Hotel Review: Continental Hotel Tanger
I am just using this Continental Hotel Tanger review to unapologetically dump some salivatory vintage Moroccan interior pictures on you. These I recently noticed in some folder and thought “oooh I would love to return there”. But of course, like most sensible people here, I am sitting at home, going out only when absolutely necessary and limit my trips to the necessary minimum (funerals, three-times postponed trip to see my in-laws, seeing my mum, work…).
Please note that at the time of writing, according to the Commonwealth and Foreign Office, Morocco is open to foreigners who have residence in Morocco. They must undergo SARS-CoV2 PCR AND antibody testing AND quarantine for 14 days at home AND use a national tracking app.
But at some point, we will travel more again, and the Mediterranean is one of my first destinations. Easy to reach from my Central European home, diverse, rich in culture, budget friendly. Having travelled there in 1998 and 2012, Morocco is high on my list for a repeat visit!
One of the survivors from the “Grand Tour” age of the rich, this hotel has been gently preserved, not much modernised, and is now firmly set in the budget-to mid-range. It was built in 1870 as a private residence and only converted into a hotel about 10 years later If you like classic movies, you should definitely pay a visit, as some parts of Bernardo Bertolucci’s film “The Sheltering Sky” were filmed here. Paul Bowles, thee author of the novel, lived in Tanger for nearly 60 years. The building saw many famous guests in its time – Winston Churchill, Edgar Degas, John Malkovich… well! Who wouldn’t want to meet John Malkovich?
Location of the Continental Hotel Tanger
Once the image of the building above the Mediterranean must have been quite a sight. This i snow somewhat dampened by the Tanger-Ville port terminal and a large empty lot just at the foot of the hotel, but its location just on the sedge of the medina is still good. You can walk from the port on a very short steep footpath, and you are in the medina in two minutes. Further on, the Grand Socco with its gently decaying modernist architecture and the Cinema Rif is less than 10 minutes away A small road leads up to the hotel, so arriving and leaving by taxi isn’t a problem either.
The city beach is about a kilometre away. This is not the nicest beach, to be honest, its sandy strip quite small and the water quality questionable. However, this is the place if you want to hang out in modern cafes and eat well-priced and fresh seafood.
My Room at the Continental Hotel Tanger
I booked a single room and was assigned a twin when I trudged up the stirs from the port one late evening, having just come off a small yacht by way of the Tarifa jet catamaran, wanting to “do a bit of culture” after my Competent Crew Sailing Course. You can see that the rich heritage and decor of the communal area do not extend to the 50-odd guestrooms which are, at best… functional.
It had clean tiled floors, a private bathroom and a sea view. And I only slept in the room, spending the rest of my brief time in Tanger mooching about the series of Moorish salons and corridors. For the purpose of cleaning yourself up and sleeping, the standard rooms are more than adequate. In recent years, they have begun to update their rooms from the joyless 80’s budget style to bright bland wood, so not all rooms you might be offered will look like my room.
Are there better rooms?
If you want to experience a truly seamless classic hotel stay, what you really want is a suite. I have searched high and low on the hotel website and several booking sites to find availability for any suites or some type of superior room which are rumored to have marble bathroom and some seriously decorative Moorish furnishings in line with the photogenic communal areas of the hotel.
I checked the internets and some say the elusive lavish room is the “Chambre Royale”, allegedly the room Winston Churchill once stayed it before the building became a hotel. Maybe is just an urban myth, but of you find them, please let me know how to book them because next time I’d like to stay in one! In fact, I might go as far as phone the hotel in advance and enquire about the “Chambre Royale” availability and pricing once it is possible to visit Morocco as a tourist again.
Facilities of the Continental Hotel Tanger
The Hotel Continental has a restaurant, bar and coffee shop although I did not see them much in action during my stay. All the fancy salons were pleasantly deserted when I explored the hotel in the morning.
I noticed the property has some well-looking cats which is always a bonus.
Staying in this hotel is definitely all about a faded style and charm rather than a comfortable holiday. I am sure you will not fall short of things to do in Tanger, but 3-4 days are probably enough to experience its charms. Because of many day trippers from Spain, eating and shopping is more expensive compared to other touristy cities like Fes or Marrakech. But if it’s about dining out on faded glory of the heyday of Tanger when it was an international zone between 1923 and 1956, Tanger will have heaps of charme for the history-minded traveller.
