Casablanca is the biggest city in Morocco, yet many people simply pass right by it when visiting this Northern African nation. This is because it is often referred to as nothing more than a concrete jungle, and many people opt to head directly to other cities like Marrakech, Rabat, and Fes. At most, visitors decide to fly into Casablanca, spend one night there, and head to another city the next day.
While there are good reasons to do this, I think that this question deserves a little bit of looking into. Should you spend more than one day in Casablanca? Is Casablanca worth visiting? After all, Casablanca didn’t even make the top five on our list of the best cities to visit in Morocco. This post is going to dive into these questions, and provide a few reasons why there is more to Casablanca than just concrete. More specifically, this post is going to cover the best things to do in Casablanca, how to get there, how to get around, safety, and more. While this post won’t cover what to wear when visiting Casablanca, I did write a whole post on what to wear in Morocco that I recommend reading before your trip.
Is Casablanca Safe to Visit?
Morocco is usually the first country that westerners visit in the Arab World, and this is largely due to its level of familiarity. Morocco kind of bridges the gap between European and Middle Eastern culture and influence, and it truly does make for a great first Arab country to visit. In truth, Morocco is unique in and of itself, and while there are components of both European and Arab cultures in Morocco, it has developed a culture of its own over its 1000 years of existence. Personally, I think that Morocco’s culture is much more similar to the cultures of Middle Eastern countries, but it is still very unique in and of itself.
Regardless, my point is that if this is your first time visiting an Arab country, you are likely to be apprehensive. As an American, I heard plenty of stories of terrorism, violence, and crime associated with “the Middle East,” and even I was a bit apprehensive about visiting Morocco for the first time. Well, there are several things wrong with that fear, but I think the most important one to note is that Morocco isn’t even in the Middle East. Morocco is as far from the Middle East as New York City is from Mexico City, or London is from Istanbul. Italy and Greece are both closer.
Morocco is a very safe country to visit. There are few threats of violence here, and I would argue that there is no more threat of violence here than there is in Western Europe or the United States. While you want to take caution in any new place that you travel, there is no need for any different level of caution than you would have in Paris or Rome. Personally, in all of my experiences in the Arab World, I have felt just as safe as I would in Europe. This includes cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Muscat.
Casablanca is not the safest city in Morocco. As it is the largest, it also has the most criminals. You’ll find this anywhere, though. There are very few threats of violent crime here, as the most common types of crime you could run into are pickpocketing and scamming. Pickpocketing is a real issue, and you should never keep things in your back pockets. Especially with the close nature of the markets, having a phone or wallet disappear is very easy if you aren’t careful. However, as long as you are careful and keep an eye on your things, there is very little threat to you in Casablanca.
Best Things to Do in Casablanca, Morocco
1. Take a Tour of the Hassan II Mosque
The Hassan II Mosque is the highlight of Casablanca, and I don’t think anything else is even close. This grand mosque is one of the biggest in the world, and is the second-biggest mosque in all of Africa. The architecture is an absolute marvel, and the interior decor is stunningly beautiful. Visitors can take a 45-minute guided tour for 130 dirhams, which is currently about $12 (November 2022). Note that if you want to enter the mosque, you do not need to be a practicing Muslim, but you do need to follow the mosque’s rules. These include no use of cell phones or video recording devices, as well as the mandatory covering of knees and arms. There is no need to wear a head-covering, and shoes must be left at the designated place near the entrance. For more information on tour times and current prices, be sure to visit the mosque’s website directly.
2. Visit the Museum of Moroccan Judaism
Morocco is a majority Muslim country. The religious split between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism isn’t even close. In fact, the country is 99% Sunni Muslim. However, Morocco prides itself as being an extremely religiously tolerant nation, having proud Jewish and Christian populations scattered throughout the country. While Jews and Christians only comprise about 1% of Morocco’s population, they have still been allowed more or less to freely practice their faiths for over a millennium. In fact, many tour guides will point out the three ball design that traditionally tops mosque minarets in Morocco, as it symbolizes unity between the three major monotheistic faiths of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
Jewish people have been living in these lands for over 2,000 years and have contributed significantly to what has become the modern country of Morocco. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism is a testament to that, and aims to preserve and share the history and role of Jewish people in Morocco. For more information on tickets and hours of operation, check out the Museum of Moroccan Judaism’s website.
