3 days in Casablanca

Morocco’s largest city – modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan – is one of the kingdom’s greatest assets, a sun-bronzed strip of coastline where tea and culinary innovation are the local obsessions, where Casawis – residents of Casablanca city – speak every language under the sun, and where life is lived outdoors and to the fullest.

The World Heritage Art-Deco-era buildings that give the place its popular title of ‘White City’ are a major draw, as is the historic Habous medina , which has a fascinating Moorish heritage. But the city’s real attraction is the local lifestyle. Visitors tend to get into the Casablanca swing of things straight away, flitting between contemporary art galleries and chic cafes one day, artisan boutiques and blissfully balmy beaches the next. A few days here is fun, but a week can be a revelation – don’t miss it. Casablanca is one of the most exciting cities in the world, so I hope you’ll be willing to explore it !

Things to do

Day 1

1- Mint Tea for Breakfast 9 A.M

Sqala café.Nestled on the edge of the old medina, this charming garden restaurant is a tranquil introduction to the city. Particularly popular for its traditional breakfast, it also serves briouates, kemias (Moroccan tapas), tajines, pastillas and brochettes for lunch or dinner.

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2- Hidden White Medina 10 A.M

History. Casablanca is barely 100 years old, but the ancient Medina is one of the oldest port cities in the world. At different times it has been governed by Berber, Roman, Arab, Portuguese, Spanish, French, British, and Moroccan regimes. In the 15th century, it emerged as a safe harbour for pirates, which led it to attacks by the Portuguese, who destroyed the town in 1468 and abandoned  completely in 1755 following an earthquake which destroyed it. The medina as it is today was founded in 1770 by sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah (1756–1790). Built with the aid of Spaniards, the town was called Casa Blanca (white house in Spanish) translated Dar el Beida in Arabic.

Visit. A dense warren of white house, city walls, shops and street food, is the most compelling, confusing and fascinating part of the Old Medina. Boulevard des Almohades, the Sqala Bastion, Sidi Allal Karouani, Buenaventura church, Ettedgui synagogue,  Ould El Hamra Mosque, Place de la Belgique, Bab El Marsa, Place Amiral Philibert, Sidi Bou Smara, Dar Makhzen Mosque, Sidi Belyout, the Bazaars,  the Clock tower, Bab Marrakech.

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3- Edgy and Bustling Port 11 P.M

For centuries Casablanca has always been a small seaport that enjoyed a lot of traffic and trade. It finally made the transition to the massive, modern port that it is today when work on the new piers and other important structures was started in 1906. Its historical background and vital function make it a necessity as well as a noteworthy site in Morocco. The port’s southern quay is dotted with bars, brasseries and cafes,  it also offers a very nice view on the Hassan II mosque.

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4- Taste of the Ocean  12 A.M

The most famous Moroccan seafood includes oysters, grilled sardines, shrimps, squids, spider crabs, scallops, lobsters, sharks..etc. Their fame is increased even further by restaurants around the Port and the rest of the city, such as Le Dauphin, Casa José, or Le Restaurant du Port who never misses a chance to stress that these coastal waters produce the best seafood in the world. The gourmet traveler can easily find magnificent seafood and fish, cheap but incredibly tasty.

 

5- The Flamboyant Hassan II mosque   2 P.M

Set over the Atlantic ocean and with a 210m-tall minaret that serves as the city’s major landmark, Hassan II mosque is a showcase of the very best Moroccan architecture. Multilanguage guided tours of the interior are conducted every day between 9:00 and 15:30 for 120 dirhams (60 dhs for locals).

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6- Beyond the Palace   3 P.M

Spend the afternoon touring the white fascinating streets of the Habous Medina. Start at the Mahkama of the Pacha a fantastic example of Moroccan architecture. It is not always possible to gain inside access, but sometimes a smile and a please are all it takes. If you are lucky enough to gain entry, admire the somptuous furnishings and design, the spectacular carved wood ceiling and the luxurious courtyard garden. A few blocks away is Al Mohammadi mosque, a mosque with fine wooden carvings and typical moorish courtyard garden and fountains. Closer access to the King’s Palace is difficult to come by, however it is worth seeing the stunning gate from the outside. Buy some fresh pastries at Pâtisserie Bennis, prepared at the ovens across the street, take them to Café Impérial, order a mint tea before wandering the nearby streets, where there are small souks for ceramics, rugs, olives, copper work and an Andalusian Music conservatory.

