Our Guide To Tangier“I am now convinced that Tangier is a place where the past and the present exist simultaneously in proportionate degree, where a very much alive today is given an added depth of reality by an equally alive yesterday. “ Paul Bowles
Tangier excites the senses. Simply walking through the labyrinth of its ancient Medina offers so many visual impressions, that it might appear you are walking through a gallery of works of art. It is no wonder so many artists and writers have felt captivated by the city's magic, and have spent long periods embraced by its gentle culture, creating paintings and writing works that capture the beauty of its people, its Islamic architecture and its distinct sense of colour. Henri Matisse, Paul Bowles, George Orwell, Delacroix and Tennessee Williams, to mention but a few, spent time contemplating Tangier' unique and timeless appeal.
Situated so close to Europe that on a clear day you can see Spain across the Straits, few visitors fail to be impressed by the city’s cultural flair, so distinct from other cities. The inhabitants of Tangier appear to enjoy a “secret freedom” that distinguishes the city from others in North Africa.
Our “Sights and Scents of Tangier” takes visitors through food and spice markets, into artisan weaving factories, up the Kasbah, down the Medina, and in and around the city’s most appealing alleyways and plazas. For many, a day in Tangiers becomes “a day they will never forget”.
Places to StayBest Boutique Hotels in Tangier
A sister hotel of the Nord-Pinus in Arles, France, the Nord-Pinus Tangier is the eclectic and sumptuously designed vision child of Parisian designer Anne Igou. Housed in a former pasha’s palace, this 5 bedroomed boutique property sits high atop the Kasbah with astonishing views over the Strait of Gibraltar. The hotel affords peace and quality rest in a city that is on the cusp of one of the biggest urban re-developments in Africa, the new Marina of Tangier. Stay here to treat yourself to some well deserved pampering.
Address: Nord-Pinus- 11, Riad Sultan, Kasbah, Tanger, Maroc; +33 (0)4 90 93 44 44
La TangerinaVisit website
Next door but one, is the less grandiose but equally appealing Tangerina guesthouse. All 10 rooms are thoughtfully individual and offer homely comfort through highly original design. Many local antiques and one-off collectors’ pieces make up the unique look and feel of the intimate spaces. One of our favourite features is a musical loop that can be listened to through old wirelesses. This family run guesthouse is a typical riad, set around an interior patio. There are birds chirping on the landing as you climb onto their fantastic rooftop terrace. Here up high, is one of the most inviting day beds we’ve ever come across. It’s time to relax!
Address: 11, Riad Sultanm Kasbah, Tanger; +212 539947731
La Maison BlancheVisit website
This 14th-century converted riad has attracted glitzy stars and famous people including Isabel Preysley, Manuel Chavez and more recently the crew of James Bond 007 where it appeared in the Spectre film. Its 9 quirky rooms are named after celebrated Tangier residents who visited and loved the city; you can choose to stay in Henry Matisse or Rick Steves. The décor is a clever blend of French sophistication, punctuated with Moroccan artisanry. There are two cosy nooks for bookworms and a two storey roof terrace with a “View to a Kill”.
Address: Rue Ahmed Ben Ajiba 2, Kasbah, Tanger; + 212 539 370 336
Dar JandVisit website
A home-from-home B&B, this small guesthouse provides a cosy and authentic experience. The hostess, Janet, heralds from the USA but has lived in Tangier for many years. Her local knowledge and willingness to advise on visits and pastimes proves invaluable for a stay in the city. The rooms are on the small side but very comfortable, decorated in typical Moroccan style with tadalakt (polished plaster walls), Moroccan tiles and locally woven soft furnishings. This very affordable option guarantees an intimate and authentic experience but book early, as there are only four rooms.
Address: 62 Rue Cheikh Mohammed Ben Seddik, Medina, Tanger, Morocco; 00 212 (0) 676 930133
Dar ChamsVisit website
This rather grand riad hotel oozes charm and well-being. Its five Suites and two Double rooms are beautifully appointed and boast luxury bedding and exquisite bathrooms. A nice touch is the original artwork on the walls.
There is a modest hammam where you can soak and steam away any aches and pains and a treatment room where you could indulge in a massage. Gourmet breakfasts are either served on their splendid roof terrace or in the downstairs patio. Rooms are a little more expensive but worth the extra cost. This hotel, nestled in the heart of the Old City, offers distinguished hospitality and allows guests to soak up the true culture of Moroccan art and tradition. The Reading Nook is a haven of peace that invites you to indulge in one of life’s true pleasures – a good book!
Address: 2 Rue Jnan Kabtan, 90030, Medina, Tanger; 00 212 (0) 539 332323
RestaurantsBest Places to Eat in Tangier
Saveurs de Poisson
This tiny restaurant, half way up a staircase in the middle of the market area is a feast for the palate and the camera lens. An incredibly photogenic space, full of the spoils of a dedication to local cuisine and culture adorn the walls. The best thing to do is simply sit down and ask the waiter to feed you. Everything that comes out of their tiny kitchen brims with taste: dishes are served in heavy baked clay dishes and on hand-made ceramic plates. Patrons squeeze into tiny table and chair arrangements making for an incredibly intimate dining experience. It can be very busy, having been famous ever since Anthony Bourdaine chose to eat here – we’ve even seen a line standing outside waiting to be seated.
