Casablanca may be the largest city in Morocco, but you can easily hit all the top things to do in Casablanca in one day. This article will walk through the best itinerary for what to do in Casablanca with some travel tips to tour this city.
Forget what you know or think you know about this thriving city. What you’ll find is an incredible modern gateway into the incredible country of Morocco. It may just be a perfect mix of ancient and modern.
Casablanca feels different than much of the country, and it doesn’t offer as much in the way of tourism. However, I think it’s still a city worth seeing, if for no other reason than the Hasan II Mosque.
This post will tell you all about what to do in Casablanca. It’ll be a busy, fun-filled day, but one you won’t soon forget!
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Casablanca in One Day Itinerary
If you’re short on time and want to get a quick list of the top things to do in Casablanca, here is what I recommend.
- Visit the Hasan II Mosque
- Stroll along the Corniche and grab lunch at the water
- Get souvenirs at the Quartier Habous New Medina
- Enjoy the Mahkama du Pacha
- Grab an incredible dinner at Rick’s Cafe
If you have time and interest, you can check out the Old Medina and compare it to the New Medina.
Is Casablanca Worth Visiting?
The name Casablanca conjures up images of romance, Hollywood royalty, and all things exotic. Contrary to popular opinion, Casablanca was around long before the movie that made it famous.
Before you visit Casablanca, put away your perceptions of the city. If you expect to see the same city the star-struck lovers made famous, you’ll certainly set yourself up for disappointment.
It was founded around 700 B.C., well before Bogart and Bacall made us fall in love with it. Interesting note: the movie “Casablanca” wasn’t even filmed in Casablanca, or even in Morocco!
Casablanca was originally called Anfa, meaning hill, in the Berber language by the nomadic tribes who lived there. The Portuguese took control of the city in the 15th century and renamed it Casa Branca, meaning the white house.
The city and much of the country were later under Spanish and French rule when it was renamed Casablanca. The name has stuck, of course.
Most of the city was destroyed in 1755 by the earthquake that destroyed much of Lisbon and the surrounding areas in Portugal. When it was rebuilt, it was given an Arabic name, though it is still popularly known as Casablanca, or Casa, by the locals.
Casablanca is a port city and the second-largest port in North Africa. It is Morocco’s chief port and is considered its business and economic center. It is also one of the largest financial centers on the continent.
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How Long Should You Spend in Casablanca?
For as large a city as Casablanca is, there isn’t a lot to do there as a tourist. I’ll share what I saw and what I recommend as a must-see when you visit.
Since your interests may be different from mine, you may want to create your own trip plan. You can hit the highlights within one day, and in my opinion, that’s enough time to spend.
Of course, if you want to dig deeper into the culture and get a feel for living there, you will want to spend more time. But of the cities that we visited during the trip in Morocco, I was glad I spent one day in Casablanca to allow more time in other places.
Top 9 Things to Do in Casablanca
Though there aren’t a ton of things to do in Casablanca, I enjoyed my time there. Here are the things we saw and enjoyed.
1. Hassan II Mosque
This was by far my favorite thing to see in Casablanca. It’s a stunning mosque, and in fact, it’s one of the few in the entire country that visitors are allowed to see inside for a tour. It is the largest mosque in Africa and one of the largest in the world.
Interestingly, our guide and the mosque guide both said it is the third-largest in the world (behind Mecca and Medina). However, according to Wikipedia, it is the 10th-largest.
The minaret is the second tallest in the world at 689 feet (210 meters). An astounding 105,000 people can worship there, with 25,000 inside the mosque and 80,000 on the mosque’s outer grounds.
It was built in 1993 and was designed to impress with walls made of marble and a hand-carved cedar retractable roof. The structure is Islamic Arabic and Moorish in style.
Everything inside the Hassan II Mosque is from Morocco, except the columns are Carrera marble from Italy, and the glass chandeliers are Venetian glass from Murano, Italy, near Venice.
The craftsmanship is incredible, and it took 6sixyears to build with 3,000 workers on three shifts a day for 24-hour days total. Just think about that massive effort!
Downstairs is the Hammam, where ablutions are done to purify and ritually bathe before prayer. There is a private balcony for the king, the royal family, and official visitors. The mosque is partially over the ocean, and there are lookout points on the mosque grounds with some nice views.
