Can you see Spain from Tangier?

The Best Things to Do in Tangier, Morocco

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You know about Morocco, but do you know about Tangier? Rich in history, this important port guards the Strait of Gibraltar and is Europe’s gateway to Africa. For historical reasons, Tangier has a seedy reputation but this is no longer justified. These days, Tangier is a thriving and interesting city, with a multicultural identity and a relaxed lifestyle. I went to Tangier as a child and only have vague memories of it. However, on my recent trip, I had great pleasure in rediscovering this beautiful place and I have a list of the best things to do in Tangier, Morocco.

Visit the punic tombs when you are in Tangier
Punic Tombs in Tangier

This itinerary around Tangier takes a couple of days and doesn’t require a vehicle for the most part. So, if you are pressed for time and don’t have your own transport, you can take a local tour, so you can be sure to see the best of Tangier. Check out the additional information and current tour prices.

The Best Things to do in Tangier

Morocco has been influenced by both French and Spanish occupation. The French established a Protectorate in 1912 and in 1923, Tangier was declared an International Zone. Semi-independent and administered by the Sultan of Morocco, Tangier attracted a wild crowd during those years: socialites, artists, speculators, sexual deviants and various eccentrics. Expats made half of the population and Tangier was also rumoured to be a safe haven for spies…

Get lost in the Tangier medina
House in Tangier

This earned Tangier a reputation as a cultural hub but a pretty wild place. Morocco became an independent country in 1956 and Tangier’s special status ceased. Years of sanctioned neglect followed, public funding was cut and the cultural scene and its expats moved on. Indeed, it was a long decline for Tangier, tourists turned away and criminals remained.

View of the marina in Tangier
Port of Tangier

However, since 1999, Tangier has seen an influx of investments: a new marina, a TGV train line to Casablanca are being built and a major industrial complex called “Tanger-Med” is just 40 km on the Mediterranean coast. I thoroughly recommend spending several days in Tangier in order to soak up the atmosphere, a subtle mix of Mediterranean and North African vibes. It’s also a good place to start experiencing Morocco nightlife.

Is Tangier safe today? I would say so. I never felt in danger, even at night. But as always in Morocco, you have to take the usual precautions.

Read on if you want to know what to do in Tangier…

Where to Stay in Tangier

There are plenty of Tangier hotels and Tangier riads to choose from. You have a choice between staying in the medina or in the Ville Nouvelle (New City) and both are quite good. Accommodation in Tangier is usually quite reasonable.

Save on your hotel -

For a medina experience, Dar Yasmine was recently refurbished and has a rooftop terrace, which is always really nice in the evening. Great location near the Grand Socco.

You must stay in a road when you go to Tangier
Riad in Tangier

With only 8 rooms, La Maison de Tanger is a bit pricey but has spacious and very elegant rooms. It’s not quite in the medina but close to the Petit Socco and the Grand Socco, so the location is equally good.

For a mid-range option, Dar Nour has elegant rooms decorated in a mix of modern and traditional Moroccan style. There is a rooftop and the location is excellent.

How to Get to Tangier?

Tangier has its own international airport, Ibn Battuta and railway station. Whilst I recommend spending a couple of days in Tangier, there are full-day tours from Casablanca, which will give you a good overview of the city. Check out additional information and current tour prices.

You can fly directly when you visit Tangier
Arriving in Tangier

You can also take a day trip to Morocco from Spain. From Tarifa, the ferry to Tangier only takes an hour do travel from Spain to Morocco is quite easy. Check out additional information and current tour prices.

Explore the Medina

With its protective walls, the medina can feel a little claustrophobic if you’re not used to it but you will soon discover charming little squares enjoying the shelter of a large tree. I found the Tangier medina really pleasant, less cluttered and clean, with freshly painted white and blue walls. Activity doesn’t start until late morning, so if you get there early, you get to enjoy the quiet streets.

Tangier has some really nice art galleries
Tangier Art Gallery

A great way to visit the medina is to enter through Bab Kasbah and to walk your way down to the Petit Socco. You’ll probably get a little lost but nothing too serious… There are some quirky shops and galleries on the way. Having said that, the shopping is not as spectacular in Tangier as it is in Marrakech, and you still need to haggle.