Address: 2 Escalier Waller, Tanger; 00 212 5393 36326
A popular haunt for writers and musicians since its opening in the 1950s this restaurant is an establishment in Tangier. It’s a local meeting point where chatter prevails. It’s simple and unpretentious. The food reflects that. Hearty servings of fresh salads and vegetable dishes accompany fabulous fish and seafood platters. Leave enough room for dessert because the Tiramisu is among the best we’ve ever tasted.
Address: 21 Rue Allal Ben Abdellah, Tanger; 00 212 39 943 353
Nestling into the top of the Medina just by the entrance to the Kasbah this new restaurant is a sure bet for a hearty meal enjoyed with an incredible view to boot. A little pricier than other options, it’s worth the expense to be able to soak in the sights, sounds and smells wafting up over the rooftops of the ancient Medina.
Its privileged position doesn’t mean that they rest on their laurels, though. Dishes are served up with flair and denote more of a fusion of modern cuisine with Moroccan staples. Roast meats, salads and fish dishes delight the eye as well as the taste buds. The desserts are deliciously home-made. There is no better way to while away an afternoon than basking in the sunlight of their fabulous terrace.
Address: Rue Dakakine; 00 212 5393 32386
Pesca del Dia
A popular spot with “locals in the know” this spotlessly clean and modern restaurant bodes well as soon as you enter the door. A huge open kitchen opens up to the left where smiley staff great you on arrival. There seems a marked respect between clientele and staff, which is refreshing. A huge display case of the catch of the day from the local fish market is all the proof you need that produce here is fresher than fresh. A selection of tapas-style portions of salads, hummus and spreads set the pace for the delicious food. Take your pick of the fresh fish, opened and grilled to perfection. Drizzle lemon and some sea salt over the fish and it’s ready to eat. Prawn kebabs, meat platters and delicious home fries make up part of the significant menu. Whatever you order you can’t go wrong. A firm favourite for all our Tangier visitors.
Address: 16 Rue Al Mouatamid Ibn Abbad; 00 212 5 39 34 17 25
Lubina BlancaVisit website
Always a firm favourite with our clients, this restaurant serves up fish and seafood, selected and collected daily from the fish market. You can tell that both the owner and staff take pride in the fact. We love that the chef prepares a special “dish of the day” which is always excellent. Whether you want to eat seafood to your stomach’s content or simply enjoy an organic salad, this restaurant will meet your needs. The place is impeccably clean and you can be assured of the freshness of all their produce. The desserts are much more inventive than you find elsewhere which is a nice touch and makes for a delicious finale to any meal.
Address: Lotissement Ennsar, Rue 8 – Nº 28, Tanger; 00 212 6 61 60 54 49
Things to doA Handpicked Selection of Unmissable Tangier Attractions
The Kasbah, from the Arabic “al-qasbah”, means fortress or stronghold. This imposing structure was built by the Portuguese during the 17th century, when they controlled the city of Tangier. The walls are not painted and remain in their original tones of muted greys and browns. The escarpments falling away from the exterior are impressive and would definitely have posed a huge challenge to any marauders considering an invasion. Once popular with famous people, writers and celebrities, the Kasbah enjoys a timeless quality, lauded in songs and praised in memories. Nowadays, the tiny streets, alleyways and stairs are a precursor to the more cramped and higgledy-piggledy Medina down the hill. From the main square, La Place du Kasbah, there are imposing views across the Strait Of Gibraltar and to Spain. Right here you may find snake charmers entertaining the big-bus tourists. Where they turn right, we turn left, to reveal the true appeal of the Kasbah as our local guide weaves us expertly through the labyrinth.
Housed in the former Sultan’s Palace Dar-El-Makhzem is the Kasbah Museum open daily except Tuesdays from 9am until 4pm for a modest entrance fee of 10 DH. Most of the collection concentrates on the antiquity period of Morocco’s history, namely its Roman past including an impressive mosaic floor recovered from the Roman city of Volubilis. There are treasures of the Sultans, including jewellery and furniture. The building alone warrants the visit as patios and stairwells, lavishly decorated with ceramic Arabesque tile and stucco, guide you around the collection. Perhaps the highlights of the museum are the sumptuous Sultan’s gardens kept lush and green by the presence of a well and the huge wrought iron safe in the treasury. What many people don’t know is that it took 3 people to open it – a novel piece of security. Information plaques are only in Arabic and French but most of the museum is self-explanatory.
