Ceuta in (Spanish) and Sebta (Arabic) is a Spanish city on the Moroccan mainland. Tangier, Morocco is around 75 kilometers away. The city is tax-free, which makes it appealing to individuals in industry who can use it as a base, and it has a major shipping port. It’s also a highly busy pedestrian area because Moroccans who have access to cross take back things to be resold in Morocco since whatever they may carry is tax free entering Morocco.
An intriguing fact is that since 2010, Ceuta and Melilla have designated Eid al Adha a public holiday, making it the first time since the Reconquista that a Muslim festival has been publicly recognized by Spain.
The majority of the population speaks Spanish, although many also speak Darija (a Moroccan Arabic dialect), Berber, and French.
Weather-wise Ceuta is a fantastic location. Ceuta’s year-round temperatures range from 18 to 27 degrees Celsius, with little rain. Winter months are cooler and more likely to rain.
All About Ceuta
While most of northern Morocco was previously part of Spain’s colonial territorial claims, the towns of Ceuta and Melilla were not restored to Moroccan sovereignty until the mid-20th century. Since the 1400s, the city has been free of Moroccan sovereignty, passing from the Portuguese to the Spanish.
The Rif War is the most recent violent conflict in the area between Morocco and Spain. Berber groups from the Rif region started attacking Spanish laborers in the region from 1909, and Spain spent years attempting to calm the region. Armed strife erupted from 1920 and 1927, soon after the signing of the Treaty of Fez, which handed Spain sovereignty of the region. The crisis was finally resolved when the French became engaged in 1925.
(For more information on this struggle, see The Betrothed of Death: The Spanish Foreign Legion During the Rif Rebellion, 1920-1927 and Deadly Embrace: Morocco and the Road to the Spanish Civil struggle. If you want something more aesthetically appealing, the Netflix series Morocco: Love in Time of War takes place around this time period.
Morocco has long claimed ownership of the city and has advocated for its restoration, but this has mainly fallen on deaf ears.
Many migrants seeking to enter the border from Morocco, but more usually from other African countries, have utilized Ceuta as a crossing site by climbing the border fences. Moroccan police have apprehended people trying to cross, and those who are able to cross are basically trapped in Ceuta until their amnesty or asylum claims are reviewed.
Ceuta has a lengthy history riddled with conquests and takeovers, making it an intriguing place to explore. While it is Spanish, it has a distinct vibe from other cities on the Spanish mainland.
Getting to and Getting Around in Ceuta
A journey to Ceuta is simple for people visiting or residing in Morocco. There are buses and taxis available from Tangier to Fnideq and the land crossing. Every day, ships operate from mainland Spain to Ceuta.
Fnideq crossing from Morocco to Ceuta
You may cross at this location on foot or by car. Whichever path you choose, you should be prepared to pass an international border.
Those travelling by car can expect to wait at the border for a lengthy period of time. During peak seasons (particularly at the start and conclusion of the summer holiday season), the wait might range from several hours to a full day, depending on when you arrive. Keep in mind that the city is tiny, so bringing a car in for a short period of time may not be the greatest option.
If you have a vehicle with Moroccan license plates, you must contact your insurance carrier to get the green visa that allows your vehicle to pass through and stay protected. I’ve heard conflicting accounts about whether or not this is required, so double-check before you attend. If you want to take the ferry to travel to mainland Spain with your vehicle, you will undoubtedly need a car visa.
Crossing by foot is more quicker and simpler than driving. You have the option of parking your vehicle in Fnideq or taking a cab to the border. Simply get in line to go through the immigration point from here. Many Moroccans will cluster near the entry to cross; many, if not most, of these individuals are those that cross the border back and forth all day transporting things. They usually let you by them in line.
On both sides of the border, you must go through a passport check. When you reach to the entrance queue, you’ll proceed to a window box to give the immigration officer your passport and, if you’re a Moroccan resident, your residence card. They almost never ask questions and almost always stamp you through.
At this point, you’ll trek around 300 meters across a 5 meter-high passageway until you reach the Spanish border. The Spanish immigration officers are not sitting but stand at the doors and normally take a cursory check at your passport and stamp before allowing you to enter. Your passport is not stamped.
You’ve arrived at Ceuta!
Can Moroccans enter Ceuta without a visa from Spain?
Yes and no, but no in most circumstances. Moroccan people who live in the vicinity of Ceuta are given special credentials that enable them to cross. whether they reside nearby, they will most likely know whether they are qualified for this pass. Moroccan nationals, on the other hand, will almost always require a Spanish visa to visit Ceuta.
How to go from la frontera (the border) to the city
Once crossed, you have three alternatives for getting to the city center.
- Walk. Yes, you can walk there, but it’s a lengthy trek through largely direct sunlight. Avoid this unless you’re on a tight budget or like walking.
- It’s the bus. A bus stop is located directly outside the Spanish border exit. It arrives on a regular basis and costs €0.80 each way. You must have euros on hand since they do not accept Moroccan dirham. If you haven’t arranged ahead of time, there are persons standing around this location who will swap dirham for euros at a low cost. The bus arrives.
- A cab. Getting a cab immediately at the border is hit or miss, depending on how busy the traffic is leaving Spain. A cab from the border to the city will cost you about €8. If you don’t locate one straight away, start heading towards the city and you may be able to catch one that is turning around to head back.
Returning to Morocco through the crossing
Both cabs and buses are possibilities for returning, although taxis are the simplest to locate and use. Don’t be shocked if you find yourself in a big wait when you arrive at the border. If there is a backup, it is pretty common for the driver to have you out much before of the crossing, so be prepared to walk some. When hailing a cab, just say “la frontera” and they will take you back to the border.