The Salon Bleu is a charming cafe in Tangier
Le Salon Bleu in Tangier

On our first night in Tangier, we had a simple dinner at the Salon Bleu, a roof terrace overlooking the medina walls and the harbour. The sea breeze was so enjoyable and I loved being by the seashore again.

People Watch at the Petit Socco

The Petit Socco, or “Souq ad-Dakhil” used to be one of Tangier’s most notorious crossroads, where drug deals and prostitution took place. Now, nightlife in Tangier is a lot tamer and it’s a great place for people watching. During our little Tangier holiday, we enjoyed several meals on the terrace of Le Bistro du Petit Socco.

Le Petit Socco is one of the best places in Tangier
Le Petit Socco

This charming little square reminds me very much of town squares in Southern France, like Nice for example. It’s also probably the most touristy Tangier gets so there are few scammers about. In my opinion, the Petit Socco is where the pulsating heart of Tangier is. It showcases very well the mix of local and expat life and is a great place to taste the unique atmosphere of the town.

Visit the American Legation

The American Legation is a three-storey building in the medina, now a museum. Interestingly, Morocco was the first country to recognise the barely established United States in 1777. It was also the first piece of American real estate overseas.

Even if all you have is a day trip to Tangier, do visit the American Legation.

Be a Celebrity at the Hotel Nord-Pinus

Located in the street descending from Bab Kasbah to Bab Bhar, the Hotel Nord-Pinus is a hotel and restaurant, in a beautiful Portuguese-style mansion. If you are wanting to retreat from the medina for a few hours, the Nord-Pinus is the ideal place for a rooftop cocktail overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar or a fine meal. The service may be a little slow but the food is really delicious. The Nord-Pinus welcomed the Rolling Stones and the Beatles in their day.

Nord Pinus Hotel is a very elegant place to stay in Tangier
Hotel Nord Pinus in Tangier

I wonder if this is one of the best hotels in Tangier but I didn’t get to see the rooms.

Have an Espresso at El Morocco Cafe

At Bab Kasbah, El Morocco Cafe is sheltered under a large tree and offers Nespresso coffee. I’m not a coffee person but this is the place to get a proper espresso. Later in the evening, the Morocco Club next door is the place to get your groove on.

Have a coffee or tea in the Tangier medina
Tangier Medina

As Tangier was my gateway to Morocco on this trip, I noticed they were serving mint tea with sugar on the side. This is a nice new development, as mint tea can be too sweet…

Take the Sun at the Hotel Continental

This beautiful hotel has a prime location overlooking the harbour and is synonymous with Paul Bowles, as some scenes of the Sheltering Sky were filmed.

The views from the Continental Hotel are fabulous
Hotel Continental in Tangier

It’s funny that what to see in Tangier involves hotels but remember that expat life was very important here…

Be Cool at Café Hafa

Established in 1921, Cafe Hafa was a major hangout for painters and beat poets such as Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and William S. Burroughs. It is one of the Tangier things to do and a great place to watch the sunset on Spain, sipping a mint tea. Today, Café Hafa welcomes the youth of Tangier, sitting at mosaic tables and chatting away. And of course, the blue is reminiscent of Chefchaouen, which is one of the tours from Tangier.

Cafe Hafa is where is all happens in Tangier
Cafe Hafa in Tangier

The distance from Tangier to Chefchaouen is only 2 hours and it’s one of the really great tours in Morocco so I highly recommend it. Check out additional information and current tour prices.

Walk the Grand Socco

The Grand Socco is a large sloping plaza with a central fountain and palm trees, and is one of the places to visit in Tangier. To get there, you need to take a 10 mins walk up the Rue Siaghine from the Petit Socco. The square is also called Place du 9 Avril 1947 and is just outside the medina walls.

