffee to drink. Breakfast was followed by lectures, which were separated by a small coffee break. During it, we refreshed ourselves with hot drinks and sweet pastries or cakes. Two-course lunches consisted of a cold starter, usually a salad, and a main course. Also, 2-course dinners included soup and a main course.

I do not remember all the dishes that we had the opportunity to taste, but among them were, for example Groat soup with milk, Beef sausages with tomato sauce, baked potatoes and Moroccan-style rice (with cinnamon and sugar). I tasted fantastic food on the last day. It was a puff pastry pie filled with minced meat and pistachios. It’s just a shame that Moroccans are such lovers of sweet food that they also poured honey and sprinkled sugar on this salty cake.

In conclusion…

I spent a pleasant week in Tangier, not only in terms of accommodation and food, but also getting to know the attractions of the city and its surroundings.

Read more articles from Morocco:

The article was created in cooperation with FIJET and FIJET Slovakia.

© Ing. Adam Vanečko