Last updated on January 14th, 2019

Melilla Tourism: 6 Reasons Why You Should Visit

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So despite all attempts of dissuasion from my Spanish peninsula friends, I finally made it to Melilla! Rarely was I more curious, even nervous to discover a new destination…  

Was it true what they said that Melilla is a stronghold of organized crime? Are dramas happening every day at the borders as suggested in the news? After travelling with a somewhat queasy feeling, I finally needed to acknowledge that Melilla is one of Spain’s most colourful and intriguing cities! Read here 6 reasons why…


Hotels in Melilla – Alojamiento en Melilla

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Discover 6 Reasons why you MUST visit Melilla, Spain. It's a Spanish enclave on the African continent with a breathtaking cultural mix. Get the best from Arab and Spanish culture. #spain #melilla #ferry #africa #shopping

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Melilla is art! – Melilla es arte!

#1 Its monumental fortress!

After a philosophical four-hour ferry trip, I really hoped that Melilla would impress me as an upcoming tourist destination. And it has! A monumental fortress called Melilla La Vieja (“Old Melilla”) is the most striking eyecatcher of the city.

In the past, the battlements limited the city’s expansion, nowadays it’s home to perfectly conserved aljibes (Moorish cisterns) and museums (Military Museum or the highly recommended Ethnografic Museum of Amazigh and Sefardi Cultures). 

 The best in “Old Melilla” are the Cuevas del Conventico, a cave and tunnel system below the fortress which served as a refuge during sieges for 5000-7000 people during months.

The visit starts at Purísima Concepción church and respects a strict timetable displayed at the door of the convent. All the museums and the Cuevas can be visited for free!

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Part of the fortress “Old Melilla”- Parte de la fortaleza “Melilla La Vieja”

#2 Its sophisticated urban architecture

Did you know that Melilla is the most important centre for Modernist architecture in Africa and the second in Spain after Barcelona? The delicate ornaments of the mansion’s fronts are compelling… mouth open, I walked amazed through Melilla’s city center.  

Most bulidings have been designed by Gaudi’s student Enrique Nieto when “Old Melilla” became too small for the growing population. This vigourous elegance forms a striking contrast to the imposing fortress.

Most Modernist buildings are located in the Triángulo de Oro (“Golden Triangle” – 5 min from the fortress) and you’ll realize that Melilla hides one of Spains most important architectural treasures! 

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In the “Golden Triangle” – En el Triángulo de Oro

#3 Its lived interculture!

Melilla’s the perfect example for urban interculture: 4 communities – Christians, Sephardi Hebrews, Hindus and Muslims – live together on 13,4 km². Due to the predominance of Arab shops and Catholic churches, you’ll easily guess that Arab and Christian cultures are predomiant.  

It will be nothing uncommon to see Muslims and Jews, each in their traditional costumes and hairstyles, crossing the street together… without killing each other! Or a Hindu shop advertising the next Catholic procession in town… Even when it comes to Tapas, interculturality is the key: Couscous and beer go together!

The Route of the Temples is the best way to get an exclusive insight into Melilla’s immaterial richness: you’ll access the most ancient church of Melilla, its synagogue, its mosque and its hindu temple.

The Tour departs every Sunday from May to October and you need to get registered at the Tourist Office. A Must Do during your stay in Melilla!

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Happy Paulina in Melilla!

#4 Its shopping experience!

Melilla offers an Oriental shopping experience without leaving Europe. The city is full with shops selling finest Morrocan spices, delicate Oriental craft or babouches. Jewish jewelleries sell the most sophisticated jewels and watches in town.  

Most of the shops are located in the Modernist Triángulo de Oro which Modernist architecture provides a unique setting to your shopping tour. You’ll have the agony of choice!

Extra goody: prices are significantly lower than in the Spanish peninsula because Melilla enjoys fiscal advantages and many products can be sold tax-free.

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Babouches!

#5 Its breathtaking contrasts!

 Delicate Modernism vs. a monumental fortress, cultural diversity… all these contrasts make Melilla so appealing. But the most striking contrast is created by the border fence separating Spain from Morocco, Europe from Africa.  

