Casablanca, or “Casa” as it is often referred to, is the largest city in Morocco with a population of more than five million people. It is considered to be the economic and business heart of the country. While many people visit Casablanca for business purposes or just passing through, this city has a lot more to offer than first meets the eye. With a beautiful coastline, one of the most magnificent mosques in all of Morocco, and mouthwatering restaurant options, you’ll have a wonderful time exploring the city that was the muse for it’s namesake 1942 romantic classic!
- 1 Preparing for your Trip
- 2 The Top 8 Things to See and Do in Casablanca
Preparing for your Trip
Know Before You Go
- The currency in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham (Dhs). At the time of writing (January of 2018) the conversion rate was about 9.25 Dhs to $1 USD. We’ll be referring to costs in Dirham so just keep in mind that if we say something costs 100 Dhs, that’s just about $11 USD.
- Morocco offers a 3-month tourist visa on arrival for citizens of many countries including the US, Canada, members of the EU, Australia and New Zealand.
- There are a number of languages spoken in Morocco but the two official languages are Modern Standard Arabic and Amazigh (Berber). The second language for most Moroccans is French. You’ll also find that many people speak at least a little English.
- Learn a few phrases in Arabic to get around! “Al Salam Alaikum” (pronouned sall-em wall-a-come) is a nice way to say “hello”. “Shukran” (pronounced shoo kran) is “thank you”. “Ma’-Elsalama” (pronounced ma sell lem-a) is “goodbye”. If you would prefer to speak in French, “Bonjour” is “hello”, “Merci” is “thank you” and “S’il Vous Plaît” is “please”.
- A 10% tip is commonplace when dining out but make sure that a service charge hasn’t been added to your bill.
- 93% of the population of Morocco is considered to be religious with Islam being not only the primary religion but also the established state religion in the country. As with most conservative countries, women are expected to cover their knees and shoulders when venturing out of the house. That being said, Casablanca is a more progressive city in the country and you’re likely to see young people more scantly clad than you might expect.
- In general, non-Muslims aren’t allowed to visit mosques around Morocco. One of the few exceptions to the rule is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca where you can wander around the courtyard or pay to take a tour of the inside (details below).
- Some Moroccans prefer not to be photographed due to religious reasons that are referred to as aniconism in Islam. Be sure to ask before snapping any photos of Moroccans and don’t be surprised if they say “no”.
Best Time to Visit
Casablanca has a moderate climate and can be visited year round. July through September are the hottest months of the year with average temperatures in the 80-90°F range. And December through February are the coolest with temperatures hovering around 60°F. November, December and January can get some rain, however it is minimal.
In general, Morocco is an incredibly safe country and Casablanca is a safe city to visit. However pickpocketing and scams can be common in big cities. Keep an eye on your wallet and leave additional cash and your passport in your hotel room.
Cell phones are a hot commodity in larger cities in Morocco and thieves have been known to drive by on their motorbike, grab the phone out of the victims hand, and disappear just as quickly. Be cautious when using the map on your phone to navigate the city.
- Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) is the largest and busiest airport in Morocco and is served by over 30 airlines. Royal Air Maroc offers many inexpensive flight options.
- The ONCF train offers inexpensive, comfortable, and frequent rides all over the country.
- There are two kinds of taxis in Casablanca; Grand taxis are for longer trips and Petit taxis are for getting around the city. Petit taxis are generally red and the cars are very small and can be hailed from anywhere. Avoid the taxi drivers that pounce on foreigners as they are exiting the doors of the train station or the airport – notice that they are not approaching any locals to give them rides (they’re on the prowl for tourists). And be sure that your driver either turns on the meter or that you’ve negotiated a fair rate prior to departing.
- Uber is in Casablanca! If everything in the last bullet point sounds daunting to you, avoid it altogether by opting for an Uber over a taxi. But call it early as their aren’t nearly as many Uber drivers as there are taxis.
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Get the Cosmopolitan Casablanca Look
Be sure to bring a few long, flowing dresses that can be dressed down for a daytime look or up for a night on the town. While some younger locals may choose to dress more provocatively, most foreigners will likely feel more comfortable if they cover up. Comfortable walking shoes for exploring the city and a crossbody bag with a zip are also Casablanca essentials!
The Top 8 Things to See and Do in Casablanca
Stay in a Lavish Hotel on the Beach
Situated right on the Atlantic ocean and offering stunning views of the sea, the Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca is the perfect retreat from this bustling city. Offering 185 lavish guest rooms including 29 immaculate suites, the hotel is small enough to offer guests a more personalized experience and cater to their every need.
From the moment you step into the stunningly beautiful lobby you will be treated like royalty by a warm, welcoming, and attentive staff. The rooms are spacious and pristine, with modern decor and every luxury you could imagine. Every night you’ll sink into what is quite possibly the most luscious bed you’ve ever slept in, and you’ll have to force yourself to get out of it in the morning. But you should as the buffet breakfast is incredible!
The Four Seasons serves an exquisite buffet with everything from fresh squeezed juices, made-to-order omelettes, Moroccan specialties, warm pastries, savory meats and cheeses, and rich desserts. Enjoy your breakfast on the beautiful terrace overlooking the beach while listening to the sound of the waves crashing below. Or better yet, spend a lazy morning savoring your breakfast in your suite!
Le Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca is a premier pampering experience and features massage and skin care treatments in one of their 10 stunning treatment rooms. Heated whirlpools and steam rooms are available for guests at their leisure in the changing rooms. A state-of-the-art fitness center is available for guests that want to ensure they can eat whatever they want at the 3 delectable restaurants at the hotel.
