Casablanca in Morocco is often overlooked as a travel destination, since most tourists bypass Morocco’s largest city and head on to Marrakech and Fes. But instead of immediately hopping on a train or connecting flight, it’s worth it to spend at least a day or two discovering all the things to do in Casablanca, Morocco. Our guest author Anna Rice gives us some great reasons to visit Casablanca, where you can find great food, sightseeing, street-life and more.
If you believe the guidebooks, you might feel that Casablanca isn’t worth much time. But before rushing off to Marrakech, here are five reasons we think you should stay in Casablanca for more than a couple hours:
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1. Food in Casablanca – the cosmopolitan restaurant and nightlife scene
Marrakech is one of the most stylish Moroccan cities and the destination of choice for the fashionable set visiting Morocco. But Casablanca still has enough affordable and trendy restaurants to be a culinary destination of its own. One popular hot spot is Blend, a burger restaurant where you will probably have a hard time getting a table during prime dining hours. After indulging in one of their gourmet burgers, hit up La Bodega, a Spanish-style tapas bar where expats gather for drinks in a loud but fun atmosphere.
Looking for something a little more refined when you visit Casablanca? Make a reservation at upscale, waterfront establishment Le Cabestan and ask for a table by the water. Prepare to shell out American prices for ocean views, beautiful patrons and top-notch food.
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For weekend brunch, visit La Sqala, which serves fresh squeezed juices and traditional Moroccan breakfast foods in a beautiful outdoor setting within the walls of an old fortress.
2. Visit Mosque Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco
Most Westerners have never been inside a mosque, but if you’re visiting Casablanca, Mosque Hassan II offers the rare opportunity to take a tour. Sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s one of the world’s largest mosques and Morocco’s top architectural wonder. The Mosque that was commissioned by King Hassan II, is one of the top things to do in Casablanca, taking seven years to build and holding up to 25,000 worshipers.
Looking for a tour of Casablanca? This private half day tour of Casablanca will show you all the major sites
Tours are offered in several languages at set times daily, except on Fridays. Visitors to Mosque Hassan II should dress conservatively and respectfully (make sure your arms, shoulders, neckline and knees are covered) and bring a pair of socks, as you’ll be required to remove your shoes for part of the tour.
3. Admire the Art Deco Architecture in Casablanca
Bustling downtown Casablanca will leave you feeling like you stepped into a time machine. French architects who embraced the Art Deco movement of the early 20th century practically took over Casablanca, and there are plenty of historic buildings to see. Some of them are unfortunately in crumbling disrepair while others are well maintained. Overall, this neighborhood is an authentic slice of Morocco’s history as a French colony.
The best place to take in the sights is Boulevard Mohammed V, where you can stroll alongside Casablanca’s brand new tram. The street eventually leads to Place des Nations Unies, a large and busy square surrounded by shops, restaurants and offices.
Other notable sites to see examples of Moroccan/French architecture in Casablanca include the Grande Poste, the clock tower of the Wilaya (government building), the Banque d’Etat and the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, which is no longer a functioning church.
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Hotels in Casablanca
If you’re looking for a stylish hotel in Casablanca, check out the following places to stay;
Hotel and Spa Le Doge Casablanca – In the heart of the Art Deco district of Casablanca, Le Doge is a gem of a hotel, where authenticity and sophistication are key. The building’s 30s architecture is carried through in the interior décor and the conservation of central period elements.
Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca – a luxury resort just 10 minutes from the busy city centre, with 186 guest rooms, an outdoor pool and one of the city’s finest spas.
Barcelo Anfa Casablanca – located in the very heart of Casablanca, with an Art Deco design reflected in its colours, geometric patterns and warm materials.
4. Explore the Markets in Casablanca
While there are definitely more historical and attractive medinas in Marrakech and Fes, the Casablanca medina is worth checking out simply because there are few other tourists there. If you’re wondering what to do in Casablanca, the markets certainly offer a rare peek into the daily life of the city’s Moroccan residents.
To explore Casablanca with a local, take this half day tour of Casablanca that includes the markets and medina
Don’t spend too much time shopping here – most of the souvenirs are imported from other parts of the country and therefore more expensive. The entrance to the medina is located off of Place des Nations Unies.
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A better shopping destination to visit (even if you aren’t shopping) is Marche Central. This buzzing street market was originally designed for Europeans but today it caters to both expats and Moroccans. If you like seafood, you can select a freshly caught fish and then take it around the corner to a grill to have it cooked to perfection. Or just find a nearby cafe for a mint tea to watch the comings and goings in the market.
The market also sells fruits, vegetables and other food items, making it a great spot to stop before a picnic on the beach. Just don’t forget to haggle for the best price!
5. Explore the growing Art Scene of Casablanca
Cheap rent makes Casablanca an ideal place for artists to live, and a plethora of abandoned buildings provides a canvas. One can’t-miss is Les Anciens Abattoirs, a former slaughterhouse that still has meat hooks hanging and blood stains on the floor. A collective of cultural associations and artists, La Fabrique Culturelle, has taken it over recently and turned it into a gallery space and performance venue.
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Another popular up-and-coming space is La Galerie 38, which supports local Moroccan artists as well as international names. La Galerie 38 is connected to Le Studio des Arts Vivants, a large studio that is at the center of Morocco’s contemporary art scene.
Students of all ages can take lessons in music, art, dance and theatre with teachers from all over the world. The best representation of the increasingly modern Moroccan art scene is Galerie L’Atelier 21, which offers pieces from both emerging and established local designers.
Check out these fun tours of Casablanca
Take a private half day tour of Casablanca to visit the famous sights in Casablanca or “White House”, in Arabic Dar El Beida
Take a 5 hour Religions of Morocco tour that takes you to some of Casablanca’s holiest sites.
Take this 4 hour tour of Casablanca with a local to gain an insight into the city’s diverse history and culture.
Anna Rice is the writer behind The Weekend Jetsetter, a travel blog written for those want to see the world – without quitting their day job. A publicist by day, Rice spends her weekends, holidays and vacation days globetrotting in 2-5 day chunks. You can read more of her Morocco tips on her site, or follow her on Instagram
Photo credits: Mosque Hassan II by boredallrounder | Mosque architecture by GregMontani | Casablanca food by TheUjulala | Art deco by Stratageme2015 | Casablanca boats by Chengtzf (Pixabay) | Oranges by Eduardo C.G (unsplash) | Casablanca Market by hewy on Flickr | Casablanca fish by Magale Abbe on Flickr | Casablanca Art Deco by Maret on Flickr |
This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com