All of the things to do in Asilah Morocco plus where to eat
Barely 40 minutes by car south of Tangier Ville (where one ferry arrives from Spain), Asilah is an oft-neglected coastal city (at least by non-Spaniards or -Moroccans!) that offers a quieter, less frenetic medina, plus a beach, fishing port, street art, and great sunsets too. You won’t want for things to do in Asilah Morocco for a couple of days.
The village of Asilah dates back to 1500 B.C. but it was the Portuguese that conquered this city on the Atlantic Coast and built its fortifications in about 1470, starting the area’s tug-o’-war with power changing hands between Portugal, Spain and Morocco through 1956, when Asilah finally became a permanent part of Morocco. There are still a lot of Spanish tourists and a huge Spanish influence. Speaking Spanish is also helpful as you wander Asilah Morocco finding things to do. Unless you are spending a lot of time on beaches, or planning a day trip in the area, a couple of days in Asilah is plenty.
There are also a lot of newer apartments outside of the medina along the beach promenade, and we were told a lot of wealthier Moroccans have vacation places in the area. This is where you also find most restaurants as well as some bright and new ice cream parlors.
Asilah has gained a firm footing on the map in part due to its international Asilah Arts Festival that has taken place every summer since its creation in 1978 to boost the town’s development. Every year, all of the medina’s walls are whitewashed to prepare for a new slate of street art that is a big part of the festival which also includes music, dancing and exhibitions. Usually it takes place in August, but best to check since dates can move based on Ramadan or other city needs. The art is quaint, without the towering murals you may find elsewhere. The annual white washing leads to a brighter, fresher medina overall than many you will find in Morocco.
Of course, there is also art outside the medina too.
Medina, its ramparts and gates
The town inside the old city walls is intimate. After less than a day, you should be able to make your way around like a pro. On your list of things to do in Asilah is of course to walk the old walls along the inside although in places it is not totally accessible. Doing this allows you to take in all the views as well as stroll past the Al Qamra tower, Palais de Raissouli (built by an infamous pirate), and Hassan II Cultural Center (which often hosts exhibits when it is open). You can also walk large sections of the outside of the wall, where you will find local, colorful vendors selling fruits and breads along Avenue ibn Batouta. The central Bab Homar gate is a scenic spot that hustles and bustles with comings and goings – take a few moments to enjoy the scene, especially in the evening.
Beaches in and around Asilah are popular among vacationing Moroccans and Spaniards for things to do in Asilah Morocco. The closest Medina Beach It is not huge but offers everything you need in a beach! Plus, it nestles right up to the base of the medina, making for good access and nice views, but also perhaps more crowds. Water is shallow for safe wading and for kids. If you are intent on beaches, there are a lot of other beaches up and down the coast from the town of Asilah, most set up with the requisite chairs and palm frond umbrellas and all of which can get pretty hectic in the summer high season.
Even before the fog lifts early in the morning, the beach and its promenade attract walkers, joggers, and a place for a little girl talk.
We particularly enjoyed the working harbor. Walking along the harbor and breakwater is a nice break from dodging among the medina’s stores along narrow alleys, plus you can scramble up on top of the rock breakwater for sunrise and sunset views. This is also a popular place to jog or walk. Or just to watch the fog roll out at sunrise.
Not to be found on most list of things to do in Asilah, we suggest you add this to yours: If it is not a Friday, come sunset you will find fisherman wheeling carts along the harbor toward town, all laden with their day’s catch. They stop where the main Rue Moulay Hassan ibn Mehdi ends at the medina, setting up the evening fish market just outside the main city gate. The show gathers quite a crowd of shoppers – plus onlookers if somebody has happened to bring in a really impressive fish, like the amazing swordfish we saw one night! Even if you can’t buy fish, stop in for the evening spectacle!
If there is one must-do, it’s coming out for the evening promenade before sunset along the medina ramparts that overlook the main beach. When the weather is nice, it will be a bustle of locals and tourists, kids and adults, couples and families, and cyclists and pedestrians. There are two great views for sunset in Asilah: One from inside the ramparts out to the ocean, and the. other from the harbor’s breakwater looking back to the medina walls. If you have two evenings, do one of each! I particularly enjoyed the interaction and people-watching inside the medina, as well as the shadows from the sun on the walls.
The warm light of the sun on the beach and medina as it sinks into the ocean is another beautiful sight.
Where to eat in Asilah
Of course, once you’ve knocked off all the things to do in Asilah Morocco, you’ll need to find a good meal too. There are plenty of fast food for beachgoers and families, but for something else try:
- La Perle d’Asilah – A newer, higher-end restaurant run by an Irish woman and her Moroccan chef husband. The food is definitely finer, with a mix of influences from Spanish and seafood, to Moroccan and Asian. A good wine list is also available. We highly enjoyed a meal there, partly because we had different flavor profiles than we knew we’d be experiencing on our trip.
- Dar Al Magrhebia – The true Moroccan restaurant in town with all of the tagines and brouchettes you would expect. If you haven’t had enough of this cuisine or are just in Morocco for a few days, you can get your Moroccan fill here.
- Casa Garcia – A popular Spanish-seafood place with a nice outdoor terrace. You must like seafood to eat here!
Where to stay
Riad Dar Manara offers a convenient, cozy experience not far from Bab Homar and inside the medina walls.