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Top ten things to do in Tangiers, Morocco, Africa

Updated on October 19, 2011

Top ten things to do in Tangiers

We understand! It's always a struggle to plan your trips and to find out exactly what you want to visit during your vacation! Below you will find our top 10 you can not miss during your stay in Tangiers! This is the first part in a continuing 'top spots' series about Morocco! Read it and enjoy!

Visit Tanger
Visit Tanger

Tangiers - An introduction

A veritable feast for the senses, northern Morocco is an exotic, mysterious, and stunning place. As primary city in the north, Tanger is a mixing bowl of cultures! A unique African-European mix that results in a beautiful tradition- and culture-rich gem that needs a place on your to-do list...now.

Download the Morocco 2.0 application to easily find your way to all the beautiful sights mentioned below! More information you'll find at the bottom of this lens! enjoy!

The Caves of Hercules
The Caves of Hercules

Number 1 - The Caves of Hercules

The caves of Hercules, located just 14kms west of Tangiers, are a place of stunning natural beauty and great archeological significance.

Apparently, this is where the mythical figure, Hercules, used to rest after finishing his 12 labours.

The mouths of the caves open up onto the Atlantic and are flooded at high tide. When the tide comes in, water gushes up through these massive holes in the ground and hillside. It's very impressive.

The caves are partly man-made and partly natural. It's not exactly sure how the caves were created. It's believed that for some reason, an ancient civilization used to carve millstones out of the solid rock that caused giant caves to form over the years. How these primitive people managed to cut into solid rock with simple and crude tools is still a mystery.

At low tide, the views inside caves looking out over the ocean are stunning, the colours in particular. The blue Atlantic Ocean and sky above resemble a reverse silhouette of Africa.

Swimming here can be quite dangerous. The currents offshore can get very strong. If you're not a strong swimmer, it's best to stick to sunbathing.

Some people say that the caves were once joined under the sea to St Michaels caves on the rock of Gibraltar and that this is "possibly" how the Barbary Apes crossed over. But nobody knows for sure. This coastline is also where the pirates of the region were once headquartered.

Also well worth a visit is the old 2nd and 3rd century Roman ruins of Cotta. They're just 300 meters away.Cotta is only a five minute walk from the caves of Hercules. Head south and you"ll come to a small area of stone ruins just above the beach.

Here you'll see the remains of an ancient Roman town that dates back to the 2nd and 3rd century. After extensive excavation, archeologists revealed several walled sections along with the layout of the Roman town.

As soon as you arrive, you'll probably be greeted by a local guide. He'll be more than happy to show you around. Cotta is a mixture between a villa and a Roman industrial complex.

There are temples, shrines, Roman baths, oils presses and a courtyard where they used to process oil and other products in large vats. Like many other ancient Roman sites on the coast of Morocco, Cotta specialized in the manufacture of a pungent anchovy paste called "Garrum". It was made from fish guts, but the Romans loved the stuff.

Visit Tangiers - the Kasbah
Visit Tangiers - the Kasbah

Number 2 - the Kasbah

The Kasbah in Tangiers is an absolute must see. It's one of the city's main attractions.

It was built on the highest point in Tangiers and has excellent views out over the Straits of Gibraltar and neighboring Spain. There aren't many places where you can see two continents at once.

Within its gates lies a large open courtyard, which leads you up to the Dar el Makhzen.

It is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular attractions in Morocco. Sultan Moulay Ismail constructed the Dar el Makhzen in the seventeenth century and it served as his palace. As the palace is located on the highest area in the city, visitors can enjoy spectacular views that even extend out to Spain and the Straits of Gibraltar. But it is not only the views that attract visitors to this site; it is the magnificence and splendor of the Dar el Makhzen.

Even though the palace has now been converted into a museum, the grandeur and luxury that Sultan Moulay Ismail had envisioned and created is still evident. The first feature that visitors will notice is that the palace was constructed around two lavish and elegant inner courtyards. When compared to other palaces that were built for sultans at around the same time period, Dar el Makhzen is considered to be of average size. However, it is every bit as luxurious and stylish as any of its counterparts. The detailed finishes to the wooden ceilings, the breathtaking marble fountains and marble courtyard will astonish visitors.

