A guide to Morocco’s most exciting cities

Morocco is home to some vibrant and bustling cities that are well worth exploring if you’ve got the time to travel around the country. The following are some of the best places to visit, but this is far from an exhaustive list!

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Fes

If you’re keen to learn about Morocco’s fascinating history, Fes is the place to come, as it’s considered to be a hotspot for traditional Moroccan culture. The city is home to one of the oldest universities in the world – the Karaouiyine mosque, which set up its teaching facilities in the 9th century.

Fes also has the distinction of being the oldest Moroccan imperial city, with the ramparts that protected the settlement, as well as the monumental gates that provided access, still intact. The monumental gates are particularly stunning, with these entrances decorated using blue and green glazed ceramic pieces. You also can’t leave Fes without experiencing its vast Medina, which comprises almost 1,000 narrow alleys, all lined with stalls and shops selling everything from jewellery to cabinets.

Rabat

You can’t miss Rabat if you’re touring Morocco’s best cities, as it’s the capital and boasts a wealth of historical sites. Among them are the remains of a 12th century mosque that was designed to be large enough that the whole of Yaqub Al-Mansour’s army could pray there.

Many of Rabat’s most important monuments now house museums, with the Oudayas Palace home to the national museum, while one of the towers that guards the walls of the Oudayas Kasbah has been converted into three art galleries. The entire fortress quarter, where you’ll find these and other landmarks, is still surrounded by imposing walls topped with cannons. The main gate and its stunning carved wooden doors are among its most striking features.

Essaouira

Essaouira is a beautiful coastal city that’s well worth a visit on your holiday to Morocco – and it has much more than just a pretty beach to offer travellers. One of its most notable landmarks is the fortress that stands proudly looking out to sea. You can walk along the ramparts and visit the old artillery platform before heading into Essaouira’s medina.

The medina here is not as old as many of the others you can explore in Morocco, having been founded in the 18th century. However, what makes it particularly special is the coexistence of so many ethnic groups who have all been brought together due to the city’s status as a trading hub. Arabs, Amazighs, Europeans and Africans all live and work side-by-side within the medina.

Marrakech

The final city we’re going to talk about is Marrakech, which is a fascinating example of how an old Moroccan city has been expanded with a distinctly European influence. The period of French rule in the country – and the importance of Marrakech at this time – resulted in an entirely new and very different district (Gueliz) being developed alongside the traditional heart of Marrakech.

Among the old Moroccan sites you shouldn’t miss are the bustling medina – especially the Djemma el Fna square – the Koutoubia Mosque, Saadian Tombs and the Ben-Youssef medersa. In Gueliz, you’ll discover charming gardens (like the Marjorelle Gardens), luxury boutiques, quaint cafes and high-end restaurants. This makes Marrakech an excellent place to visit if you’re keen to see the old and new sides of Morocco in one place.

 

Cyprus and its cities

Cyprus is an island of many facets and if you’re intending to take a holiday there, it’s best to plan so that you can explore as many of them as possible. Tourists often forsake the cities in favour of those gorgeous sandy beaches and the rugged terrain that have given the island its status as a holiday paradise, but the major cities have just as much charm as the fishing villages on the outskirts. Good nightlife, plenty of cafes and culture in abundance, you can definitely expect to find all of these in the metropolises below. With flights to Cyprus with companies such as Monarch so cheap at the moment, why not book a weekend off and explore one of them?

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Lefkosia

The city of Lefkosia is the capital and business centre of the island, and as such, you can expect a busy atmosphere as well as a thriving town centre. During the day, you’ll find plenty of places to sample that fine Cypriot coffee – Kafenio in Nikokleous and Raw in Themistokli Dervi are two of the finest recommendations – but you’ll also be treated to a rather exciting nightlife. For a unique evening experience, head to Plato’s. Tucked away inside an old house, it feels very much like a jazz joint and serves a huge variety of beers from all over the world. Dress appropriately, though.

Top of the list of cultural attractions is Buyuk Han, a stunning Ottoman-era construction where a local market still take place on a regular basis (check with your accommodation provider – they should be able to tell you when the market is on). Oddly enough, it’s also worth tracking down the local Debenhams for a first-class panoramic look at Lefkosia from the top floor. Don’t feel too self-conscious – everyone is doing it.

Lemesos

It’s all about the culture in Lemesos. The second largest city in Cyprus is an immensely popular tourist destination for many reasons, but the plethora of historical attractions is certainly a huge draw. Highlights to see include the Grand Mosque in the old Turkish quarter, the archaeological museum and, of course, Lemesos’ very own medieval castle. Constructed in the 14th century, this imposing structure has impressed and enthralled the city’s visitors since the day it was completed.

Larnaca

Our third city destination is the metropolis of Larnaca. Don’t be fooled by the concrete jungle feel offered by the circular steel towers here – there’s still plenty of beauty to be unearthed. If you have a choice, come here during the winter months. You won’t be disappointed – the nearby Salt Lake fills with water and plays host to flocks of beautiful flamingos.

But there’s plenty to do in the summer as well – be sure to visit the Ayios Lazarus, and dive down to the wreck of the Zenobia if you get the opportunity.

Paphos

Our final destination is Paphos, which more than holds its own against its fellow cities. Must-visit locations include the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, the Ayios Neophytos monastery and – particularly if you’re a wildlife fan – the Lara Bay Turtle Conservation Station, which is every bit as wonderful as it sounds. Paphos is also coastal and, as such, has some of the best beaches in Cyprus. Head to St George with a beach towel and a good book for some serene coastline.