Morocco’s main port and largest city in the Maghreb, Casablanca is a multicultural financial center known more for its modern construction than its history.
First, the Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque on the continent, and is a technical achievement with a retractable roof on its prayer hall and a high level of art in its fixtures.
Casablanca’s streets were built in the 20th century when the forward-thinking French city planners were given freedom.
This led to the cross-pollination of European and Moroccan designs, best seen in the arcades and whitewashed walls of Quartier Habous, the new Medina for immigrants from all over Morocco.
Meanwhile, the seaside Corniche is enriched with Africa’s second largest mall, beaches, amusement parks, multiplex cinemas, and views of the Atlantic at sunset.
Let’s explore the top things to do in Casablanca:
1. Hassan Mosque II
On a promontory above the ocean is the largest mosque in Africa and the third largest mosque in the world.
The Hassan II Mosque was consecrated in 1993 after less than eight years of construction, and has the capacity for 105,000 worshipers, 25,000 inside and another 80,000 in the courtyard.
One of the many surprising feats is the tower, the second tallest in the world, at 210 meters and with a laser beam aimed at Mecca.
The dimensions of the Hassan II Mosque may be stunning but there is also exquisite craftsmanship in its marble columns, horseshoe arches, chandeliers, wood carvings and zellige prints, all produced by 6,000 master craftsmen from all over Morocco.
The guided tour of the interior, departing on time, is not to be missed, where you’ll learn more astonishing facts about the retractable hall roof, the expansive hammam in the crypt and being able to stop to wonder at the Atlantic.
Included in: Casablanca Guided Tour & Full Day Rebate
The Boulevard de la Corniche curves along Casablanca’s waterfront for several kilometers, with palm-lined paths that have undergone much regeneration since the 2000s.
On one side are sandy beaches, most with private beach clubs, gently sloping down to the water.
On the other side are hotels, restaurants, fast food chains, bars, exclusive nightclubs, hookah joints and more.
At the west end are the enormous Moroccan Mall and Parc Sindibad, and we’ll get to that later.
Behind the Corniche in the eastern Anfa neighborhood are many of Casablanca’s most luxurious houses, nestled on a hillside.
Come to the Corniche in the late afternoon to stroll the shores of the Atlantic and watch the sun set from the cafe’s terrace.
Recommended tour: Private Half Day Tour with Guide Casablanca
3. United Nations Field
Somewhere to take the city’s pulse, Place des Nations Unies is a transport hub, plotted at the start of the French Protectorate to link the new city with the Old Medina.
Place des Nations Unies is constantly changing, and the most recent revamp came in the 2010s with the construction of the Casa Tramway station.
The square is shrouded in mostly modern architecture, although there are some hints from the square’s early days at the famous Hotel Excelsior (1916), and the clock tower, which was erected in 1908, was torn down in 1948 and reconstructed closer to the Medina. in 1993. The modern reference point is Kora Adia (1975) by architect and sculptor Jean-François Zevaco.
This half -open world ball symbolizes Casablanca’s openness to the world.
4. Mahkama du Pacha
Like stepping into an Andalusian palace, the Mahkama du Pacha is the parliament building that holds the Casablanca courts, but also serves as the hall for state receptions.
As the name implies, this place was also the residence of the Pasha (governor). The complex was built in 1941-42, and its design comes from the Frenchman Auguste Cadet (1881-1956), who played an important role in the development of the surrounding Quartier Habous.
One explanation for the palace’s appearance is that modern building materials were not available at the time due to the French war effort, so the Mahkama du Pacha was built in the traditional style, brick by brick, using zellige (mosaic tile workers), multi-foil arches, honeycomb stucco. , cedar wood and green tiles.
In true Moorish style, the interior courtyard features an octagonal fountain and fragrant citrus trees.
To enter, you can take a chance and ask the guard to let you peek for a minute or two, or buy tickets for a guided tour in advance from the ticket office at Hassan II Mosque.
5. Distrik Habous
A quieter and cleaner alternative to the Old Medina, Quartier Habous is a planned district, built between the 1910s and 1950s to cope with the sudden influx of migrants from around Morocco.
The Habous was built in the traditional Medina style, using Moorish styles and materials, but at the same time French architects applied modern city planning concepts.
Among the intricately shaped street arches, horseshoe arcades and whitewashed buildings are street cafes where you can watch the neighborhood go about its business over a glass of mint tea and pastries.
Vendors are notoriously less pushy at Quartier Habous and you can look for leather goods, olives of all sizes and descriptions, traditional clothing, Moroccan sweets, tagines and spices.
A must stop is the little Pâtisserie Bennis, a traditional Moroccan handcraft since 1930.