The apartments of Dar el Makhzen, which were once occupied by the prince, are now home to the Museum of Moroccan Arts. Not only will guests be able to marvel at the exquisite mosaics and sculptured plasterwork, but they can also view lovely works of art that have been collected from across Morocco. There are fascinating firearm exhibits, manuscripts, silks, pottery and even carpets. Bronzes and mosaics that originate from ancient Roman sites within Morocco include Volubilis, Cotta and Lixus.

The history of Tangier is also displayed here, with the funeral room drawing a lot of attention. Here visitors will be able to view a life-size replica of a Carthaginian tomb. A lot of detail has been added to this room, including the tomb of a child and small lead coffins. And if the museum has been an overwhelming cultural experience of beauty and information, visitors can rest for while in the tranquil surroundings of the Andalusian garden.

The Dar el Makhzen in Tangier is truly one of Morocco's more unique attractions. It combines the beauty of royal architecture with art and fascinating historical displays. A journey through the palace may make you feel as though you are entering a forgotten world or even intruding on history - a visit to Dar el Makhzen is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit.

The road up to the top of the hill is very steep, but the views are amazing; incredibly colourful.

Visit Tangiers - The Grand Socco
Visit Tangiers - The Grand Socco

Number 3 - The Grand Socco

The "Grand Socco", which is Spanish for Large Market, is located right in the heart of Tangiers, northeast of the Medina.

Nowadays, the square is no longer a marketplace; it's more like a city crossroads, fronted by cafes, outside the walled in, old part of the city.

This is the real heart of Tangiers and a great place to start a tour of the city. It's also the point where the modern city meets the old town. The streets suddenly turn narrow and winding as you enter the heart of old Tangiers. The area used to be full of snake charmers, musicians and storytellers, but nowadays it's more of a transportation junction, mainly for taxis.

The Grand Socco is the perfect place to go if you want to get a real feel for the city and its people. You can just chill out and watch the passing parades of city dwellers and Rif women in their colourful traditional costumes. It gets very hectic. At every moment there's a thousand tongues wagging; people buying, selling; bargaining, arguing. It's fascinating - colorful in every way.

This is where sultan Mohammed V made his famous speech referring to independence for Morocco on the 9th of April 1947.

The Grand Socco is a dynamic mixture of contrasting lifestles, colours, architechture and house styles; a colourful meeting point of old and new, where the old city is flanked by modern Western-style houses.

Visit Tangiers - Tanger Medina
Visit Tangiers - Tanger Medina

Number 4 - Tangiers / Tanger Medina

As do most of the Kingdoms towns, Tangiers has its own Medina, containing a pair of picturesque markets; the Grand Socco and Petit Socco.

Most of Tangiers Medina (Ancient city) is still in very good condition. The narrow winding streets are lined with houses of all kinds of styles, indicating that people from with various financial backgrounds both lived and worked here. In Tangiers, the Medina itself is quite big. There are many commercial centres too, mostly aimed at tourists. It can be quite difficult to find areas where real handicraft is performed.

Other parts of the Medina are dedicated solely to housing. There are some very pretty houses here with typical bright coloured doors and decorated gates, surrounded by colourful rosebushes.

Once you walk through the Medina gate off the Grand Socco, you'll immediately enter a maze of narrow twisted streets and be overwhelmed by the powerful aromas drifting from the spice stalls. Shopkeepers stand outside their stores and try entice you inside; they'll try to haggle you over their products, always good naturedly, although sometimes very persistently!

If you're looking for authentic Moroccan goods you should head off to the souks. They're literally teeming with energy. You can find everything here, from embroidered shirts to djellabas and leather goods to hammered brass.

Always remember to bargain. You'll be surprised how much you bring the price down. If you speak a little French, it will be a lot easier, plus, the shop owner will have more respect for you. Even if you don?t get an amazing deal, bargaining with a Moroccan shop owner is an experience you won't forget in a hurry.

In some of the nicer buildings, the shops have a fixed pricing system, but they can charge up to 4 times the price for the exact same goods you'd find in the other shops! You can haggle the price down, but only a tiny bit.

