El Jadida is a port city located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, about 100 km southwest of Casablanca. With its rich history and beautiful beaches, El Jadida has emerged as a popular tourist destination in Morocco.
In this article, we will explore the top 15 attractions and activities in El Jadida that you shouldn’t miss on your visit in 2023. From strolling through the UNESCO-listed old Portuguese city to lazing on its sandy beaches, El Jadida offers experiences to delight all kinds of travelers.
Why Visit El Jadida and What Things To See?
Before diving into the things to do in El Jadida, let’s first understand why you should visit this underrated destination in Morocco.
Some key facts and figures about Morocco can be found in this helpful blog: Facts About Morocco.
Some key reasons to visit El Jadida are:
- Historic architecture – El Jadida’s old town features a mix of Portuguese, Moroccan, and Moorish architecture. The walled Portuguese citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Coastal location – El Jadida enjoys a scenic position on the Atlantic coast. Its beaches provide opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.
- Proximity to Casablanca – As a quick getaway from the bustling city of Casablanca, El Jadida offers a peaceful alternative. It can be visited on a day trip. Read this blog to find out Is Casablanca Safe for Tourists?
- Local food and culture – Try Moroccan street food at the central market. Check out handicrafts including embroidered caftans, bronze wares, and leather goods.
- Affordability – El Jadida provides good value compared to more established tourist destinations in Morocco. Hotels and food are inexpensive. Get an overview of Is Morocco a Poor Country? and Is Morocco a Third World Country?
With historic sights, coastal scenery, and an authentic Moroccan vibe, El Jadida is certainly worth adding to your Morocco itinerary.
1. Wander through the UNESCO-listed Portuguese Cistern
The Portuguese Cistern is one of El Jadida’s most famous landmarks. This 16th-century underground tank was used to collect rainwater by the Portuguese when El Jadida was known as Mazagan.
Descend the steep stone steps to explore this cavernous space supported by columns. A few feet of water remain at the bottom, creating wonderful reflections. The cistern is featured in Orson Welles’ 1952 version of Othello.
With its atmospheric setting, the Portuguese Cistern should be on top of your list of places to see in El Jadida.
2. Relax on Sidi Bouzid Beach
El Jadida’s top beach attraction is Plage Sidi Bouzid, located west of the Portuguese citadel. This crescent-shaped sandy beach has facilities like parasols, sun loungers, and showers. The water is calm and shallow, perfect for swimming.
Spend a laidback day at Sidi Bouzid beach sunbathing, playing beach games, or trying water sports. As one of the closest beaches to the city centre, it gets quite crowded on weekends.
3. Explore the Portuguese Fortified City
A major highlight in El Jadida is the fortified old Portuguese town known as the Cité Portugaise. Enclosed by historic ramparts and bastions, this medina dates back to the 16th century.
Pass through the monumental Porte de la Mer entrance to wander the labyrinthine streets. Admire the Moorish and Portuguese architecture as you stroll through the citadel. The Church of the Assumption is one of its most impressive buildings.
As a former Portuguese colony, El Jadida still bears the cultural imprint of its colonial past. The Portuguese citadel is a must-visit part of the city.
4. Take a Day Trip to Casablanca
El Jadida makes for a convenient base to explore Morocco’s largest city and economic hub, Casablanca. Located just over an hour away, Casablanca can easily be visited on a day trip.
In Casablanca, tour landmarks like the colossal Hassan II Mosque and the Art Deco Central Market. Walk through the buzzing old medina and check out the popular beachfront promenade at Ain Diab. Round off with Moroccan bites at the Habous Quarter.
Get tips for exploring Casablanca in this handy guide, the best things to do in Casablanca.
5. Visit the El Jadida Lighthouse
Perched on a rocky outcrop above the Atlantic is the picturesque El Jadida lighthouse. First built in 1916, this white and red lighthouse stands 66 feet tall.
After descending to the lighthouse base, scale the narrow spiral staircase to reach the top. You’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views over the coastline. Nearby is an old Portuguese chapel that’s worth seeing.