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Mahakma du Pacha Palace – By Youssef Aboudrar

7- To the Golden views  6 P.M

End the day with a drive to El Hank peninsula where you can wind your way up 256 steps to the top of the white lighthouse; Some of the most breathtaking scenery in the city is in this seaside neighborhood. First there was Le Cabestan Ocean View, it’s a literary institution, overlooking the ocean and the city’s lighthouse, even its toilets offer an amazing view – Don’t be caught out by the annoying “smart casual” dress code: it means no flip-flops or shorts or ripped clothing -;  and Le Petit Rocher, on the other side, perfectly situated for sunsets overlooking the mosque. Now there is Lily’s, located next to the Cabestan and promising a real journey across the Asian continent. It’s Zen interior offers a warm atmosphere around a varied asian meals. If you like belly dancing shows with an array of candles, lanterns, red velvet cloth and a conservatory with a breathtaking view over the shore Umayya restaurant is the perfect place; on the menu: a unique fusion of gastronomies, evoking flavours from Morocco and the Middle East.

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8- The Legend Continues  8 P.M

Housed in a traditional Moroccan grand mansion with a central courtyard, built in 1930, the Rick’s Café Bar and Restaurant takes advantage of Morocco’s abundance in seafood. The menu offers a wide selection of fish. Steaks, foie gras, goat cheese salad with fresh figs and an Crab Louis are among the dinner selections. Rick’s Cheesecake and brownies figure on the dessert menu. Friday, the popular  Moroccan couscous is available along with Moroccan tagines. The rooftop terrace barbecue, “The Pergola” offers a range of items from mixed grill to roasted game hen and swordfish steak. American crooners dominate the soundtrack when pianist Issam takes a break, and Sunday’s jazz sessions, which start at 9.30pm, are ever-popular.

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9- Beer-drinking in Mers Sultan   10 P.M

The strip of clubs and bars in Mers Sultan lends itself to bar-hopping.  Start at the unpretentious Bar Atomic, a basement bar hidden down the main street infront of the Le Lynx (Art-Deco style cinema). Beer-drinkers should also head to Kim-Mon bar, an other dark and smokey pub with predominant male population. Other bars and restaurants such as the Marcel Cerdan, la Corrida or le Don Quichote lost their 30’s and 70’s luster, attracting

10 – Dancing and Jamming in the Old Center  12 P.M

Where to dance in Casablanca is a question for the ages — specifically, your group’s ages. But people young and old, or at least young and middle-aged, agree: The ’80s were a glorious decade for popular music. That explains the Saturday night, age-diverse and cosmopolitan crowd at La Bodega. Probably one of the most known places to have good drinks and enjoy latino music in Casablanca. For something stronger, seek out Le Vertigo. The underground bar features solo shows by some of musical theater’s finest talents.

Day 2

1 – Break Bread. 9 A.M

Along Kennedy Boulevard in the Anfa neighborhood, French bakeries are still where mornings begin. Pick up a french croissant or macaron pastry with your coffee at Frederic Cassel, Gapi, Hotel Casablanca or Chez Paul (Café and Restaurant hosted in Zevaco’s Art Deco house), and watch the neighborhood wake up. So if you’re looking for a more intimate brunch setting, this ain’t it, you’d prefer the hidden garden of Fauchon , situated café in the same area or F.Kabbaj, located in les Arènes street and offering the best brunch of the city.

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2 – Along the Seaside. 10 A.M

For a scenic arrival in Ain Diab, start your walk from the top of Anfa hill at Boulevard du Lido, which offers a gorgeous view over the neighborhoods skyline, the ocean and Ahl Saud mosque. The quiet neighborhood is also home to several Art-Deco style villas also known as Paquebot style architecture. Then, walk along the water through Anfa Place Mall beach to Ain Diab beach. Get a kick of caffeine with a Ness Ness coffee drink or snack on a sweet doughnut from one of the cafés skirting the Ocean.

