Agadir is a holiday resort. Think sun, sea, and sand. These are what it does best, as hundreds of thousands of visitors each year can testify. There's no reason to begrudge the city its tourist aspirations. Razed by an earthquake in 1960 that killed 15,000 people in 13 seconds, Agadir had to be entirely rebuilt. Today it's a thoroughly modern city where travelers don't think twice about showing considerable skin, and Moroccans benefit from the growing number of jobs. There's a reason why this popular European package vacation destination is overrun with enormous, characterless beachfront hotels. The beach, all 10 km (6 mi) of it, is dreamy. A 450-yard-wide strip, it bends in an elegant crescent along the bay, and is covered with fine-grain sand. The beach is sheltered and safe for swimming, making it perfect for families. Further north, where small villages stand behind some of the best waves in the world, is a surfers' paradise. Even if you have no interest in surfing, diving, jet skiing, golf, tennis, or horseback riding down the beach, you can treat Agadir as a modern bubble in which to kick back. It's equipped with familiar pleasurable pursuits—eating, drinking, and relaxing next to the ocean—and modern amenities such as car-rental agencies and ATMs. It isn't quite Europe, but neither is it quite Morocco.
Neon signs throughout Agadir lure you in to sample not so much the delights of Moroccan cuisine as the woes of fast food and international menus. Nevertheless, many of these restaurants have good locations along the beachfront or in the town center.
The main joy of eating in Agadir is the chance to dine in fish restaurants, which also tend to be the least brash and pretentious. Agadir's lively deep-sea fishing port is Morocco's busiest. And best of all, you can eat there, too. Frequented by locals and travelers alike, it's a great bet for cheap and fun eats. Each stall offers nearly identical food, including squid, prawns, sole, lobster, and whiting, and for nearly identical prices. So walk around and pick what you'd like; the better-organized stalls have chalkboards listing the catch of the day and the price. Eating at the stalls is a better choice for lunch (after visiting the hilltop kasbah, say), since at night the area is unlighted and stall owners can be a little aggressive.
All major hotels have both Moroccan and Continental restaurants, and there are many sophisticated new eateries springing up around the new marina. Downtown there is a good selection of Italian, French, Thai, and even Indian restaurants. For some of the town's best seafood and a refreshing change of scenery, head to the warehouses and wharves of the port.
For the most part, you can forget riad-style intimacy in Agadir; your choices are mainly executive-style functionality or giant beachfront complexes that cater primarily to European package tours. As a general rule the luxury (and price) increases as you move down from the northern tip of the beach. A room with beach views and access right off the property often costs a supplement of about 300 DH.
The hotels along Boulevard du 20 Août have so many amenities and restaurants that you'll feel no need to leave their beachside complexes. Indeed, more and more hotels are becoming all-inclusive. Be wary of these, however, as they don't guarantee fine dining and many local experts think they will lead to a slip in standards. If you just need a bed while passing through Agadir, there are less-expensive, basic hotels in the center of town, north of the beach. There's also a lively trade in "résidences," self-catering apartments which you can rent by the night. These even have communal hotel facilities such as swimming pools and are an affordable bet for families.
With its relaxed mores, Agadir is a clubbing hot spot, particularly for young people looking to cut loose. Many places don't get going until 3 or 4 am, but the beachfront is always busy earlier on, with diners and drinkers making the most of the beach environment. Although Agadir lacks the class of Marrakesh, a number of places, mostly based in the resort hotels, are putting up some decent competition.
Note: Nighttime also attracts many prostitutes, some underage, who throng the cheap bars. The authorities aren't afraid to imprison foreigners who patronize them.
Palais du Sud
For an emporium of carpets, ceramics, leather, lanterns, and ornate boxes, visit Palais du Sud. Behind the golden doors, all goods have price tags, which makes buying hassle-free. The store is closed on Sunday.
You'll have to bargain hard for any of the leather goods and designer labels for sale at La Fabrique.
Scarlette Idées K-do
Scarlette Idées K-do is a lovely boutique selling everything you could possibly want for the home, from candles and lanterns to mirrors, fabrics, and small chests of drawers.
Madd is a boutique jewelry store that entices you with 18-carat gold from behind a warm wooden exterior. There's another branch in the new Marina development at the north end of Agadir beach.
Focusing on stylish crockery, Tawarguit also sells lamps, stools, coffee tables, gifts, and artisanal work. The owners have also recently added an art gallery at the same address.
Agadir beach swings around a crescent from southeast to northwest. You're more likely to find a quiet spot if you wander south. The most crowded areas, frequented year-round by families and locals, are to the north. Along the flanking thoroughfare, known as the Corniche (promenade), you'll find inexpensive cafés, bars, and restaurants. At the very northern end is the swanky new marina development where private yachts are moored. The promenade can be a little sketchy at night, but it's still a good spot to stop and watch the world go by. The northern tip is also the place to rent a catamaran or surf equipment.
High up on the hill to the northwest that looks over Agadir is the old Kasbah. It's in need of restoration, but still worth the exertion to make it to the top and back down to the port for a hearty fish lunch.Emblazoned on the side of the hill below the Kasbah are three Arabic words that keep guard over Agadir at all times. Their meaning? God, country, and the king. By day they're a patchwork of huge white stones against the green grass. By night they're lighted up powerfully against the dark. The huge hill is really a burial mound, covering the old medina and the impromptu graves of those who died in the earthquake.
Vallée des Oiseaux
It's not so much a valley as a pleasure garden connecting Avenue Hassan II to the beach. It not only has birds, but also monkeys, fountains, and lovely green surroundings.
La Medina d'Agadir
In Ben Sergao, a few miles south of Agadir on the Inezgane road, is a remarkable 13-acre project orchestrated by Moroccan-born Italian decorator-architect Coco Polizzi. He dreamed of replacing the medina Agadir lost to the 1960 earthquake with a new medina on his own land. This combination of living ethnological museum and high-quality bazaar was finally completed in 2007 by hundreds of Moroccan craftsmen following centuries-old techniques. Each stone is laid by hand, and the buildings are made of earth, rock from the Souss, slate from the High Atlas, and local woods such as thuya and eucalyptus. Decorations follow both Berber and Saharan motifs. Mosaic craftsmen, painters, jewelers, a henna artist, metalworkers, and carpenters welcome spectators as they practice their crafts (and welcome customers for the results) in workshop nooks throughout the medina. The medina also houses restaurants, shops, and even an amphitheater.
Musée Municipale du Patrimoine Amazighe
Agadir's municipal museum celebrates the Berber Amazigh heritage of the region and features exhibitions of photography, jewelry, artifacts, and local handicrafts.
Souk Al Had
In the northeastern corner of the city is a daily bazaar selling both souvenirs and household goods. You'll need to bargain hard.