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Tangier

I wanted to do a quick report on the Tangier leg of my travel this summer. I noticed Tangier comes up fairly regularly on this forum, typically as a day trip option from southern Spain, and often with responses saying that Tangier is, to sum it up, no good.

My two cents: I enjoyed Tangier, but would also say it's not a great day trip from Spain. I think that sometimes people are hoping to check off a box and be able to "go to Africa," but one day in Tangier gives you enough time for some culture shock without time to enjoy a new culture.

I recommend a minimum of a few nights to allow for day trips and to give travelers the chance to enjoy a riad or similar lodging. I stayed at La Tangerina and simply cannot recommend it enough - the atmosphere, the gorgeous view, the breakfast, the music coming from their antique radio collection, and if you stay there, do yourself a favor eat at least one dinner there - it's magical to eat on a beautiful terrace overlooking the ocean as the sun sets.

I came to Tangier after having spent a little over five weeks in Morocco, most of it living with a host family in Rabat. It has a totally different feel from other Moroccan cities I visited, probably due to its historical status as an international zone. It has an interesting vibe of European construction with a "gritty" edge. I enjoyed wandering the streets and getting a bit lost here and there! My husband was able to come to Morocco for one week, and reported that Tangier was possibly his favorite city we visited. A huge highlight for me was the American Legation, a gorgeous building that pushed me to learn some interesting facts as an American - I had no idea that Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as an independent nation, and that this building was the first American property outside the United States.

We went on two day trips:
- to Asilah, which I highly highly recommend. It's a calm seaside town with gorgeous murals everywhere in the medina, visited by both Moroccan and international tourists for its beauty, and our driver also made quick stops at the Hercules Cave and Cap Spartel on the way, so we got a few sites in an efficient way. Our lunch was at a restaurant suggested by our driver (I know, usually meaning a kickback); it was perfectly fine but nothing outstanding to report.
- We also went to Chefchaouen on a day trip, a town that has been increasingly popular with international tourists for its pervasive blue walls, doors, floors, you name it. This was my second time to Chefchaouen and it is gorgeous, although sometimes part of the fun comes from watching tourists set up their very thought-out Instagram-friendly poses. I can see how this would be a turn-off to some but was great people-watching for me. Of the restaurants on the main square, I'd recommend Hamsa Cafe, which is cute, has a good terrace, and has lovely juices, desserts, and a nice lunch menu.

A little more nitty-gritty: people often ask about safety in Tangier in particular or Morocco in general, about hassling, etc. I would say that in Tangier, yes, the sales people in the tourist streets will probably try to get you in their shops, and if you are wandering, occasionally someone will say the way you're going is "closed" or ask if they can show you the way (expecting some $ for doing so). However, it is not more "aggressive" than other places in Morocco, and was certainly calmer than in Marrakech. I should note that since I was already in Morocco (having arrived via their brand-new high-speed train), I did not arrive from a ferry. I suspect that people who arrive via ferry would get a lot of attention from taxi drivers and potential guides.

So the bottom line - if you are interested, absolutely give Tangier and the surrounding area a try, but commit to spending some time there. If you're just hoping to check off a box or are trying to squeeze it in, you might leave with a bad impression.

Posted by
233 posts

I agree with everything that was said about Tangier and the rest of the country. You need to give Morocco enough time to sink in. I’d suggest at least going as far south as Fes. And the suggestion about staying in a riad is spot on. The home cooked meals are one of my best memories. The Moroccan hospitality is amazing. We had a private tour guide who even took us to his mom’s house for lunch.

Posted by
16883 posts

Good advice, Amy! Some travelers are "afraid" to stay overnight in Tangier, or just too rushed, but it adds a lot to your experience.

Posted by
681 posts

Sounds like an interesting trip. It has not been on my list but I can see where it could be. Thanks for the great report.

Posted by
6 posts

Hi Amy, I agree about Tangier and also about spending time in Morocco. We loved our trip to Morocco especially Chefchaouen and Essaouira. While in Tangier I suggest going to the small Anglican Church sitting in the middle of the Medina. Apparently it was given to the Anglican community by the Sultan. We attended an Easter service there amidst a very local congregation. In the cemetery is the grave of Walter Harris, who wrote “The Morocco That Was”. Which I think is the most fascinating book about the last days of the previous Sultans as the Brits and French took over Morocco in the early 1900’s. Well worth a read and a visit to his grave site.

Posted by
3 posts

I did a quick search on this forum and did not see any "no good." I am glad that you were able to spend an extended time in the country. However, sometimes a short exposure is all that some people need. They should not be shamed for that.

Posted by
287 posts

Hi Greg, I'm glad that the forum search gives you more positive results for Tangier! I feel like a lot of forum users have their soapbox causes, and lately one of mine has been to put in a good word for Tangier.

I definitely don't want to shame people. I feel lucky to have such long blocks of time to travel and the financial ability to do so (most recently I was hugely fortunate to be grant-funded). I just think that it's not uncommon for people to do a long, stressful daytrip and then walk away with a negative impression of a place - and if that's the only place in a country they visit, it could color their impression of a whole country.

Your other post is asking about doing a day trip to Tangier from Sevilla using a car and the ferry. I most recently did this trip from Tangier to Sevilla using a ferry and bus, and it felt like a long travel day just one way! It's a big time commitment to make - is there a particular site in Tangier you're hoping to see, or a connection to the history or literary culture, or something along those lines? It might be totally worth such a long a day trip if it's been on your list for a specific reason.