It may not be the first place you think of when planning a trip to Morocco, but the port city of Tangier is the perfect gateway to North Africa for travelers crossing over from Europe. Overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, Tangier provides visitors with an appropriate introduction into what they can expect from the country. Nowhere near as polished a tourist destination as say Marrakesh, Tangier gives you a genuine gritty feel for city life in Morocco, flaws and all.
By exploring all the best places to visit in Tangier, you’ll not only get a well-rounded look at the city, but you’ll also find your feet, which will make exploring the rest of Morocco much easier. To make the most of your time there, it’s best to follow our Tangier itinerary. That way, you’ll know precisely what to do in Tangier in 1 day.
Best Time to Visit Tangier
To make the most of your visit to Tangier you’ll want to take the time of year into account. You may be surprised to learn that the weather in Morocco is not hot year round, so picking the right season does matter. Tangier though isn’t a massive tourist destination, so doesn’t struggle with too many tourists like other cities in Morocco.
The weather is going to be the main thing to consider when working out what the best time to visit Tangier is. As you’d expect, Tangier and the rest of Morocco gets really hot in summer, making sightseeing unpleasant and the city relatively quiet until after dark. Winter on the other hand can be cold, wet, and windy, making it far from ideal. All of this is to say that the best times to go are from March to May and September to October. At these times of year you benefit from pleasant spring and autumn weather, and also avoid Morocco’s high season.
How to Get Around Tangier
While visiting Tangier you’ll be moving around the city a bit as you go from one sight to the next. That means you’ll need to know the best ways to get around the city. In places like the Medina, you won’t really have any option but walking, as the streets there are far too narrow. You can actually see much of Tangier on foot, but definitely have a map with you as it can be easy to get lost.
However, there will be times when walking won’t work, like when you visit Cap Spartel. Since there isn’t a public transport network here for you to lean on, the alternative is to get around by taxi. Tangier is home to two types of taxi, the petit taxi and the grand taxi. As their names suggest, the petit taxis are smaller and can only take three passengers, while grand taxis fit six passengers. Other differences between the two types are that petit taxis use a meter and are typically not shared, while grand taxis are mostly shared and tend to stick to a specific route.
You’ll likely arrive to Tangier either by ferry or by plane. The Tangier ferry terminal is right by the Medina, so you can just walk or get a taxi over to your accommodation, but be wary of touts claiming to be from the tourist office saying that they’ll show you around. Coming from Tangier airport to the city, which is 30 minutes away, your only real option is a grand taxi. The price for a grand taxi should be shown on a board at the airport, but was 150 MAD as of 2018.
Where to Stay in Tangier
Whenever you’re unfamiliar with a place, trying to understand where you should stay can be a bit of a challenge. After all, you don’t know the city’s layout so finding places to stay close to the city’s main attractions and restaurants is going to be tough. That’s why we’re going to tell you where to stay in Tangier, so that isn’t a problem.
The best places to stay in Tangier are those that give you easy access to the city’s medina. Many people choose to stay in the Medina for the atmosphere and convenience, but it’s not the only option. The neighborhood of Marshan up the hill and to the west of the Medina is another good pick, while the parts of Ville Nouvelle down by the beach are also nice.
If you’re looking to treat yourself while in Tangier, the El Minzah Hotel is the way to go. A short walk from both the Medina and the beach, this classic five-star hotel offers guests rooms with real Moroccan charm, as well as access to an outdoor pool and views over the bay.
Being an affordable destination, you can often find quality accommodation with an authentic touch like at Dar Sami which won’t empty your wallet. This riad on the edge of the Medina gives travelers a truly Moroccan experience, with stunning terrace views and a delicious, filling breakfast.
For backpackers after a cheap place to stay, the Riad Hostel Tangier has what you’re looking for. With both dorms and private rooms, guests will find clean rooms, private bathrooms, and great staff.
For more accommodation options in Tangier check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 1-Day Tangier Itinerary
Despite being many people’s first port of call in Morocco, Tangier isn’t a destination that demands a lot of your time. Rather than being a city full of unmissable attractions, Tangier is the perfect place to acclimate to what Morocco is like. With one day there you shouldn’t have trouble covering all the best things to do in Tangier and come away with some great memories.
To cover the city’s best spots in a single day, it’s best to go in with a plan, which is exactly what this Tangier travel itinerary is. Along the way, you’ll experience not only the historic center of Tangier but also some of the most beautiful coastal spots overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar.
However, before we get to our Tangier itinerary we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads and SafetyWing. You can get a quick quote with World Nomads below:
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with one of our recommended companies, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
With that helpful reminder taken care of, let’s dive into how to spend 1 day in Tangier. After reading this guide, you’ll be ready to experience the absolute best of Tangier.
The natural place to start your visit is with the Medina of Tangier. If this is your first time visiting a medina in Morocco, it will give you an idea of what the walled historic center of Moroccan cities is like. A maze of narrow streets which lead up from the harbor to the Grand Socco market place, there’s a high chance that you’ll get lost many times as you explore this part of the city.
Wandering the Medina, you’re sure to find plenty of stores selling all sorts of handicrafts. Don’t be surprised if locals approach you as you wander about, asking if you’re lost. They’ll offer to help you find your way, only to insist on payment or bring you to their store instead. If you get tired from walking and shopping, head to Place Petit Socco where you can find cafes ideal for people-watching.