3. Grab a Drink at Rick’s Cafe
While Casablanca is famous for more reasons than just one, the 1942 movie that shares its name definitely helped to put it on the map. This movie was a massive success, and it threw a lot of attention and publicity Morocco’s way. Nowadays, I think one of the best things to do in Casablanca is to visit Rick’s Cafe, which is very reminiscent of the cafe that the movie centers around.
While finding alcohol can be a hard task in Morocco, Rick’s Cafe is one place where you can definitely sit down and have a drink. There is also frequently live entertainment here, making an evening stop for a beer at Rick’s cafe one of the best things to do in Casablanca.
4. Go Shopping in the Markets of the Habous Quarter
Morocco is known around the world for its bustling markets. I mentioned in my Marrakech travel guide that the souks, or markets in the city are some of the best places to visit. The same is true in Casablanca, except that the vibe is a little different. While locals do go to the markets in both cities, Marrakech’s souks are very geared towards tourism. The merchants tend to speak very good English, and they are used to jacking up the prices for tourists.
I’m not saying that the merchants in Casablanca won’t do this, but they certainly deal more with locals than the souks of Marrakech do. The Habous Quarter, or the New Medina, is filled with local artisans of all kinds who are looking to peddle their wares. I bought a leather bag here, and it has held up for years. From Moroccan rugs to spices and perfumes, the Habous Quarter has it all. Just be sure to follow my tips for haggling in Morocco, as the first price is normally at least twice what you should pay.
5. Spend an Evening in the Mohammed V Square
The Mohammed V Square, or Place Mohammed V in French, is the main square of Casablanca. This square is surrounded by administrative buildings, and is located right in the heart of the city. While there are people here all day long, I think that the best time to hang out here is in the evening when it really starts to get crowded. This place gets very lively in the evenings, and you’ll see all kinds of interesting things happening here depending on the day.
From vendors setting up shop to people hanging out and playing games, this is a great place to go and witness Moroccan people just living their lives. This square is very close to the Arab League Park, which is the main green space of Casablanca. I think just sitting here for an hour or two and going for a stroll through the park on a weekday evening is actually one of the best things to do in Casablanca.
6. Admire the Cathedrale Sacre-Coeur
As I mentioned earlier, Morocco is 99% Sunni Muslim, but that doesn’t mean the city’s only beautiful places of worship are mosques! The Cathedrale Sacre-Coeur is the Catholic cathedral of Casablanca, and it is stunning. While it has been more or less out of service since the Catholic French occupation ended in the 1950’s, it is still a sight to behold. The interior is beautiful, and the view of the city from the spires is what really makes visiting the Cathedrale Sacre-Coeur one of the best things to do in Casablanca. There is a fee to climb the stairs, but it is minimal and worth every dirham!
How to Get to Casablanca
Flying into Casablanca is extremely straightforward, as Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport (CMN) is the biggest and busiest in Morocco. I mention in my post on finding cheap airfare that typically, bigger airports offer better flight options. This is true for Casablanca! This airport usually has the best flight options of any airport in Morocco, meaning convenient flight routes and often cheaper airfare. There are even several direct flights from the United States to Casablanca. The airport is located about 40 minutes outside of the city center, and you can get from the airport to the city center by either taxi or train.
Airport to Hotel
- If you ask me, the best way to get from the Casablanca airport to your hotel is by booking a private transfer with our partners at Welcome Pickups. Welcome Pickups offers personalized, private, comfortable rides from the airport into the city for about the same price as a standard taxi. They monitor your flight status while you are in the air, and a driver will be waiting for you holding a sign with your name on it as soon as you arrive.
