Our Family-Friendly Visit to Tangier, Morocco with Kids in December over the Holidays

A young boy with a whistle in a market square with a mosque tower in the bacground.
Sounding his call to “chuches” (candies in Spanish) in the Grand Socco of Tangier, Morocco. Here is a well-known market square with all kinds of vendors selling fresh fruits and more.

It has been a year since our one-of-a-kind trip to the African continent! No way!! It was still in a pre-COVID world when we took a ferry through the rough mixture of Mediterranean and Atlantic waters dividing Europe and Africa and got to the other side. We were very excited to embark on this adventure to explore, just a little bit, of the unknown (for us) world of Morocco. We are very happy to have taken that opportunity to go there, as crossing any borders has become more complicated than ever before.

The Rif mountains of Morocco seen through a glass of a ferry crossing the strait of Gibraltar.
The Rif mountains of Morocco; a mere 45-minute ferry crossing away from Tarifa, Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar.
A near-empty wide intersection in front of an ancient wall fortification .
The ancient wall fortification of Tangier greets its guests coming out of the port. Yes, there are cut throughs for pedestrians up the wall but be careful crossing this wide avenue! It felt like a wild, wild, west!


We had been tempted for quite some time to go there, especially when admiring the beautiful Atlas Mountains visible on a clear day from the Spanish coast. It is hard to believe that what divides the two countries (and two continents) is only 17 km or 45-minute ferry trip. This short distance led us to a starkly different, but unique in its beauty world of Morocco.

Two young boys dancing over water-filled rectangular cutouts on stone.
Getting into the groove at the tombs of an ancient civilization–the Phoenicians. overlooking the port of Tangier and NO, that’s NOT Spain in the background; just Malabata, east of Tangier.


First stop, Tanger

I must admit, I was not sure what to expect when we landed there. I had heard many people talk about how careful you should be in Morocco and that it might not be the best idea to bring your kids with you due to safety issues. Not true at all! Marroqui people are the most hospitable people that we have ever met during our journeys. They love children!!

A young boy showing ink drawings on his arm/hands with an old movie theater in the background.
Showing his newly discovered art of pen-tattooing at the historic Cinema Rif Cafe at the Grand Socco, Tangier. A real good busy place to sit in a cafe and get the beat of the city.

Not once had we witnessed anything that would be even close to a dangerous situation. Even in a big city like Tanger. Yes, you do get to interact with a lot with people who offer you a taxi or want to sell something. This, however, is something cultural and never aggressive (in our experience).

Soupy beef and vegetable dish with green pepper, potato, carrots, rice, beef and tomatos.
Beef Tagine–slow cooked and almost jumping out of the plate and right into these hungry travelers mouths.


I found it fascinating when I learned that Tanger has inspired so many filmmakers, poets, writers and all sorts of artists. It wass only when we got there, I understood that its architecture and history create a unique scenery. Tanger used to be an international and cosmopolitan space (governed by three countries back in 1920s on) where many people sought refuge in. The feeling of being welcomed there is very prevalent, especially that people speak many languages and always find a way to communicate.

View of Tangier city from a vantage point.
A view from the famed Hotel Continental where Hemingway, the Rolling Stones and a long list of renowned guests have stayed at some point.


The city was quite big and certainly busy. Luckily, we did not have to navigate it with a car. Not advisable. We started by exploring the immediate neighborhood of our hotel (Hotel Royal) and we got lost very quickly. That counted as an adventure in itself.

A lone boy walks away along a wide promenade with beach and mountain in the background.
YES, Tangier has a beach–a clean one with an equally clean and impressive promenade. It’s a long beach where you can have pony and camel rides too.

Later we realized that we walked by some important sights without even looking for them, like the Gran Teatro Cervantes or Grand Socco, where we sat down for a mint tea just in front of Rif Cinema. This is where the street become narrow and medina begins, the oldest part of the city. Entering through its decorative gates brings you back in time. You find yourself navigating very narrow streets filled with street vendors, little shops and local restaurants.

Two young boys , looking tired, walking and looking at cats on the stone street leading up to an Arabic portico of a museum.
A climb up the hill, crisscrossing the historic center’s small and narrow, winding streets left us with little time to get into the Kasbah museum. If you see a little girl selling camel-figure souvenirs by the entrance, PLEASE do buy some and help with local economic development!

Best thing you can to is just to walk and stumble upon mosques, fountains or food places. When in doubt, just walk uphill, that were the kasbah is, the old fortificated center of power in the old days.

Two young boys walking uphill in a colorful and quiet street of Morocco.
Checking out the colorful and souvenir-shop laden, narrow, hilly streets of the old town Medina of Tangier, Morocco (pre-Covid-19 world, that is!)

The locals are also extremely helpful and offer directions to the lost tourists. Once we’ve managed to climb all the way to kasbah and we couldn’t help but look lost, a teenage boy approached us and offered to guide us through kasbah. It is up to you to tip him as there is not a set price for that. It does not hurt your pocket much and the added value is that you get to interact and learn from the locals… and maybe even help with local economic development.