The scenic lighthouse headland provides a fantastic viewpoint for photographs. Try to time your visit for sunset to see El Jadida’s coastline illuminated in golden light.
6. Relax on Haouzia Beach
For a quieter beach experience than Sidi Bouzid, head to Haouzia Beach located northeast of El Jadida’s medina. The beach has a wild and windswept feel with gentle waves lapping ashore.
Haouzia Beach is popular with local families and good for water sports like surfing. After swimming and sunbathing, you can get lunch at one of the beachfront restaurants. Umbrellas and lounge chairs are available to rent.
7. Go Shopping in the Central Market
For an authentic slice of local commerce, browse through El Jadida’s central market. Located near the ramparts, this undercover market is busiest in the morning.
Peruse stalls piled high with seasonal vegetables and fruits. You’ll also find butchers, bakers, and sellers of spices, grains, olives, and cheese. Don’t forget to check out the fish section for the day’s catch from the Atlantic.
The central market is a great place in El Jadida to experience local trade and pick up produce for a picnic. Remember to barter!
8. Admire the Views from El Jadida Ramparts
Surrounding the old Portuguese citadel is an impressive set of bastioned ramparts and moats. Walking along these ramparts provides fabulous views over the harbor and out to sea.
The ramparts were built in the 16th century as fortifications to defend Mazagan from invaders. Admire the strategic design and sea vistas as you circle the medina’s perimeter.
For panoramic views, find your way up to the South Rampart lookout point. The sight of crashing waves is therapeutic to watch and listen to.
9. Watch the Sunset at Sidi Abed Beach
As one of El Jadida’s prettiest beaches, Plage Sidi Abed makes a wonderful spot for watching the sunset. This long stretch of golden sand looks out over the Atlantic.
Come in the late afternoon to watch the sun slowly sink towards the horizon. The sight of the glowing sun reflected in the calm waters is magnificent.
After sunset, you can have dinner at one of the excellent seafood restaurants behind Sidi Abed Beach. Get tips on tipping in Morocco here.
10. Step Back in Time at El Jadida Old Town
Within the Portuguese ramparts lies a fascinating old town known as the Medina. Its labyrinth of narrow lanes is lined with historic houses displaying Portuguese and Moorish styles.
Wandering through the peaceful backstreets is like walking through an open-air museum. Be sure to look up to appreciate the ornate carvings, arches, and wrought-iron balconies.
Drop into the local machiche cafes, browse the handicraft stores, and imagine life in ancient Mazagan.
11. Visit the Church of the Assumption
One of El Jadida’s architectural highlights is the Portuguese Church of the Assumption, located in the citadel’s main square. Its Renaissance facade is intricately decorated with statues, reliefs, and carved motifs.
Step inside to admire its barrel-vaulted nave and colorful tiling. Fine details like the carved Baroque altar and 19th-century organ are remarkable. The church still hosts Sunday Mass.
The Church of the Assumption is considered one of El Jadida’s finest historic buildings from the Portuguese period.
12. Relish Seafood at the Port
El Jadida’s bustling port is a great place to indulge in the city’s famed seafood. Numerous restaurants line the wharf, specializing in the daily ocean catch.
Pull up a table and feast on platters laden with grilled and fried fish, prawns, squid, mussels, and more. Watch the fishing boats come and go as you dine alfresco overlooking the water. A portside seafood meal is a quintessential El Jadida experience.
13. Look Over the Ancient Mazagan from the Bastion
For a bird’s-eye view over El Jadida’s medina, head up to the Bastion de l’Ange or Angel Bastion. Perched on the city’s northern ramparts, this lookout point overlooks the historic kernel of Mazagan.
From this elevated vantage point, you can trace the star-shaped outline of the old Portuguese fortress and its ring of protective bastions. The scenic views stretch out to Sidi Bouzid beach and the Atlantic coastline.
