Only 14 kilometres from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, you’ll find the port city of Tangier, also known as the gateway to Africa. Despite its close proximity to Europe, Tangier seems worlds away with its exotic spices and crowded markets, snake charmers, persistent street vendors and vibrant colours and aromas.
The Old Town (the Medina) contains Tangier’s most intriguing attractions. In Europe, Old Towns contain restored medieval buildings repurposed to house museums or galleries. In contrast, the Old Town in Tangier has never stopped being used; it’s a living piece of history. Tangier’s Medina is fully surrounded by 15th century ramparts, and its streets are a maze of narrow medieval alleyways. Tangiers’ historic buildings crowd a limestone hill, a colourful jumble of Andalusian, Moorish, Moroccan and European architecture.
Don’t leave Tangier without wandering the Medina’s vibrant, bustling market. If you wish to take a souvenir home or try some authentic Moroccan fare, take plenty of cash with you and be prepared to haggle. If, after braving the market, you’d like a little peace and quiet, head to the nearby Mendoubia Gardens and rest in the shade of lush trees and some of the most elegant colonial buildings in the city. The beaches around the Bay of Tangier are also excellent places to relax.
With its location on the Mediterranean Sea and close to Europe, and its exotic Moroccan culture, Tangier is a popular stop on many Mediterranean and African cruises.
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Tangier, only 800 metres from the centre of town. It is situated beside the Medina (Old Town). The cruise port is also where local ferries dock.
Facilities near the Port of Tangier include:
How To Get Around
The easiest way to get around Tangier is on foot; most attractions are within walking distance of each other. Walking is the only way to explore the cramped maze of streets in the Medina (Old Town), especially the market. To travel further afield, the best option is to flag down a petit taxi (small taxis that fit up to three passengers). They are cheap and easy to find throughout the city. Tangier also has an efficient network of buses.
Travel times from the Port of Tangier:
It is a 17 minute journey to the Grand Socco
It is a 17 minute journey to the Medina
It is an 18 minute journey to the Kasbah.
It is a 6 minute journey to the Grand Socco
It is a 6 minute journey to the Medina
It is an 8 minute journey to the Kasbah
It is a 22 minute journey to Cap Spartel.
Currency – The currency in Tangier is the Moroccan Dirham (Dhs), divided into 100 centimes. Notes come in 10, 50, 100 and 200 Dhs denominations, while coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes and 1, 2, 5 and 10 Dhs.
Time Zone – Tangier uses Western European Time (WET), which is the same as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Daylight savings places Tangier 1 hour ahead of UTC between March and October, except when daylight savings are put on hold from mid-June to mid-July.
Weather – Tangier enjoys a sub-tropical Mediterranean climate with dry, hot summers and mild, rainy winters. Temperatures get the warmest in July, when the average is about 24 degrees Celsius. Winter is tolerably cool, with the coldest month of January averaging about 13 degrees Celsius.
The Grand Socco – The Grand Socco (or Big Square) in the heart of Tangier is the entrance to the Medina (Old Town). This vast, palm-ringed, Spanish-style plaza marks the location where the New Town ends and the narrow maze-like streets of the Old Town begin. Take a seat on a marble bench in this bustling square to soak up the Moroccan vibe.
The Kasbah – Along the coastline, high above the city, lies the grand Kasbah. This ancient stone fortification has been Tangier’s political and military centre since Roman times as well as being home to its royal palace. Look out for the many distinctly Moroccan features including the intricate marble courtyard, zellij (ornately painted ceiling tiles) and striking hand-carved stucco plasterwork.
The Kasbah Museum – In Dar el-Makhzen in the Kasbah – the former palace of the sultan – you’ll find the Kasbah Museum with displays illustrating the history of Morocco. Exhibits include pre-Roman tools, Roman artefacts, ceramics, mosaics and 16th century jewellery. Please be aware that as the Museum’s signage and placards are printed in French and Arabic only, you will need a guide or a guidebook to get the most out of this Museum.