The gorgeous heated pool is the perfect place to spend an afternoon basking in the sunshine. And you’re only steps away from the beach if you’d prefer to lounge with your toes in the sand. You’ll never want to leave this lavish 5-star hotel!
Visit the Hassan II Mosque
This massive, ostentatious mosque was built to commemorate the former king’s 60th birthday. It took 6 years to build and was completed in 1993 at an incredible expense (estimated to be about €585,000,000). Accommodating 105,000 total worshipers – 25,000 inside and another 80,000 in the outside grounds – it is one of the largest mosques in the world.
With a 688-foot-tall minaret, the tallest in the world, it is impossible to miss this architectural wonder from miles away. The mosque sits on prime, oceanfront property and the courtyard is constantly teeming with people who are there to worship or just marvel at its beauty.
The courtyard is open to all to visit and it is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. The turquoise marble tiles arranged in classic Islamic patterns shine vibrantly in the sunlight. You can’t take a bad photograph!
Tour the Hassan II Mosque: Foreigners can take a 45-minute tour of the inside of the mosque for 120 Dhs per person. However they must follow a few rules including respectful dress (arms and knees covered), they must remove their shoes at the entrance to the prayer hall, and they may not use cell phones or recording devices when inside. Foreign women are not required to don a headscarf.
Have a Drink at Rick’s Cafe
How can you visit Casablanca without a visit to the bar that was modeled after “Rick’s Café Américain” from the classic movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman? The restaurant sits inside of the walls of the Old Medina and the details inside of this fabulous mansion are reminiscent of those in the film. A 1930’s piano fills the bar with classic tunes, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time and onto a movie set!
It’s exactly how the Casablanca movie directors would implore you to experience this beautiful city – sipping on cocktails while surrounded by beautiful architecture and being serenaded by intoxicating music!
Note: Although the majority of people in Morocco are Muslim, alcohol is still legal. Travelers can find many bars and restaurants that serve beer, wine, and liquor. Stores in Casablanca offer alcohol for purchase for offsite drinking. Drinking on the street is illegal.
Stroll Along The Corniche
The Corniche is an oceanfront neighborhood just south of the Four Seasons Casablanca that is filled with nightclubs and cafes with views of the ocean. Enjoy a peaceful afternoon stroll along the boardwalk that runs alongside the beach to soak in the sun and the views. You’ll see local kids playing soccer on the beach and likely be offered a horse ride (for a cost of course).
Stop at one of the cafes for a tea or bring a blanket and lounge in the sand. It’s the perfect respite from the busy city.
Eat Delectable Moroccan Cuisine
- Try the assorted briouates and the lamb couscous while lounging by the fireplace and overlooking the sea at Mint at the Four Seasons Casablanca. This is also an ideal spot just to lounge and drink tea when you need some time to relax.
- Try the rich and delicious seafood risotto at El Barocco Time Casablanca. They also serve alcohol.
- Order pumpkin soup as an appetizer and lamb tajine as a main course at La Sqala and your taste buds will thank you! This pretty garden restaurant is the perfect peaceful stop while wandering around the Old Medina.
- For an absolutely divine dining experience and the most amazing seafood in all of Casablanca, visit Bleu at the Four Seasons Casablanca. You’ll be waited on hand and foot while gazing out at the ocean on the gorgeous terrace. Start with the Bleu salad and duo of tacos for an appetizer and the seabass for a main course. For dessert the rice pudding is sweet, but not too sweet, and the perfect end to a perfect meal.
- Head to the Central Market for lunch for fast and fresh seafood while enjoying the sunshine and the people watching at the outdoor tables.
Shop in The Old and New Medinas of Casablanca
The shopping in Morocco is world renowned and it’s nearly impossible to walk through one of the many souks all over the country without stopping for a look. Brightly colored blankets and scarves, leather bags of every shape and size, hand painted pottery, intricate metal lamps, and intoxicating spices will have you wishing you had brought another suitcase with you!
Unlike the souks in Marrkech and Fes that primarily cater to tourists, shops in the Old Medina of Casablanca sell anything and everything for locals and tourists alike. You’ll find knockoff designer goods intermixed with futbol jerseys and perfumes. It’s not your typical souk and you’ll probably only see a handful of other tourists.
The New Medina, or Habbous Quarter, is a maze of charming alleyways and handicraft shops where you can load up on leather goods, plush rugs and Moroccan clothing. Tourists will find less hassle here than in many of the souks in Morocco and will have an enjoyable time browsing the wares. Be sure to stop at Patisserie Bennis for the best pastries in all of Casablanca!
Be sure to stop at the Mahkama du Pacha to see Moroccan architecture at its finest. But note that the building is in use so if you visit during the week you’ll need a local guide. We stumbled upon it on a Saturday, paid 50 Dhs/each to the guard, and pretty much had the entire place to ourselves!
People Watch at Mohamed V Square
A large fountain sits at the center of this bustling square and locals gather to watch as the water flows and birds fly overhead. Vendors selling chewy coconut macaroons provide tasty treats for children as they ride on a borrowed toy jeep through the crowd. It’s the perfect place to have a seat and watch the locals doing what they do best in Casablanca – having some good old fashioned fun with their families!
Visit the Interesting Museums
- Museum of Moroccan Judaism – explore the 2000-year history of Jewish people living in Morocco in this beautiful museum. It is especially unique as it is the only Jewish history museum in the Arab world.
- Musée de la Fondation Abderrahman Slaoui – a stunning private collection of Moroccan arts including travel posters, ceramics, furniture, and jewelry.
- Dar El Ala – this museum is perfect for the music lover! Specializing in Moroccan Andalusian music including instruments, art, and performances.
Want more advice on Casablanca? Check out our favorite travel guides!