Getting to North Africa from Tarifa is so simple, an hour on the boat and you’re in the vibrant Moroccan port city of Tangier. Morocco is so totally different to Spain and Europe that it can be hard to acclimatise quickly. Find out how to visit Tangier from Tarifa, with all our tips about where to go and stay and how to manage the culture shock!
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How to Visit Tangier from Tarifa
How to Get to Tangier from Tarifa
What to Expect on Arrival in Tangier
Tangier is a raw, noisy, disorganised and in your face city! You will be harassed as you come through the port by locals who say they are guides, taxi drivers, restauranteurs, hoteliers and so on. Many will try to enter into conversation and become your ‘friend’. They will often follow you for some distance, then demand money for guiding you. Be firm, stop, look them in the eye and say that you have arrangements in place and don’t need their help. Then move on.
If you do want a guide, it is far better to book one through a recognised organisation, or your hotel if you’re staying overnight. This means your guide will be accredited, knowledgeable and speak your language.
Where to Stay in Tangier
What to Do in Tangier
Tangier is a very walkable city, with most things you will want to see within a 30 minute stroll. Use a navigation app to help you find your way around, or a paper map from your hotel. Be prepared to get lost, it’s all part of the fun!
Wander The Medina
Head for the walled Medina where you will find shops and cafes lining the twisting alleys and small squares. This is a great place to wander and observe local life. Mopeds are often driven at speed down the narrow streets so be aware of your surroundings and keep to the sides where possible!
The atmosphere in the Medina is friendly but this is essentially a souk, a huge marketplace, and you will be asked to purchase if you show any interest; we found it easier to only look at things we really wanted to buy! Haggling is expected here, so if you do want to buy something enter into the spirit of it and enjoy. Don’t haggle for something you don’t really want only to walk away, this will not be appreciated.
After a bit of shopping, head for Place Petit Socco where you can drink mint tea and while away a few hours people watching in the square.
You should also visit the marvellous American Legation in the Medina, It’s the only American national historic landmark on foreign soil and has served as a symbol of American engagement with the Islamic world and North Africa since the early days of the republic. The building is beautifully preserved and well worth a visit for around €2. Find the letters from the Ambassador home about being given lions as a gift, it really highlights the different cultures and what life might have been like in Tangier several hundred years ago.
Just outside the eastern walls of the Medina is Place April 9, 1947 (or Grand Socco to locals) where we enjoyed an amazing chicken pastilla, a sort of chicken pie encased in sweet and sticky pastry like a combination of puff and filo. We ate sitting on bench in the small park, sipping bottled water and watching the colourful and noisy Tangier life go by. The two pastillas and two bottles of water cost the equivalent of €2!
Head for the Kasbah
At the other end of the Medina and at the highest point of the old town is the Kasbah, a lovely little maze of streets, small boutique style shops and cafe’s. Much of this area has been renovated and there are some incredible sea views from the old battlements. We enjoyed a superb lunch of roasted vegetables on the terrace of El Morocco Club, followed by a game of cards over mint tea. This area has a laid back vibe and has clearly been developed to appeal to tourists.
Visit the Kasbah Museum which was the residence of Portuguese governors in Tangier between 1471 and 1661. It is now home to a collection of archaeological artefacts and work a visit. Open every day except Tuesdays.
Take a Ride on the Bus
Try the relatively new hop-on hop-off bus which will take you to the Kasbah, the Medina, the modern part of the city as well as the famous caves of Hercules and Cape Espartel, where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean.
Sip a Coffee at the Gran Cafe de Paris
The Gran Cafe de Paris in Place de France is one of the oldest cafes in Tangier and is part of Tangier’s bohemian history. The cafe opened in 1927 and was a place of inspiration for many known artists and writers like Jack Kerouac and Tennessee Williams. They gathered and enjoyed coffee and smokes whilst discussing literature and life.
It is also known as a meeting place for spies, predominantly during WWII, where secrets and information would be shared. We don’t think it’s been decorated since then though! It is a bit grubby and tired with odd loo arrangements! Nevertheless, you should go and people watch!
Where to Eat in Tangier
We ate on our first evening at Anna a Paulo a cosy Italian restaurant in the new town. The food was excellent, a number of dishes had a Moroccan fusion feel and the wine was superb. We were hosted by Paulo, who was charming and friendly and made the evening special. Expect to pay close to European prices for dinner and drinks.
On our second evening, we ate at La Table du Marche an upmarket cafe at the new marina. The food was excellent, I had the best burger I’ve eating in a long time, and a cute and tasty Cafe Gourmand for dessert (for the uninitiated, a coffee with miniature desserts, on this occasion three mini desserts!). Don’t expect alcohol to be served here.