If you haven’t been to Chefchaouen before, you are really missing out! Often referred to as the ‘Blue City’, this absolutely beautiful tourist destination is situated high up in the Rif mountains of Northwest Morocco and definitely lives up to its name! Hundreds of bright blue houses- painted by the Jewish refugees who lived there many years ago- are scattered amongst the winding alleyways of this charming little place which I was lucky enough to visit this month. Despite being a popular spot for tourists, I was surprised to find it wasn’t as crowded as I expected which I think may owe in part to the gazillion steps that you have to climb up and down to get a good look of the city. (note to self: make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes if you’re planning on going!)
What to do
Chefchaouen is one of the most incredible places where you literally can just walk around all day long and still not tire of the scenery. Eating good (and cheap) food, sipping on mint tea and watching the world go by is really what life is about for me and theres no better place to do it than here. Thats not to say thats all there is to this city though. If you’re a hiking lover than I would definitely recommend visiting Talassemtane National Park in the Rif mountains. With 589.5-square-kilometre (227.6 sq mi) of vast green land, it is home to the last of Moroccos threatened fir forests as well as the Atlas cedar, not to mention some incredible birds. The park was created in 2004 and houses some of the smaller villages of El-Kelaâ and Akchour as well the infamous ‘God’s Bridge’, a natural formation of rocks which is shaped like a stone arch. If your legs can make it up the steep hill on the outer ring of the city, the Grande Mosquee, built in the 15th century, is well worth checking out. As is the ruins of an ancient Spanish mosque built in the 1920’s which sits neatly about two kilometres from the centre, overlooking the entire city.
Where to eat
Cafe Sofia, located just in front of the Hotel Parrador is rated the number 1 restaurant in Chefchaouen on Tripadviser and has a great menu for a super cheap price! We ate here on our first night in the city and although the food did taste really great, I wouldn’t personally have given it a five star rating. We both opted for meat tagine which was melt in the mouth delicious but sadly the service was a little rude (particular to Moroccan customers) and our meals took ages to arrive. Instead I would highly recommend Bab Kasaba which is one of the many restaurants lining the Kasbah- a busy central area of the city which really comes alive at night. The food here was outrageously tasty- particular their grilled meat platters and the lamb tagine. We managed to cram in what was pretty much a three-course meal for 107 mdh (roughly £8.50 all together) including two of the best mint teas we had! Aladin restaurant situated in the medina is also a great place to stop by if you fancy something other than the typical Moroccan tagine. With a few extra international meals, their menu is slightly higher priced than most other restaurants in the city but if you can get yourself a seat at the very top of the terrace, its well worth it!
You just can’t leave Chefchaouen without picking up a woollen poncho! If you’re visiting in the cooler months like I did then you’ll find loads of these quality hand made garments dotted all around the city however I picked one up from Bazar Hicham, where you can also watch them make it! Aladdin’s Abeula shop is located just north of the town square and is famous amongst locals and tourists alike for its colourful soaps, perfumes, shampoos and homemade oils. You can pick up a whole bag full of natural goodies for as little as £10! To the east of the medina, just before the waterfall begins you’ll find a leather shop run by a local man named Hassan. This is the best place to pick up all things leather- bags, shoes, clothing- you name it, he can make it. If you want something made from your own designs then take a picture of it with you and he’ll be happy to make it for a good fee (bargaining is recommended of course) however you might want to book it in wth him a few days in advance to make sure he has enough time to make it! In the eastern corner of place el Makhzen you’ll find a lovely spot for blankets, scarfs and handmade crafts which can be bought at fixed prices as well as numerous jewellery stores (if you love silver necklaces then you’ll love this little line of shops!).
Where we stayed
After some thorough research (and I mean, crazy mad thorough research) we realised we had probably left it a little bit late (as usual) to find somewhere that would exceed all our expectations in terms of accommodations. Honestly, I could not believe just how quickly hotels and riads were getting fully booked in the weeks leading up to our trip. Luckily we managed to find a room at a lovely little place called Casa La Palma which was nestled neatly just 2 minutes underneath bab el mahrouk- one of the entrances to the city which is very high up in the mountains! The hotel owner Carlos is absolutely lovely and knows everything there is to know about the city and was quick to recommend things to do and places to eat. The rooms are slightly small but thats the charm of staying in a riad, but it was all about the views for me. If you stay here, make sure to get yourself up onto the roof terrace early in the morning or at sunset, those views over the city are breathtaking in every single way! To find out more about hotel Casa La Palma, click here.