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.