Ceuta (Arabic: سبتة (Sabtah), Berber: Sebta) is one of two Spanish exclaves in North Africa (the other one being Melilla). The territory had several rulers before the Portuguese in 1415 took control of this city east of Tangier. Since 1580 it has been under Spanish administration but has the status of an autonomous city despite being located on the African continent almost directly south of the autonomous city of Gibraltar.
This exclave was in the spotlight in 2005 together with Melilla because hundreds of people were trying to climb over the border fence. Ceuta being part of Spain and therefore a safe haven for Africans made it a prime target for migrants. Today the border is heavily protected by the Guardia Civil. The European Union invested a lot of money to make illegal immigration more difficult.
Ceuta is easily accessible from mainland Spain (from Algeciras) by high speed ferries. There are three companies operating the line: Balearia, FRS and Trasmediterranea with a total of over ten departures per day. Tickets for "pedestrians" cost €30-35 (as of Jun 2023) for one to one and a half hour trip. There are discounts for Ceuta residents and surcharges for bringing a car, motorcycle, or bicycle.
Cruise ships do visit, but only very occasionally and usually dock within a few blocks of the easily-walked town.
1 Port of Ceuta. Passenger terminal has seen better days, but it still operational and has a few souvenir shops, small grocery shop and a small cafe on the 2nd floor.
By land, Ceuta is only accessible from Morocco. It is much easier to go to Ceuta from Tetouán rather than from Tangier, as most buses from Tangier go through Tetouan anyway before heading north to Fnideq.
From Tetouan get a grand taxi near the CTM station to the town closest to Ceuta - Fnideq, 15 dirham, 40 km, 1 hr; or catch a busy Tetouan's city bus #8, departures are every 15-30 min, sometimes up to 60 min. From Fnideq take a grand taxi to the border (4 dirham).
From Tangier's bus station there are a half dozen direct buses to Fnideq (operated by Tingis Transport company), otherwise you'll have to make a detour via Tetouan.
Crossing the border
You will need a passport to cross 2 the border with Morocco in either direction and official ID to book passage between mainland Spain and Ceuta. Rules for immigration are the same as for Spain. Ferry ticket salesmen have been known to sell tickets without requiring the proper identification, but security at the port going from Ceuta back to Algeciras can be much more strict. Spanish citizens and EU nationals (if their state issues them) need only their national ID cards, or DNI, but non-EU citizens will require their passports to return. Just because you are not leaving the country of Spain doesn't mean you shouldn't carry your passport.
The increased border security may result in minor waiting time. This could be longer if you travel in summer when the main holiday season in Spain and France starts and lots of families return to their homes in Morocco. Note that there seem to be separate queues for Moroccans and foreigners at many border crossings, ports, and security checks. If you find yourself stuck in an extremely slow moving queue and do not look Moroccan, try getting noticed by an officer. You may be ushered past the queue and processed very quickly.
If you are travelling by bus or taxi, you may consider taking an infrequent bus from the border to the city walls or even a little further downtown, €0.85. Line #7[dead link] terminates at the border. You can however, also walk along the busy coastal road for slightly more than 2 km and enjoy the views.
Unlike Melilla, Ceuta does not have an airport on Spanish territory. The closest airport is in Tetouan (TTU IATA), Morocco (which naturally involves entering Morocco and crossing the border). A wider selection of flights is available from Tangier's airport (TNG IATA).
Ceuta is a tiny city. Best way around is by bike or on foot. The area near the waterfront and shopping area is nicely landscaped and attractive considering the heavy traffic supported.
There are taxis available. Make sure they use the meter or negotiate a price before you get in.
In addition to the standard taxi rates, they also offer a set 'recorrido turistico' (taxi tour) that lasts between 1 and 2 hours for a fixed fee of €38.40 (per car up to 4 passengers), which is displayed on the rate card stuck to the dashboard. It covers a loop around the whole of Ceuta.
There is a decent bus service run by Autobuses Hadu Almadraba S. L.[dead link] with modern and spacious buses running around the city with stops at the border with Morocco (look for a bus marked "Frontera"). All bus lines leave from "Plaza de la Constitución".
The area hosts a few churches, and fortifications for those interested in Euro-African history and governmental relations. The centre and waterfront are remarkably clean and attractive with safe walking, and feature many stores and cafés.
- 1 Arab Baths.
- 2 Cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption (Ceuta Cathedral). Constructed between 1686 and 1726, replacing the old Christian church built by the Portuguese, at the exact spot where the Great Mosque of Ceuta stood before that.
- 3 Military Museum of the Legion. Established in 1940 to celebrate the Spanish Legion.
