Casablanca is definitely worth visiting, even if it’s just for a day to see the Hassan II Mosque and a few other sites. However, as it’s a port town and also the biggest city in Morocco, you may find it very dirty, busy and stressful. Most people go to Casablanca for one or two days (usually either side of a flight) and then continue on to Fez or Marrakech.
So, is Casablanca worth visiting? I headed there from Marrakech by train to find out!
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Is Casablanca worth visiting? Yes, but just for a day or two!
Casablanca sounds so idyllic from the 1942 movie featuring Humphrey Bogart as ‘Rick’ in a classy and chic city. Please prepare yourself….for the reality is quite different! The roads are crazy and there are a fair amount of opportunists who try and steal from you, including taxi drivers who try and charge too much. The architecture is very diverse, but there are some beautiful sites including Hassan II Mosque and the Royal Palace.
However, it is worth visiting Casablanca to get a feel for Morocco’s largest city and to see how it contrasts to Marrakech or Fez. It’s a fantastic experience to stroll through Arab League Park and drink a cocktail on the Corniche, watching the Casablancan sunset.
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How to get to Casablanca
Most people fly into Casablanca and stop off for a day or two before touring the rest of Morocco. The cost of the taxi from Casablanca airport to central Casablanca is 300 Moroccan Dirhams.
People who are going to Casablanca from Marrakech, usually get the high speed train which is approximately 150 Dirhams (please note it is approximately 200 Dirhams for first class). I recommend taking first class if you can stretch to it (it’s only around £5 or $6 more), because you will get a more comfortable seat with more luggage room and less stress. The train from Marrakech to Casablanca is around an hour and a half.
The train line also links other towns including Rabat (the capital), Fez and Meknes. It’s a comfortable way to travel and the train system surprised me at how well organised and efficient it was, compared to the last time I visited, which was approximately 8 years ago.
Pros of visiting Casablanca
There are many reasons to visit Casablanca. It is home to the biggest Mosque in Morocco and is a great nightlife destination, with a young and vibrant atmosphere in the evening. Also, being a port town, many people come into Casablanca for one day as part of a cruise to see what it has on offer.
Note – I would not recommend seeing Casablanca as a one day trip on a cruise – I recommend that you see Casablanca as part of a Morocco itinerary including perhaps Fez, Rabat and Marrakech.
Experience Morocco’s biggest city
Casablanca is Morocco’s biggest city and with that comes great nightlife and shopping! The Old Town Medina is home to Casablanca’s souk where you can find anything from fabrics to mint tea sets. If you are more of a designer shopper, then you won’t be disappointed by the Morocco Mall, which is the largest mall in Africa.
Casablanca is the party capital of Morocco and there are some fantastic city centre nightclubs near to United Nations Square, as well as many hotels and bars on the ocean overlooking the Corniche. My favourite is Sky 28 in the Kenzi Tower Hotel, which offers an amazing view of the city (closed for renovation December 2023). Other recommended nightlife spots are Le CasArt Bar and Theatro.
Great Food Scene
You can get food from all over the world on Casablanca for the full range of prices, starting with just 30 Dirhams (around £3 or $4) for a tagine in local cafes. The vibrant food scene means that you can get American, Italian, Chinese and other international options.
A very touristy recommendation, but a good one at that, is to have dinner in Ricks bar. This quirky restaurant has been kitted out in the style of the 1942 movie ‘Casablanca’ and is high end with top notch meal options.
Hassan II Mosque
Whatever you do in Casablanca, don’t miss the Hassan II Mosque. It is the largest mosque in Morocco and the only mosque in Morocco that allows non-Muslim visitors to go inside.
At the ticket office to the mosque there is also a mosque museum, which is worth a look, especially if you are interested in Islamic architecture. It has great samples of Islamic art and talks about the different styles including stucco and marquetry (wooden panelling). Buy the combined ticket for the mosque and museum for just 140 Dirhams, which is better value than buying the mosque and museum tickets separately.
To enter the mosque itself you will need to present your ticket and remove your shoes at the entrance. It is possible to hire a guide to take you around the mosque, but it’s not really necessary. Don’t forget to go downstairs to see the ablution hall with 45 marble fountains for ritual washing.
After you have seen inside the mosque I’d recommend walking among the seafront and getting a photo looking across at the mosque from down the promenade.
The Royal Palace in the Hubous neighbourhood is the main Royal Residence of the King of Morocco. As a tourist, you will be allowed to see it from the outside (it has an impressive facade), but, as with many of the palace grounds and residencies, they are closed to the general public.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
The Sacred Heart Cathedral was built in 1930 and designed by Paul Tournon. It was built with the intention that it would be one of the largest Catholic churches in Morocco. 25 years later, the diocese was moved to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Tangier, and it now functions as a cultural centre.
