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11 Awesome Things to Do in Tangier Morocco Near the Cruise Port

11 Awesome Things to Do in Tangier Morocco Near the Cruise Port

Are you taking a day trip to Tangier by cruise ship or ferry? Here are eleven awesome things to do in Tangier, Morocco!

Whether you call it Tangier or Tanger (some people even call it Tangiers), this lovely port city at the northern tip of Morocco has so much to offer.

The city of Tangier is a great place to get a taste of North Africa, so unsurprisingly it’s an incredibly popular tourist destination. You can reach Tangier Ville port, just steps from the lively city, via cruise ship or a short ferry trip from Tarifa, Spain.

Located on the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, the Moroccan city has long been a haven for artists and writers due to its fascinating mix of cultures.

Even if you only have the chance to see Tangier on a day trip or weekend city break, you can absolutely fit in lots of the must-dos in Tangier during your visit.

Find out all about the best things to do in Tangier within walking distance of the ferry and cruise port!

1. Explore the Caves of Hercules

Not far from Tanger Ville port by taxi or bus are the fabled Caves of Hercules, where ancient Greek and Roman mythology said the hero slept before embarking on his quest to steal golden apples from the nearby Hesperides Garden.

The caves are partly natural and partly man-made, formed via erosion as well as from human excavation. Archaeologists believe that the Phoenicians created the keyhole opening that faces the sea, known as the “Map of Africa” due to its shape.

Peering out at the ocean through the “Map of Africa” from inside the Caves of Hercules

Berber tribespeople also opened up parts of the cave complex in more modern times, cutting into the rock walls and ceilings to make millstones.

The Hercules Caves have been a popular tourist attraction in Tangier since they opened to the public in the 1920s. In 1952, the Moroccan government declared the caves a National Heritage site.

2. Sip a glass of traditional Moroccan mint tea

Made from green tea, fresh mint leaves, and copious amounts of sugar, mint tea is the national drink of Morocco. You’ll see it everywhere in Tangier, and you need to try it (even if you’re not usually a tea drinker).

A glass of hot Moroccan mint tea at my favorite tea spot in Tangier

You can order mint tea at practically every restaurant. In fact, if you just order “tea”, this is what you’ll get! If your server pours your tea at the table, don’t be surprised if they hold the teapot up super-high. It’s considered a sign of welcome and respect!

Tip: If you don’t like your tea to be overwhelmingly sugary, just ask for it to be made with less sugar. They won’t be offended! Many waiters actually asked me if I wanted my mint tea less sugary before I had a chance to request it.

3. Visit the American Legation Museum

If you’re visiting Tangier from the United States, you won’t want to miss spending an hour or two at the gorgeous American Legation Museum. It’s the only US National Historic Landmark located in a foreign country!

Ties between the US and Morocco go way back, as Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah recognized American independence from Great Britain on December 20, 1777. Morocco was the very first country to do this.

The inside of the American Legation Museum features a mix of Moroccan, European, and US influences

The building that now houses the museum was given by the sultan to the US government as a diplomatic post, and that’s how it was used for the next 140 years. Since 1976, the building has served as a cultural center, museum, and research library.

The American Legation Museum features several stories full of artwork, furnishings, and memorabilia focusing on the history and ties between the two countries. There’s also a fascinating exhibit on the American expat writer and composer Paul Bowles, who lived in Tangier for over 50 years.

Read more: Visiting the American Legation Museum in Tangier Morocco

4. Relax on the beach

Tangier offers some beautiful beaches, and Tangier Beach (known locally as Plage Municipale) is within walking distance of the cruise and ferry port. A 25-minute stroll along the waterfront will land you at a gorgeous stretch of sand with views across the water to the southern coast of Spain!

Relaxing on the beach and watching the horseback riders at Plage Municipale

In the summer, Tangier Beach is hopping with activity. But it’s large enough to not feel crowded, even with lots of local families, teens, and tourists enjoying a day on the shore. This area also features lots of restaurants, beach clubs, shops, and nightlife right by the beach.