When you leave, your papers will not be verified by Spanish officials, but they will be by Moroccans. As you depart, you will need to fill out and provide another white landing card. Many individuals will pass through the little window that acts as passport control.
Moroccans who have access to and reside near the border do not have to present their papers every time, but you will. On leaving, you must display your landing card and passport to get a stamp. If you miss this checkpoint, a police officer farther up will turn you back.
This section of the crossing may be rather strenuous, so if you went shopping in Ceuta, be prepared to carry everything with you for around 1 kilometer.
Getting in through the ferry port
Because there is no bus service from the dock to the city, you should plan on using a cab. It’s just around a 15-minute walk from the harbor to the city center, so it’s also a totally doable stroll.
How to Get Around Ceuta
The city has an internal transportation system that is pretty simple to use. Most locations, particularly in the city center, are also walkable. Finally, cabs are widely accessible and reasonably priced.
Ceuta’s Arabic Baths
Built as a public bathhouse during the 12th and 13th centuries. The remnants have been entirely rebuilt, although in as near to their original shape as feasible.
The Ceuta Royal Walls
These defenses were thought to have begun in the fifth century, but what is visible now was fortified and expanded under the Portuguese era. The Museo de los Muralles Reales is a museum that displays temporary art exhibits.
This free museum explains the history and archeology of Ceuta. The museum is small but has numerous items ranging from Roman times to the Rif conflict. It also hosts temporary exhibitions on a regular basis.
Churches in Plaza Africa
The plaza itself is relatively boring, although it is home to two churches. The Cathedral and Our Lady of Africa Church. Both are built on the grounds of former mosques. Both are accessible to the public at different periods throughout the day.
The Dragons’ House
The bronze dragons flanking the façade of this building, which was finished in 1905, make it one of the most distinctive structures in Ceuta. It is regarded as a prime example of eclectic architecture. The original dragons were removed and lost in 1925, and replacement dragons were not mounted until 2006.
Statue of Hercules
This enormous artwork on Ceuta’s seashore depicts Hercules straddling the Straits of Gibraltar.
The Central Market
The central market, as in other Spanish towns, is a significant element of everyday life. The market starts at 8 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m., so it’s best to go early. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, here is a nice film (in Spanish) about the market.
Ceuta has a number of beaches to choose from. La Ribera Beach and El Chorrillo Beach are situated in Ceuta’s southern bay and are both blue flag recognized beaches for quality and safety. In the northern bay, Benzu Beach and Calamocarro Beach offer colder water and coarser gravel beaches. Benitez beach, which has a combination of sand and stones, is popular with locals.
If you don’t want to go to the beach but prefer to spend the day at a pool, the Mediterranean Maritime Park near the port is an excellent alternative. There are salt water pools, green areas, restaurants, a casino, a nightclub, and other amenities. The cost of admission varies according on the season, however it is around €5 per person.
Ceuta retail therapy
One of the main reasons visitors visit Ceuta, particularly those from Morocco, is to shop. Duty free shopping in Ceuta! While mainland Spain has a 21% VAT on products, Ceuta has no VAT and instead charges a municipal fee of 5-10% depending on the commodity.
Calle Camoens route runs through the downtown area and is a pedestrian route with a variety of brand name businesses. In Ceuta, you’ll also discover Spanish department store behemoth El Corte Ingles and Carrefour.
Ceuta has a lot of eateries, largely mom and pop shops, which is excellent. You’ll find both Spanish and Moroccan eateries, as well as hybrids of the two. I’ve never been disappointed by food, but I’ve yet to have a really memorable encounter. Here are a few locations we’ve tried and enjoyed.
Ordering fish is your best option in Ceuta; it’s what they specialize in. We also always get mosto, a terrific Andalusian drink if you don’t drink alcohol – it’s just grape juice but the flavor is exquisite and a treat since it’s typically only available in mainland Spain.
Restaurant Parador – The restaurant itself is a little antiquated, but the cuisine is simple and adequate. It’s not spectacular, but if you’re traveling with children, we found it to be a “easy” lunch to consume.
Pasteleria La Africana – A bakery with a range of Spanish bakery goods, not a restaurant. Try the ane-studded doughnuts (typically found on the top counter).
El Bistro de George – For a more sophisticated dining experience, try the Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine at El Bistro de George. If you’re afraid about ordering in Spanish elsewhere, the proprietor also knows English.
El Pescador – If you want to dine well while admiring the scenery, this is the place to go. They provide a variety of seafood and tapas. Ideal for lunch, snacks, or supper.
Where Can I Stay in Ceuta?
Most places to stay in Ceuta are pretty near to where you want to be. If you’re looking for a somewhere to stay for the night, here are a few ideas.
If you don’t want to brave the surf, this hotel is adjacent to Ribera Beach and features an outdoor swimming pool. The rooms are quite spacious and include air conditioning. A traditional Spanish breakfast is provided, and there are several restaurants and other shopping options nearby.
Hostal Plaza Ruiz
This simple motel is close to the bus station for buses arriving from the border and will suffice for budget visitors looking to stay in Ceuta.
Hercules Boutique Hotel
This boutique hotel is well designed and conveniently located. There is public parking nearby if you want to bring a car. There are two local beaches, and some rooms offer a view of the sea. In addition, there are complimentary beverages and snacks in the room!
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If you intend to visit Ceuta, you may easily visit Tetouan and Tangier, which are both within reasonable driving distance.