The French, charmed by the clear light that spreads throughout the country and the white hue of the buildings that climb the hill, called it “Alger, la blanche”, a name that could not better adapt to this large bustling city, which faces the Mediterranean and turns its back on the desert, between Morocco and Tunisia. Capital of one of the largest and richest countries in Africa, Algiers has one of the largest ports on the entire continent. With more than three million inhabitants, the city is divided into two zones: one modern, plunging on the coast, the other old, the Casbah, the old medina, clinging to the top of a hill, 120 meters above sea level.
If you decide to visit Algiers for your next trip, here are the best things to do in Algiers:
- 1. La Casbah
- 2. The mosques of the Casbah
- 3. The palaces of Dar Aziza and Jenina
- 4. The Jardin d’Essai in the Hamma district
- 5. The Basilica of Algiers: Our Lady of Africa
- 6. The Great Post Office
- 7. Martyr’s Memorial
- 8. The National Museum of Fine Arts
- Other ideas for visits to Algiers or its surroundings
- How to go to Algiers? Where to sleep in Algiers?
1. La Casbah
The Casbah means “the citadel”. It is the historic district of Algiers which includes the old town, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can visit it on foot through a maze of alleys between houses which sometimes conceal hidden treasures. It is in the Casbah that we find the most beautiful mosques in the city (see below). The Casbah is surrounded by a citadel which dates from the 16th century. Medersas (schools) and mausoleums will punctuate your visit. You can easily spend the day there.
2. The mosques of the Casbah
Stay in the heart of the casbah to discover the mosques of Algiers, starting with the Ketchaoua Mosque. Built for the first time in 1436, it was rebuilt in 1794. From 1832 to 1962, it became a Catholic cathedral named Saint-Philippe but became a mosque again in 1962, at the time of Algerian independence. It is recognized by its two miranets.
The Jamaa al-Jdid mosque is located in the lower Kasbah, near the sea, which earned it the nickname of the Mosque of the Fishery. It was built in 1660 in the Ottoman style. Its cupolas are reminiscent of those of Istanbul, but its 27-meter high minaret is in the Maghreb style with a clock that comes from the old Jenina Palace.
The Jemaa Kebir Mosque, or Great Mosque of Algiers, is the oldest of the mosques in Algiers, built in 1097. Its minaret dates from 1324. It is one of only three monuments of the Almoravid dynasty to survive at this time. day, with the Great Mosque of Tlemcen and the Great Mosque of Nedroma.
The Ali Betchine mosque is distinguished by its vast central dome. Smaller than the other mosques, it was built in 1622 by a renegade of Italian origin converted to Islam whose real name is Picenio.
Other much smaller mosques appear within the casbah.
3. The palaces of Dar Aziza and Jenina
Also at the Kasbah, Dar Aziza is a palace located on Place des Martyrs. Located opposite the Ketchaoua mosque, it is the very type of 16th century Algiers house. It served as a residence for the regents of Algiers. Although it is officially closed to the public, it is sometimes possible to enter its courtyard according to the goodwill of the guardian.
The Jenina Palace is the oldest in Algiers. Until 1817, it was the center of power. Destroyed in 1844 by fire, only parts remain, including Dar Aziza.
4. The Jardin d’Essai in the Hamma district
The Hamma Test Garden is considered one of the most important test and acclimatization gardens in the world. It is a botanical jewel of more than 3,000 plant species offering a real breath of fresh air in the center of Algiers. Founded in 1832, these gardens are said to be the oldest of their kind in Algeria and are one of the main attractions of the capital. Divided into a French garden, an English garden and a zoo, there are also statues and many animals.
5. The Basilica of Algiers: Our Lady of Africa
This impressive Roman Catholic church overlooks the Bay of Algiers, perched atop a cliff some 125 meters above the sea. Built in the 19th century, its French architect (Jean-Eugène Fromageau) employed the same techniques and styles (Roman-Byzantine) used at the time in France. She is notably considered as “the twin sister of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde church in Marseille. A daily mass in French is given, but many visitors come here simply to admire the stunning architecture and views.
6. The Great Post Office
In addition to housing the services of the Algiers post office, the Grande Poste of Algiers is a magnificent building that you absolutely must see. Its neo-Moorish style can be admired both inside and outside. Take the opportunity to drop off your postcards!
7. Martyr’s Memorial
It is an imposing monument to the dead of the war of independence of Algeria erected in 1982 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the event. It is located on the heights of Algiers, in the town of El Madania, and overlooks, among others, the Jardin d’Essai.
8. The National Museum of Fine Arts
This museum is not to be missed under any circumstances if you visit Algiers. It is indeed the largest art museum in the Maghreb and Africa with 8000 works. Erected from 1927, it dominates the Jardin d’Essai in the Hamma district and contains painted works, drawings, engravings and old prints, a fine collection of sculptures, old furniture and decorative art, ceramics, glassware, as well as a numismatic collection.
Other ideas for visits to Algiers or its surroundings
If you are staying in Algiers for more than 3 or 4 days, you might want to travel around or see other sights in the region. Here are some ideas:
- Bardo National Museum (prehistoric collection)
- The ruins of the Roman city of Tipaza (Tipasa of Mauretania) 70 km from Algiers, on the coast. It is classified by Unesco to be one of the most beautiful archaeological complexes in the Maghreb
- The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Algiers
- Much further you have the archaeological site of Kalâa des Béni Hammad