The Kasbah Museum
For tourists, the undisputed main attraction near the Medina is the Kasbah Museum inside the old sultan’s palace of Dar El Makhzen. Though most of the information inside is in French and Arabic, you get to see this restored palace in all its glory. The museum’s collection of detailed maps is a big hit, as are the beautiful courtyards and tiles throughout the palace.
The American Legation Museum
Likely not the kind of museum that you’d expect to find in Morocco, the American Legation Museum focuses on the fact that Morocco was the first country to recognize an independent America in 1821. As America’s first diplomatic mission, the building was the first American property outside of the United States and now has exhibits on the relations between the two countries. American visitors will likely get the most out of this museum, but there are aspects of the museum, like the art and colonial architecture,which will interest everyone.
As a port city, there’s no way you can skip exploring Tangier’s waterfront. While you may expect harbor docks, the sight of the city beach and Tangier Corniche behind it is probably more unexpected. Escaping the confines of the medina, you’ll feel like you can catch your breath again as you stroll along the Corniche. With Ville Nouvelle, the new part of Tangier, on one side, and the city beach on the other, it’s a refreshing look at what Tangier is like. While you can lounge out on the sand, it’s also possible to go for camel rides along the beach, which is a great option if you can’t make it to the Sahara.
Watching over the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar and the northwest corner of Africa, Cap Spartel is a popular attraction for tourists outside of Tangier. Just a short drive from the city, it’s hard to resist the incredible ocean views you get from this spot. The coastal scenery only gets better when you include the Phare Cap Spartel lighthouse and its Arabic design in the view. If you feel the need to get away from the bustle of Tangier, this is the place to escape to.
Caves of Hercules
A little way down the coast from Cap Spartel, lying between two beaches, is the area’s other popular spot, the Caves of Hercules. According to legend, the famous hero Hercules slept in the caves enroute to steal apples from the Garden of the Hesperides, one of the 12 labors of Hercules. Open to the public, you can actually walk down into the caves and see the fascinating rock formations inside. It’s said that the opening that faces the sea was carved by the Phoenicians and strongly resembles the shape of the African continent thus being nicknamed the “Map of Africa”
Phoenician Tombs for Sunset
To finish out your day in Tangier, there’s really no better spot than the hilltop Phoenician Tombs from where you can watch the sun set. Labeled on maps in French as Tombeaux Phéniciens, the tombs are located near Café Hafa and overlook the city’s north coast. Tangier was founded by the Phoenicians, and here you’ll see countless graves carved into the rocks which were exhumed about a century ago.
Despite the historical significance of the rocks, you’ll see people walking and climbing all over them. This is because the spot is a popular place for locals to watch the sunset, from young couples to families. It’s a great spot with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, something you probably won’t have experienced in the city so far.
Have More than 24 Hours in Tangier?
Even if you can see a lot in 24 hours in Tangier, it never hurts to give a destination a little more time. There are other activities to be found in Tangier, not to mention nearby destinations in northern Morocco which you can visit as day trips. So if you can spare the time, here are some day trips and other activities from Tangier that you’ll want to consider.
1. Traditional Hammam
Part of what makes Morocco such an interesting country is that there are many opportunities to experience aspects of its culture. One of the most popular cultural experiences travelers like to take part in is visiting a traditional Moroccan bath house. Hammam in Arabic, these public baths are an essential part of life in Morocco and are therefore a great local experience.
There are two ways to go when seeking a hammam experience in Morocco. You can either do as the locals do and visit a regular public hammam, or go for a more international hammam which will be more like a spa resort. If it’s your first time experiencing a hammam, navigating the process can be tough, so choosing a hotel or spa hammam is a good way to ease yourself into it all.
Tangier isn’t the only destination in northern Morocco tourists should visit, the city of Tétouan is well worth a trip. Sitting below the Rif Mountains, the city if often dubbed the “White Dove” because of its gleaming white buildings which have a strong Spanish influence. This makes it a nice contrast from many other Moroccan cities which have more of a French background.
Sightseeing in Tetouan is best focused on the UNESCO world heritage-listed medina, where you’re transported back centuries. With high fortified walls surrounding it, and gorgeous Andalusian architecture inside, it’s sure to charm visitors.
Once you’re content that you’ve explored the medina to your satisfaction, make your way to the Tetouan Archaeological Museum. On display in the museum are artifacts from the different ages of the city’s history, including the Roman, Berber, Punic, and Islamic eras.
For a quick seaside day trip, look no further than the enchanting town of Asilah on the Atlantic coast. A former Portuguese colony, Asilah oozes with historical character which is in no small part thanks to the 15th-century walls and gates that surround it. If you want to see waves crash against ancient stone fortifications, then this is the place to be.
While visiting another medina may not sound all that exciting, the Asilah Medina is decorated with fantastic murals, transforming the historical center into one big art gallery. Even the buildings that lack murals feature the same white-washed exterior, giving the town exactly the kind of look you might picture when you think of Morocco.
There’s also plenty of stuff to do in Asilah beyond its medina walls. For starters, there’s the city beach found outside the town walls to the north, while other beaches like Paradise Beach are found a little further away. Just outside the Bab El-Homar medina gate you can visit a local farmers market and experience what local life is like there.
It’s fair to say that you won’t be bored seeing Tangier in 1 day thanks to all the excellent places we’ve mentioned here. Visit, and the start of your Morocco trip will surely be an exciting success.