3 – Sun and Surf . 11 A.M

Much of the shoreline is home to luxury hotels and restaurants. During the day, the many beach clubs here do a roaring trade with sun worshipers lapping up the rays and splashing in the club swimming pools. Further along the shoreline is the public beach of Ain Diab. On sunny weekends, Nezaha Café is a great spot for people watching, with plenty of local families heading to the sand for picnicking and promenading. There are surf spots all along the corniche but the better quality (and well known) schools are found around Gate number 15. At the end of the Corniche, Morocco Mall  has some nice shops and an Imax cinema but not any specialty that makes the place irresistable. My favorite spot is the coffee shop on the main level next to the huge aquarium and looking over the Musical Foutain. You can also do a quick visit to Sidi Abderrahman island. The place used to be very special and original. With all the myth behind it and the « witches » that live there, it was one of the places that was beautiful from the outside as well as from the inside. Unfortunately, the authorities decided to build a bridge in ciment that destroyed its charm.

4 – Lunch on the Beach. 2 P.M

There’s no need to leave the beach for lunch, though there are plenty of seaside restaurants and cafés. Simply pick up food at a nearby grocery store before you unfurl your beach blanket. Those who want a scene can dip into Hey Boutique, a quirky and delightful boutique and cafe where you can shop, brunch and sunbath, or one of the trendy addresses looking over the ocean: Inside the Tahiti Beach Club, Le Pilotis will welcome you on a terrace facing the sea and offering a great selection of seafood, grilled fish and catalan paella. Next to it, you have the choice between La Terraza, a perfect place if you are looking for a perfectly mastered Italian cuisine, or Gossip Beach Café, if you are looking to hang out wieth friends around delicous food. On the other side of the corniche, Café Bianca, offers a sophisticated menu at the terrace overlooking the ocean, while Boca Chica offers a scenic view on the famous Hassan II mosque.

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5 – The City Below. 5 P.M

It might not be the most stunning rooftop bar, but the 110m high Sky 23 bar of Kenzi Hotel offers a scenic view on the mosque, the ocean and the city’s broad boulevards. The drinks have nothing exceptional, you pay for the view. Less scenic, but more popular the Jameson Rooftop offers a sophisticated, modern lounge atmosphere located 35m above Quartier Gauthier on the roof of the JM Suites Hotels, overlooking the Sacré-Coeur church, the Park, Hassan II mosque and Mohammed V square.

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6 – Gourmet night. 7 P.M

Located on the top of Boulevard de la Corniche, Joleha is a haven of Italian cosiness and refinement. Sitting inside its elgant dining room or outside its spacious and romantic garde, you’ll get a wonderful reception and excellent Italian food ! If you are looking for a Parisian gastronomy, Le Relais de Paris will offer you a succulent menu while adming the ocean from its terrace. Start with a Gratin de Gambas, followed by a Châteaubriand before ending by a sweet Pain Perdu.

7 – Drink Decisions. 9 P.M

Ain Diab is a prime one-stop destination for evening entertainment. Start the night with a drink at the the lounge situated at the back of the Mai Thai restaurant. The yummilicious food and cocktails, the smiling and caring attendants would entice you to share long relaxing hours with your friends. Afterward head to B Rock or La Calèche,  le B-Rock, La Cantine d’Anfa or L’Amstrong where touring musicians usually sit in, playing American pop and rock music. If you like Cabaret show, Le Boudoir offers a wide array of exclusively French cuisine and exceptional artist shows every day of the week in a warm environment.

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8 – Twilight Tipples. 11 P.M

For a nightcap, head to the Sky Bar located in the open air and having an amazing sea view (great during summer) and well known to trendy and wealthy locals. If you want to find a taste of Miami parties, the dance floor at Maison B, a chic and elegant club with an  incredible and open air space, is a good place to look. For more diversity, BAO is an awesome place to hear Afropop, Urban music and Rnb. It’s one of the few clubs in Casablanca when dancing is the main point of focus rather than drugs, money and alcohol.

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Day 3

1 – Art-Deco morning. 9 A.M

If you’re still feeling the excess of your Moroccan night, await at Le Doge, an Art-Deco-era hotel with a lovely rooftop. From there you can walk to the small Museum of Abderrahman Slaoui : a private collection of vintage treasures such as Colonial portraits of Morocco, beautifully displayed over three floors of a private art-deco house. Behind the leafy Parc de La Ligue Arabe, the city’s largest green space, infront of Ecole des Beaux Arts, is the Sacré-Coeur church, a white shiny place, offering an breathtaking view of the city from its rooftop.