Two young boys in winter clothes show off their little souvenirs in front of a red double-decker bus.
Waiting to board the big red double-decker bus. A bit of an extra cost but an efficient investment if you wanna see a lot of Tangier and the Cave of Hercules (24 kilomenters away) within 48 hours.


Ferry and dirhams (MAD)

There are several ferry routs you can take. We took a ferry from Tarifa, Spain. Better to have a concrete return date in mind if you consider buying a return ticket rather than buying an open ticket. This way you avoid confusion on your way back.

Happy young boys and other passengers after disembarking from a ferry.
“Welcome to Africa!” Only a short ferry crossing away from Tarifa, Spain.

On a very windy day a ferry might not be able to cross the channel. No worries though, Tarifa also has a lot to offer, just in case you need to stay there longer. It is very difficult to get dirhams in Spain (the local currency in Morocco). Don’t kill yourself trying to find it, as the best way is just to get it upon arrival. Once you leave the port building in Tanger, there are several booths that offer currency exchange, just use one of them. The rates are very decent and they don’t cheat! It is all legit.

Loungers looking out to sea and the mountains of Spain beyond.
Seaside loungers at Cafe Hafa: Decent food, plastic chairs, colorful yet rustic decor . . . but hey, its views of the sea and (in clear weather) of Spain are magnificent! Gotta keep the kids close to you as they could go over the short walls easily.


Negotiations

Be ready to haggle your way through each and every step of the way when you buy something. It’s an artform and it is just the way the things are there. No need to be afraid or upset about it. Vendors are usually pleasant and it is not expensive in the end. It is pretty amazing that they can negotiate in French, English or even German!

Two young boys and a shop owner of a souvenir shop smile and give a thumbs up for the camera.
The boys’ favorite souvenir shop in Morocco… although they didn’t have to haggle.

Commute

Taxis will take you everywhere. There are two different types of taxis. The green ones (smaller cars) can only take up to 3 people. Also, the driver would stop to take different people on the way. The grand taxis (yellowish) take 4 people or more. They cost more too. All prices are negotiable though. Some drivers would offer you daily tours within the city or taking you to other cities.

Moroccan dish in a black iron stew pot.
Moroccan dishes were a gastronomical delight and cultural experience for the family–even the kids, surprisingly!


Practicalities

Tanger has the big red hop on a hop off bus too!! This is the most cost-efficient way to sightsee, as you have an option to buy 48-hour ticket and the tours are not only within the town, but the red bus also takes you to the Hercules caves at the seaside outside of Tangier, at the Cape Spartel, where the Medditerean connects with the Atlantic Ocean. It is very affordable and really worth it and fun for kids to be in the open rooftop!

Close up of a beautiful woman on a city bus tour.
The big red double-decker bus saves time, energy and frustration, especially when traveling with your little ones with short legs (not just your husband’s) and wanting to see as much as Tanger can offer in short time.

If you want to travel to other cities by bus, as an alternative to taking a taxi, you can take one of the CTM buses. It seems to be the main, privately run bus company that operates between the main cities in Morocco (Chefchauen, Casablanca, Fez, Rabat). The main station is located 5km away from the center and the only way to get there is by a taxi.

A view overlooking the Port of Tanger with wide open space at the foot of the hill and the wide Avenue of  Muhammed VI .
View of Port Tanger from Hotel Continental with wide open space at the foot of the hill and where crossing the wide Avenida Muhammed VI requires mental alertness befitting Jason Bourne’s. Just kidding! But DO be careful!


Food

We had a wonderful experience eating in local restaurants!! As we are everything-eaters, we have no allergies and just love to experiment, we would be already satisfied when we smelled the food. Best to go to the local places, not to fancy restaurants catering exclusively to tourists.

Closeup of a Moroccan vegetable couscous dish.
With vegetable cous-cous so tasty, I wanna go vegan again!… Maybe.

The sole thought of tagine (beef, lamb or chicken-based stew slow cooked in a clay cooking pot with a conical lid) or couscous served with soft veggies and plums or cooked raisins, makes me so hungry!! We had literally only delicious culinary experiences there! None of us had any stomach problems during our week-long escapade there. Drink only bottled water of course!

A young boy, holding his mother's hand, looks at an ancient wall with modern writing in Arabic, French and Berber that reads "Port de Tanger Ville".
Sad to leave so quickly.
A father and two young boys  with backpacks heading towards a ferry.
And then. . . we were leaving on a (FRS) JETline. . . not quite on a jetplane (as the song goes). With just 3 backpacks (1 full of toys and kid stuff) and a broken stroller. . . not bad for a 10-day trip, eh?

Thanks for reading. Please remember to subscribe and check out our YOUTUBE channel too! (it helps support this family’s househusband).

BIG SMILE! 😊

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