Things To Do In Tanger
In the last few years, the King has taken a great interest in promoting Tangier as a high-end tourist destination. There is a new luxury port abutting the ancient medina of Tangier where yachts belonging to the rich and wealthy port as part of their tour of the Mediterranean Sea. Much of the medina has been recently restored. Many of the main streets and boulevards have new palm trees as part of a city-wide beautification project.
Even with all of this renovation and restoration, there are still many historical and cultural monuments preserved in and around Tangier for you to discover… not to mention a lot of beaches!
Notes From the History of Tangier
Through the year, Tangier passed through the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and the Umayyad empire before finally joining modern day Morocco in the 11th century A.D. However, successive wars, disputes and trades saw Tangier constantly changing national affiliation, with Portugal and Spain batting control of the city back and forth from 1471-1662, when it was given as part of a dowry for Catherine of Braganza and her marriage to Charles II, the King of England. The British only had control of Tangier for 22 years, and then it was given back to Morocco.
During the Protectorate Era (1912-56), Tangier remained an International Zone, what William Burroughs dubbed the “Interzone” in his Beat masterpiece Naked Lunch, which he wrote while living in Tangier.
Tangier Travel Guide: What to Do
Take a Paseo – After their siestas, it’s typical for the people of Tangier to take a paseo (a stroll) along the long promenade formed by Avenue Pasteur and Boulevard Mohamed V. They meet with friends, do a little shopping and enjoy as the heat of the afternoon gives way to the cool of the evening. This walk will take you down Avenue Pasteur at Place de France to Place Brahim Aroudani, where you can turn left and continue your paseo on the beach and take in the Bay of Tangier.
Tangier Travel Guide: What to See:
Cap Spartel and the Cave of Hercules – Located about fifteen minutes outside of Tangier on the Atlantic Coast are Cap Spartel and the legendary cave of Hercules. Those familiar with Greek mythology might recall the 12 Labors of Hercules. In fact, not far from Tangier, there is another location rumoured to be the basis for Hercules’ Eleventh Labor: the apples of Hesperides (or “the golden apple”). It was after he retrieves the “golden apple” that it is thought Hercules rested in this caveat Cap Spartel.
To get to Cap Spartel without a car, it’s best to go to the Grand Socco. You can hire a taxi there for 150 dirhams for a roundtrip fare. Most drivers will happily wait for an hour or so while you explore the cave and the area around. As beautiful as Cap Spartel is, it is also a bit of a tourist trap for Moroccans and non-Moroccans alike. Avoid anyone trying to be a “guide” as this cave is fairly simple to navigate.
Entrance to the cave is 10 dirhams. There are some unremarkable shops to ignore at beginning of the path leading down, but if you look up, you can see where locals have carved out round stones from the cave walls for generations. These stones were used in the milling of grains. Even more impressive is how the cave, in the shape of the continent of Africa, open up and looks out toward the Atlantic. After enjoying the cave, relax at one of the many beachside cafes. Prices are a bit more expensive than most other cafes (about ten dirhams for a tea), but the view on a nice day is unbeatable.
Tangier Travel Guide: Where to Eat
Grand Café de Paris – Located off the Place de France, this rather 50s-era inspired café, with plush seats and seating right on the busy boulevard, like Café Hafa, has a rich literary history and, even now, is considered somewhat of a “hotspot” for local writers. On Place de France, open 7am-11pm
Café Colon – Located just outside of the medina and adjacent to the Grand Socco (or Zoco) on Rue de la Kasbah, across from the movie theatre Cinema Alcazar, this café may be best known for its fifteen minutes of fame in Bernardo Bertolucci’s adaptation of The Sheltering Sky. This café has remained largely unchanged in the past forty years. Like most cafés in Morocco, the clientele is largely male, but it’s a nice place to recharge after a few hours in the medina on your way uphill to the Kasbah. On the Grand Socco, open 7am-11pm.
Anna & Paolo – A cosy, family-owned restaurant with largely Mediterranean-Italian fusion options located in the newer part of Tangier. Like many restaurants, the seafood selection abounds with fresh catches from the day and well-done pizzas. Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Lunch from 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Dinner from 7:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m. Closed on Fridays. Reservations recommended, but get there early to avoid smokers and one person lighting up can ruin an otherwise delicious meal for everyone. Address: 77 Rue Prince Héritier. Phone: (212) 05.39.94.4.6.17.
Le Saveur de Poisson – Close to the El Minzah hotel down Rue de la Liberté off the Grand Socco on the stairs leading to the medina, one of the most outstanding elements of this restaurant is that everything seems to be made in-house, even the wooden cutlery and clay plates. This restaurant boasts some of the best traditional Mediterranean-Moroccan food in the region. All dishes use a sort of seafood and lots of local herbs and spices are added. Open Saturday through Thursday for lunch and dinner. Lunch from 12:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Dinner from 7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. Closed on Fridays. Reservations strongly recommended. Address: 2 Escalier Waller. Phone: (212) 05.39.33.63.26.
Les Insolites is the newest, hippest bookstore in Tangier and has many contemporary art showings and readings. Conveniently located just off the Place de Faro (often called “The Terrace of the Lazy”) and Boulevard Pasteur, the owners are usually around and are happy to talk to people travelling through. They will happily recommend a nearby cafe or restaurant as well.