- 4 Royal Walls of Ceuta. The walls date to 962 in its oldest part and the most modern parts to the 18th century. They remain largely intact, with the exception of some outworks.
- 5 Marinid Walls of Ceuta. Constructed in the 13th century during the Marinid dynasty's domination of the region. They were used as a citadel, shelter for troops that were forced to spend the night outside the medieval city. Only the western flank of about 500 meters of it remained, a couple of bastions and two twin towers.
- 6 House of the Dragons, a corner of Kings Square. It's an important landmark of Ceuta and an extraordinary example of eclectic architecture.
- 7 Church of San Francisco, Plaza de los Reyes. A distinctive Baroque twin-towered yellow building built in the 18th century.
- 8 Shrine of Our Lady of Africa. A Roman Catholic church built somewhere between 1676 and 1752.
- 9 Punta Almina Lighthouse. Constructed in 1851.
- 10 Fort of El Sarchal (Fuerte del Sarchal) (can be accessed from Carlos Villón Egea street). An 18th century coastal artillery fort.
- 11 Fort of El Desnarigado (Fuerte del Desnarigado), ☏ . 8:00–13:30. A 19th century fort, converted into a military museum.
- 12 Fuerte de Aranguren (Torre de Aranguren). 19th century neo-medieval fort built to secure the border line.
- 13 Fortress of Monte Hacho. A fortress of Roman or Byzantine origin. It still has more than forty circular towers from the Umayyad period, when it was greatly enlarged. However, the main fortification that can be seen now was built later in 1773. It became a prison in 1870. And today it houses Antiaircraft Artillery barracks. Since it's a military object access is restricted, and in order to visit it you have to request a visit at the Ceuta General Command (Comandancia General de Ceuta).
There are lovely beaches and desert areas to explore.
- 1 Mediterraneo Marine Park (Parque Marítimo del Mediterráneo), Avenida Compañía de Mar, ☏ .
- 2 Alfonso Murube Stadium (Estadio Alfonso Murube), Avenida Otero, ☏ .
Ceuta is no longer a free port. The city was a free port before Spain joined the European Union in 1986; now it has a low-tax system. You will see that the economy of this city focuses on people transiting to/from Morocco and one-day shopping tourists. Offerings range from footpath hawkers and kiosks, to modest stores (with goods you'd expect from the types of visitors noted above), to fine jewellers and an El Corte Ingles department store.
In the city, there are two main types of cuisine: Moroccan and seafood, both of which can be found in many restaurants.
Moroccan cuisine includes many spices, herbs and combines sweet with salty. Specialities include couscous, tajines with raisons and almonds, and small pastries
Offerings range from pavement cafés and a drive-in McDonalds to a few fine restaurants.
All these are in the city centre:
- 1 El Mentidero, Calle Queipo de Llano, 20. Very good tapas and portions. Variety in fried fish. Skewers and grilled octopus very good. Very rich vegetable tempura and montaditos. Good atmosphere. Charming service staff.
- 2 Bar La Terraza de Menchu, Pje. Eduardo Gallardo, 13. Despite being named a bar, they serve main dishes. Good for tapas, very tasty pinchitos. They make them in a barbecue right at the door of the terrace, and they bring them freshly made to your table. Make a reservation or you won't have a place.
- 3 El Mesón de Pepe, C. Teniente Muñoz Castellanos, 36. A classic tavern. You eat well, spend little, fantastic atmosphere. Few tourists many locals.
- 4 Tapería El Rincón de Rosi, C. Daoiz, 5. Excellent place for tapas. The waitress is charming and the owners too. Very good homemade food.
- 5 Mesón Pacho, C. Beatriz de Silva, 7. Very good treatment and all kinds of tapas. The best cheeses and cold cuts.
- 6 Hamburgueseria Pizzería Bagueteria Impacto, Av. Compañía de Mar. Super large and tasty black Angus hamburger and very rich and crispy potatoes. Good place to eat a sandwich.
- 7 La Carantoña, Murallas Reales. Situated within the old medieval city walls.
- 8 Restaurante la Barraca Marítima, Av. Compañía de Mar.
- 9 Meson Restaurante Alberto Ceuta, Av. de África, Bloque 19.
- 10 Restaurante El Santuario, Av. San Francisco Javier, 3.
- 11 D'Armando, Pl. del Teniente Ruiz. Pizza restaurant
- 12 El Nuevo Varadero, Av. Compañía de Mar.
- 13 Goichu, Calle Independencia, 15.
Ceuta is a great city to go out. There are several pubs and clubs and a great tapas route.
- Algeciras (Cádiz) in Spain
- Melilla — the second Spanish exclave on the northern coast of Morocco
- Tetouan in Morocco