In the off-season, the beach is far more sedate—the beach clubs and many of the restaurants close for the winter. But Plage Municipale is still a great place to relax in the sand, or even to enjoy a horseback or camel ride by the water!

Tip: Although it’s a good idea to dress conservatively while walking around Tangier, you can absolutely wear a swimsuit on the beach! Consider choosing a style with a bit more coverage, and pack a swim cover-up for beach strolling.

5. Sample the best couscous

If you love Moroccan food, you’re in for a treat in Tangier. Not only will you find excellent tagines (the delicious stew made in a conical-lidded pot) all around the city, but the couscous is also to-die-for.

But the very best couscous I found in Tangier was at the tiny, nondescript Restaurant Ahlen. Located across from the Hotel Mamora Bay at the entrance to the Old Medina of Tangier, the restaurant features a shockingly inexpensive menu of French and Moroccan fare.

The best lamb couscous I’ve ever had was from Restaurant Ahlen – for only 80 dirhams ($7.49 US)!

You can choose from couscous with lamb, beef, chicken, or a veggie version. Each features a generous portion of delicately spiced couscous, root veggies, and golden raisins. Your meal also includes an appetizer of fresh crusty bread, cheese, and olives, and finishes with a tasty Moroccan pastry. Bring your appetite!

Tip: In Morocco, families traditionally gather on Fridays to pray together and enjoy a meal of couscous. So if you visit Tangier on a Friday, it’s a great time to savor this favorite Moroccan dish!

6. Snag a bargain at the souks

Tangier is famous for its souks or open-air marketplaces, and you can find just about any Moroccan souvenir your heart desires with just a bit of searching.

The city features two main souks: the Petit Socco and the Grand Socco. I found that the area around Place Petit Socco tends to be super touristy (especially when cruise ships are in port). But wander through the twisty streets and you’ll soon find where the locals shop. With some luck and negotiation skills you can score amazing bargains.

You can haggle for bargain leather goods at Tangier’s souks

With offerings at the souks ranging from leather goods to spices, pretty cooking tagines to rugs, you might want to pack an extra suitcase to tote home all of your treasures!

Prices generally aren’t marked, so when you ask the vendor the cost of an item that’s the starting point. A bit of friendly haggling is expected, but don’t start the process if you don’t really want to buy!

Tip: I’ve had excellent luck negotiating in Tangier’s souks by buying multiple items from a single vendor. Speaking the language (either Arabic or French) helps a lot too!

7. Ride a camel

Tangier is located hundreds of miles from the desert, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have plenty of opportunity to ride a camel during your visit!

Your best bet to find a camel-riding experience is by heading out to the beach. Both Plage Municipale near Tanger Ville port and Achakkar Beach (on the Atlantic coast between Cap Spartel and the Caves of Hercules) offer short camel experiences for a very reasonable fee.

With Nadia (my new camel friend) at Achakkar Beach

I paid 100 dirhams (about $9 US) for a 10-minute sunset ride at Achakkar Beach. If you’ve never sat atop a camel before, it’s much less scary (and a lot more comfortable) than it might look!

8. Try some fresh-pressed pomegranate juice

Morocco grows a lot of pomegranates, and a tall glass of freshly-pressed pomegranate juice is one of the yummiest treats to enjoy in Tangier. You know it’s fresh when they hand-press it right in front of you!

Fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice is only 20 dirhams ($1.87 US) at Abdul Rahim’s juice stand

My favorite place to enjoy fresh pomegranate juice in Tangier is at a tiny juice stand with café-style seating on Bab Dar Dbagh. The friendly owner, Abdul Rahim, has been welcoming guests from around the world for over a decade with a smile and conversation—he speaks Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and even Japanese!

9. Ride the HOHO bus around the city

Starting its route right at Tanger Ville port, Tangier’s hop-on-hop-off bus (or HOHO for short) is the easiest way to get a taste of the city. Plus, the cost of tickets is far less expensive than HOHO buses in many other cities.