Visit Tangiers - Museum of Moroccan art
Visit Tangiers - Museum of Moroccan art

Number 5 - Museum of Moroccan art

Tangiers multicultural society and large immigrant population has attracted artists like Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, Brion Gysin and the Rolling Stones, who all lived here or visited at some stage.

William S. Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch in Tangier in the 1950s and the book?s locale of Interzone is an allusion to the city.

After Delacroix spoke of the amazing light and colours he found in Tangiers, it became an obligatory stop off for many other artists wanting to experience it for themselves.

Matisse became very fond of the place. He made numerous tours of Tangiers, always staying in the Hotel Villa de France. He found the landscapes and colours exactly as Delacroix had described. If you come here you can even visit the room where he painted the famous view out of the window.

Another well-known artist heavily influenced by Tangiers and Matisse was Californian Richard Diebenkorn. He found the Matisse's rhythmic patterns and colours haunting.

The most well known native author from Tangiers is probably Mohamed Choukri. He's widely recognized as one of North Africa?s most controversial and popular authors. His autobiography "For Bread Alone" was described by Tennessee Williams as "A true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact."

During the 1940s and 1950s Tangiers was an international zone. It was a playground for all kinds of eccentric types - artists, writers, millionaires, as well as more sinister crooks, secret agents and gamblers.

visit Tangiers - The American Legation
visit Tangiers - The American Legation

Number 6 - The American Legation (cultural centre and museum)

Right in the heart of the old Medina, stands a historic American landmark attesting to Morocco'old diplomatic and cultural relations with the United States. Morocco was the first country to recognize the independence of the United States. In fact, this is even United States'only historic landmark overseas.

The American Legation was established back in 1777. The building is listed on the Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property.

Important enough since it is the first American property outside the US territory. It is located at 8 Zankat America (Avenue of America).

The building contains a museum,library and a conference center. So if you are into into history,old documents,arts(it holds artists meetings and exhibitions), this place worths its visit.

Visit Tanger - St Andrews Church
Visit Tanger - St Andrews Church

Number 7 - St Andrews Church

To find an Anglican church in Morocco might sound odd to some, but Tangier is home to a very famous little church and a popular tourist attraction in Tangier named St. Andrews Church. Hassan I of Morocco provided the first strip of land in the year 1880 to the English where they were able to erect an iron church. Soon the church became too small to accommodate the congregation and plans to build a new church were made.

The cornerstone for the new Church of St. Andrews was laid in the year 1894 and the church was consecrated in 1905. It is a church that was well documented, as services registers between the years 1885 to 1991 and even the accounting books for the years 1882 to 1926 are still in existence. The neat church with its clean rows of pews is still well attended every Sunday morning and worshippers come from far and wide to attend the morning service. What makes this church so unique and interesting is the Lord’s Prayer. Behind the altar on the archway, visitors will be able to view a version of this well known prayer in Arabic.

The St. Andrews Church is often visited by tourists because of some of the famous names that have been laid to rest in the graveyard. Amongst the two hundred tombstones are the names of well-known bankers and historically famous generals. Names such as Major Harry Twentyman, Winthrop Buchanan and Hooker A. Doolittle are also found here. Most notorious, is the tombstone that bears no Christian name, but only reads: “Died February 1963. Missed by all and sundry.” This grave belongs to the legendary London drug lord known simply as "Dean". He fled to Morocco to evade a string of felonies that included money laundering. Emily Kean introduced the procedure of vaccinations to Morocco, which has most certainly saved countless lives, and was buried in the graveyard of the St. Andrews Church in Tangier.

The Church of St. Andrews is an attraction in Tangier that is a beautiful structure to investigate and is of great historical importance. Walking through the graveyard adds a touch of nostalgia and mystery, as visitors read the names and ponder on their lives and legacy that they might someday leave behind.

visit Tangiers - Grand Teatro de Cervantes
visit Tangiers - Grand Teatro de Cervantes

Number 8 - Grand Teatro de Cervantes

Even if you do not speak the local language, a person should always try to enjoy at least one theatrical production in whatever foreign country he/she is visiting. Theatrical productions are a great way to gain insight into the culture and artistic society of a particular land. If you are planning to spend time in Tangier in Morocco, you simply have to head to the Gran Teatro de Cervantes.

