The Moroccan town of Casablanca is so much more than just the setting for one of the greatest romantic films of all time. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco, and here you’ll find an interesting blend of the old and the new. While not as popular among tourists as Moroccan towns like Marrakesh and Fez, Casablanca still has plenty of fascinating history, beautiful architecture and rich culture to offer visitors.
So when I recently had the chance to take an impromptu trip to Casablanca, I took it. Within minutes, I had booked a great last-minute hotel in Casablanca through HotelTonight’s website, and I was ready to experience all that this iconic Moroccan town had to offer.
Like most other Moroccan cities, Casablanca’s historic old city district is like a labyrinth, with winding alleys filled with tradesmen and artisans. You will likely get lost as you wander through the hectic streets of the old medina (I certainly did), but that’s one of the reasons why I loved this old neighborhood so much. The chaos and energy of the souks and the alleyways presented an authentic snapshot into Moroccan daily life. By simply walking through the old medina, you will be able to feel Casablanca’s heartbeat. After you find your way out of the medina, head north to visit the exquisite Hassan II mosque, the second largest mosque in the entire world. This enormous mosque can accommodate 25,000 worshipers, plus another 80,000 in the courtyard. Even if you’re not Muslim, you can still witness the beauty and opulence of this mosque on a guided tour.
If you head west of the Hassan II mosque, you will end up with your toes in the Atlantic Ocean. If you want to spend some time basking in sunshine and luxury during your stay in Casablanca, you should certainly visit La Corniche, a beachfront district located in the high-end Ain Diab suburb. This beachfront community is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and you may even rub elbows with Morocco’s elite while here. La Corniche is home to many luxury hotels and restaurants, after all. There’s also a much more relaxed side to La Corniche, with a beachfront promenade that offers cheap eats and an easygoing beach vibe.
Casablanca’s rich history can be found all over the city, but you can also find an exciting modern atmosphere in this Moroccan town. If you venture into the Maarif district, for instance, you will find tall, modern buildings and long avenues filled with great shops and restaurants. Located in the heart of Casablanca, this commercial center provides a glimpse into what life is like for many locals today. While the Maarif doesn’t boast the charm and beauty that you might associate with Casablanca, it’s still an interesting area to visit if you want to see the more modern side of Morocco.
Even if you’ve visited the old medina, you should still wander through the city’s new medina, if not for the souks, at least for the beautiful architecture. The new medina is located in the Habous neighborhood, and you are much less likely to get lost or overwhelmed in the new medina than the old medina. The French colonial authorities began construction on the new medina in the 1920s, and today it’s considered a type of open-air museum where you can admire traditional Maghribian art. And, of course, it’s a great place to find some good bargains. I didn’t notice much of a difference between the prices at the old medina versus the prices at the new medina, so feel free to bargain hunt at whichever medina you choose.
By the end of my stay in Casablanca, I had an itch to get outside of the city limits and explore some of the surrounding Moroccan towns. Some locals recommended that I check out Mohammedia, a charming, quiet seaside city just 30 minutes outside of Casablanca. This sleepy town is a great place to relax and unwind after a hectic morning haggling in the souks or navigating the confusing old medina. Spending the afternoon in Mohammedia was the perfect end to my exciting stay in Casablanca.
As I checked out of my hotel and got ready to leave Casablanca, I realized that Casablanca is one of the most eclectic cities I’ve visited in the Arab world. Casablanca offers plenty of Old World character and charm, but it’s also home to an exciting modern energy that I found infectious. While I certainly didn’t get to see everything I would have liked to see in Casablanca during my brief visit, I did feel that I got a great sense of the culture and unique energy of this city. If I decide to return to Casablanca in the future, I’ll definitely rely on HotelTonight to help me find a great last-minute hotel in this beautiful Moroccan town.