Casablanca was one of the cities that people told me not to bother with when I was planning my trip to Morocco. Of course, it’s also where I found the cheapest flight to. Figures. But, of course I booked the cheapest flight and planned on just spending one day in Casablanca before moving on to a more exciting Moroccan city, Fez. After all that I had been told, I expected to hate Casablanca- but I didn’t. I wouldn’t say I loved it- it’s not a very exciting city, but I’m not as adamant that people should skip it. After all, the Hassan II Mosque alone is one of the most beautiful sites in the country. So for those who, like me, are flying into Casablanca or are on the fence about it, here are my thoughts on how to spend one day in Casablanca, Morocco.
Getting to Casablanca
If you are coming to Casablanca you are probably either flying in or taking the train. Casablanca airport is about 45 minutes outside of the city centre and you can either take a taxi or the train (Check Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Casablanca). Taxis cost about 250-300 dirham (well, they are supposed to but you’ll want to either agree on a rate ahead of time or ask them to use the meter) and the train cost 64 dirham or less. After reading several articles online recommending that tourists take the first class train, we paid a little extra to do that. I don’t really think it matters on the train to and from the airport, but I do recommend it for other trains across the country.
There are two main trains stations in Casablanca. The first, and biggest, is Casa Voyageurs. It’s in the middle of the city. The second is Casa Port which is, as you probably guessed, near the Port. I’d get off at whatever stop is closest to your hotel which, for us, was Casa Port. There are taxis waiting outside (again, ask for the meter or agree on a rate ahead of time) or you may be able to walk which is what we did. Sidewalks were lacking, but everyone just drove around us.
If you are travelling as a group, it may be worth your while to pre-arrange an airport transfer which will be a fixed price. You can look into that here.
Note: If you are flying into Casablanca airport, expect it to be a slow process. It took us 2 hours after landing to get out.
Where to Stay in Casablanca
Casablanca didn’t seem to have a big selection of accommodation options when we looked. We ended up finding a cheap hotel ($70 CAD for the night between the 2 of us) near the Medina and about a 20-minute walk to the Hassan II Mosque. Location was great, staff was friendly, rooms were basic but clean. They had a decent breakfast too (poached egg, some orange, pastries and bread, and tea) for 30 dirham. I would definitely recommend it, but know that it is very loud at night so light-sleepers (like me) be wary. It’s called Casablanca Central Hotel and you can book it here.
Getting Around Casablanca
As mentioned earlier, it’s really easy to get into Casablanca by train. There is a tram system in the city- I did not use this however I expect given how easy the trains were to use that the tram system is probably similar.
We made sure to stay close enough to the Grand Hassan Mosque to walk. Sidewalks were definitely lacking at parts, though this may be because there was a lot of construction when we visited. However, walking was easy- cars drove slowly around us and we didn’t have a problem.
You can also take taxis around- they are all over. The cars are small and red with taxi signs so just wave them down. In Casablanca, they don’t like to use the meter so my best recommendation is to ask your accommodation how much you should be paying to get to where you want to go, and negotiate before you get it. For example, from our hotel to the Voyaguers train station we were told to pay 30 dirham maximum, but the driver wanted 50. I just smiled warmly and told him a couple times I would only pay 30 because that’s what I was told. He tried for 40, but in the end he was fine with the 30 and it wasn’t a problem. Be firm, but friendly when haggling.
What to See and Do with 1 Day in Casablanca
Casablanca doesn’t have a ton to see and do, but you can easily fill up a few hours.
The Hassan II Mosque
The number one must see is the Hassan II Mosque; it’s the main attraction and for good reason. It’s one of the few mosques that non-Muslims can actually go inside. You need to join a tour to do so. Tickets for the tour are 120 dirham and the tour lasts about 45 minutes. Photos are permitted inside, but no video. You will also have to take off your shoes so if you are not comfortable walking around barefoot, wear (or bring) socks.
You’ll probably want to spend another hour or so walking around the outside of the Mosque as well. It’s a stunning building with beautiful tile work and patterns that are very photogenic. We spent about 2 hours total at the Hassan II Mosque.
Consider Taking a Tour
Casablanca has a few more sites to see including the Kings Palace, Place Mohammed V, and the Cathedral du Sacre Coeur. However, they aren’t exactly very close to each other so if you want to see all the highlights with your one day in Casablanca then I recommend taking a guided tour. Taxi drivers will all tell you they will take you around but I suggest booking in advance to ensure that you are actually getting a proper guide and value for your money. Take a look at this full day tour or this half-day one.
The Old Medina
The Medina in Casablanca isn’t quite like those in Marrakech or Fez, but it’s worth a wander. The white-washed buildings with wooden doors are actually quite picturesque and there are a number of little shops and restaurants in this area. A lot of locals can be found here too- women shopping, kids playing soccer, etc. It’s very small but worth exploring.
If you have the time and have a nice, hot day it might be worth your while to check out La Corniche, which is a beach area close to the Hassan II Mosque. There are pools, beach access, and lots of restaurants. It’s more of a ‘vacation’ type spot that the rest of the city, but makes for a good place to relax. I didn’t visit during my one day in Casablanca, but it is one of the most recommended places to go in the city.
Where to Eat and Drink in Casablanca
We didn’t get a chance to really check out the food scene in Casablanca, but if you are only in Casablanca for 1 day then I can definitely recommend where we went for dinner.
The woman at our hotel told us to go to a café called La Sqala. We thought it would be more of a local spot since it was recommended, but it was definitely known to tourists. However, it was really cute, relaxing, and the food was delicious. Since it was our only meal of the day we didn’t mind spending more. We both got a tagine, water, and dessert (because, why not?) for 200 dirhams each. Bread, olives, and tip were also included in that price. The food was freshly prepared and delicious.
Casablanca also has a very well-known bar called Rick’s Café. If you have seen the movie Casablanca, you will recognize the name. Now, it’s not where the movie was actually filmed (that was Hollywood) but, it was built and designed to resemble the one from the movie. We didn’t end up going since it doesn’t open until 6:30pm but we did walk past it and it looked pretty cool so if you have more energy than me did, I suggest checking it out.
I’ve also heard really good things about Sky 28 bar which, is said to be pricey, but offers beautiful evening views over Casablanca.
Is Casablanca Safe?
This is one of the questions I got a lot when sharing my one day in Casablanca on my Instagram stories. It’s also tough to answer. To start with, I was not alone. I travelled through Morocco with my friend Taylor (also a blogger). Yes, we were two women in our twenties but I think having someone else with you still makes a difference than going solo.
We didn’t have any major issues in Casablanca. Yes, we got cat called a couple of times. Many men said hi or welcome to us and I noticed we both got looked up and down a few times. I was grabbed on the shoulder by a man on the street who tried to talk to me (I glared and kept walking) and Taylor had two young men ask how old she was- she just kind of looked at them and they said ‘ok too far’ and backed off. So, were the men more forward than I’m used to at home? Yes. However, I’ve heard and, to be honest, expected way worse. We felt fine walking around, but we also came back early before dark.
I didn’t find the locals overly friendly but nobody was rude either. Those who worked in tourism were happy to help us when we had questions though, which made it easy to figure out where to go or what to do.
Final Thoughts on Casablanca
So, was Casablanca my favourite place in Morocco? No, not at all. But I didn’t hate it as much as everyone told me I would. I wouldn’t recommend more than one day in Casablanca, but if you want to visit for that short amount of time I would say it’s worth it for sure. Even if it’s just for the Hassan II Mosque alone.
PS: for my experience backpacking as a woman in Morocco, read this post.