Melissa's Travels

Melissa's Tangier Cheat Sheet

Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley just returned from Tangier on a special Indagare x Architectural Digest Insider Journey, returning with new tips on where to stay, eat and explore. The city will attract even more attention this year as the former home of Yves Saint Laurent opens as a hotel, Villa Mabrouka, in June.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to learn more about planning a trip to Tangier. Our team can match you with the itineraries, accommodations, reservations and guides that are right for you.

Where To Stay–Plus, Yves Saint Laurent’s Former Home Opens As a Hotel

Until last year when the Fairmont Tazi Palace opened, the best places to stay in Tangier were Le Mirage, an oceanfront resort that sits 20 minutes away from the medina; boutique guest houses like Tangerina or Nord Pinus; the time-trapped Villa Josephine or the Hilton hotel across from the train station. But now the

Fairmont Tazi Palace has brought a true international resort into the equation with a large pool area, multiple restaurants and a multi-level spa with excellent therapists. On June 21, hotelier Jasper Conran will open Villa Mabrouka, a former home of Yves Saint Laurent with gardens laid out by garden wunderkind Madison Cox. The property has amazing views of the Strait of Gibraltar and will have 12 rooms as well as villas and pavilions for rent and multiple restaurants open to outside guests. “This is the kind of opening that will put Tangier on the map for a whole new breed of visitor,” declared one Tangerine, as locals are called. “Whether that is good or bad, we will see.”

What To See and Do

Beach Time: Mediterranean or Atlantic? Only 20 minutes out of the center of town near the lighthouse, there is a signpost with an arrow pointing west for the Atlantic and east for the Mediterranean. You can choose which sea to swim in. If you head west, you will likely see camels on the beach ready for a photo op and further along you can have a delicious seafood lunch at L'Ocean. It is also possible to arrange horseback rides on the beach or head to the tiny town of Breich for a beach shack lunch.

Flower Power: With an incredible Mediterranean climate, Tangier and surrounding areas feature some amazing gardens, but none beats the labor of love created by Italian author and horticulturist Umberto Pasti. A one-and-a-half-hour drive from Tangier, on the Atlantic coast, Rohuna contains the largest collection of plants on the continent after the Royal Botanic Garden in Cape Town. The book Eden Revisited: A Garden in Northern Morocco  (Rizzoli) documents its creation and how the local community has embraced its cultivation. 

Art and History: Three small museums are located near the Kasbah Gate and are all worth a visit. The Kasbah Museum gives a sense of Tangier history and architectural heritage; its adjacent Contemporary Art Space features the work of modern Moroccan artists; up the street, the Museum of Ibn Batouta (the Marco Polo of the Arab World) offers a fascinating overview of the 13th-century explorer’s life and the connections of North Africa to Asia and the Middle East.

Get Invited: The best way to get a glimpse of the creative energy and uniqueness of contemporary Tangier —and to understand why so many talented expats spend extended time here—is to get invited into a private residence in the medina or on the Old Mountain. If you cannot wrangle one, pick up a copy of Inside Tangier: Houses and Gardens of Tangier by Nicolò Castellini Baldissera (Vendome Press) or The House of A Lifetime: A Collector’s Journey in Tangier by Umberto Pasti and Stephan Janson (Rizzoli) to see some of the amazing retreats of its residents. Or sign up for our next Insider Journey to Tangier in May 2024, when you will be hosted at the most beautiful homes in town. 

Where To Eat

L’Ocean: Look for a white-washed arch framing the Atlantic and follow through to a terrace on the beach, where you can enjoy delicious fresh fish, salads and pasta. A long lunch with wine and friends here is a weekend ritual for many expats. Consider the calamari and tomato and burrata as a starter and then order one of the just-caught grilled fish dishes like John Dory, sole or monkfish.

Restaurant M at Riad Mokhtar: My favorite dinner spot in Tangier is located down a long alleyway in the hotel Riad Mokhtar. Set in a beautiful, tiled courtyard filled with flowers and trees, Restaurant M serves a small but truly delicious menu of fresh fish dishes and homemade pasta.

El Morocco Club: A Tangier institution, El Morocco sits on the small square by the Ibn Batouta museum. Its terrace café consists of a few tables under a massive tree and a window that turns out delicious breakfast and daily lunch specials like bresaola of arugula and parmesan or kefta plate. The main restaurant is only open for dinner. The atmosphere evokes Rick’s bar in Casablanca with low lighting, red-leather bar stools and zebra print banquettes. In the upstairs dining room, you can order French classics like Tournedos Rossini or risotto, seafood curry or traditional Moroccan dishes like couscous or chicken pastilla.

