Casablanca is not a favorite city for tourists and it’s understandable why not. It’s a large city to navigate with crazy traffic and without the charm of places like Marrakech. It’s hard to find things to do when you find yourself with one or two days in Casablanca.
However, Casablanca has an appeal of its own and part of this allure is precisely because it’s not touristy. Living here for the past few months, I have developed a new appreciation of Casablanca that I never had in the many times I had visited it before. Here’s a list of places to visit.
- Haboos is the artisan market in Casablanca. Moroccans tell me it’s actually cheaper to buy stuff at Haboos than in the souks (markets) of Marrakech, because it’s so much more touristy in Marrakech.
The absolute best patisserie in the whole city with the yummiest cookies and treats is also in Haboos, called Bennis. This place is awesome and I make a special trip to Haboos just for the cookies at Bennis. You can also get a traditional Moroccan b’stella, which is a meat dish (also chicken or fish), together with almonds and wrapped in phylo dough.
Don’t miss eating getting some fresh camel meat grilled for you after shopping in the market. You can’t miss the camel butcher as he has camel heads hanging in his shop.
- Hassan II Mosque: The most touristy thing to do in Casablanca, but fully worth it, is to visit to the Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Africa. The tile work just walking around outside is gorgeous. Afterwards, head a few blocks away to Sqala for a meal or snack. Sqala is also a yummy place for a typical Moroccan breakfast.
- Sporty folk may enjoy a surf lesson in Ain Diab (Ain Diab Surf Club)or at Tahiti Beach Club in La Corniche. There’s a bunch of places along the beach where you can take a surf lesson and all cater to kids as well. You can also take a horseback riding lesson in various places around the city like Anfa Equestrian, or La Ferme Equestre.
- Get scrubbed at Topkapi, a nice hammam, or traditional bath. Hammams offer all sorts of services from skin exfoliation to massages. Follow up your hammam with some amazing French pastries at Paul in Maarif while people watching—this place is always packed. One thing most people don’t realize about Morocco is that they have some truly kick ass pastries, due to the influence of the French in colonial times.
- Head just south of the city to one of the beach clubs in Dar Bouazza such as Sunny Beach (they have awesome paella).
- Go choose your own raw fish and watch it cooked at the Marché Central. This is a no glitz setting but a truly delicious meal.
- Head out to dinner at Rick’s Café (fun fact: it only came into existence way after the movie) followed by some live music at L’Etoile, near the Carrefour Velodrome. Live music is usually on weekend nights and don’t expect anything to start before 9-10 p.m.