6. Art Deco (Moorish) Architecture
Casablanca experienced unprecedented growth during the time of the French Protectorate.
The economic development carried out by General Lyautey (1854-1934) as a kind of insurance against rebellion, is represented by grand streets and architectural styles that blend Art Deco curves with traditional Moroccan features such as zellige, interior courtyards and climate-appropriate designs.
Much of the finest work of Mauresque architecture in Casablanca is in the streets bounded by Mohammed V and Avenue Lalla Yacout to the north and south, and Rue du Prince Moulay Abdellah and rue Ibn Batouta to the west and east.
At the still operational Cinéma Rialto on the corner of Rue Mohammed el Qorri and Rue Salah ben Bouchaib, Josephine Baker entertained American troops for the first time in World War Two.
See also Hotel Guynemer (2 rue Brahim Belloul), Hotel Transatlantique (79 rue Chaoui) and Hotel Lincoln, half-destroyed opposite Marché Central.
In contrast Hotel Volubilis, at 20-22 Rue Abdelkrim Diouri, has gone through a successful restoration program.
7. Place Mohammed V
In the days of the French Protectorate this square, laid out in the 1910s, was named after General Lyautey and as a French power base is framed by Mauresque architecture.
Visit the 1918 Grande Poste (central post office) on the north front, and the 1925 Palais de Justice on the east.
Most striking of all is the Wilaya, a former prefectural building in the south, built in 1930 and not to be missed for its square clock tower, which has a Venetian feel.
You’ll quickly find out why Place Mohammed V has the popular nickname “pigeon square”, and you can stop at night and watch the water and fountain light show.
8. Old Medina
While the Medina of other Moroccan cities can be traced back hundreds of years, the old walled city of Casablanca is surprisingly young.
It was reconstructed by Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah after an earthquake in 1755, and then almost completely destroyed during the French Bombing of Casablanca in 1907. The result is that this almost illegible district of intertwined streets has less tourist attraction. than his colleagues. in Marrakech and Fez, but well worth a visit during the day for anyone who wants to see the real Casablanca.
You can find typical Moroccan souvenirs such as olive and argan oil near the magnificent arched entrance.
A few streets from Boulevard des Almohades in the far north, you may find the Ettedgui Synagogue, on Rue Al-Aidi Ali Al-Maaroufi, destroyed during the American bombing of Casablanca in 1942 but now restored and rededicated by King Mohammed VI in 2016.
9. Private Half Day Tour with Guide
It’s a good point to note that you can be forgiven for feeling intimidated by parts of Casablanca.
So if you want real local context and guidance, there’s a highly rated four hour tour on GetYourGuide.com.
Available in the morning or evening, the tour can be tailored to your taste but caters for all the essentials, such as the Quartier Habous, Hassan II Mosque, Place Mohammed V, Central Market, Notre Dame de Lourdes (more on that later) Morocco Mall and Anfa, with accommodations luxury on the hillside.
You will travel in an air-conditioned minivan, and the driver will give you many interesting facts about the customs, culture and history of Casablanca.
Hotel pick up and drop off is available.
10. Our Lady of Lourdes
Unlike the deconsecrated Church of the Sacred Heart of Casablanca, Our Lady of Lourdes (1954) continued to hold services.
This whimsical Modernist building is the work of architect Achille Dangleterre and engineer Gaston Zimmer, with a tall, almost featureless silhouette that belies the beauty of its interior.
There you can enjoy the beautiful stained glass by master glass artist Gabriel Loire (1904-1996) who contributed to churches throughout Europe and North America.
The lower, lateral walls of the nave are made entirely of this stained glass: Designed to evoke the Moroccan rug, this panel represents the Immaculate Conception and various apparitions of Mary, including at Lourdes.
Above are the sleek decorative lines between the large concrete pillars, casting colorful lights on the center floor.
11. Villa des Arts de Casablanca
Close to the intersection of Zertouni and Roudani Boulevards, Villa des Arts de Casablanca is managed by the ONA Foundation.
This arts organization holds exhibitions, seminars, musical performances and educational workshops, both here and in Rabat.
The Casablanca location is a beautiful Art Deco villa from 1934, and for tourists especially the place to come to sample Moroccan art at temporary exhibitions.
When we put this list together in late October, there was a retrospective exhibition for surrealist turned hyper-realist painter Hamid Douieb, as well as lectures by writer Mamoun Lahbabi and poet Abdelhak Najib, and recitals by soprano Jalila Bennani.