The Medina or the Old City, is the walled labyrinth that is Tangier’s beating heart. There are several gateways to gain access to the series of seemingly never-ending alleyways and tiny streets. Much of the Medina is pedestrian only, as cars cannot gain access. You may have to stand aside for the odd motorbike but for the large part, it’s a thrilling, peaceful and fascinating experience simply to stroll and wander aimlessly through this charming neighbourhood. There are vendors around every corner and a myriad of stores to fulfil even the hardened shopper’s desires. Establishments selling everything from Argan Oil to rugs and silk clothing abound within these 14th-century walls. We find it to be incredibly photogenic; the colours, the residents’ faces telling a thousand tales, the mix of architecture and the play of light and shadows along the tiny streets. It makes for a memorable experience and leaves no one indifferent. Authentic to its core, an hour or two familiarising yourself (or getting lost) in the Medina is a must for any visitor to Tangiers.
American LegationVisit website
The USA was among the first nations to recognise Morocco’s independence in 1956, forming a stronger bond to their already firm diplomatic ties. The American Legation as it is known, run by the Tangier American Legation Museum Society, is a sprawling facility spanning two sides of a street in one of the oldest sections of the Medina. Originally, a diplomatic building for the Unites States, it has served many purposes through its fascinating past. It was even used as a military base during WWII. Having suffered severe disrepair, a major rehabilitation project began in 1975. The deplorable state of the building caused widespread public support and donations came in from far and wide to fund the marvellous renovation. Housing a collection of furniture, art, documents and objets d’art (many of which have been donated by members of the Diplomatic Core) the building is also used as a library, a teaching facility and a cultural centre. It is a shining example of tenacity and hard work that has saved this building from disrepair. As the oldest American public property outside of the United States, we are always delighted to take guests here and show them a little part of American history in Morocco. There is also a fascinating collection of documents and writings from the famous musician Paul Bowles on the ground floor of the Pavillion. It’s a place where we always like to linger so our clients can capture its unique appeal.
Address: 8 Rue d’Amerique, Tanger, 90000; 00 212 5 39 93 53 17
Exploring Just Outside Tangier
Shrouded in mystery – and, according to Greek mythology, a resting place for the legendary Hercules – this part natural, part man-made cave is now a major tourist draw. Used as a brothel and even a concert venue, this impressive space is not a touristic site. There is a nominal fee to enter and once your eyes grow accustomed to the relative darkness inside, they are drawn to a dramatic opening at the far side that looks like Africa when seen from the sea, and affords marvellous views out to the Atlantic.
It is believed that this cave is connected to St Michael’s cave in Gibraltar by a series of corridors that tunnel underneath the Strait of Gibraltar. Maybe we should organise a TOMA tour to walk them one day!
Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of the city of Tangier, this peninsula of peace and tranquility offers much in the way of rest and relaxation. Affording superb views over the dramatic coastline, the area offers acres and acres of public parkland to which the locals retreat to enjoy the cooler temperatures and share their picnics in the pine forests.
The drive out to this area takes you past several Royal Palaces (including the King of Morocco’s summer residence) and other properties of the grand and mighty of North African fortunes.
The beaches down this way are glorious with wide stretches of open sand and good surf for boarding. Camel rides can be enjoyed on Arabian camels with one hump, otherwise known as Dromedary. It’s a touristy activity but if you find the camels on the actual sand, it’s a real treat to have a ride on the beach and makes for a great photo opportunity.
Le Mirage Hotel
This favourite haunt of the nation’s elite and international high flyers offers sophisticated luxury in its truest form. The sumptuous rooms, suites and private bungalows offer privacy and seclusion with all the extras imaginable and more; one of the suites even has its own private hammam. Decorated to impress but remaining firmly in the realm of good taste, the interiors and soft furnishings are strikingly beautiful. Its position, overlooking the dramatic Atlantic coastline offers unrivaled views. The hospitality and service is, as one would expect in such an establishment, absolutely stellar and the restaurant (open to non-residents) serves superb seafood and fish. For us, simply enjoying a coffee on the terrace gives you a taste of how the other half live.
Address: Les Grottes d’Hercule, Tanger, 2198; 00 212 539 333332 / 31 – Fax: 212 539 333492
Where is Tangiers?
Tangiers is the largest city in northern Morocco. It has an enviable location at the gateway to the Strait of Gibraltar, just where the Atlantic waters meet the Mediterranean in the north-western corner of the country.
- From Tarifa: 1 hour by sea ferry. Boats leave every hour.
- From Fez: 4 hours by road
- From Marrakech: An overnight train ride
When to Go & Climate
Tangiers is much cooler than other Moroccan cities so it becomes very popular in the summer months. It depends what you re looking for. If you would like to experience the summer nightlife in the more relaxed and liberal parts of the city, then the months of July and August are for you. Outside of the summer, Tangiers enjoys a superb climate. April, May, June and September and October are the most pleasant months to visit.
A good tip is to remember that Fridays is Holy Day so many shops, restaurants and market stalls are closed on that day. If one of your priorities is shopping, then definitely avoid going on a Friday.