Why Tangier is the Perfect Gateway to Morocco

Morocco, Tangier, Medina, old city
Morocco, Tangier, Medina, old city | © Tuul and Bruno Morandi / Alamy Stock Photo

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There are several popular destinations in Morocco that can serve as the starting point for a trip to the country. Marrakesh has the famous markets, Casablanca boasts the iconic movie connection and Rabat functions as the modern capital, but here’s why Tangier is the best place to head to if you want a taster of what Morocco has to offer.

If you embark on Culture Trip’s rail trip from Madrid to Marrakesh you might be asking yourself how you get across from Europe to North Africa. The answer is a short ferry ride from the south of Spain to Tangier.

The northern Moroccan city was once a popular retreat for artists and free spirits several decades before other parts of the country eclipsed it in terms of inbound travellers. Casual tourists might head straight to Marrakesh, but in recent years there’s a been a resurgence in visitors to the north. If you’re flying in from the UK, or any part of mainland Europe for that matter, Tangier is also significantly closer to home.

This shorter flight time makes a weekend trip to Morocco a reality, and that’s exactly the sort of short trip I was after at the start of the year to get back into the travel groove.

Downtown Tangier in the distance from the hills around the Fairmont Tazi Palace

Getting to know Tangier

Tangier is one of the oldest cities in Morocco, having existed for over 2500 years, and with an illustrious history to match. It is often referred to as the White City because of the pristine white houses spread across the city but you will also find an array of architectural influences from majestic Middle Eastern inspired temples, to Byzantine Era cobblestone streets.

When you venture into the walled parts of the Old Town, you’ll be surprised by the relaxed atmosphere that everyone exudes. There is no hassling of tourists here, its actively frowned upon by locals, and this makes for a fantastic experience when shopping for trinkets and souvenirs. You’ll also find a number of restaurants and cafes that are set up for lazy afternoons in the sun or late nights under the stars. Its worth highlighting that the climate here, thanks to the cool ocean breeze, is far more manageable than the extreme heat of the desert.

Typical alley in the blue medina of Chefchaouen, Morocco

If you have the time to extend your stay, or even plan out your schedule carefully in advance, you can take a day trip to Chefchaouen. The famous ‘Blue City’ has become a hotspot for influencers and curious travellers, and will certainly make anyone watching on at home feel incredibly jealous. Its a relatively short drive from Tangier to Chefchaouen, but if you plan on going further then make sure you checkout how to travel by train. A new rail network was launched in recent years, and the price of tickets have been kept surprisingly low.

Where to stay in Tangier

Fairmont Tazi Palace is ideally located just ten minutes away from the heart of Tangier, making it the perfect base for exploring the coastal city. Originally built in the 1920s as a residence for the Kings advisor, the palace has been restored and transformed into an incredible luxury hotel. There are modern additions to the property to guarantee a luxury stay, but the original features also add to the allure of the place.

The property offers unending views throughout its 133 rooms, suites and penthouses. Fantastic restaurants offer international dishes and twists on local favourites all within an idyllic setting celebrating rich Moroccan history and culture. Guests can find artwork by Artisans from the local Moroccan community in the handcrafted Mousharabieh, Tadelakt and Zellige features of the hotel.

Prices start from 2800 MAD (£250) room-only deluxe king room

Pool with a view at the Fairmont Tazi Palace

The views really are special and the outdoor pool is one of the best places in the city to enjoy a magical sunset. The helpful team are also on standby to assist with any plans you might have for exploring the region. On my short stay I did some further research on Chefchaouen, which is certainly on the list for my next trip here. I’m also planning on travelling by train as the country now has a fantastic rail network that can take you all the way to Casablanca.

If Tangier serves as the gateway to Morocco, then Tazi Palace is the ideal welcome to the city itself.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

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