The Grand Socco is a large sloping plaza with a central fountain and palm trees. To get there, you need to take a 10 mins walk up the Rue Siaghine from the Petit Socco. The square is also called Place du 9 Avril 1947 and is just outside the medina walls. There is a fresh produce market on the way where you can buy olives to enjoy as a snack. Again, the Grand Socco is a good place for people watching and the Cinema Rif is a lovely art deco building, testimony to Tangier’s thriving cultural scene. In my opinion, the Grand Socco isn’t as interesting as the Petit Socco. Sure, it also makes for good people watching but I find it has a little less character.

Walk the Grand Socco in Tangier
Grand Socco

There is a fresh produce market on the way where you can buy olives to enjoy as a snack. Again, the Grand Socco is a good place for people watching and the Cinema Rif is a lovely art deco building, testimony to Tangier’s thriving cultural scene. In my opinion, the Grand Socco isn’t as interesting as the Petit Socco.

Have a Cocktail at the Hotel El-Minzah

Why would you want to visit a hotel unless you’re staying in it? If it’s a mythical hotel where everyone that was someone stayed in Tangier’s seedy heyday, then it’s worth it. Here, Hollywood celebrities mixed with Winston Churchill, you can walk in their footsteps and imagine what Tangier nightlife was like back then… Count the celebrity portraits in the Andalucian courtyard or sip a cocktail in the Caid’s Bar. And if you are in need of relaxation, there is also a wellness centre next to the hotel.

Hotel El Minzah is one of the best hotels in Tangier
Hotel El Minzah

When it comes to Tangier accommodation, it doesn’t get more glamorous than that! The El-Minzah Hotel Tangier is in the “Ville Nouvelle” (new city), just outside of the medina, and has a rooftop terrace and an outdoor pool.

Stop by the Terrasse des Paresseux

Literally, this name means “terrace of the lazy”. Located in the modern city, or “ville nouvelle”, this is a great place to admire the view over the harbour and the medina walls.

Can you see Spain from Tangier?
Place des Paresseux

From there, you can see the ferry departing from Tangier to Spain.

Drive to Cap Spartel

Cap Spartel is one of the day trips from Tangier and is only 14km west of the city. The road meanders along the dramatic coast and past some nice beaches. You can also do a camel ride if that’s your thing. Cap Spartel is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the northernmost post of Africa but it’s still the northwestern extremity of Africa’s Atlantic Coast.

Dream at the Cap Spartel lighthouse
Cap Spartel

The lighthouse is closed to the public and there is a restaurant, but we didn’t get to try it. We had our own car to drive to Cap Spartel because driving in Morocco is easier than it seems and there are some really beautiful roads. However, I’m sure local taxis can take you there.

Explore the Caves of Hercules

The Caves of Hercules are a grotto quarried for millstones and a highlight of Tangier tourism. There were also known as the Roman God’s sleeping quarters before he embarked on his eleventh labour (getting golden apples from the Hesperides gardens).

Africa is within the caves of hercules
Caves of Hercules

It’s quite touristy but the grotto’s much-photographed opening onto the Atlantic ocean is reminiscent of a map of Africa and it’s worth a selfie… And of course, because this is Tangier, the place was used as a brothel in past times…

The Caves of Hercules are cool and dark
Inside the caves of Hercules

The Caves of Hercules should be included in Tangier tours and I recommend a leisurely drive back along the dramatic coast, the sun glistening on the ocean…

The Gateway to Africa

Tangier is a great place to start your journey through Morocco. Indeed, I’m really pleased we started our journey there. Most people go through Marrakech first as it is the most obvious tourist destination. However, if you have been travelling through southern Europe, you will appreciate the European connection of Tangier. Entering Morocco through Tangier is a bit like easing yourself into the country… Tangier is also a great starting point to start exploring the North of Morocco. After a few days in this great city, we hired a car and drove to Tetouan and Chefchaouen. Tangier should definitely be a reason to visit Morocco

I found Tangier travel easy-going and it’s quieter than other places such as Marrakech or Fès. Interestingly, a lot of people speak Spanish rather than French, which was a new challenge for me. Considering Spain still has some enclaves and islands in Morocco, this is not so surprising.