This tour was amazing; my only complaint is the group size. There were at least 200 or more in the tour group, so it was difficult to hear the guide. Even so, it was still worth walking through the mosque.
It costs 130 DH ($12.50 USD) for the guided tour, which is the only way to enter the mosque if you are not Muslim. Tours are offered Saturday through Thursday at 9, 10, 11, 12, and 3 in English, Spanish, and French. On Fridays, they are not offered at 11 and noon, and during Ramadan, hours are different, so check the schedule online. In the summer, they are offered at four as well, from Saturday through Thursday.
You must remove your shoes but are given a small bag to carry them while on the tour. You do not need to cover your head, but as this is a religious place, you must cover your shoulders and knees. The tour lasts for around 45 minutes. The Hassan II Mosque is located at Blvd Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah, Casablanca 20450, Morocco.
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Next, go to the Corniche located on the water’s edge. It’s a long strip that offers a nice walk with a lot of restaurants overlooking the water and shops. If you’re interested in beaches in Casablanca, this is a great place to go.
There is also a picture of the King and his family (noticeably without his wife) with the Pope from early 2019. We didn’t choose to spend time here, but if you have more than one day, I would recommend checking out the restaurants and the public beach here.
The Moroccan mall is not far from the Corniche, the largest in Africa. We chose to skip stopping here, but you may find it interesting. Also, we drove through an area that our guide called the “Beverly Hills” of Casablanca, where the wealthy live. He said homes go for $1 million USD and more.
In this area, we saw Franklin Roosevelt Boulevard and a large building that is now a private villa but was once the Anfa Hotel. This is the place where the 1943 conference was where Roosevelt, Churchill, General Gaul from France, and Mohammed V of Morocco met after World War II.
The Corniche area is on Boulevarde de la Corniche. Boulevard Sidi Mohammad Ben Abdallah, where the Hassan II Mosque is located, turns into this road. There are some areas where you can lay in the sun and a beachfront area (both public and private) if you are so inclined. There is also a beautiful “renewed” area park where people ride horses and play football (soccer), as well as a surf school.
3. Hippodrome Casa-Anfa
We made a short stop at the Hippodrome, where there is horse racing, gambling, and golfing. There is also a large annual festival, Jazzablanca. Most people in this area, and in Morocco, are Islam, which prohibits drinking, gambling, and smoking. However, some people do choose to do these things, and of course, there are places where they are offered.
You can walk through and see the gates where the horses and riders anxiously wait before the race and the tracks they run on. It’s a quick stop but interesting to see.
Hippodrome Casa-Anfa is located at Rue Lice d’ANFA, Casablanca, Maroc، Morocco.
4. Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic Church
There are two Catholic churches in Casablanca, Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. Unfortunately, the beautiful Sacre Coeur was closed for construction when I went, so we did go to Notre Dame.
In my opinion, there is nothing very attractive about the outside of this church, and the inside is a bit of a bland concrete slab. The only redeeming quality is the stunning stained glass windows throughout the building.
I’m a historic architecture fan and typically love churches, but this one didn’t offer much for me to love. You may feel otherwise, so if you have the opportunity to visit, please do and let me know what you think.
There is no entry fee to visit Notre Dame, and it is located at the corner of Avenue Mers Sultan & Boulevard Mohammed Zerktouni.
5. Quartier Habous New Medina
Quartier Habous is the “new” market, or medina, built in the 1930s. It is a bit of a Westernized medina with wide and clean streets open to the sky.
Walking around was a surprisingly pleasant experience as none of the people engaged with us unless we paid attention to an item. Even then, they weren’t pushy at all. There were some nice souvenirs here and some nice quality items.
There are also a couple of nice mosques that you can look at on the outside only. The Royal Palace is nearby. However, visitors are not able to go inside for tours. Not unless the King invites you.
It’s still a beautiful building and worth taking a peek at. And you never know; the King is now reported to be single. 😉
The location for the new medina is on Boulevard Victor Hugo, Casablanca 20490, Morocco.
6. Mahkama du Pacha
Mahkama du Pacha (also known as Makhamat al-Pasha) was one of my favorite things to see, and it is just a minute’s walk from the new medina in Casablanca.
I had read that you couldn’t enter without a local guide. However, I did see a bit of conflicting information. Our guide had a tip ready in case it was needed, but it wasn’t.
