10 alternative things to do in Tangier
1) Check out a film:
Tangier has a few grand art deco cinemas – the most famous being the Cinema Rif in Grande Socco. The films shown here are typically in French/Arabic and showcase both mainstream and indie movies. Next door, you have a cafe that attracts the cities bohemian crowd.
My recommendation is to visit the Cinema Mauritania which is off the tourist radar and not mentioned in any of the guides.
Cinema Mauritania it is equally as spectacular and grand as the Rif but hasn’t been renovated in years and is all the more better for it. Bollywood movies are it’s pièce de résistance (moroccans love bollywood movies, allegedy every person knows at least 100 words of hindi!). These movies are surprisingly entertaining, they go on for hours and are full of dance and action. You don’t need to sit from start to finish or even know how to speak hindi/read arabic. If the cinema is open – just go in for the experience. The price is cheap. Tip: avoid the toilets if you can!
2) Eat some Tapas
Nearly every bar (tapas or elsewhere) serves some kind of food or nibbles when you order a drink. Unlike some bars in Spain where the tapas is sitting around all day, the tapas in Tangier is normally fresh and of good quality. On one evening, I had liver and onions, artichokes, cheese, melon, olives, anchovies, paella, lentils, meatballs, fried fish and salad. My understanding is to have at least 2 drinks in a venue and I also leave a small tip. This should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Tangier and of course, you don’t have to order alcohol if you don’t drink.
3) Visit the Sunday markets
Just outside St Andrews’s church (which is worth visiting but well reported elsewhere), women from the Rif Mountains come to sale their fresh market produce every Sunday and Thursday. The colour and atmosphere is spectacular.
4) Street art in Asilah
OK, so it’s not Tangier but it’s very close and easily commutable. it is definitely something you need to include on your ‘things to do in Tangier list’. You can get a grand taxi or travel by train with frequent journeys departing from Tanger train station. Just ask at the ticket desk for the next train and the return legs. The town is about 2km from the station – try and flag down a petit taxi dropping off passengers.
Asilah is a lush and calm town awash with white and blue.
It has amazing street art and has some excellent shopping opportunities that have less hustle and bustle compared to some other cities. Try and get their early – which is when the town as it’s best. The medina will be eerily quiet and fully of vibrant light on a good weather day (which is most of the year). Later on, it can become more busy with tourists but nothing like Essaouira.
5) Visit a gallery
Tangier has long been an artistic hub with world famous artists being attracted by the cities energy and light. In the spirit of this, try to check out a gallery or art exhibition. There’s a few options on Rue de La Liberté, leaidng the the grande socco. if it’s open, the L’Institut français du Maroc usually has good cultural and artistic exhibitions.
6) Bric a brac market
Shopping is at the top of most peoples lists of things to do in Tangier. For eclectic and unique gifts for your friends back home, visit the flea market. This shopping method offers an excellent alternative to the touristiy shops in the casbah. Be prepared with a little french or ask in arabic “bi kam” and point to the item. A calculator or pen and paper will help identify the price and negotiate. I visited on a sunday and it lines the street immediately uphill from the mosque in the grande socco.
7) Listen to some live Chaabi music
Everyone knows about the Gran Cafe de Paris, right? But did you know in the evenings, upstairs that building has live music? It is accessible around the side (don’t go in the front of the cafe) and was open on a Sunday night. I didn’t see one tourist and the atmosphere was fantastic.
8) Visit one of the world’s smallest bars – the Hole in the Wall Bar
It’s a bit rough and ready (single females may feel a little uncomfortable) but I reckon this must be one of the smallest bars in the world. You can find it walking down Avenue Prince Heritier near, on the opposite side of Cinema Mauritania. It’s not sign posted – just look out for the salon doors!
9) Watch a football match on TV with the locals
Inside the male dominated coffee shops, football is nearly always on in the evenings and it can be a great opportunity to sit back and soak up the atmosphere. On big Spanish matches, like Barcelona v Real Madrid – it seems like EVERYONE is watching this. If you happen to visit on one of these dates, it should definitely be something you consider on your things to do in Tangier list. After the game (especially if Barcelona win) the city goes crazy! Flares are lit, local youths take the cars and drive around the streets sounding their horns and chanting. Unmissable.
10) Buy some perfume from Madinis
Another tangier institution. This family are originally from Saudi Arabia – a country with an amazing history and culture of scents. They moved to Tangier many years ago, to supply perfume to the cities wealthy and extravagant clientele and have built their reputation ever since. Boulevard Pasteur now has a number of perfume shops, offering famous scents at a local rate.
This is not a definite list of things to do in Tangier but I hope it gives you some ideas which I hope to add to over time.