12. Masjid Muhammad
Another major tourist attraction in the Quartier Habous is this spectacular neo-Moorish mosque, named after Mohammed V who ordered its construction and was completed in 1936. Like much of the architecture on the Habous, the design is from Auguste Cadet, and Mohammed V will visit the site regularly throughout the year. construction.
The building, housing 6,000 worshipers, has an unusual and irregular layout, with seven horseshoe arched doors across three facades.
In the prayer room there are 60 columns on top of 11 arcades perpendicular to the qibla.
Look for the unusual polygonal columns, and keep your eyes on the chandeliers, one of which weighs three tons.
The courtyard is modeled after the Moorish mosques in Andalusia, measuring 900 m2 and with a magnificent marble fountain in the center.
13. Moroccan Judaism Museum
Casablanca’s Jewish population ranges from 2,000 to 4,500 people, and is located in a European City where there are kosher restaurants, a community center and a Jewish school.
Also here, on Rue du chasseur Jules Cros, is a museum dedicated to Judaism in the Arab world.
It was founded in 1997 in a former orphanage for Jewish children, since 1948. Something particularly illuminating here is the text of the 2011 revised Moroccan constitution, referring to Hebrew influences as the cornerstone of Moroccan national unity.
Also a must-see is a jewelry-making workshop remade by a Moroccan Jew, Saul Cohen, which exhibits his tools and workbench.
Artifacts abound in the museum, including a menorah, mezuzah, a 1944 bimah from the city’s Beni-Issakhar Synagogue, and all manner of costumes, jewelry, and art spanning hundreds of years.
14. Museum Yayasan Abderrahman Slaoui
An elegant 1940s Art Deco villa, just west of Place Mohammed V, houses this museum which features the collection of entrepreneur Abderrahman Slaoui (1919-2001). A highlight is a set of over 80 vintage posters, for North African tourism and products.
There is also the extraordinary work of jewelers from the 19th and 20th centuries, and the remarkable study of traditional Moroccan costumes by photographer and designer Jean Besancenot in the 1930s.
You can study the works of Mohammed Ben Ali R’bati, who was held as the first Moroccan figurative painter, and the first to be featured in exhibitions in Europe.
After that, visit the museum cafe, which has a great view of the city.
15. Phare d’El Hank
A timeless feature of the Casablanca skyline, this lighthouse sits at the tip of the El Hank peninsula, west of the port of Casablanca and on the east end of the Corniche.
Raised in the second half of the 1910s, this 51-meter-tall lighthouse is equipped with a second-order Fresnel lens and has a range of 30 nautical miles.
Phare d’El Hank opened informally.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be able to climb 256 marble steps for stunning views of the Atlantic, Casablanca and Hassan II Mosque.
Also on a visit you will see how the richest and poorest neighborhoods of Casablanca exist side by side.
16. Hutan Bouskoura-Mercchich
Green space is at a premium in Casablanca but in the southern suburbs nearly 3,000 hectares are newly planted, mostly eucalyptus forest.
Forêt de Bouskoura-Merchich is still developing and until the late 2010s its facilities were rather sparse.
But slowly picnic areas, toilets, and much-needed trash cans were added, and the forest became a destination for cycling and morning jogs.
If all goes according to plan, there will eventually be lookout towers, a nature visitor center, restaurants, sensory trails, and five children’s playgrounds across the four main zones.
17. Temple of Beth-El
The largest of Casablanca’s 30+ synagogues can accommodate 500 worshipers and is an important center for the city’s Jewish community, and a major venue for spiritual events.
For example, it was here in April 2019 that Rabbi Yoshiahu Pinto was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Morocco, a post that had not been filled for a century.
The Beth-El Temple was built in 1942 and is worth seeing inside for its stucco work, golf leaves, stained glass and chandeliers.
The interior was renovated in 1997, and is a worthwhile detour for anyone inspired by Casablanca’s rare multiculturalism.
18. Mal Morocco
The second largest mall in Africa opened in 2011 between Plage Ain Diab and Plage Madame Choual.
The Moroccan mall has more than 350 shops and services, and contains a 1,000,000 liter cylindrical aquarium housing 40 different species.
For fashion brands, there’s a mix of premium labels like Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Dior, Fendi and Emporio Armani, plus mid-market retailers from Zara to Pull & Bear, Oysho, H&M, Gap, Bershka, Adidas, Nike, Stradivarius and the like. .
For books, movies and many other media, there is a large two-story branch of French chain Fnac, while the mall’s Souk has nearly 50 artisans to choose from selling jewellery, oils, fragrances, cosmetics, spices, honey, caftans and handicrafts. . embroidered linens.
Food-wise, there are dozens of places to eat, whether you want noodles, pizza, sandwiches, crêpes, gelato, frozen yogurt and everything in between.
