Casablanca is a wonderful place to spend a Moroccan vacation. The city may be famous for the 1942 film, but don't expect dive bars and shoot-outs in modern Casablanca, although there's plenty of glamor to be found in its restaurants, clubs, and cultural venues.
Today's Casablanca is Morocco's largest city and a thriving industrial area. However, although it's dazzlingly modern, there are plenty of ancient mosques and bazaars to explore as well. It's the kind of city where you can laze around on Plage Ain Diab, visit one of the world's largest mosques, before dining in style on the Corniche, watching the Atlantic waves crash into the rocks.
Casablanca is a beautiful city, a beach destination, and a cultural hotspot all rolled into one.
Casablanca sits on the Atlantic Coast and has a warm, sunny climate that makes locals and tourists alike gravitate towards beaches like Ain Diab. You can swim, or even surf along the strand, which doubles up as Casablanca's most vibrant nightlife area when the sun goes down. If you want concerts, museums, galleries, and shopping, the rest of the city is happy to oblige.
Casablanca has been around for 3,000 years, and it has the historical monuments to prove it. Visitors can tour the Old Medina, see the Shrine of Sidi Abderrahman, and admire the Spanish-Moorish fusion of the Mahkama du Pacha. Although it's tough to walk in the footsteps of Bogart and Bergman, you can visit Rick's Bar, a lovingly recreated version of the movie's iconic set.
Food is a big deal in Casablanca, even more than in most Moroccan cities. From fried fish and eggplant sandwich vendors in the Medina and almond pastries from places like Patisserie Bennis Habous to traditional restaurants like Al-Mounia and European eateries like Taverne du Dauphin, foodies will be in their element.
You don't have to stay in Casablanca every day during your stay. In fact, the city is ideally located for day trips to Rabat (just an hour away by train), the historic port town of El Jadida, and even camel treks and mountain hikes in Bedouin country.
Jazzablanca in April attracts jazz artists from around the world, L'Boulevard Festival turns city center locations into circus venues and concert halls, while the Anfa Festival converts the main beach into a party venue (and features a spectacular horse riding show as well).
Temperatures in Casablanca tend to hit 70 degrees some time in early April, then stay warm until November, so any time in those months is ideal for beach lovers. However, mid-summer sees Ain Diab really filling up. Try April, when Jazzablanca lights up the cultural calendar and room rates should be comparatively low.
Flying into Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) is the easiest way to reach Casablanca from North America. To get into town, you could catch the train to Casa Voyageurs near downtown Casablanca (which costs DH40), but you'll be left around 20 minutes' walk from the center. A better alternative is to arrange a taxi (at a cost of about DH300) or to rent a car from branches of Sixt or Europcar.
Morocco has a good rail network that connects all of the country's major cities, so it's a handy way to travel if you are arriving from Marrakech or Rabat. All trains get into Casa Voyageurs station, which is a short bus ride from the center of town.
If you are driving into Casablanca from Fes or Rabat, take the A2, while anyone driving from Marrakech will need to take the A7, and the A5 runs from El Jadida. Driving from Mohammed V Airport is fairly simple as well. Just take the A7 straight into town.
Regional CTM buses run into Casablanca's Gare Routière from all major Moroccan cities and are an affordable and (generally) comfortable way to get around. From the bus station, the best way to get into town is to take a taxi, which costs around DH12.
Casablanca is full of high-quality luxury accommodation options. The main decision is whether you'd like to be near the beach or in the center of town. The Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche is a great option for those who need ocean views, while both the Novotel Casablanca City Center and the Hyatt Regency are reliable luxury hotels in the city center. Budget travelers might also want to look at the YHI Hostel, which offers reasonably priced dorm accommodation.
Ain Diab - Casablanca's seafront neighborhood, Ain Diab stretches for miles along the Atlantic Coast. It's the place to swim, play sports, snorkel, sunbathe, and surf, as well as a lively party destination, with many of the city's best bars and clubs dotted along the Corniche. It's also home to the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest in the world.
The Old Medina - the heart of ancient and medieval Casablanca, the Old Medina is an area that is full of history. Inside the still extant city walls, you'll discover craft markets, souvenir stores, street vendors selling delicious fried fish sandwiches, and much more.
Racine - slightly south of the Corniche and the Medina, you'll find Racine, probably Casablanca's most upmarket neighborhood. This is where wealthy Moroccans come to see the latest creations at galleries like BURST, Galerie H, and So Art, and it's also studded with luxury boutiques and restaurants.
Casablanca has a network of trams and buses that are handy for more adventurous tourists, and affordable too. Basic fares on trams start at DH7, while bus journeys are just DH4. However, petty crime, unreliable services, and run-down vehicles may count against public transportation during your stay.
There's no need to rely on Casablanca's buses or trams when taxis are so cheap. Go for red taxis (the white ones will tend to squeeze extra riders in to maximize efficiency). Fares start at DH7.50, and most journeys will work out at under DH30.
When you rent your own vehicle, it's much easier to drive up and down the Corniche or schedule day trips to El Jadida, Rabat, or even Marrakech. Driving in town can be a little stressful, but outside the city there shouldn't be any problems. Rental companies present in Casablanca include Europcar, Sixt, Jazz Car, and Aido, and rates can be as low as DH130 per day.
Casablanca has a great blend of glitzy boutiques and street markets, and it's an excellent place for bargain hunters to visit. The best place to head for standard chain stores is definitely the Morocco Mall, Africa's largest shopping center. However it's more fun to explore the Medina, where you can pick up locally made leather accessories, works of art, hookahs, and much more. Be sure to haggle, as it's the customary practice in Morocco.
The best places to shop for groceries in Casablanca are supermarkets like Marjane and Acima. Expect to pay around DH30 for a gallon of milk and DH6 for a pound of apples.
The choice of restaurants in Casablanca is dizzying, with a vast selection of different styles of food on offer. The first place to head is certainly Al-Mounia, with its beautifully tiled walls and selection of Moroccan favorites like tajine and couscous. Then, give La Bazenne a try, a slick modern French bistro. The stalls within the Marché Central are a great place to try small snacks and find a local dish that you adore. Expect restaurant meals to cost around DH50 or less.