So it is at the Hotel Continental where you find remnants of the Golden Days of 20th Century Tanger, the salons, the decoration which, although crumbly in part, still manages to enchant.
Where you are free to wander the extensive building and feel like you are in a museum. The communal areas have been fairly well maintained and importantly, not really messed with, so the original decor is mostly intact.
And although I did not take a full meal at the hotel, as I had to catch my train to Fes at lunchtime, the breakfast was rather decent for something included in the room rate. Also, note the lavish surroundings it was served in!
Alternative Accommodation in Tanger
So perhaps I enticed you to the charms of Tanger, but a somewhat faded olde-worlde hotel isn’t where you would like to spend the night? Well, let me introduce you to a wealth of other options!
You want the traditional Moroccan style but more mod cons?
Try the Dar Jameel Hotel in the medina. A smaller hotel, this is buiult in a traditional medina home but blends traditiona and more modern interior effortlessly.
Accommodation by the beach
The Marina Bay Hotel lies right by the municipal beach and is large, in a vaguely moderne historical building but totally contemporary inside. As you would expect for a four-star it has a pool, spa, restaurants and a business centre. Its interior is pleasantly neutral, not too bland and this is where I would stay if I wanted a modern beach-side hotel.
All-out tradition and luxury… but under 100 Euro
The Grand Hotel Villa de France is an old palatial hotel 100m from the Grand Socco set in lush extensive gardens. It has a very 1980’s moneyed traveller vibe and decor with a subtle Moorish touch to it. Add marble bathrooms, heavy drapes and a ton of soft furnishings and a pleasing colour scheme of soft browns and turquoise, and you get a very grand, very comfortable place to stay just shy of 100 Euro per night per room, which I consider very reasonable for the grandeur.
Getting to and from Tanger
Tanger is an excellent place to start a Morocco trip, especially if coming from Spain. Ferries and fast passenger catamarans operate between Algeciras, Gibraltar and Tarifa as well as Sete in France and Tanger. Note most ferries now use Tanger-Med.
Tanger is connected to Africas first high-speed rail linking the Mediterranean Coast with Rabat and Casablanca, and there are numerous other decent rail connections with Fes and Marrakech, even places in the south like Essapouira and Agadir can be reached comfortably by train. I took the train about five times between Tanger, Meknes and Fes and found them comfortable. They do not have German or French standard but journey were perfectly fine in Second Class.
Rue Dar Baroud N° 36, Ancienne Medina, Tanger (90000), Maroc
Tel: +212 5399-31024
Website: Third-party website only: https://www.hotel-tanger.com/lhotel-continental-tanger-034
I use Booking.com to reserve and pay for my 90% of my hotels. Its fast and easy. I can pay in my home currency and make changes to my booking easily.
How much? Expect to pay between 35 and 40 Euro for a standard double.
Tanger Ville Port: 3min by foot. Please not that the vast majority of ferries now use Tangier-Med, a large commercial port about 60km from Tanger. Only a few passenger ferries still operate to Tarifa in Spain. Schedules are notoriously fickle. It is best to go there a day before your intended departure or travel to and from Tanger-Med.
Nearest Bus Stop: no idea. Either walk down the stairs to the port and catch a bis/taxi. The hotels leads to the Medina on the other side which is closed to most motorized traffic.
Features: non-smoking rooms, quiet rooms, free WiFi, private bathroom. A communal roof terrace, a real 1950s Boho Moroccan decor, souvenir shop, newsagent, lots of helpful people who say they know a lot
Doesn’t have: elevator, much alcohol, culinary excitement, too many modern things
The first thing to admit is that I visited the Continental Hotel in 2012, so, um, quite some time ago. However, as this hotel has barely changed since the 1960’s, I have no hesitation to recommend it. Similar to other cheap to mid-range classic hotels of this calibre, like the Reina Cristina in nearby Algeciras or The Atlanta Hotel in Bangkok, they gently age over the years and not many things change expect new mattresses, bathrooms and WiFi. This is why I recommend this hotel to you. Tanger is by no means the most exciting destination on Morocco. It does have charme and patina. Tanger is a beautiful place to spend a few days alternating between admiring the 1920s architecture, siting in cafes and enjoying its lively city beach.
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