This building was built to be the residence of the Governor and is now an administrative building housing the courthouse. Construction was carried out during World War II, though it was done with traditional methods.
It features some beautiful mosaics, intricate wood scrolling, and bright colors. It’s a beautiful building inside and worth visiting.
Makahma du Pacha is located at 12 Rue Moulay Ismail, Casablanca 20550, Morocco. It is open from 9 to 4.
7. Muhammad V Square
Next, we went to Muhammad V Square, named after the former king of Morocco. City Hall is here, along with a large Casablanca sign for taking pictures and gazillions of pigeons!
There are more pigeons than I have seen outside St. Mark’s in Venice and Plaza Bolívar in Bogotá. In fact, it’s locally known as “pigeon square.” Across the street is the interestingly beautiful and modern opera house, currently under construction. People were selling things in the square, and many people were walking around.
We were a bit underwhelmed, to be honest. I had read this was a destination to see, and there wasn’t much appeal beyond the Casablanca sign.
This was the first place where we saw the Water Men.
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The Water Men don long red robes and wear colorful big red hats. You can’t miss them and will find them in the main squares in Casablanca, Marrakesh, and other large cities.
Historically, they were water sellers. Their belief is that water is given by God to all, so they give it to thirsty people from their goatskin bags into bronze cups.
The color of the robes helps them be seen from afar. In return for the water, people gave them food. Now, the Water Men are purely for tourists. If you want to get a picture of them, be ready to hand over 10 DH or more.
I read an article that described them as looking like displaced mariachi, and I laughed out loud. But the description is so fitting!
8. Old Medina
Our last stop before a late lunch was to the old medina. We only spent a few minutes here since we walked through Quartier Habous and the new media. It’s very different as much of it is covered with fabric.
Where the new Medina has wide streets and is open air, this one feels a bit narrower and smaller in space. It’s a bit busier and more frenetic than the new medina as well and a very different experience.
9. Rick’s Cafe
I’ll admit I was a bit on the fence about going here. The restaurant inspired Rick’s Cafe in the film Casablanca, which, as I already mentioned, wasn’t even filmed in Casablanca.
It’s a re-creation built to honor the movie with an ambiance and feel similar to the restaurant in the famous movie. I grew up in Boston and never went to Cheers as it’s not the real Cheers but a re-creation, and yet, I was drawn to check out Rick’s.
I was glad I did! This place is amazing and it’s a top Casablanca restaurant. You are paying for the name, and it was not an inexpensive meal, but the food is incredible, the service very good, and the ambiance amazing.
You feel like you’re transported to another time when big band music played, and Louie Armstrong still sang with his horn. Sinatra and all of the old classics. It was a really lovely experience and a nice, comfortable way to end our tour.
It can be difficult to get a seat without reservations, but it is a bit easier off-hours (we went mid-afternoon). It’s worth trying to get a reservation here if you can to avoid a significant wait (or not being able to dine).
Rick’s Cafe is located at 248 Boulevard Sour Jdid, Casablanca 20250, Morocco.
How to Get Around Casablanca
There are several options for touring Casablanca, ranging from private tours, guided tours, and self-tours. I have included some useful information below that may help you to decide the best option for you.
Private Tour Guide
We decided to hire a tour guide as we were short on time. Though the main attractions of what to see in Casablanca are in a fairly central area, it likely would have taken more than one day to see everything. Plus, I like to learn more about the history and culture of the places I visit, so I enjoy walking tours.
We did decide to splurge and get a private guide to show us around Casablanca. We were glad we did so we could customize what we saw there. If you have a short period of time for a Casablanca city tour, this is a great option.
We booked our guide through the hotel and paid 800 Dirhams (around $75 USD) for around five hours. It ended up being a little more as we did get lunch towards the end, and he offered to wait for us and to bring us back to the hotel. This is higher priced than other options, but we thought it was worth the convenience and flexibility.
You can book him directly, and I highly recommend him. He let us completely customize our tour, was very informative and patient with my many questions, and we really enjoyed our time with him. We felt this was worth the money.
Our guide was Zouhir Wahbi (he goes by “Wahbi”) of Transport Touristique, email: [email protected] or 00 (212) 675 755 415. You won’t be disappointed, and we both felt this was money very well spent.
Many group tour options are available in Casablanca. There are several we were looking at on Get Your Guide that looked appealing, and this site has both private and group tours. There are also tours, including a visit to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, that I would have done had we had more time.
