Visit Casablanca: what are the best things to do and see in the most populated city in Morocco and the Maghreb?
Land of the main international airport in Morocco, Casablanca is the main gateway to the country for many visitors. The industrial and economic locomotive of the country, it does not compete with the exotic charms of Marrakech and Fez. There's a European flair to much of its architecture, and the city has a modern air not seen in other parts of the country. Despite everything, you will find some pearls to visit in Casablanca. The Medina district is charming and much smaller, and easier to discover than elsewhere. And the colossal Hassan II mosque is unmissable.
To help you organize your stay more simply, here is a list of essential things to do in Casablanca!
1. Hassan II Mosque
On the shore, just beyond the northern tip of the Medina of Casablanca (old city), the Hassan II mosque dominates the whole city. Completed in 1993, it is the fourth-largest mosque in the world, covering 9 hectares with the tallest minaret in the world (201 m high).
The prayer hall can accommodate 25,000 worshipers, while the courtyard (which has a retractable roof) can hold another 80,000. Its decoration from surprisingly intricate Moroccan craftsmanship covers every centimeter of its surface. Located by the sea, its location is quite spectacular. Non-Muslims can visit the mosque on guided tours that start from the west entrance of the mosque several times a day.
2. The old Medina
Although the old town of Casablanca does not have as much atmosphere and exoticism as the Medina of Fez or Marrakech, this maze of alleys still hides a lot of things to discover. There are typical merchants selling their wares. It's a run-down, rambling neighborhood with an authentic residential feel and a great place to take the pulse of Casablanca life. There are also interesting Koubba (shrines) to see south of the Medina.
It was completely destroyed during the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 and rebuilt in 1770. You can admire the ramparts around the old Medina.
3. Mohammed V Square
The city's main square, Place Mohammed V has a large fountain (with colored lights at night) and is surrounded by fine examples of French colonial architecture. The place is not superb as such, but if you stumble upon it, you will enjoy a moment to rest and watch the active life around you. The main post office is located here, as well as the Palais de Justice, the French consulate, and several major banks.
4. The Corniche
Casablanca's Corniche (waterfront) is a great place to stroll along the waterfront. Much of the coast is now home to luxury hotels and restaurants. This is where the locals go to relax and have fun. A little away from the city center, you can swim in the pools of beach clubs and take a deckchair, or simply enjoy the sea breeze. In the evening, the nightlife is lively here.
This elegant church was built in the 1930s and its architecture is a harmonious blend of gothic and art-deco. It has sadly been left unrestored for the past few decades, but even in its current state of disrepair, the structure still looks great. Not far away, you can see the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes cathedral, built 24 years later. Do not hesitate to visit the vast garden and public park of the Arab League.
6. Art-deco buildings
At one point in history, Morocco (or almost all of it) was a French colony. Consequently, Casablanca has preserved architectural heritage from the colonial era of the 1930s. Art Deco buildings dominate the center of the city, and a walk is recommended to appreciate the beauty of certain buildings. Start at Place des Nations Unies and walk towards Boulevard Mohammed V.
7. The Habous district (new Medina)
Here is another facet of the white city to discover. It is a district built by the French between 1918 and 1955 to create a new Medina. It looks like a traditional Moroccan old town with a few more things: bigger streets and modern facilities. Also, it is home to different traditional markets as well as the Royal Palace, which is worth seeing while walking around.
8. Visit a hammam
You have to try a steam bath and scrub in a traditional hammam when you visit Morocco, so why not in Casablanca? Try the one from Solidarité Féminine or Les Bains Ziani.
9. Central Market
Casablanca's bustling central market is a must if you want to immerse yourself in the heart of city life. Right in the city center, this is where locals come to buy and sell everything, including Moroccan slippers. It's a great opportunity for photographers and great fun for everyone.
10. Away from Casa: Mohammedia
This sleepy seaside town offers some lovely beaches and is a relaxing alternative to a stay in Casablanca. Although home to Morocco's second-largest port, Mohammedia and its tranquil charms have remained untouched by industry.
The small Medina is a delight to wander around, while the New Town is beautifully landscaped with wide boulevards lined with palm trees. On the beaches, cafes and restaurants bustle on summer weekends, when the inhabitants of Casablanca seem to come to escape to Mohammedia.