Tangier is the gateway to Morocco for many travelers, as this city of around 700,000 people can be found on the banks of the Straight of Gibraltar. Just across this narrow strait is the country of Spain. Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal, and both of these nations have played key roles in the history of Tangier. The city boasts a decidedly Mediterranean appeal, and Spanish is more widely spoken on the streets than any other language. Thankfully, the problems with hustlers and faux tour guides that Tangier had in the past have all but disappeared, making the trip in more agreeable. That being said, visitors should still expect some rather seedy characters at the port entrance when arriving by way of ferry from Spain.
Whether Tangier visitors are coming from Spain or Morocco itself, they won't need a guide to enjoy their visit. The city's relatively small medina is easy to navigate and most of the Tangier hotels are both friendly and accessible. While wandering the streets of the medina, visitors can do some shopping on the side. The district is more tourist friendly than ever, and the souvenir shops boast some interesting trinkets. Hanging out in Grand Socco Square can also be rewarding. This square is the gateway to the medina, and it was once as vibrant as the famous Jamaa el Fna Square in Marrakech.
Some of the best Tangier attractions can be found in the medina, and they include the Church of the Immaculate Conception and the Grand Mosque. The former is a lovely, Spanish church that was built in the 1800s. And the Grand Mosque stands on a site once occupied by a Roman temple and then a Portuguese church. Originally built in the 1600s, the mosque was expanded in the early 1800s. Its green and white minaret towers over the medina.
After exploring the medina and enjoying the scintillating views over the port from the Grand Mosque's tower, those who are looking for more things to add to their Tangier travel itineraries can pay the Kasbah a visit. This former palace sits behind walls on the highest point in the city, making it impossible to miss. The Tangier Kasbah was built in 1600s, and it boasts fine examples of Moroccan art and architectural styles. Various relics can be found in the salons at the Kasbah, including Fes pottery and Moroccan musical instruments. The Andalusian-style gardens that surround the main palace are a pleasure to explore.
There are enough Tangier attractions to satisfy at least a few days, and museum buffs won't want to miss the Dar el-Makhzen Museum while in town. Found within the Kasbah walls, this museum displays a relatively impressive collection of Moroccan arts. It was once the palace of a Sultan, which adds to the allure. Another museum that travelers might add to their Tangier travel agenda is the American Legation Museum, which offers excellent insight into the history of Morocco. The building that houses this fascinating museum was once home to the U.S. Embassy in Morocco. The embassy, like all the other embassies in the country, moved to the capital city of Rabat once Morocco established its independence in 1956. It is worth noting that the free tours of the American Legation Museum feature English-speaking guides.
Tangier travel isn't limited to visiting museums, exploring the streets, and taking in the main historic structures. During summer, which is when most travelers choose to enjoy a vacation to Tangier, the city's beaches can be fun places to hang out. Unfortunately, the cleanliness of the water is suspect, so swimming and surfing are not recommended. Some good beach bars can be found along the sand, and many boast changing facilities, showers, and some deck chairs that can be ideal for kicking back and relaxing.
The Tangier hotels cater to virtually every budget, and most of the top lodging establishments can be found near the water. Outside of the summer months, it is usually easy to get a good deal on accommodations, which leaves more money for the Tangier attractions and the city's bars and restaurants. Since the city is full of budget hotels, however, saving on lodging rates is also possible during the peak season, just as long as you are willing to trade in some amenities. As a side note, Tangier is also home to a lot of restaurants that can satisfy a range of budgets. Thanks to the city's rich history and its mixing of cultures, dining out is one of the top things to do in Tangier. Hanging out at the cafes is also popular, and as can be expected in Morocco, strong coffee and mint tea are often the drinks of choice.
Top image: katiebordner (flickr)