Immortalized in the 1942 film starring legendary Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca has always carried a romantic and intriguing mystique. Spending time in this vibrant city only proves that it is an exciting and captivating destination for any tourist. This port city is a unique blend of Moorish style and European culture, as French Art Deco mingles effortlessly with classic Moroccan design. Sample the local cuisine and explore the impressive mosques, cathedrals, and palaces. Peruse the bustling Marché Central and relax on the sandy beaches of La Corniche. Casablanca is the best of Morocco, and visitors can’t help but be delighted.
Built in the 1930s, this distinctly French cathedral is the perfect example of Art Deco architecture mixing with Moorish design. The Neo-Gothic cathedral represents Morocco’s history of French Catholic rule, and it was abandoned in 1956 when Morocco gained its independence. Today, the cathedral hosts events and fairs, but it is primarily a place for tourists to visit and learn about Casablanca’s history. It’s especially interesting to visit the Sacré-Cœur after seeing the local mosques to understand how Moroccan Muslim style influenced the cathedral’s design.
According to a passage in the Qu’ran, God’s throne is located on water. Because of this belief, King Hassan II built this magnificent mosque on the coast next to the crashing waves of the Atlantic. The Hassan II Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world, and it is open for non-Muslims to visit through hour-long guided tours. The mosque is so large that the entire complex can hold over 80,000 people. Interesting parts of the mosque’s architecture include the glass floor, designed so that worshippers can pray directly over the water.
The King’s Palace beautifully exemplifies Islamic architecture. The palace is located in New Medina, and it’s surrounded by orange trees, fountains and other impressive water features. Visitors are invited to marvel at the palace’s external façade and luxurious front square. Unfortunately, heavily armed guards are at the entrance of the palace, and you’ll most likely be unable to see what lies beyond the front gates. Despite this, it’s worth packing a picnic and enjoying the palace’s architecture while people watching from the front square.
Stretching along the beautiful Atlantic coastline, La Corniche is Casablanca’s premier beach community. Head west from the Hassan II Mosque to Corniche Boulevard, the bustling heart of the neighborhood with a distinctly French feel. Go for a swim, relax on the beach or check out the local shops and restaurants. Visitors from all over the world also enjoy spending hours relaxing in the local cafés, sipping sweetened mint tea or strong coffee.
Exciting, large, lively, colorful and loud. These are just a few of the words that perfectly describe Casablanca’s Marché Central. Grab your camera and head to this bustling marketplace where locals sell their wares every day. Take in the market’s smells, colors, and textures while appreciating this vital part of Moroccan culture. The vibrant market sells everything, including fresh produce, spices, carpets, textiles, shoes, prepared food and more. This is also a great place to grab some deliciously prepared food to enjoy somewhere a little quieter.
Casablanca is a wonderful place to enjoy local art and traditional Moorish culture. Creative industries are booming in the city, and it’s easy to see why. Check out the Musée Abderrahman Slaoui to see one of the best private collections of Moroccan art and craft. The museum is located in a private home, and the exhibitions display the collection of local businessman Abderrahman Slaoui. The samples include ornate jewelry, old travel posters, crystal objets d’art, and figurative paintings. After your visit, head to the Villa des Arts to see some more contemporary work. The center displays modern art by both Moroccan and international artists in a renovated Art Deco home.
Eating in Casablanca includes tasting classic Moroccan fare as well as distinctly French cuisine. Whether you try the exception street food or indulge in a meal at a high-end restaurant or bistro, the food in Casablanca is second to none. Some traditional dishes you need to try include tagine, fish chermoula, makouda, and the eggplant dip zaalouk. Soak up your meal with couscous or traditional breads like khobz. You can’t leave Morocco without trying the Farsi dish pastilla, a sweet and salty pie made from pigeon or chicken, almonds and eggs. For a sweet treat after your meal, head to a Moroccan bakery, like the Pâtisserie Bennis Habous, to try a traditional Maghrebi pastry. The almond macaroons and cornes de gazelle, horn-shaped cookies filled with almond paste, are two must-try desserts.
When you need a break from the beach, head to Old Medina, Casablanca’s old town. Old Medina is a labyrinth of homes, businesses, and cafés. The pace is fast, and every area is bustling with kids playing, locals haggling with shop owners and old men smoking and drinking tea. It’s easy to get lost, but if you stay aware of your surroundings, getting lost can be an incredibly fun experience. Visit the Berber Mosque located deep in Old Medina, buy local goods and relax in a café. You’ll be happy you took the time to explore this often missed part of Casablanca.
The Morocco Mall is the perfect place for an air-conditioned shopping spree. Located in La Corniche, the mall is a great way to escape the heat after a day on the beach. Shop well-known brands or high-end boutiques to stay on top of both local and international fashion trends. The mall even has a traditional indoor market where you can buy quintessential Moroccan goods. Enjoy some retail therapy and sample tasty food in the food court. There’s even an aquarium, an ice skating rink and a fairground for when you want a change of pace.
This idyllic park is the perfect place to enjoy some peace after exploring the city. The outdoor space is popular with visitors and locals alike. The park was designed in 1918, and it is the biggest outdoor space in the city. Take a walk, play a game of boules or pack a picnic and relax under a palm tree. The park also has numerous cafés for when you need an afternoon pick-me-up.