- Otherwise, I highly recommend the train, as it is safe, efficient, and a fraction of the cost of a taxi. The taxis operate under a flat rate from the airport to the city center, which is currently between 250-300 dirhams, or around $30. The train departs every hour from the early morning until about 10:00pm, and the fare is 42 dirhams, or roughly $3. Tickets can be purchased directly in the airport station. If you want to go to the city center, it is usually best to get off at the Casa Port Station.
If you are coming from another city in Morocco, there are two main ways to get to Casablanca: again, taxis and trains. If you are taking a taxi, it will likely drop you off right at your accommodation. If you are taking a train, it will probably drop you off at the Casa Voyageurs Station, which is a bit outside of the city. From there, you can either taxi to your accommodation or take another train to Casa Port Station.
How to Get Around Casablanca
TRAM | TAXI | BUS | TRAIN | UBER
The city is served by taxis, trams, trains, buses, and even Uber. I found that the most convenient ways to get around were by tram and Uber. I am often wary of taxis, but I did take a couple in Casablanca and found them to be safe and trustworthy. As with anywhere, be sure the driver either uses the meter or agrees to a price before your journey begins. I still prefer Uber, though, because I think it is one of the safest forms of car transportation that exists, due to its GPS tracking. For more information on getting around in Casablanca, check out this great and detailed post on TripSavvy.
The Best Time to Visit Casablanca
Casablanca has surprisingly great weather all year. Despite being located in a country that houses part of the Sahara Desert, Casablanca’s weather is pretty beautiful for the majority of the year. The winter months see more rain than others, but temperatures tend to stay in the higher 50’s or lower 60’s. In the hottest months of the year, the temperatures normally cap out at 90 degrees, which is really tolerable all things considered. I think that the best time to visit Casablanca is in the spring, when the temperatures are beautiful, the rainier months have ended, and the crowds of tourists are still at home.
Another great time to visit Casablanca, if you want a more cultural experience, is during the holy month of Ramadan. This frequently occurs in the spring, which ties in beautifully with what I mentioned above. While Morocco has a very different feel during Ramadan than it does during other months, there is a lot of beauty on display during this month, which is the holiest month of the year for Muslims. If you are curious about visiting Morocco during Ramadan, be sure to read my post on traveling to Muslim countries during Ramadan to have a better understanding of what to expect.
Is Casablanca Worth Visiting?
Now, the central question of this post: is Casablanca worth visiting? And if so, how long should you visit Casablanca? Let me unpack this a little bit. Firstly, Casablanca is absolutely worth visiting, and I would never recommend skipping it. To me, Casablanca is kind of like New York City, in that it is a metropolitan center with a lot of concrete and industrial areas, but that doesn’t make it a bad place to visit. Just like New York City has plenty of great things for tourists to do, so does Casablanca. You should absolutely visit Casablanca on any trip to Morocco.
With that being said, the amount of time that you should spend there varies. If you have the time, I recommend spending two or three days in Casablanca. While you could cycle through most of the top things to do in Casablanca in a day, I think that giving yourself a little bit of extra time is a good idea. There are beautiful areas by the beach that make for great day trips, and hustling through the city in just one day really doesn’t do it justice.
If you are operating on a tighter itinerary, I recommend that you allow at least one full day to explore Casablanca. If you are arriving at night, I recommend spending that night plus one more in Casablanca before leaving. If you are arriving in the morning, Maybe consider taking a later train or taxi to your next city the next day. Casablanca, in my opinion, should be a destination in and of itself on your itinerary and not just a place that you pass through on your way to Marrakech or Fes.
That’s all we have for you about Casablanca! Hopefully this post is helpful as you start planning your journey to Morocco’s biggest city. If you were wondering “Is Casablanca worth visiting?” I hope that this post has helped answer your questions!
If you’re planning a trip to Casablanca, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!