The Gran Teatro de Cervantes in Morocco may look a bit broken down, but this is to be expected of a theatre which opened in 1913. By this stage you may be wondering why the name ‘Cervantes’ is vaguely familiar. Miguel Cervantes Saavedra is famous mainly for his literary work ‘Don Quixote’, though he was not only a novelist but also a playwright and poet. In fact, when Cervantes was alive in the 16th century, he was regarded as being one of the most important and influential people with regard to literature and culture in Spain. But Cervantes' life was not always so glamorous. Though he was likely born into minor gentry and he debuted at just 21 years of age, he also spent time as a soldier, was captured by Barbary pirates and spent time working as a purveyor for the Spanish Armada and as a Tax Collector. He even spent three years in jail. Nevertheless, he went on to create some of the greatest literary works of his time and was even dubbed ‘The Prince of Wits’.

The Gran Teatro de Cervantes was created at a time when Morocco was brimming with Spaniards. In fact, the theater was created to fill the cultural needs of what was then the largest non-Moroccan community in Tangier. Opening just one year before the First World War, the theatre might have been doomed to failure. However, regardless of this untimely opening, it continued to be popular in the interwar years. During the 1950s, it enjoyed its heyday years with plays, operas and a variety of cultural meetings taking place at this lovely theater. In recent years its decrepit state led to its temporary closure and it is now being restored with Spanish funding. While you may not yet be able to enjoy a world-class performance at this theater, you can enjoy the beautiful Art Deco façade and other aspects of this building's architecture. It makes for a great tourist attraction and is a striking reminder of a time when there were almost more Spaniards in Tangier than there were Moroccans.

Check in your hotel if there is a show on!

Visit Tangiers - Museum of Antiquities
Visit Tangiers - Museum of Antiquities

Number 9 - Museum of Antiquities

The Museum of Antiquities is located in the Medina of Tangier, and is found in what used to be the kitchens of the Sultan's palace, Dar El Makhzen. Surrounding the museum is a beautiful Andalusian garden where visitors can walk and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. There is also a replica of an ancient necropolis, which is a large and elaborate cemetery that was used by ancient cities.

So, when you visit the beautiful Kasbah don't forget to check out this museum!

The museum contains an array of objects and artifacts that come from Roman sites. These Roman sites include Banasa, Lixus, Volubilis and Cotta. They contained a number of mosaics and bronze pieces that can now be viewed at the Museum of Antiquities. One of the better known mosaics that came out of these locations was "The Voyage of Venus." This mosaic depicts the Goddess Venus sitting on a throne that is situated on a ship. Surrounding the throne are a number of nymphs. The ship can be seen making its way to an unknown destination through clear, blue waters. You will find these fascinating objects in what used to be the Dar El Makhzen palace kitchens.

When you enter the Museum of Antiquities you come across a number of displays that explain the history of Tangier and of the region that surrounds the city. There are also other rooms located on the ground floor that have displays focusing on more specific subjects. One of these rooms is devoted solely to ancient funeral rites that took place during the Roman era. In the room there is a model of a Carthaginian tomb scaled to size.

Tangier was the destination for people wanting adventure, for the rich and for those wanting to avoid paying tax between the 1920s and 1950s. Artists and writers, like Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, also found Tangier a welcome destination where they could accomplish their work in peace. Tangier saw a lot of change in the 1960s when Morocco took over. With the loss of Tangiers's duty-free status this led to a decrease in tourism which is only starting to recover and increase in recent years. Tourists are attracted to the walkways lined with palm trees, the sunny beaches and the luxurious resorts.

Visit Tangiers - Shopping
Visit Tangiers - Shopping

Number 10 - Shopping

After seeing all the sights (or even before), one of the best things to do in Tangiers is go shopping in the many bazaars and souks (markets). You'll find some amazing stuff here.

Although many tourist traps do exist selling low quality goods, if you're prepared to get off the beaten track you'll find a wealth of fine crafts. Tangiers is a great place for bargains in copper, leather and carpets. You'll also find some wonderful carved cedarwood pots, boxes along with plenty of other items that will beg you to part with your money.

