Tangier, the jewel of North Africa, is a dazzling city that perfectly blends the past, present and future, from the maze-like streets of the ancient Kasbah to the expansive modern coastline complete with palm trees that serve as wi-fi towers. Even as Tangier becomes ever more connected, it still maintains its incredibly rich traditional Moroccan culture.
One of the best loved traditions is pausing for a break over a piping hot Moroccan mint tea, and sunny Tangier is the perfect place to drop everything and do as the locals do.
Sneak in a snooze in the warmth of Palais Zahia's cosy covered corner © Jessica Cherkaoui / Lonely Planet
Housed in Tangier’s original bank, constructed in 1907, Palais Zahia now welcomes guests at its hotel, spa and restaurant. Head through its ornate door and into the beaming glory of the salon, where natural light pours in through the expansive glass panels on the roof. Take a slow ascent up the stairs, appreciating the handcrafted wooden handrails, to the panoramic open-air terrace, where you can bask in the opulence of this beautifully refurbished riad with the Bay of Tangier splayed open before you.
Le Detroit Palace
Le Detroit Palace’s first appeal is its location in the tunnel passage of the Kasbah. Rugged stones cover the age-old entrance that opens into a stunning palace, now used as a remarkable wedding venue with opulent rooms that hover above the ancient city. But if you’re not here to get married, at least make the vow to climb to the expansive terrace. No other structure in the Kasbah offers a dance floor-sized veranda with a 360-degree view, which is why it’s a top spot for local celebrations.
Pick your perch above the sea on one of Nord-Pinus' three levels © Jessica Cherkaoui / Lonely Planet
Graced with spectacular scenes from every viewpoint, the three-level Nord-Pinus on the outer wall of the Kasbah is a marvel, and its carved 3m-high cedar door is a fitting gate to such a palace. Arrays of ornate zellij tiles in every colour dazzle the eyes, but transcend the twin staircases, past the glittering glass windows of the guest suites, to enter an earth-toned hideout, which offers an indoor repose with the same views as the tiered terrace outside.
Le Salon Bleu
With its entrance just a few steps outside the Haha gate of the Kasbah, the terrace of Le Salon Bleu sports a perfect view of the inner Kasbah stone walls, as well as a full vista of the Spanish mountains across the Strait of Gibraltar. This is the perfect venue for relaxation at any time of the day. The bright white exterior with vibrant royal blue to contrast gives the parlour a pristine and tranquil aura, and each level is filled with lounge-style sofas. Time seems to stop here, and its humble size combined with fresh full-flavoured dishes gives a feeling of home. The chefs here take pride in their ever-changing menu and constantly offer specials to show off their culinary skills.
Atop Tangier’s original telegraph building, Le Terrasse De Dar El Kasbah is a peaceful escape from the humming streets below © Jessica Cherkaoui / Lonely Planet
La Terrasse De Dar El Kasbah
A short walk out the southeast door of the Kasbah, La Terrasse De Dar El Kasbah has set up shop in the original 1884 telegraph building, home of the first English telegraph line from Tangier to Gibraltar. The original wood staircase remains as the method of transport to the rooftop, where colourfully potted plants, tables, chairs and lounge sofas create the perfect hideaway from the busy street below. Dar El Kasbah has an eclectic bohemian flair with a matching menu, serving everything from sizzling woks to natural juices.
Cool nights are best savoured close to the sea with Café Hafa's seductive mint tea © Jessica Cherkaoui / Lonely Planet
Along the northwest coast of Tangier is the necropolis of Hafa, containing Phoenician tombs dating to the 5th century BC, which pave the way to the famous Café Hafa. Founded in 1921, this cafe is where famed authors, playwrights, musicians and poets have stopped by for a sugary mint tea, a game of Parcheesi and a gaze over the Bay of Tangier to the Spanish coastline for nearly a century. With tiers of seating like an ancient cinema (many of the tables are actually built into the stone walls), the cafe offers views unlike any other.
Let charming La Boqueria draw you in with its sweeping arched entrances and glass enclosures that are sure to keep you in a daydream. The backdrop of the entire city is reflected in its glass-panelled doors, where you can get a majestic glimpse of the Strait of Gibraltar and Tangier Bay. Though the classic mint tea is offered here, the restaurant prides itself on its menu with a Spanish flair, so you can get the best of both continents.
The rooftop terrace cafe at Lux Mall is one of the only places in Tangier with this view © Jessica Cherkaoui / Lonely Planet
Tucked away in the residential streets of Tangier is the fairly new Lux Mall, and the shopping centre's cafe, three floors up, is one of the only dining areas in the whole city with a view of Tangier’s southeast, where the low-lying mountains encircle a mix of colourful villas and mosques. If you need a spot to read and write, this quiet cafe is perfect to take some time out.
Bella de Panorama
From almost every angle, the rightly named ‘beautiful panorama’ cafe takes in views of the contemporary port of Tangier and its beaches. Drop in during the day for a waterfront scene in full sun or at night to be mesmerised by the dance of lights along Avenue Mohammed VI. Bella de Panorama boasts an 18-page menu to satisfy almost any craving, from a traditional Moroccan breakfast to a creamy risotto dinner and a parfait for dessert.
Enjoy the sunset from the sofa or the pool on the Hilton's terrace © Jessica Cherkaoui / Lonely Planet
Hilton Tanger City Center
If you’d like to be lounging in the water while looking at it, head up to Hilton’s terrace, which sports a pool, a fully stocked island bar and expansive views overlooking the crescent-shaped beach to the north and the hillside villages to the south. If the weather is not quite to your liking, step inside and relax in the glass-walled lounge, where the views are just as spectacular.
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