Architecture • Shopping • Nightlife

Best time to visit

September to June
Jazzablanca music festival in April


In the ever-growing Casablanca, the traveller wanders and reads the story of Modernity. Built around an imaginative plan from the early 20th century, Casablanca (Dar beida in local Arabic) rapidly rose as Morocco’s economic capital. The thriving port attracted industry, entrepreneurs, and France’s most innovative architects. Walking down its streets brings rewards to an acute observer. It’s an open-air museum where a variety of avant-garde urban movements are on display, assembled as a unique patchwork.

Starting your walk at the Parc de la Ligue Arabe takes you back to 1917, the year construction started on this first remarkable site of the new urban masterplan. Two key venues of Casablanca’s burgeoning art scene and Art Deco masterpieces are close to the Parc: the Villa des Arts, a contemporary art foundation, and the Musée de Fondation Abderrahman Slaoui, with its beautiful collection of Moroccan crafts and colonial travel posters. Strolling through the park, you can visit the old Eglise du Sacré Coeur, now a centre for exhibitions, and walk up the stairs of the church to a magnificent city panorama. Only a few blocks away, the boutique Hôtel Le Doge welcomes travelers to a sumptuous Art Deco hôtel particulier.

Ongoing construction works surrounding the Park give you a sneak peek at the future Casablanca, where we’ll see a refurbished Parc and a majestic Grand Theater. Continuing on, the adjacent Mohammed V square is composed of monumental city administration buildings, with the prefecture, tribunal, post office and central bank, all built in the early 20th century. Walking down Boulevard Hassan 2 to the Place des Nations-Unies, the wanderer reaches the crossroad of the medina (old city) and Boulevard Mohammed V. The once-neglected artery of city life has been restored to its former glory and its edifices harmoniously painted in white. At the Marché central, locals gather to buy fresh fish and eat it on the grill while stallholders busily shout to catch the attention of passersby. The walk continues west to the hidden secrets of the old medina. In the opposite direction, you reach the quiet Habbous quarter, built by the old French colonials for the Muslim population in accordance with modernist principles.

It’s hard to explore Casablanca without thinking of the eponymous Bergman-Bogart classic film (despite the movie being fully shot in Hollywood studios). An American expat created a real-life Rick’s Café on a boulevard facing the port, where the atmosphere of the 1940s nightclubs and gambling dens still lingers. With jazz music tinkling in the background, it’s a relaxing place, where it’s easy to recall the beauty seen on the day’s journey.


Learn more

• New York Times, 36 hours in Casablanca
• Architectural Digest, Where to Visit in Casablanca
• The Culture Trip, Top 10 things to do in Casablanca


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