Casablanca holidays

Experience Casablanca

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

The ancient town of Anfa was a major Roman port, and survived until the 1500s when the Portuguese destroyed it and built a fort in its place. From port to fort and back again, the name of Anfa is now used for one of Casablanca's most affluent districts to the west of the city centre. The area has one of the most westernised cultures too, making it worthy of a visit for travellers passing through Casablanca.

Remember Casablanca is on the coast, and while it's easy to associate this with its port and assume a purely industrial coastline, there are also some beaches with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the distant watery horizon. Ain Diab is the main beach, not far from the city centre, around a mile in length with the kind of pale sand you might expect to see at any premium holiday resort. One word of warning, however: most people prefer not to swim in the ocean itself, due to the large waves that can break on the shore. Instead, there are pools located along the seafront, and these offer a more sheltered alternative.

Another way to spend a day splashing around is to visit the local water park—the largest in Morocco—and this can help you to keep cool too. Just remember to apply strong sun protection if it’s a hot sunny day, and reapply at regular intervals throughout the day or during any period spent out of the water and under the direct heat of the sun. The venue's official name is Tamaris Aquaparc, and it's worth noting that the price of entry will not necessarily include extras like sunbed hire or secure storage for your possessions, so take some extra cash with you for the essential add-ons.

If you want to experience the finer aspects of a modern-day city, holidays to Casablanca tick all the boxes, and it's not only the hotels that offer five-star luxury. There are plenty of options, so add an evening in a gourmet restaurant to your itinerary, visit one of the more exclusive shopping centres with boutique stores to buy from, relax for a day or more in one of the city's spa retreats, and even add a round of golf on one of the world-class local courses. It's your trip and there are so many possibilities to make it truly your own.

Top Landmarks

Hassan II Mosque is arguably the single most important landmark in Casablanca, and its tourist appeal is almost as significant as its religious function. The mosque took five years to build, and an incredible 6,000 artisans from across Morocco took part in its construction. Muslim visitors are more likely to be allowed access to the interior, which can accommodate over 100,000 worshippers at a time - the largest mosque in the world. Non-Muslims can see certain parts of the interior on guided tours, or simply marvel at the architectural wonder from the outside.

Place Mohammed V is the main square in the city centre, and while it may seem odd to include a square rather than a building, it's fair to say that the Place is a landmark in its own right. The fountain is lit in bright colours after dark, while a daytime visit is a great opportunity to enjoy the colonial French architecture of the surrounding buildings. As you might expect of a big city square, the area features a good selection of restaurants, bars, shops, banks, government buildings and Casablanca's central post office too.

If you're heading to Hassan II Mosque, it's probably worth making the short trip to the Port of Casablanca itself, the world's largest artificial port with some of the largest passenger cruise liners and freight vessels. It's a visual spectacle in its own right, and even if you don't spend long here, it's a must-see local landmark during any visit to Casablanca.

Entertainment

For many people, Casablanca's nightlife is one of the main attractions when booking their package holiday, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants where you can enjoy yourself late into the evening. Although Morocco has a largely Muslim population, Casablanca is one of the more cosmopolitan cities. While you may find yourself frowned upon for enjoying one too many drinks, you should find alcoholic beverages in moderate quantities are no immediate source of shame.

A public bath, or hammam, is a pleasant way to spend some relaxation time, and these are similar to Turkish baths. You should be able to find one quite easily, as there are several in most districts, but look out for those attended by large numbers of locals if you want the best service. Before the relaxation begins, there's the cleansing, where you can expect to be scrubbed down in a hot steam room. After that comes the massage, an invigorating and revitalising experience before you are sent back out into the streets with your energy levels renewed.

Finally, for a more unusual way to see the city, consider visiting an equestrian centre and booking some time in the saddle. Some of these are able to cater for children, either in terms of providing them with a manageable steed, or other activities from craft sessions to picnics. For adults, there are horses suitable for all skill levels, from very beginners right through to experienced riders, and this can help all kinds of equestrian enthusiasts to explore Casablanca's surrounding landscape.

Dining Out

Casablanca's Iberian name is reflected in its cuisine, with Spanish dishes well represented on the menus of the local restaurants. Classic French recipes are prepared too, allowing a taste of fine dining for European visitors keen for some home comforts. From the Far East come Chinese dishes, as well as freshly prepared sushi that makes the most of the locally available seafood.

There are certain Moroccan dishes that every tourist is keen to try, of course, so look out for these at least once during your stay. Moroccan kebabs contain marinated meats cooked on skewers - either diced meats or mince reformed on to the skewer ready for cooking. Alternatively, try a tagine, one of many traditional dishes to take their name from the pot in which they are cooked. The distinctive tall conical shape of the cooking pot helps to contain evaporated moisture, returning it to the dish so that it remains moist during its long cooking time.