If you get the opportuity to see it: DO IT! I recommend to get there by car. Several fences of 6 meters hight intent to hold people to access Europe, here a synonym for a better life.

Its 12km longitude and the obvious poverty behind it, will inevitably make you reflect on the arbitrariness of being born on THIS or THIS side of the fence.

The naked border fence with its daily dramas at the check points is an impacting contrast to the lived interculturality and delicate beauty of Melilla’s city center. 

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The Fence – La Valla

#6 Its people!

Melilla’s true treasure are its people! You’ll be surprised by their intercultural awareness: many of them have a good vocabulary knowledge of another language and a brilliant sensitiveness for Muslim/Hebrew/Catholic/Hindi traditions.  

The rest of Europe could learn a lot if they’d take them as an instance for lived interculturality.

And as a pleasant side effect they are the most warm-hearted people I have met a long time ago and their will to show the beauty and cultural richness of their city make every visitor feel welcome in the city of peaceful cultural co-existence.

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Fortress or Labyrinth? – Ciudadela o Laberinto?
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Access to Arms Square – Aceso a la Plaza de Armas
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Geometry is the key! – La geometría es la llave!
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On the way to 4-Cultures-Square – De camino a la Plaza de las Cuatro Culturas
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Entrance from 4-Cultures-Square – Entrada desde la Plaza de las Cuatro Culturas
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In the Military Museum – En el Museo Militar
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The Military Museum definitely has a view! – Que vistas desde el museo militar!
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Melilla’s Lighthouse – El Faro de Melilla
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Access to the port – Aceso al puerto
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The last remaining Franco statue in Spanish public space! – La última estatúa de Franco en vía pública en España
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Melilla’s Lighthouse on the cliffs – El faro de Melilla en las rocas
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Into the blue! – Al mar!
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Melilla is adventure! – Melilla es aventura!
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View from the Caves – Vista desde las Cuevas de Melilla
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Inside the caves: a refuge during the sieges – En las cuevas: un refugio seguro durante los numerosos asedios.
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The cave’s terrace – La terraza de las cuevas
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Cervantes & Quijote in Melilla!
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Melilla’s Hidden Gems – Las joyas ocultas de Melilla
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In the Golden Triangle – En el Triángulo de Oro
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Obsessed with windows! – Obsesionada con ventanas!
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The synagogue – La sinagoga
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Let’s go shopping! – Vamos de compras!
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Morroco from the fence – Marruecos desde la valla
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The Fence – La Valla
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Love Melilla Kiosks! – Solo amor para los quioscos (“carrillos”) de Melilla!
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More art! – Más arte!
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Call me crazy, but at least I can fly!
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Tribute to Mucha – Homenaje a Mucha
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Tribute to Mucha – Homenaje a Mucha

Side Note

 So what about the criminality that people warned me of? Ok, there are neighborhoods (20 min from city center) you should avoid and it’s not recommended to walk alone in side streets at night. Unfortunately some representatives of the Arab culture take a girl traveling solo as an invitation to flirt and make all kind of weird proposals.

I’d like to suggest Melilla’s tourist board to launch an awareness campaign in this regard… so that we can bring the lived interculturality in Melilla to the next level!

Are you considering to live for a longer time in Melilla? Then I fully recommend you Lauren Stevens’ Blog about her year abroad in Melilla! 

Have you recently travelled to Melilla? Would you consider Melilla as a possible travel destination? I’d be happy to hear your travel plans about Melilla!

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By Bye Melilla! – Hasta pronto Melilla!

This blog post can also be downloaded on GPSmyCity as an offline city map and self-guided walking tour. Click here, to download this post as an app.


For more information on tourism in Melilla, I recommend the following webpage: Tourism in Melilla (English)


 

By |2019-01-14T19:29:14+00:00July 31st, 2017|Andalucia, Spain|0 Comments

About the Author:

Hola! I am Paulina, a fervent travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. Bloggin' in English & Español since 2015. I want to share with you my passion for sustainable travel like hiking, cycling or sailing. Let's hit the road together!

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