Whether you are doing a day trip to Tangier from Spain and if you are using it as a gateway to Morocco, this is a really interesting part of the country!

First Time in Marrakech

Tetouan Morocco

Chefchaouen, the Blue Pearl of Morocco

Is Morocco on your travel bucket list? If so, here are my travel tips for Morocco and my ultimate Morocco packing list.

Have I missed anything in my list of the best things to do in Tangier, Morocco? Please tell me in the comments below!

Save these tips for Tangier on Pinterest!

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This is the ultimate Tangier travel guide
Tangier is a great destination in Morocco, read my travel guide
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This is my list of the best things to do in Tangier, Morocco

38 thoughts on “The Best Things to Do in Tangier, Morocco”

  1. Wonderful descriptions and photos. Morocco is one of those places that I dream about visiting. Good to see that investments have improved the city of Tangier for the locals and for the new visitors. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Deborah, thank you for dropping by. Morocco is indeed dreamy and there is plenty to see, I hope you get there someday. Tangier looks really good now, the medina has been cleaned up and painted, and the modern city has this southern European feel. There is still a reasonably strong expat community and I felt quite safe there.

    1. Hi Lisa, three weeks is a good amount of time in Morocco. You will have time to see plenty of things and really experience this great country. Tangier is a great starting point for visiting the north of the country, and the TGV (fast train) is soon to be completed and is only two hours to Casablanca. Enjoy your travels and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

  2. I have been planning a trip to Morocco for a while now and have been wondering wether or not Tangier is worth a visit. After reading this I am convinced it is 🙂 And by the way, your photos are beautiful!

    1. Hi Charlotte, I absolutely recommend Tangier, it was a highlight of my trip. I love its proximity to the Mediterranean and it’s a great starting to explore the north of Morocco. Towns such as Chefchaouen and Tetouan are really interesting and the north coast is stunning. I will be writing more about my travels in that region, so stay tuned!

  3. Hi 😀
    Morocco is my country, & the beautiful Tangier is my city♥ welcome all .. we welcome guests!!!!

    1. Hi Marwan, Tangier is a great gateway to Morocco, especially coming from Spain or Portugal. It has a relaxed European vibe and some great historical landmarks. Hopefully I’ll be back there someday!

  4. Very interesting comments and great photos. I am from Mexico and I plan to go to Tangier 3 or 4 days, after being in Lisbon and continuing to Athens. I am very much excited about this trip. I am traveling alone and my sons are a little bit worried but I am happy about the idea of knowing new places. Thank you for your advices and I will tell you how did it go…

    1. Hi Emma, thank you for visiting LesterLost, I am very pleased that you are travelling to Morocco. You will love Tangier, it’s a great entry point into North Africa. If you have time, I highly recommend you also visit Chefchaouen if you have time, an overnight trip is enough. I found Tangier to be quite safe and people were friendly. It’s not as touristy as other places in Morocco so there is less pressure on tourists. All the best for this great trip!

  5. Thanks so much for this Post. My husband and I are waiting in Tangier for 2 months and this was the picture-perfect post to get me going. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Sarah, thank you for your message. I’m very pleased my post is helping with your time in Tangier, you have plenty of time to enjoy it! I hope you get a chance to visit the area around Tangier too!

  6. I watch a reportage on voyage program of tangier ans since I am in love of the town. You come to activate once again. I havz to go and see this place. You document is soo complete. Thank You

    1. Hi David, thank you for your comment. I agree, Tangier is amazing! It has come a long way since its dodgy days and it’s now inviting and active, I hope you get the chance to visit some day!

  7. Jane Dempster-Smith

    Great photos. We have not visited Morocco yet and it is high on our travel wish list. This is great information for us to plan our time. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Jane, thank you for your kind comment. I do hope you get a chance to visit Morocco someday, it’s a very interesting country. Do let me know when you need more tips, I’d be happy to help!

  8. What a shady past Tangier has. But, it sounds much more laid back these days. The buildings are so picturesque, I can see how you could while a few days away there just wandering and sampling the food and beverages on offer.

