The cooling breezes wafting in from the Mediterranean carry smells and sounds through the streets of Tangier, and you'll often find locals enjoying a delicious meal and the abundant natural beauty that surrounds the city. From the Atlantic beaches of Achakkar to the lush green hills of Parc Rmilat to the narrow maze of the medina, leisurely Moroccan lunches can easily make their way into the early evenings.

As the closest African city to Europe, Tangier is a gateway to the continent and makes a delicious first stop for travelling taste buds. Even with a surge of international restaurants featuring global cuisine and a history that’s infused Spanish and French fare, Tangier has stayed true to its Moroccan roots.

Tea service on terrace in the kasbah of Tangier, Morocco
Stopping for a sweet mint tea is an essential part of any Moroccan itinerary © Pierre-Yves Babelon / Shutterstock

Cafe Hafa

Take a walk from the Grand Socco through the edge of the medina and up the Kasbah hill. Stop at any of the bakeries you pass selling your new favourite sweet or savoury pastries and bring them up to the nearly century-old Cafe Hafa. Once you’re there, order an a-tay bnah-nah (sweet mint tea) – if you don’t have a sweet tooth, ask for blah sucar (without sugar). You can also order bissara (fava bean and split pea soup) or eggs on a plate as a classic Moroccan breakfast. You’ll get lost in thought as ocean breezes sweep up the cliffs to the terraced tea house filled with Moroccans and tourists alike. Gazing out over the Strait of Gibraltar and watching the ferries come and go, you’ll notice the never-ending clicking of dice. If you're feeling game, join some of the friendly locals and let them teach you how to play parchis, a favourite northern Moroccan pastime that's played in most local cafes.

Restaurant Bachir

Hidden just off Ave Pasteur on Mussa Bnu Nusseir St, locally loved Restaurant Bachir is busy all hours of the day. Walk into the back past the barbecue-style kitchen and the room opens up and fills with the smell of tagines, fresh fish and roast chicken. Within minutes of ordering from a menu of classic cuisine, your food arrives along with the customary fresh-baked bread. Start with the Moroccan salad or a bowl of hot lentils to share. Save room for a main course of kefta or shrimp tagine and fried calamari to dip in harissa, a Maghrebi hot chilli pepper paste. You may have to ask for flatware or plates if you’d like a more Western-style meal, as it is customary to eat with bread as a utensil in your right hand. A meal for two is easily under €10. Tip: Head here on Friday for a couscous lunch, but don’t go too late in the afternoon or you’ll miss out on this weekly Moroccan feast!

Tables and chairs outside Cinema Rif, Tangier, Morocco
Cinema Rif is a favourite local hangout spot © Carrie Rohrer / Lonely Planet

Cinematheque de Tanger (Cinema Rif)

Cinema Rif is a local hangout, and inside you’ll hear a blend of languages and dialects of Darija (Moroccan Arabic). The scene is mostly a younger crowd made up of students and millennials, but you will see the odd backpacker finding their way from a nearby hostel. You may even get lucky enough to make friends with a longtime resident with stories of old Tangier to tell. Sit outside and eat some fresh fruit picked up from the nearby Souq Barra, a local market. Here, you can see why the Grand Socco is considered the city centre. Enjoy your dessert with a Moroccan beer or glass of wine from the bar while you look over the Cinema’s monthly film schedule. Many of the films are international selections, and most are subtitled in French or English. If you decide to catch a show, grab another drink or cake from the bar and head into the beautifully refurbished theatre.

Meat skewers, bissara and bread on the table at Restaurant Domahana, Tangier, Morocco
There's no menu at Restaurant Domahana, so just select from what the chefs are grilling on the barbecue © Carrie Rohrer / Lonely Planet

Restaurant Domahana

Escape the city with a stroll through the green hills past the king’s palace to Rmilat, also known as Parc Pedicaris. On the winding trails of this forested park, you’ll find local families, friends, and young couples alike looking for break from the bustle of town. While off the tourist track, this refreshing location is certainly not hard to find. You can even take a taxi from town and spend more time walking and enjoying the views. When your weary legs need a break, look no further than this casual cafe, which is only a 10-minute walk into the park from the main road and taxi stand. Nestled in the trees overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, the aroma of barbecue wafts past the terraced tables. There’s no menu; watch the cooks preparing fresh chicken or beef skewers, as well as piping-hot bissara sprinkled with cumin and olive oil. Order what you fancy and choose your seats, munching on complimentary olives while you await your post-hike lunch.

Exterior signage of Saveur de Poisson, Tangier, Morocco
Seafood lovers shouldn't miss a feasting session at Saveur de Poisson © Carrie Rohrer / Lonely Planet

Populaire Saveur de Poisson

A visit to Tangier wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the fish lover’s heaven of Populaire Saveur de Poisson. Tanjaouis eat here on regularly, and American TV presenter Anthony Bourdain has made it popular among visitors too. Chilled fig juice flows while courses fly on and off the table, with dishes of fish soup, shark and baby squid tagine, and a daily catch that varies with the fishermen’s luck. Make sure you go as close to 7pm as possible, as you'll usually have to wait and the restaurant will stop serving once the daily catch runs out.

Cremerie Hollanda

If you are looking for a fresh and healthy start your morning, do as the Tanjaouis do to fuel up and head to a melbana (breakfast and snack cafe). You’ll find yourself surrounded by fruit, which can be pressed into juice or blended into a fresh smoothie. Share a meal with a friend and try a rghifa (savoury Moroccan pancake) with cream cheese and egg, and another khobz (round bread) with avocado and sliced turkey. Each neighbourhood has a melbana, and some streets in the city centre have many. Cremerie Hollanda is unusually bright and spacious and has a wider variety of bread and juice options than most. If you’ve got a plane, train or bus to catch, grab your smoothie and eat on the move. You can even ask for your qahwa nos-nos (espresso with milk) in a takeaway cup,  a rarity in Morocco, before getting on with your day of exploring.

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