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Despite Algiers’s reputation as a city on the edge, first-time visitors to Algiers may be surprised by the contrast between what they have heard and the city’s beauty. Surrounded by gorgeous Mediterranean architecture, residents of Algiers maintain a relaxed pace of life despite living in a burgeoning metropolis. Indeed, Algiers is on the rise: with a small but vibrant club and music scene and a fierce pride in its multicultural heritage, Algiers is a highlight of any North African itinerary. Slow down upon arrival and allow the history of a city where the "ville nouvelle" dates from the Ottoman era to really sink in.
The Top 5: What to Do in Algiers
1. The Casbah and the Palais de Raïs:
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Casbah is a must-see for any first-time visitor to Algiers. The neighborhood serves as Algiers’s historical and commercial district, and has an abundance of seafood restaurants. Although Algiers is littered with historic buildings, few have been as lovingly restored as the Ottoman-era Palais de Raïs. Visitors will come away with abundant insight about life in Algiers in the Ottoman and French periods.
2. La Ville Nouvelle:
Although Algiers’s historic neighborhoods may be a more obvious destination, the “ville nouvelle” (which actually dates to the Ottoman era) offers several museums of mostly Algerian art, notably the Musée des Beaux Arts, the Bardo Museum, and the renowned but currently closed Jardin d’Essai. It is also the home of most of Algiers’s entertainment and nightlife.
3. Tipaza Archaeological Park:
This site, located 15 kilometers outside of Algiers, is one of the best places in the area to view Algeria’s extraordinary cache of Roman ruins. In addition to a museum, the location has an amphitheatre, an early Christian church, and a forum.
4. Notre Dame d’Afrique:
This stunning 19th-century cathedral hovers above the city on the Plateau of Bouzaréah, a constant reminder of Algiers’s long period of French rule. Though some locals may be conflicted about what the building symbolizes, it’s a gorgeous monument and an excellent spot for contemplation, even in the midst of restoration.
5. Grande Poste:
The city’s main post office and an important landmark, the Grande Poste was built in 1913 by the French architect Voinot, and its beautiful Moorish façade makes it one of the city’s most beloved buildings.
When to Go
Temperatures in Algeria reach extremes during the summer, and travelers will be more comfortable visiting during the rainy season, between October and March. Avoid visiting during Ramadan: Algerians take the fast very seriously, and few businesses will be open. The timing of this holy month is based on the lunar calendar, and it shifts every year—check here to make sure that Ramadan does not conflict with your visit.
Getting In and Around
: U.S. citizens need a passport and a visa to enter Algeria. The visa must be applied for in advance through the Algerian Embassy.
: Most international flights land in Algiers; you can also get there by car via the Tunisian border. Within Algiers, taxis are the most convenient option, although the city’s bus service provides a cheap alternative during the day.