The beautiful Casablanca might be famous for the mystique of espionage and the glamour of 1942’s Hollywood film, but it also thrives as a sizzling travel destination. If you’re vacationing throughout Morocco in a week, you probably won’t spend more than a day in Casablanca. Here are ten easy must-do’s that will get you covered within 24 hours!
1. Start your day at Cathedrale du Sacre Coeur
Built in 1930, Cathedrale du Sacre Coeur was designed by French architect Paul Tournon who also designed other renowned churches in France. The cathedral is now open to the public with art exhibitions and art fairs. The establishment is magnificent in itself with skeletal pillars in ivory via Neo-Gothic style.
The cathedral is situated a bit further from other main attractions, so it’s wise to cab out first then work your way in.
2. Shop ’til you drop at Marche Central
Rue Allal Ben Abdellah, Casablanca, Morocco (map)
As Casablanca’s main market, you can find everything at Marche Central: rare spices, vintage goods, colorful decor, gorgeous fabrics. This is the perfect place for you to show off mad bargaining skills and bring home loads of souvenir for loved ones.
If you get tired of hopping from one vendor to another, walk a few steps over and grab a drink at the iconic Hotel Transatlantique (Rue Chaouia, Casablanca) which was built in 1922 and popular among famous musicians such as: Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker.
3. See through the glass floor inside Hassan II Mosque
From Marche Central, grab a cab and head over to the number one attraction in Casablanca: Hassan II Mosque.
Completed in 1993, the 210 meters (689 feet) mosque rises above the Atlantic Ocean which you can also see through the glass floor inside the magnificent building. It welcomes 105,000 worshippers for prayers at once. The walls are made from hand-crafted marbles with the minaret at 60 stories in height.
4. Grab lunch at Rick’s Cafe
An ex-American diplomat in Morocco, Kathy Kriger, established Rick’s Cafe back in 2004 for travelers who yearn to relive the beloved Hollywood film: Casablanca. The restaurant/bar/cafe is inside a traditional Moroccan mansion with an interior mainly displaying photographs, and memorabilia from the film. Every decor placement inside the establishment is a tribute to the film.
Although we know that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman weren’t actually in Casablanca during filming (the movie was completely shot in Burbank, California,) there’s no harm in bringing out the tourist in all of us once in awhile and soak in the greatest love story ever told.
Photo: Rick’s Cafe
5. Wanderlust in the Old Medina of Casablanca
North-west corner of Place des Nations Unies, Casablanca, Morocco (map)
Every city has a rustic, vintage area that juxtaposes itself from the metropolitan’s modernity. In thriving Casablanca, this area would be the Old Medina. Here, you’ll find architecture stemming from pre-20th century. Mazes of abandoned alleys and buildings ooze of old-school charm that today’s travelers crave for.
This is the perfect area to get lost after your lunch break at Rick’s Cafe, but try not to visit Old Medina at night in case of unwanted danger.
6. Grub on traditional pastries at Bennis Habous
Nom! If you’ve always wanted to try amazingly delicious Moroccan pastries, then you’ve gotta make a stop at Bennis Habous near the Old Medina. It’s often considered as the best pastry shop in the country.
Definitely grub on the hornes des gazelles, or Gazelle Horns, which are almond paste scented with orange flower water and cinnamon molded into a crescent. When they’re baked until barely golden, they taste like sweet heaven. Instagood!
7. Be arty and visit Musee Abderrahman Slaoui
The museum was opened in May 2012 by businessman Abderrahman Slaoui, who was also an art enthusiast and collector. If you’re a fan of vintage jewelry and art pieces by Marjolle and Dinet, then you’ll want to make a stop at Musee Abderrahman Slaoui.
The museum is inside an art deco building from 1940’s, and it holds Slaoui’s personal art collections from all over the world in the span of over fifty years. This is a 20-minute walk from the Old Medina area.
8. Indulge in a true Moroccan dinner at Zayna
Just a short ten-minute cab ride away (30 minutes by foot) from Musee Abderrahman Slaoui, you’ll find an inexpensive but truly delish Moroccan restaurant called: Zayna.
The restaurant is local and serves up the best coucous in town. For USD$10-25, you can get a taste of authentic Moroccan cuisine. Make sure to order a round of traditional mint tea after dinner. PS. There’s wifi at the restaurant! #TravelersDream
9. Sip your cocktails at Sky 28
Since Zayna doesn’t serve alcohol, you’ll need to find another location to enjoy a night cap. Thankfully, there’s Sky 28. For a great view of the city with a cocktail made to perfection, take another 10-minute cab ride over to the Kenzi Tower Hotel.
Sky 28 is located on the 27th floor, with a panoramic view of the entire city of Casablanca. The bar also serves as a restaurant, and DJs will start to spin the night away later in the evening. Since consuming alcohol isn’t as prevalent in Morocco (especially for women,) Sky 28 is an ideal place to sip and groove to the beats without any worry.
10. Have your beach moment at Ain Diab
Casablanca, Morocco (map)
Here’s an option you can choose to do anytime during the day! Hitting the beach in Casablanca is also getting a taste of the city’s version of 90210 or Miami. Once you’re at the Hassan II Mosque, you can take a ten-minute taxi ride to la Corniche – Casablanca’s ultra popular beachfront.
Since the weather is warm all year round in Morocco, locals love flocking to this area. Don’t be surprised if you see masses of tourists or chain stores and restaurants. If you prefer a bit more privacy on the beach, then continue walking south on Boulevard de l’Océan Atlantique.