Situated at the Northernmost tip of Morocco, Tangier is just an hour away from Spain by ferry. Traditionally, most travellers arriving in this chaotic city would simply be passing through to other destinations in Morocco after arrival on boat from Europe. Recently, new flights to Tangier have opened from a host of low-cost airlines across Europe, making the city a popular destination in itself. Once an “international zone” ruled by the British, French, Spanish and Italians, Tangier was known as a luxury playground for the rich, with a tax-free status and a lax attitude to morals. After its return to Moroccan rule, the flamboyant café culture died down but the colonial buildings and edifices remain.
Travellers book flights to Tangier to explore its markets and medinas, visit the Kasbahs and stroll along the beaches. Take a break from sightseeing and shopping with a mint tea on one of the cafés along the waterfront and watch the boats roll in from Spain.
On the coast, Tangier’s climate is tempered by an ocean current and breezes. The temperature rarely exceeds the mid-20s (Celsius) and even in October the minimum temperature is 15 degrees. Tangier gets about 96cm (38 inches) of rain annually, with most of it falling between November and December.
When to fly to Tangier
June to September is the peak season in Tangier, although the city’s mild climate makes it tourist friendly year-round.
With the winter chilliness and rain, there are fewer tourist crowds and many airlines offer discounted rates during the winter months. This is the perfect time to find a cheap flight to Tangier. For a winter visit bring warm clothing. The buildings are designed for a hot climate and can be chilly in winter.
The Muslim Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar (July in 2012) and nearly all restaurants and cafes are closed during the day.
Getting around Tangier
To best experience Tangier, lace up your walking shoes and set out on foot. There are lots of alleyways and places in the medina only accessible by foot, so walking will provide the best vantage point. Don’t rent a car. You’ll thank yourself when you see other clueless tourists lost in a maze of one-way streets and narrow alleys. If you just can’t walk another step, mini buses will take you around the city while regular buses can take you out to the suburbs. Be aware that any bus will take you longer though, since they have to make all of their stops along the way. You can also hail a petit taxi, usually coloured blue or green, from the sidewalk. It’s not unusual for the driver to pick up additional passengers along the way, so you may share a ride with up to two other people. For travel outside the city limits or to the airport, you can hire a Grands taxi, which you will not be expected to share.
Tangier insider information
- The medina (or walled city) starts in the Grand Socco. The big souk is akin to Marrakesh’s Djemaa el-Fna. The Grand Socco is more correctly known as Place du 9 Avril, 1947, because this is when Sultan Mohammed V made his speech referring to Moroccan independence. It’s a lively area of stalls and shops, snake charmers and other street performers, which used to be the city’s main gold market area. From here, slip out onto the Petit Socco (small souk), for a sit down and mint tea in one of the cafes.
- The Great Mosque was built on the site of a Roman temple in the 17th century. It has a beautiful octagonal minaret. Beside the mosque is a madrassa that dates from the 16th century.
- The Kasbah is on the highest part of the city. Inside the gates of the Kasbah, is an open courtyard that leads to the Dar el Makhzen, which used to be the governor's palace and now houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts, which displays artifacts from all over Morocco. The Sultan Gardens are definitely worth a look. From the Kasbah there are views over the Straits of Gibraltar and, on a clear day, to Spain.
- Old American Legation Museum was the former US legation and is now a cultural centre, museum, conference centre and library funded by the US.
- The Forbes Museum was established by the late American publisher Malcolm Forbes, who collected more than 115,000 toy soldiers depicting major battles such as Waterloo, the Somme and the Green March (1975).
- The Mendoubia gardens are beautiful and boast an 800-year-old tree.
- The New Town (Ville Nouvelle) has the Place de France, a French-style square, a great place to sit and people watch.