Parisa: Located on an upper floor of the Fairmont Tazi Palace hotel, this Persian restaurant was designed to feel like a Moroccan speakeasy. There is no obvious signage, and you climb steps to a hall that has a door with only a hand of Fatima knocker. Open it, and a hip lounge with murals of women and neon slogans like "There’s no innocence in innocents" adorn walls. A DJ spins late into the night. Surrounding rooms and an outdoor terrace feature the dining tables, where a mix of Persian and International cuisine is served. Open for dinner only; reservations recommended.

Crudo: With dining areas indoors and out on a terrace, Crudo at the Fairmont Tazi Palace hotel features excellent Mediterranean food, ranging from cauliflower steaks and pizzas to grilled fish and pastas. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Nord Pinus: This small bed-and-breakfast hotel in the medina (between the Kasbah and Bhar gates) has a lovely rooftop terrace where non-residents can reserve a table with a view over the Strait of Gibraltar and, on a clear day, Spain. The menu emphasizes traditional Moroccan dishes like vegetable briouats, Moroccan salads, tagines and pastillas.

Salon Bleu: This tiny café on the ramparts by the Bhar Gate sits on the same square as the Kasbah Museum. With multiple small terraces, including one reached by a spiral staircase and crowned with umbrellas, it is super picturesque and has great views over the medina. The small ground-floor restaurant turns out tiny bowls of Moroccan salads (seven of them make a meal) and very good tagine or couscous with fresh vegetables.

Villa Josephine: This wonderful property on the Old Mountain was built by the legendary Times columnist (and spy) Walter Harris. Later inhabited by the last pasha of Marrakech, it is now a hotel with 10 old-fashioned guest rooms of vastly differing sizes, but its bar and terrace restaurant are worth a visit. You will be transported back in time.

Where To Shop

Las Chicas: This two-story shop just outside the old Medina walls is named Las Chicas after the two enterprising ladies who opened the first concept store in Tangier. The Moroccan filmmaker Farida Benlyazid and her stylish collaborator sell vintage jewelry along with the colorful fashion and accessories of designers from Marrakech and Tangier, along with a great selection of hats, scarves and local beauty products. If you have one shopping stop in Tangier, make it Las Chicas. Look for the bright pink silk kaftans and woven leather bags from the Jardin Majorelle; colorful straw hats from Le Chapelier; contemporary men's and women’s fashion in linen, cotton and Moroccan cashmere from Baba, as well as bags from Lalla, embroidered leather slippers, delicate charms and special books on Tangier, which make great gifts. 

Laure Welfing: Located in a striking space by the Kasbah Museum, the shop of Tangier resident and designer Laure Welfing features a fabulous mix of Moroccan statement pieces of jewelry and clothing. There is nothing understated about Laure’s taste. She loves color, shimmer and sparkle, and uses them in her own designs and celebrates them in her curation of bags, jewelry, housewares and clothing. 

De Valesco: A small two-story shop just inside the Kasbah Gate, De Valesco carries tunics, kaftans and fun accessories—from clutches made of carpet remnants to woven silk belts in vibrant colors. 

Kasbah Collective: Opened in 2021 by the son of the owner of Boutique Magid, Kasbah Collective mixes Moroccan crafts and textiles with a hip style in both fashion and homewares. Think babouche slippers in faded chintz, bejeweled kaftans and jean jackets embellished with Moroccan textiles. 

New Tangier: This by-appointment-only shop is the showroom and workroom of Moroccan-born Kenza Bennani, who studied fashion in England and worked at Louis Vuitton before returning to her hometown to create a luxury artisan Moroccan brand. She transformed her grandfather’s mid-century modern townhouse into a living and work space where craftsmen can work and shoppers can view Kenza’s stylish women’s fashion and accessories. 

Topolina: Down a narrow street from El Morocco Club café, Topolina is in a white-washed building, but its hot pink interior announces its owner’s love of color and whimsy. The brand began in Marrakech a number of years ago with tasseled loafers in fun fabrics and has expanded to men’s and women’s clothes, many of which are made of vintage fabrics. The Tangier outpost consists of three small rooms bursting with exuberant hues and quirky fashions. 

Boutique Magid: A three-story maze of rooms piled high with treasures from the antique Berber jewelry in the downstairs cases to the top floor rooms, where carpets from all regions of the country are stacked to the ceiling. Prepare to be overwhelmed by the choice of textiles, carpets and objects, but there are treasures to be found here. 

Galerie Tindouf and Bazaar Tindouf: Across from the El Minzah Hotel, these two shops are crammed with Moroccan textiles, art, carpets and decorative objects. The Galerie displays the more rarefied, old finds, while the Bazaar feels like a massive Moroccan flea market crammed into multiple floors with rooms of ceramics, carpets, brass and silver objects and tiles. Neither place is for those who are afraid of getting dusty, but many of the items that adorn Tangiers most stylish houses were found here. 

Madini: If you want to bring home the lovely smell of jasmine, dates or orange blossom as an oil or room scent, this little shop near the Café de Paris sells local fragrances.

Published onMay 21, 2023

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