The hop-on-hop-off buses in Tangier offer two routes included in your ticket: a historic tour that shows you the heart of the city in an hour-long loop, and an Espartel tour exploring the outskirts including the Caves of Hercules and the beautiful Cap Spartel.

The HOHO bus is the best way to get a good overview of the city in just an hour

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Whether you choose to use the HOHO bus simply as a guided tour (you can listen to a fascinating narration in your choice of eight languages) or as a means of getting around Tangier, it’s a great budget alternative to pricey shore excursions in port.

Tip: Buy your HOHO bus tickets online. When I visited, the employees at the ticket kiosk told all of the walkup passengers that there wasn’t room for them on any of the buses departing that morning. But they always set aside space for online ticketholders, so I was able to hop on the first bus of the day!

10. Sample some Moroccan wine

You might not think of Morocco as being a hot spot for wine, especially as the predominantly-Muslim country bans its citizens from drinking alcohol in public. But Morocco makes some excellent wines, and visitors to the country are exempt from the ban.

Although most restaurants in Tangier don’t serve alcohol at all, some do (just check the menu before going in or ask the staff). You may have a rare chance to sample some Moroccan wine!

The country produces about 40 million bottles of wine annually, but only about 5 percent of that is exported.

Yes, you can drink local wine in Morocco! I enjoyed this bottle with friends while dining alfresco on the Plaza Espana.

Winemaking began here during Phoenician times, but the tradition was lost during the 7th century due to religious bans on alcohol. Colonization by the French brought wineries back, and by the early 1950s Morocco was one of the world’s largest wine exporters.

Once the country gained independence in 1956, the vineyards were again abandoned, but the industry began another resurgence in the ’90s. Today you’ll mainly find local red wines in Morocco—Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are the most popular. But the country also produces whites, rosés, and Vin Gris.

Tip: Want to bring some Moroccan wine home with you? Some larger supermarkets in Tangier, including Carrefour, do sell bottles of wine. But you might have to ask an employee to find it!

11. Watch the sunset at Cap Spartel

Cap Spartel (or Cape Spartel in English) is the most northwestern point in mainland Africa. Not far from the Caves of Hercules, this beautiful spot where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean is known as one of the best places to watch the sunset in Tangier.

The sunset from Cap Spartel

If you visit, plan to spend at least 30 minutes touring the small museum in the historic 1864 lighthouse, the oldest in Morocco, perched high on a cliff. Climb its spiral staircase to the observation deck to enjoy unmatched views of the rugged coastline and far out to sea.

Watch the sun set over the water right from this lofty viewpoint, or head over to Achakkar Beach just down the coast to enjoy the sunset with your toes in the sand.

The sunset from Achakkar Beach

Top-rated shore excursions and guided tours in Tangier

Although you can easily see a lot of Tangier’s highlights by walking around from Tanger Ville port (or by taking a taxi or bus), you might want to maximize your time by joining a tour group or hiring a private guide.

Here are some of the top-rated tours of Tangier that start right at or near the port:

My quick tips for spending an amazing day in Tangier

  • Brush up on your French! Even if you don’t speak Arabic, you can get around Tangier just fine with basic French. Don’t expect everyone to speak English.
  • Wear comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes for the city’s uneven, hilly streets.
  • Take the local currency (Moroccan dirhams) in smaller bills. Many vendors and restaurants are cash-only.
  • Watch for scams! Most Moroccans are very friendly and welcoming to tourists, but just like in any city there will be some scammers.
  • Leave valuable jewelry at home (or in a safe) to avoid being a target.
  • Avoid drinking the tap water in Tangier (including ice) to prevent tummy troubles.
  • Choose your clothing to respect the local culture. Avoid clothes that are short, low-cut, strappy, or show too much skin.

Have you visited Tangier, Morocco? What were your favorite things to do in Tangier? Let me know in the comments below!

Carrie Ann Karstunen