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Ceuta Travel Guide

Ceuta (Spain)
Coat of arms of Ceuta (Spain)

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Coordinates: 35.886667°, -5.3°

Population: 82,566 inhabitants (2022)

Located on the Tingitana peninsula, on the African coast of the Strait of Gibraltar, the autonomous city of Ceuta occupies an area of almost 19 square kilometres and has a population of more than 80,000 inhabitants with various cultures such as Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu.


The history of Ceuta includes traces of the Palaeolithic period, from which pieces were found that demonstrated the presence of man in the region from that moment on. Among these pieces, some of importance were made of flint. The Neolithic period left remains of pieces made of stone above all, thus demonstrating the development of the lithic industry.

Subsequently, the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians settled in the territory of present-day Ceuta.

The Romans also occupied Ceuta at the time of the empire. After the fall of the Carthaginian empire with the Punic wars, Ceuta became a territory of Mauritania. Already after his death, in the year 33 BC, Boco II of Mauritania left Ceuta as an inheritance to Rome. In his time, the Romans called Ceuta the city of Septem Ftratres (seven brothers) due to the seven hills that can be seen there. At present, in San Francisco Javier street, next to the San Felipe moat, one can see remains of the Roman walls in Ceuta.
Ceuta (Spain)
In the middle of the first century BC, there was an urban nucleus in the region that covers the area from the navigable moat to the western face of the peninsula of La Almina.

In the second century, the city we know today as Ceuta became a Roman municipality (municipium civium romanorum).

The Byzantines made unsuccessful attempts to occupy the region. In 615, the city was besieged and later conquered by the Visigothic king Sisebuto.
In 708, the Umayyad general Musa ibn Nusair tried to take the city of Ceuta but failed to do so before the military resistance of Governor Julián. Subsequently, the same governor, Julián, faced with his rivalry with Rodrigo, the governor of the Baetica province, allied himself with General Musa of the Umayyads. In this way, Julián delivered Ceuta to the Muslims in 709.

The Muslim name for Ceuta was Sebta, an adaptation of the ancient Roman name Septem. Ceuta was under Arab rule for seven centuries. During the first taifa kingdoms, the city was linked first with Malaga, then with Granada. After the Almoravid and Almohad conquests, it was attached to the taifa of Murcia.
Ceuta (Spain)
The centuries of Muslim domination culminated when the city was conquered on August 21, 1415, by Juan Vaz de Almeda, who raised the Lisbon flag on the Torre de Vela de Ceuta. For two centuries, Ceuta was under Portuguese rule.

In its Portuguese stage, Ceuta was a nucleus of corsairs. These possessed letters of marque, that is to say, they could legally attack vessels belonging to enemy nations. The Portuguese corsairs from Ceuta had Muslim territories as their primary objective, such as those of Muslim Granada.
Philip II was named King of Portugal, thus joining the Portuguese properties to Castile and Aragon. Some time later, when Portugal became independent from the Spanish monarchy, the inhabitants of Ceuta chose to continue under the Spanish monarchy.

At the end of the 18th century, the kings of Morocco besieged the city on numerous occasions, intending to take it. At times, they even had British support, although they were never successful in said objective. Later, at the end of the Enlightenment century, through commercial and political agreements between Spain and Morocco, Spanish sovereignty was officially and permanently recognized.
The 21st century presents great challenges for Ceuta, including consolidating itself as one of the most important Mediterranean ports and maintaining Spanish sovereignty in African territory, using tourism as a powerful lever for its development.

Top 5 things to visit in Ceuta

Ceuta is a city with an important patrimonial, historical and artistic heritage thanks to the interesting amalgamation of cultures, religions and idiosyncrasies that comprise life in its interior. This is revealed in an impressive number of monuments and buildings of enormous tourist attraction. Among the highlights are the following:

The Royal Walls

The Royal Walls (Ceuta - Spain)
Among the great treasures of its past, worth mentioning are the impressive Royal Walls, initially built by the Romans, enlarged by the Arabs in the 10th century, and rebuilt during the 16th century to serve as a defensive complex for Christian troops, taking advantage of their strategic location.

These walls consist of three bridges and were part of a large defensive barracks that no longer exists. In their place is the Parador Nacional de La Muralla.
They also give access to a moat and a parade ground that currently serves as the headquarters of the Museum of Fine Arts as well as an area for traveling exhibitions. The Royal Walls were declared an Asset of Cultural Interest. They are the only preserved architectural relic of their kind that has a navigable moat.

The House of Dragons

The House of Dragons (Ceuta - Spain)
This spectacular building with an eclectic architectural style—the work of the famous architect José María Manuel Cortina Pérez—first underwent construction in 1900 and was inaugurated in 1905. It is a sample of the interesting mix of cultures, artistic styles and idiosyncrasies within this cosmopolitan city.

Originally, it was going to be baptized simply as the Cerni González Building, the original owners of the property, but it has always been known as the House of Dragons due to the four majestic and enigmatic dragons that coil on its top floor.
It should be noted that in 1925, the original dragons, made of copper, were removed for renovation and subsequently lost. In 2006, four new dragons, made of high-quality resin and fiberglass painted entirely with a bronze-coloured paint, were reinstalled on its roof. The building has since become a must-see for tourists.

Africa Square

Africa Square (Ceuta - Spain)
This square is one of the most popular meeting points in the city because around it are several monuments, buildings and places of great religious, artistic and tourist interest.

In this square is one of the most significant monuments of the city: the Monument to the Fallen during the 1859-1860 Africa War.