If you're here on a day trip and don't have time to see everything, just go shopping! You can bring some of this fascinating culture back home with you. Shopping in Tangiers can be a very entertaining experience, quite different to anywhere else in Europe.

There are literally hundreds of hole-in-the-wall shops and stalls to choose from, as well as many "proper" shops too. Shop owners will be only too happy to take your money. It can be quite intense; you'll constantly be offered mint tea and cut price goods, but that's all part of the fun!

Morocco 2.0
Morocco 2.0

Our tip for you: Go Morocco 2.0

Get everything out of your Moroccan adventure!

Welcome to beautiful Morocco

We are sure you already read a lot about our beautiful country on the internet, in travel guides and most definitely you watched your share of documentaries! Good! So at least you know the basics of our country before starting your amazing journey!

And amazing it will be, it will not matter if your travels bring you to Marrakech and the Atlantic or to Tanger and the Northern Cape! To the kingly city of Fes or to the Atlas and the Sahara valleys. Morocco is stunning and ready for your visit!

Vision 2020

Vision 2020 is the goal Morocco has set itself to reach by the year 2020! It is the goal to raise Morocco, to be in the top twenty of the touristic destinations in the world and therefore becoming a model of sustainability in the Mediterranean area. Different project are started to prepare Morocco for an increase of visitors. Museums are being built, riads renovated and the national heritage sites opened for public!

Morocco 2.0 - the augmented reality layar

Your travel experience is important and that is why the Tanger based company 26buckets made the perfect travel app for tourists visiting Morocco! Since most travel guides are not complete, have outdated information and are heavy to carry, the Morocco 2.0 layar is the perfect companion on your Moroccan adventure!

The mobile app will guide you to all the point and places of interest that are available in a city or village. The Morocco 2.0 layar uses the famous augmented reality layar application to share all this information with you! You can download the layar application for your iphone, blackberry, nokia or android smart phone!

Unlimited internet access is good and cheap in Morocco. You can choose between daily, weekly or monthly access prepaid cards. So at almost no cost you will have you personal travel guide in your smart phone!

More information you can find at http://26buckets.com/morocco2.0/

Bring your Lonely planet guide!

Lonely Planet Morocco (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Morocco (Travel Guide)

It is always good to have your lonely planet guide ready in the hotel! For planning your trips and background information! When you go visit the next day use the Morocco 2.0 app to find all the spots selected earlier that day!! Succes!!

 
Visit Tangiers
Visit Tangiers

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2011

Tangiers hits the mark

Lonely Planet's new publication, Best in Travel 2011, features Tangier as one of its top ten cities to visit this year. 'A stylish new Tangier is being created with a dynamic arts community, renovated buildings, great shopping and chic new restaurants', says The View from Fez writer Helen Ranger and author of the piece.

Other cities recommended are New York, ten years after 9/11, Tel Aviv, Wellington, Valencia, Iquitos, Ghent, Delhi, Chang Mai and Newcastle (the one in Australia, that is).

The book has some exciting suggestions including Lonely Planet's list of the top 10 countries to explore (from Albania to Vanuatu), top 10 regions (think anywhere between Patagonia, the Shetland Isles and the Sinai), and the top travel experiences. In this category, you'll find where to find the world's greatest bookshops, the best vampire-spotting locales, the most super-luxe travel, and plenty of other ideas. Of the top 10 places to learn the local cuisine, Lahcen Beqqi of Fez is right up there along with Vietnamese, Mexican, Turkish and more.

For some armchair travelling and inspiration for your next holiday, this is a great book to have. Morocco anyone?

read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com

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      peregrineadventures 5 years ago

      This is one of our favourite destinatinons to visit. Thanks for shining a spotlight on it!

    • profile image

      BillSimmons 5 years ago

      Definitely want to go there, nice lens!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      amazing place it seems, earned a 'thumbs up' from me.

    • buckets1 profile image
      Author

      buckets1 5 years ago

      @SusanDeppner: You are welcome! And WOW, 30 years ago, beautiful!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I mostly remember the Kasbah from our visit to Tangiers over 30 years ago. I can still muster up the wonderful smells of the marketplace. Thanks for the memories!