It's worth noting also that as a major modern city, Casablanca has its fair share of brand-name fast-food restaurants too. So if you just want to grab a burger or any other fast food favourites from home, you should be able to find something very comparable to what you might get on any UK high street or retail park.

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Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

English is growing in popularity in all aspects of Moroccan life, as it is perceived as the international language of business. About one in seven people already speak it, and this will be higher in the main tourist areas. French is spoken by about a third of people, and could offer an alternative to overcome the language barrier, if you speak it at all. Arabic is the main language of Morocco, with up to about 90% of people speaking it.

Currency

The local currency in Morocco is the dirham, and you can take up to a maximum of 1,000 MAD into the country with you (or out of the country, when you return home). Travellers' cheques are difficult to exchange, as are Scottish banknotes, but you can take as much sterling as you want. ATMs are common in larger towns and in the cities, and credit cards are widely accepted too.

Visas

You shouldn't need a visa to enter Morocco for a holiday, and you can stay for usually up to three months at a time. You'll need a passport, although unlike many destinations, you don't need it to be valid for a further six months after your departure date - it just needs to cover your stay. Get it stamped on arrival, as your departure might be made more difficult if your passport is not stamped.

Climate

Casablanca, like the rest of Morocco, is hot in the summertime; however, it may be cooler than some of the cities further inland. Thanks to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, which remains cool from the winter throughout much of the summer months, a cooling ocean breeze can help to take the edge off of the temperatures on even the hottest summer days. By contrast, a visit during the winter should not feel too cold, but you should be prepared for wetter weather.

Main Airports

If you arrive into Casablanca via an international air route, you can expect to set down at Mohammed V International Airport on the outskirts of the city.

Direct flights into the airport originate from all over Europe, as well as Australia, South Africa, the Middle East and the US, making it a truly global destination. Regional flights are frequent, providing a link with Dakar, as well as making the airport a crucial connecting point for African travellers journeying from the west of the continent onward to the Americas.

Flight Options

From the UK, direct flights to Casablanca originate from Heathrow and Gatwick via Royal Air Maroc, while the cities further north, including Manchester and Birmingham, may offer direct and indirect routes according to their changing flight itineraries. As always, check for the availability of flights during peak periods - there may be more direct flights scheduled at the most popular times of year, but they are also perhaps more likely to be booked up in advance.

Travel Advice

Direct flights to Casablanca are available from UK airports, with many charter flights available too from main airports. It’s also possible to get cheaper flights to other destinations and get the ferry from destinations such as Malaga or Gibraltar. There are lots of options to ensure you find a package holiday that suits you.

Other Transport Options

Cruise ships dock overnight at Casablanca, often for more than one stopover, and you might find you are able to set sail in your own right if you want to explore more of Morocco's coastline. This does not mean an overwhelming influx of cruise passengers though, as many simply pass through Casablanca on their way to Marrakech instead.

Getting Around

As a large city, there are plenty of transport options in Casablanca, either to get around the city itself or to make an excursion out into the surrounding area. Trains are available to Rabat, Marrakech and other cities, if you're keen to travel onwards, and long-distance buses are an option too.

Bus

Bus services are available in and around Casablanca, however may be tricky due to the language barrier. There are plenty of bus companies to choose from, however many tourists opt for the convenience of local taxis which are still relatively cheap.

Train

In order to get into Casablanca itself, you will need to transfer from the airport, and this can be done by rail from Terminal 1 if you are keen to save on your transport budget. Alternatively, you can take a taxi from the airport - it will take around 45 minutes to get to central Casablanca, and it might be wise to agree the price upfront rather than risk an unwelcome surprise when it's time to pay.

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FACTS

  1. The name 'Casablanca' literally translates as 'White House' and was given to the former city of Anfa by the Portuguese in the early 1500s.
  2. Many people associate the name more closely with the 1942 movie, which starred Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart.
  3. Casablanca is the biggest city in Morocco, as well as its main port - and is often said to have its most cosmopolitan culture, too.
  4. Along with the English translation of its name, Casablanca shares another connection with the USA - it was a key American air base location during the Second World War.

FACTS

  1. The name 'Casablanca' literally translates as 'White House' and was given to the former city of Anfa by the Portuguese in the early 1500s.
  2. Many people associate the name more closely with the 1942 movie, which starred Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart.
  3. Casablanca is the biggest city in Morocco, as well as its main port - and is often said to have its most cosmopolitan culture, too.
  4. Along with the English translation of its name, Casablanca shares another connection with the USA - it was a key American air base location during the Second World War.

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