Arab League Park
This beautiful urban park in central Casablanca covers 30 acres of land, and is known as the ‘green lung’ of Casablanca. It’s easy to find on Moulay Youssef Boulevard.
Muhammad V Square
This main square in Casablanca is surrounded by several important buildings including the court house and central government office. The square was built in the 1920’s, during the period of French Colonialism, and therefore has lots of French architectural influences.
At the centre of the square you will see a massive pigeon-covered fountain, with many ‘bird seed sellers’ trying to encourage you to feed the birds!
Moroccan Museum of Judaism
Islam and Judaism are the only official recognised religions of Morocco, any other religions are accepted but still seen as ‘foreign’. Casablanca is home to the Moroccan Museum of Judaism, the only museum dedicated to Judaism in the Arab world.
Cons of Casablanca
I need to be honest about Casablanca – it’s not the prettiest city in the world and can be quite overwhelming for tourists. There were a lot of things that I was not too keen on in Casablanca…..
I got bit by Mozzies!
The mosquitos seemed to be more prevalent here than in Marrakech (this could be because we are near the sea). I got bitten a few times here, in comparison to not being bitten at all in Marrakech (this was during a December trip). Don’t leave your windows open at night!
Also, as well as the mozzies, there seemed to be infestations of ants in several hotels, bars and restaurants!
Strange and unsafe aspects of Hotel
At Hotel Majestic, the staff were fantastic and breakfast (although busy) was very filling. However, there were a few minor issues about the hotel, which, when added up made me want to leave Casablanca one night earlier than planned!
The loo can only be described as rather snug and it was impossible to sit on without swinging your legs to the side! Although the room had been recently painted, the quality of the paintwork was debatable! The floor tiles used in the bathroom were actually wall tiles and were VERY slippy when wet, resulting in people being scared to have a shower! There was an open plug wire sticking out of the wall without a socket and a lifted up carpet that was a trip hazard. Also, with just one small 3 person lift for a six story hotel, it meant that there was a constant queue for the lift.
In a nutshell, as you may have gathered, safety is not a top priority in Casablanca. This brings me on to the next issue….the taxis.
RIP off taxis and Crazy Drivers
The first time that I came out of Casablanca train station to the taxi rank, I was so overwhelmed by the sea of aggressive taxi tours that I just went back inside and sat for another half hour in Costa! When I was finally ready to navigate the taxi debacle, I went out the opposite side and flagged one over the road by the hotel IBIS instead. We negotiated a slightly higher price than would be on the meter but still it wasn’t extortionate.
After that, we experienced an abundant of taxi drivers without seat belts for passengers in their cars (even though it’s mandatory) and many who refused to use the meter (even though it’s the law).
Saying that, we did finally have success with a couple of taxis using the meter correctly when we flagged them AWAY from any tourist attractions, hotels or bars. Even then, the constant annoyance of beeping horns seemed endless, and did not contribute to a relaxing atmosphere!
We witnessed a number of crazy drivers who were just swerving to avoid hitting other vehicles. On our second evening in Casablanca, we witnessed quite a bad crash outside the front of our hotel. At that point we decided to leave early and so our 3 days in Casablanca was promptly reduced to 2!
It’s not as beautiful or exciting as Marrakech or Fez
The last thing to note is that Casablanca is a port and an economic city, rather than a historical tourist town. You will see much more beautiful architecture and better souks in cities such as Marrakech or Fez. I would advise you not to spend more than a day or two in Casablanca, get straight to one of the historical cities where you can see traditional souks, Kasbah, medina and palaces or Old Madrasas (Quranic schools).
So is Casablanca worth visiting?
Yes it is worth visiting Casablanca, but only for a day or two. It’s worth seeing Casablanca to visit the Mosque and have a meal in Rick’s bar. Most people do this and then travel onward. I would say that it is NOT worth adding Casablanca to your itinerary as a replacement for Marrakech or Fez. If your itinerary does not allow time for more than one destination, then skip Casablanca in favour of one of the more historical cities. Some people just see the Mosque and Medina in the morning before an evening flight back. It is worth seeing, but as a city I can’t guarantee that you will love it!
Remember that Casablanca is not a representation of Morocco as a whole, there are many other better and more beautiful cities. If you don’t like Casablanca, that doesn’t mean you don’t or won’t like the rest of Morocco!
Next stop…..Rabat, the Moroccan capital.
Further Reading on Morocco
If you found this Casablanca blog helpful, you might also like to read…
- What not to do in Morocco
- How to spend one day in Casablanca
- Bahia Palace Marrakech
- Is Rabat worth visiting?
- Is Meknes worth visiting?