When it comes to well-priced, romance-filled holidays, a short trip to Casablanca is hard to beat. The Moroccan coastal city, made famous by the 1942 film starring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, is a destination of many wonders yet is less touristy than its neighbours of Marrakech and Fez, making it ideal for a couple’s holiday come Valentine’s Day.
There’s so much to see and do - from the bustling port, to the French colonial buildings, to the fine-sand beaches – that at least three days are needed to get under its skin.
Fly in style - £145
Casablanca is well-serviced: Royal Air Maroc, the Moroccan national carrier that’s rated as a four-star airline, flies direct from Manchester for £143 if you pick the right flights. They also fly from London Heathrow, but expect to shell out from £250 for a seat. Fear not, budget travellers – for those who can’t make it to Manchester, there’s a smart alternative: prices drop to half on Alitalia, though it involves a quick transfer in Rome. Given it’s a mere extra four hours travel time, it’s worth the £125 price tag.
Accommodation in the bustling city centre - £50
As might be expected in a city that’s the business and economic capital of Morocco, the range of accommodation is broad and plentiful. It goes from palatial five-star wonders like the Four Seasons, to backpacker hostels for shoestring budgets. For a no-frills experience that provides a well-located base and a clean bed, try the Ibis City Center. The three-star chain hotel might be nothing to write home about, but at £16 per person per night, it leaves more cash for exploring the busy streets right outside its doors: it’s right by the main train station of Casa Port and within walking distance of Casablanca’s main attractions.
Admire the seafront Hassan II Mosque - free
They say the best things in life are free and in Casablanca we’d concur. The most spectacular example is Hassan II Mosque, the second largest mosque in the world. Built on the coastline in 1993 after seven years of construction, it holds 25,000 worshippers in its main hall and another 80,000 in its courtyard with a retractable roof. Worshippers kneel on glass floors that lie on top of the sea, allowing a unique bond with nature while praying. Guided tours take place throughout the day, which point out the detail of the mosque’s magnificence.
Gift shopping at the Old Medina - £30
While Marrakech’s medina can be hot and hectic, the balance is just right in Casablanca’s Old Medina. The narrow maze of streets walled by tall buildings are a must-see and though the shopping opportunities aren’t as forthcoming – it’s largely a mix of residential homes, cafes and bric-a-brac stores - it’s worth checking if there’s a pressie or two anyway. Then head to the Central Market which offers a larger range of Moroccan gifts like Argan oil, fragrant and freshly-ground spices and, if there’s enough space in the cabin bags, tagine clay pots.
Drinks and dining at La Corniche and beyond - £75
As a port city with French heritage the culinary scene is well-developed in Casablanca and a small food budget will go far. The go-to place for buzzing bars and oceanfront cafes is La Corniche, where the great and good of Casablanca dine in upscale settings – splash out at Restaurant du Port de Pêche, which averages around £20 for a seafood feast. Off the tourist trail, local haunts like the heaving Le Riad serve mouth-watering tagines for £2. Save a few pounds for a cocktail at the cityscape bar of Sky 28 to complete the trip – the view will be worth the extravagance.
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