It is more than 13 meters high and beautifully carved with bronze bas-reliefs at the bottom.
Around it is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, which was built on the ruins of an old mosque and which contains interesting works of art such as frescoes by Miguel Bernardini and beautiful canvases by Portuguese artists.

There is also the Sanctuary of Saint Mary of Africa, built in the 15th century. Behind it is a monument in honour of Colonel González-Tablas.

The Merinid Walls

Murallas meriníes de Ceuta
Another defensive bastion in Ceuta was the complex system known as the Merinid Walls, also made up of towers, built under the rule of the Merinid dynasty and dating from the 14th century.

This enormous enclosure performed different functions over the centuries, including a defensive citadel, refuge, shelter, military garrison and sanctuary for foreigners who arrived late at night looking for lodging.
At the time, these magnificent walls reached more than 1,500 meters of impenetrable defensive, but currently only a section of the western flank of approximately 500 meters survives. Also surviving are two twin towers and some bastions, all of which make up what is known as the Gate of Fes.

Mount Musa

Mount Musa (Morocco)
On the outskirts of Ceuta, right on the western border with Morocco, is Mount Musa, popularly known as “the dead woman”.

In addition to offering excellent views of its surroundings and the magnificent Mediterranean coastline, Mount Musa is a place of great popularity due to the unique mythological legend of its origin, about a woman who was petrified with jealousy when she saw Hercules separate Europe from Africa, raising the columns that separate Gibraltar and Ceuta.
An interesting detail is that the mountain has two faces and the female silhouette can be seen only from the Spanish side.

What to do in Ceuta

A few minutes by boat and you are inside an architecture and a culture different from that of the Iberian Peninsula. Welcome to Ceuta, the door to Africa.

In Ceuta, the charm of the old cities mixes with the comforts of modernity. Ceuta's multiculturalism is one of its greatest attractions. Here, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus coexist. This coexistence can be observed in the most important religious buildings of each of the orders and also in the varied gastronomy in the city.

This was always a key city in the defence of the Iberian Peninsula. On a walk through the Sierra Bullones, one can observe the neo-medieval towers that were built on the hills separating Spain from Morocco.
Looking for adrenaline? The best option is a Coasteering excursion in Ceuta. This is a unique proposal that combines hiking on Mount Hacho, swimming in the crystalline waters of the coast, jumping and climbing between rocks and venturing into caves. If you want more physical activity, take advantage of the fact that Ceuta is a very good place to dive.

If you prefer something quieter, take a walk along Las Murallas Reales, visit the Mercado de Abastos or look out at the Isabel II viewpoint, from where you can see the Iberian Peninsula and the Rock of Gibraltar.

Gastronomy in Ceuta

Thanks to its geographical location, Ceuta has based its gastronomy on seafood. However, it has been able to incorporate numerous ingredients through imports due to the difficulties involved in cultivating crops there.

The gastronomy of Ceuta has been influenced by the various cultures that have comprised its population. Among them, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians have made contributions.

In general, the cuisine of Ceuta is related mainly to the gastronomy of Andalusia, the gastronomy of Al-Andalus and the gastronomy of Morocco. It is, in turn, part of what is known as the Mediterranean diet. Fish and shellfish stand out due to Ceuta’s location between the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Moroccan border.
Cous Cous
Among the most consumed marine species, including those in the markets of Ceuta, are bonito, spade needle, grouper, red mullet, sloth, mackerel, anchovy and sardines.

One can also find Strait roosters, dogfish, turbot, cuttlefish, squid, tuna, clams, fine shells, prawns, langoustines and king crabs.

As for vegetables and fruits, they are mostly purchased by import. Highlights among the dishes prepared with these foods are vegetable “tajine”, “gazpacho” and “harira”.
When it comes to meat, the most typical among the inhabitants of Ceuta are Moorish skewers of beef, lamb or chicken and traditional chicken hearts. The two preparations are generally made with a wide variety of spices.

Speaking of spices, the most used are cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, paprika, anise, saffron and coriander. It is also very common to sell a mixture of different varieties of them, marketed under the name “Ras el hanout”.

Among the most typical desserts in Ceuta are French toast, “chuparquías” and pastries.

Regarding drinks, the city has a great reputation for beer thanks to a factory located there; it closed at the end of the previous century. Currently, Ceuta has a small craft beer factory. The inhabitants of Ceuta also enjoy green tea with mint.

Accommodation in Ceuta

The Weather in Ceuta

In Ceuta, summers are usually arid, dry and hot, but short and clear, while winter is much longer, cloudy, with strong winds and humidity.

The ideal time to plan trips is the months of June, July, August and September, precisely when the average temperature is around 25°C.

The coldest months are November to March. The coldest month is January, when the average temperature can reach 11°C.

Festivals in Ceuta

Something remarkable in Ceuta is that its festivities and celebrations are the product of a long mix of cultures and influences, as on its festive calendar are Christian, Jewish, Muslim and even Hindu liturgical festivals, in addition to the celebration of Ceuta Day, of great symbolism.

Among them, Holy Week is observed with its traditional processions on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. These have been held since the arrival of the Portuguese in 1415. Also celebrated are the Hebrew Hanukkah and especially Eid Al-Adha, the traditional day of the sacrifice of the Muslim lamb, with an official status since 2010 and marking the only non-Christian liturgical celebration in Spanish territory.

But without a doubt, the most "universal" celebrations for all are the colourful carnivals, characterized by parades of costumes, musical events and gastronomic tastings in which each community contributes something particular from its culture to a great party attracting many tourists every year.