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2 – Arty walks and Healthy Juices 11 A.M

A gentrification wave has spruced up the neighborhoods of Gauthier, Racine, Bourgogne and Palmiers with several galeries, as well as original shops and trendy cafes and restaurants: Bondi Kitchen , where an australian family is preparing healthy brunches and organic drinks; Wright, a fabulous moroccan tea house selling « gazelle horn » pastries with Matcha flavor; Le Fence, where American pancakes can be served with alcoholic drinks; Les Soeurettes, a friendly and glamorous café; and Jus de Bordeaux, where you can order and avocado and dry fruits smoothie for less than 15 dirhams. After indulging a cheese and honey harcha or M’semen pancake, walk off some of the calories on a stroll on Boulevard d’Anfa, where you can visit Bet-El Temple, the most important synagogue in the city, next to the Jewish Mellah; then continue on Boulevard Moulay Youssef, a curious avenue marked by a mix of beautiful Art Nouveau houses shadowed by brand new buildings and palm trees. End your walk by a visit to Villa des Arts, a white Art-Deco Museum setting off exhibits of contemporary art in airy rooms.

3 – White Colony. 3 P.M

A walk around the old colonial center will demonstrate clearly that the city was the place that the French colonial authorities gave most attention. The center is very large, with several beautiful buildings white with soft lines, and often plenty of details. The area to explore extends from Hassan II avenue to Place Mohamed V, the main square hosting large structures such as the Palais de Justice, the Wilaya, the Post office and Bank Al Maghrib. Further west and north, and starting from Place des Nations Unies, the long boulevard Mohammed V displays more impressive buildings.  Make sure you have a camera in hand to take pictures of the eleven story Moretti apartment block and the high rise art deco buildings covered with loggias, columns, zellij tiles and geometric carvings. Right in from the boulevard, you will find the Marche Central.  A small market where can taste fresh oysters and seafood and buy some spicy moroccan coffee. If you have time for coffee, try to find the Princière café, a secret Art-Nouveau style café, on the first floor of Immeuble de la Princière. With time, Visit also the following streets : Rue Idriss Lehrizi between the Rialto cinema and Bank Al Maghrib; Rue Alla Ben Abdellah between the Assayag and Excelcior buildinds; Avenue Lalla Yacout, Boulevard de Paris, Rue Prince Moulay Abdellah and Avenue Mers Sultan till Notre-Dame de Lourdes church and the Murdoch garden.

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4 – Hammam and Beyond. 5 P.M

You’re bloated on brunches. You’ve walked a lot of miles. Try one of the numerous and opulent hammams that the city offers. An attendant will position you on a heated marble slab, wet you with hot water, rub your entire skin with a rough glove, mummify you in foamy soap and finish by massaging your back and send you into the relaxation room for a glass of mint tea.

5 – GauthierMania. 7 P.M

You won’t find the Gauthier district in most travel guides. But its tony streets are at the front lines of a style invasion. For a relaxing drink with friends, hit the garden bar of Gauthier Hotel; for a cosy and original design, snap-up a drink at Le Bazaar. Then flaunt your finery at Le Kimmiz , popular for loungier outings or other pubs and bars such as l’Artiste, le Chester’s, l’Equinox and Trica.

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Where to stay

Beach side

  • Villa Blanca : 120€ per night
  • Pestana Seaview: 122€ per night
  • Four Seasons: 207€ per night

Art Deco center

  • Imperial Hotel:  53€ per night
  • Le 135: 86€ per night
  • JM Suites: 109€ per night
  • Le Doge: 132€ per night
  • Hyatt Regency: 158€ per night
  • Sofitel Tour Blanche: 206€ per night

Downtown

  • Barcelo Hotel: 88€ per night
  • Gauthier Boutique Hotel: 95€ per night
  • Movenpick: 108€ per night
  • Palace d’Anfa: 112€ per night
  • Art Palace: 124€ per night
  • Kenzi Tower: 125€ per night

South Beaches

  • Hotel des Arts: 50€ per night

North Beaches

  • Bahia Golf Beach: 120€ per night
  • Eden island: 1350€ per night

Bouskoura

  • Wellness center: 59€ per night
  • Dar Diafa: 65€ per night
  • Atlas sky: 90€ per night
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