    1. Hi Emma, Tangier has a very dark past and yet to attract many celebrities… I think there was an island of safety and luxury in these swish hotels… I went there in the early eighties and it was still a bit dodgy, but mostly due to neglect from the central government. It’s been cleaned up now and I really enjoyed my time there…

    1. Hi Jamie, Marrakech is a really lively and interesting city in Morocco, I would definitely dedicate several days to it. I have a post about it, yo should check it out!

  9. We took the ferry from Spain into Tangier Med recently, but opted to head off immediately to nearby Asilah. We did manage a visit to Hercules Cave (found it to be an overrated tourist trap, though at the right light, I might suffer it again for a photo of a sunset out the cavern opening as that would be spectacular) and drove the road along the coast into Tangier on our way off to other adventures. Next visit, we do plan to spend a night or two in Tangier as we felt as if we missed the medina.

    1. Hi Michael, I did see your adventures in Asilah, it’s a great place. I only spent a few hours there but the ramparts are beautiful. I thought Hercules Caves was OK, probably the most touristy thing in Tangier but it wasn’t too overcrowded. I do hope you get a chance to spend more time in Tangier next time, it’s a lovely place.

  10. We didn’t visit Tangier on our Morocco trip unfortunately. We wanted to but couldn’t figure out a way to do a day trip to Gibraltar. And looks like you still can’t. However, I do wish I had seen the American Legation though. I had no idea Morocco was the first to recognize the US. They certainly are very friendly to Americans. On a different note, the city looks a lot like Asilah to me!

    1. Hi Heather, I wonder if the lack of tours from Morocco to Gibraltar is due to both the Moroccan and British governments wanting to control migration flow… Tangier is bigger than Asilah but has that same kind of relaxed feel. I missed the American Legation too, I hope to see it next time!

  11. I would love to visit Morocco one day and you are right, not much is known about Tangier. I will have to keep this city in mind. I do see and love the Spanish influence in the architecture. Would love to visit the Medina and the caves. Thank you for sharing a new travel option.

    1. Hi Renee, the caves are a bit touristy but it’s interesting nonetheless. I liked the medina because it’s freshly painted white and very quiet in the morning. You will love Tangier!

    1. Tangier is actually nice, the medina is freshly painted and I didn’t get the sense it was a dangerous place as it was in the past. And the sea breeze was really pleasant!

  12. I have to admit that Morocco has not been high on my places to visit but this post about Tangier has made me reconsider! It is such a shame that it fell into disrepair/neglect but what an amazing job the city has done over the last 20 years in getting it back to its former panache. I absolutely love the cafes and people watching, plus a cave! So much more to see than I expected! I love the French-Spanish influences.

    1. The history of Tangier is quite interesting, and its autonomy attracted a bit of a wild crowd. When it became part of the Moroccan kingdom, it was less attractive and the government wasn’t interested in Tangier. In the last 20 years, the government has recommended Tangier’s strategic position and investments started again. It has a nice coastal vibe and I didn’t feel it was too busy, I would definitely visit again!

  13. Morocco looks so amazing, especially through your eyes. 😉 My husband bought me a huge trip to Morocco one year for Christmas but after he fought for me to do a camel trek that I objected to (and the 2-3 days it took to do it), I canceled the trip and just forgot all bout it. Anyway, I missed out. We had planned on goign to Cap Spartel for a day trip just as you mentioned, too. The Medina looks so amazing!

    1. Such a shame that you gave up a trip to Morocco over a camel trek! I understand your objection but there are so many more things to do in Morocco… Hopefully you will reconsider Morocco as a destination, there are plenty of things to love!

  14. I was born in Tangier but moved after 27 years to Germany
    Tangier today is a big and modern city, the Kasbah or old city it’s also beautiful.
    People are very friendly

    1. I really enjoyed my time in Tangier. I visited as a child and at the time, it was pretty run-down and unsafe. Now, it’s a lot more modern and the medina looks really good. This part of the coast of Morocco is really beautiful. It’s also very interesting to see how Tangier is closely connected to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean.

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