If you have more than a day, there are a lot of great day trips to take from Casablanca. Check these out, as they are some of the trips I wanted to take if I had more time!
Of course, you can also tour on your own. A tram serves the city, and you can also take taxis or walk. If you decide only to see a few things and aren’t very interested in history, this is a good option.
Uber is not available as of this writing, but the company hopes to get back into Morocco at some future point in time.
Where to Eat in Casablanca
There are many dining options in a city as large as Casablanca. The following are the restaurants that were near where I stayed that I can recommend.
In addition to Rick’s mentioned above, another restaurant I highly recommend is L’Etoile Centrale. It is beautiful inside, featuring traditional and quaint Moroccan design. The food was spectacular as well.
We got our first tagine of the country there, and it didn’t disappoint, along with couscous and pastilla, a traditional dish from Fez made of phyllo dough, chicken, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. It is both savory and sweet and delicious. We did get the spicy chicken version, which wasn’t overly spicy, but it was tasty.
The couscous was exceptional, including the sauce. Finish any meal with sweet mint tea, but ask for it to be unsweetened with sugar on the side unless you like very, very sweet tea.
Service was fairly good, though we found service overall in Morocco to be a bit slow to our standards. They tend to be more in line with France, where meals are enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
L’Etoile Centrale is located at 107 Boulevard Ben Abdellah, Casablanca 20000, Morocco.
Another dining option is in Marche Central or the Central Market. It’s only a couple of blocks from L’Etoile Centrale. It’s mostly a market for fish and produce, but they have a number of restaurants to choose from as well.
We didn’t eat here but walked through, and the servers were quite eager for us to dine. It was an interesting experience to walk through to see how the locals shop, and the price points seemed to be a bit lower than the other restaurants we were in.
Restaurant Les Fleurs
We ate at this restaurant the night I met up with the group I toured Morocco with. I didn’t love my meal, but the other people I went with did enjoy theirs.
I got a Moroccan soup called harira. It’s a tomato-based soup with pasta, lentils, and chickpeas. I found it to have little taste, and I dumped a large amount of salt in it for it to be palatable. The rest of the group got tagines and other dishes, and they did enjoy their dinners.
Before you write off harira, I did have it at another restaurant later on in my trip, and it was very good. Harira is a traditional dish eaten during the period of Ramadan when people fast from sun up to sundown. In the evening, after sundown, they eat a small meal, often a bowl of harira.
Best Hotels in Casablanca
In a city as large as Casablanca, you can be sure there are a lot of great hotels available. The area that we stayed in was safe and convenient for walking around, so I’d recommend it.
We stayed at the Moroccan House Hotel located at 04 Boulevard Mohamed Smiha, Casablanca 20000, Morocco. It was a good tourist-class and local-style hotel that was low-cost. The area is convenient to some good restaurants and was safe to walk around.
How to Get to Casablanca
Casablanca and most major cities in Morocco are served by trains and buses. This page has information about the train and bus lines and links to schedules that will be helpful. An international airport, Mohammed V International Airport, also serves Casablanca.
Airport in Casablanca
If you fly into Casablanca, you will likely go through Mohammed V International Airport, airport code CMN. It’s an older airport, and the passport control was not terribly efficient, but nothing really stands out about it to me. I was in a bit of a jet-lagged haze, stumbling through, and it was thankfully easy enough to navigate.
When you walk out to the baggage area, you will see some taxi drivers, depending on the time of day, and just outside the doors, there is a massive cluster of people driving them or waiting for them. It’s around a 30-minute drive from downtown Casablanca.
I’ll admit that I was a bit confused about the currency. According to xe.com, the source I use for currency conversion, Morocco, uses Moroccan Dirham (MAD).
However, when you see prices in the country, it is typically shown as “DH,” and the locals simply call it “dirham.” You will notice that I show the costs above as “DH” and not “MAD,” and that’s why.
What to See in Casablanca in One Day
Ahh, Casablanca. I had read that there isn’t much to do there so when I found the same, I wasn’t disappointed. There was more to do there than I expected.
It is a pretty modern city and easy to get around, so it’s a nice intro to Morocco, and I think it’s worth a quick stop. There aren’t a lot of things to see in Casablanca for a city of its size. However, it’s worth visiting, and this article included what to do in Casablanca, whether you have a day or more.
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