14. Spend a Day of Leisure at Deauville Plage
Seeking some seaside serenity? Head north of El Jadida’s city centre to Deauville Plage, a beautiful stretch of sandy beach. With a relaxed ambiance and calmer waves, Deauville is perfect for leisurely days of swimming, reading, and seaside napping.
Facilities include sun loungers, parasols, showers, and cafes. Water sports are available to rent. When you’re done tanning, enjoy a fruit juice or snack while gazing out at the ocean.
15. Try Moroccan Pastries
No trip to El Jadida is complete without trying some classic Moroccan pastries and cookies. Head to one of the local bakeries for melt-in-your-mouth treats like chebakia (honey-soaked cookies), shebakia (fried pastry), kaab el ghzal (almond crescents), and more.
Experience a Trip To El Jadida Like a Local – Places To See
- Wander through the souqs (markets) to shop for handicrafts and interact with locals. El Jadida is known for caftans, leather goods, bronze items, and jewelry.
- Brush up on your French and Arabic phrases as English is less widely spoken outside tourist centers.
- Visit a traditional hammam (bathhouse) to experience Moroccan spa treatments like exfoliating scrubs and relaxing massages.
- Sip mint tea and play backgammon at the local machiche (cafe). It’s a beloved social ritual.
- Try dishes like tagine, couscous, and bessara soup. Sweets like shebakia sesame cookies and almond-stuffed pastries are also popular.
- Dress modestly when visiting religious sites like the Sidi Bouzid Mosque. Cover knees and shoulders, and avoid revealing clothing.
- Bargain respectfully at markets and small shops. Offer about half the quoted price, then settle on a fair deal for both parties.
Where to Stay in El Jadida?
El Jadida has hotels and riads (guesthouses) to suit all budgets. For proximity to the beach, look for accommodation around Sidi Bouzid and Haouzia. If you prefer being in the historic center, stay within or near the Portuguese citadel.
Here are some highly-rated hotels and riads in El Jadida:
- Riad Le Mazagao
- Hôtel Pullman Mazagan Royal Golf & Spa
- Dar El Manar
- Hotel de la Plage
- Riad Dar Chraïbi
- Hôtel de Paris
Many hotels can arrange airport transfers from Casablanca or Mohammedia. For longer stays, budget apartments and villas are also available.
The Best Time to Visit Top Attractions in El Jadida
El Jadida enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cooler winters. The most ideal times for visiting El Jadida are during:
- Spring (March to May) – Temperatures are pleasantly warm, perfect for sightseeing and outdoor activities. Accommodation prices are lower before peak summer.
- Fall (September to November) – The summer heat and crowds have eased. The cooler weather is great for exploring the old town and relaxing on the beach.
During July and August, El Jadida gets very hot and crowded with domestic tourists. Some attractions may close in winter (December to February) but it’s budget-friendly.
Getting to El Jadida
El Jadida is easily accessible by road and rail:
- Frequent trains run to El Jadida from Casablanca, Rabat, and Mohammedia. The train station is a 20-minute walk from the city centre.
- Buses to El Jadida depart Casablanca’s bus station Ouled Ziane. There are also buses from Marrakech, Agadir, and other major cities.
- Private taxi transfers can be arranged from Casablanca airport or the city centre to reach El Jadida in just over an hour.
- For flexibility, renting a car allows you to also visit nearby towns like Azemmour, Safi, and Oualidia.
Summary – 15 Best Things To Do In El Jadida, Morocco
With its refreshing coastal setting and fascinating history, El Jadida provides a memorable Moroccan experience away from the big-city hustle.
Wandering through its UNESCO-listed Portuguese citadel transports you centuries back in time. The nearby beaches offer swimming, sunbathing, and memorable sunsets with views over the wild Atlantic Ocean.
From seafood fresh off the boats to plates of traditional Moroccan pastries, El Jadida also delights the tastebuds. The city provides an immersion into local Moroccan lifestyle and culture as well. Discover more about Moroccan people and culture here.
So if you’re looking for a laidback coastal retreat blended with culture and history, El Jadida is a fantastic choice for your Moroccan holiday.