Last but not least there is a cinema with two IMAX 3D screens.
19. Jalur Home Train
If you’ve been away from Casablanca since the 2000s, you’ll be surprised at the slick new mass transit system that has cut travel times in the city.
The Casa Tramway opened in 2012 and has two lines, with two more to open in 2022. T1 runs from Sidi Moumen to Lissasfa (69 minutes end-to-end), and T2 between Sidi Bernoussi and Ain Diab Plage (77 minutes). The lines intersect twice, at Abdelmoumen/Anoual and Ibn Tachfine/Mdakra.
Running this line is the Citadis Type 302 swish tram by French maker Alstom.
In 2019, one trip is 8 hours (0.83) and a double trip is 16 hours.
To save hassle, you’ll need change when you buy tickets from the station kiosk, although you can buy multi-ride tickets at the kiosk at Mohammed V Square.
20. Derb Ghallef
Part of the southern Maârif region, Derb Ghallef is a commercial area that has the second largest flea market in the country.
The market is huge, messy and confusing, trading in antiques, furniture and clothing, but it is best known for its consumer electronics.
Bargain hunters come in droves to get their hands on cell phones, laptops, and other gadgets.
For tourists, the souk is something to behold for its pristine chaos, more than just a place to shop.
The hallways are unpaved, and can become scorching in the summer and turn into a river in the winter.
But what may interest you are the many street vendors and small restaurants selling kebabs, tagines, and nuts.
For a break, head to the Horticultural Gardens, a short walk east.
21. Parc Sindibad
The only amusement park in Morocco is in the forest at the western end of Plage Ain Diab.
In the 20th century Parc Sindibad was a day favored by young Casa residents, but closed due to financial problems in the early 2000s.
Then in the 2010s, with the arrival of the beach resort, the park was rebuilt by a partnership that included Compagnie des Alpes, which owns major French theme parks such as Parc Astérix and Futuroscope.
At the time of writing in 2019 Parc Sindibad has around 24 rides and attractions, as well as a small zoo on its east side and karting trails on the south.
The big draws are Le Serpent, a steel rollercoaster, Al Mouja, a water sled ride, and Ain Rokh, a balloon tethered for a bird’s eye view 42 meters above the park.
22. Tamaris Aquaparc
About 15 kilometers west along the Route d’Azemmour from Ain Diab is the Tamaris Aquaparc, ideal for families with young children and bored teens.
This water park features 10,000 m2 of treated and filtered water in lush landscaped terrain.
Alongside a large wave pool, beach and lazy river, you have a line of slides, Green (family friendly), Red (a bit more adventurous), and Black (high speed). The black slides have names like Boomerang, Cannon Bowl, and Kamikaze, while younger children and toddlers can play in the shallow area with fountains and climbing equipment.
There’s a snack bar for burgers, sandwiches and shawarma, and once you’re dry, you can go bowling in the 12 lane alley next door.
23. Anfaplace Shopping Center
Right on the Boulevard de la Corniche in Ain Diab is a modern three-story shopping mall, also filled with well-known international brands.
As an introduction, you’ll find Clarks, H&M, Accessorize/Monsoon, Marks & Spencer, NewYorker, The Body Shop, Swatch, and on-going food and drink chains like Starbucks, Paul, McDonalds, KFC, Domino’s and Burger King, all anchored at a major Carrefour branch.
There is a surf school on the beach in front of the mall, and a little further along the boulevard is the Cinéma Megarama Casablanca multiplex.
24. Kafe Rick
We’ve seen by now that Morocco’s main port and major financial center may not have the classic romance of 1942 Bogart.
But a majestic replica of Rick Blaine’s “gin joint” opened on the northern edge of Medina in 2004. A place to lie down while exchanging transit letters, Rick’s Café is an upscale restaurant in the courtyard of a historic mansion, with interior décor inspired by the film’s main set.
There are horseshoe arches, stenciled brass light fittings, balcony balustrades, and palm fronds casting somber shadows on the white walls.
There’s even an original Pleyel piano from the 1930s, with pianist playing standards straight from the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Expect to hear “As Time Goes By” more than once every night.
25. Dream Village
About half way between Casablanca and the city of Mohammedia close to the fort des Cascades is a resort with an ecological theme.
The main attraction at Dream Village is the zoo, where trails meander through green gardens next to basic but mostly well-maintained enclosures for tigers, lions, flamingos, emu, bison, bears, and waterfowl such as geese and ducks. .
There is also a recreational park, aimed primarily at children, with slides, swimming pools, paddle boats and rides, and an equestrian club for horseback lessons and trips.
Where to stay: Best Hotels in Casablanca, Morocco
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