The city of Oran is a beautiful coastal city that, when constructed, was inspired by the seaside resort of France’s Nice. It is one of Algeria’s most important cities, as it has much cultural, commercial and industrial importance, as well as being one of the country’s most visited cities. In the past, the city was used for trading purposes until it was ruled by the French.
Oran features a long boulevard that is lined with restaurants, cafés, and ice cream parlours. It also boasts fantastic views of the coast, the magnificent surrounding cliffs and the harbour. The city also has numerous other facilities and amenities for tourists, including a few luxury resorts. There is much to see and do in and around the city, which makes it a very appealing destination. Here are the 15 best things to do in Oran.
1. Walk around the city centre
Oran’s city centre is filled with numerous impressive French-built buildings. It is quite interesting, and like taking a trip back to 1940s France.
One of the buildings you will see on this walk is the Cathédrale du Sacré-Cœur d’Oran, which was the first French cathedral built in the country. The cathedral is now home to a library.
You will also stumble upon Place du 1er Novembre; Oran’s main square. The square features a lovely fountain and monument that is surrounded by buildings, like the town hall.
2. Admire the city from above
Fort Santa Cruz sits on Mount Murdjadjo around 400 metres above sea level. The fort was built by the Ottomans and Spaniards in the 17th century in a strategic location overlooking the city, the Mers El Kébir port and the Medeterranian Sea.
There is a magnificent castle and chapel on site, as well as a massive statue of the Virgin Mary. The statue is said to be a replica of the one at Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles.
It is well worth making the hike up to Fort Santa Cruz to admire the spectacular views. It also makes for a great escape outside of the lively city.
3. Visit a synagogue converted mosque
Yes, that’s right. The Abdallah Ibn Salam Mosque used to be the Great Synagogue of Oran. It was once one of North Africa’s largest synagogues.
By the time the country gained its independence, nearly all Algerian Jews had moved to France. It also made the country predominately Muslim.
The Great Synagogue of Oran was built in 1880, but inaugurated in 1918. It became the Abdallah Ibn Salam Mosque in the 1960s and was named after a 7th-century Jew that converted to Islam.
4. Go back in time
The Sidi el Houari district is the first ever district in Oran. It is split into three quarters, each of which has its own charm.
Casbah is the oldest part of the district and the city. Saint-Louis is built around the church that bares the same name, while the old port area sits along the coast below the Aïdour.
The entire Sidi el Houari district overlooks the sea, as it is built along the slopes of the Aïdour and Wadi Rhi. It is highly recommended to explore the district on foot and gaze at the historic buildings.
5. Eat fine food with a view
The Le Ciel D’Oran Restaurant in the Sheraton Oran Hotel & Towers is famous for its exceptional evening views of the city. The seafood served at the restaurant is also very good and combined, makes for a great night.
Le Méridien Oran Hotel & Convention Centre also boasts a restaurant that offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea. It also has a cosy lounge where guests and non-guests can enjoy a cocktail while taking in the beautiful views of the sea.
6. Shop with the locals
The Medina Jdida area is the commercial hub of Oran and is known today as the market neighbourhood. In the past, this area of the city was designed to house the black population.
Marche Medina Jedida is a massive market that sells everything from flowers to souvenirs. It is the best place for tourists to head to for bargain clothing, textiles, jewellery and other souvenirs.
Bargaining is a must when shopping here, as is minding your purse. Pickpocketing is a regular occurrence, but it should not discourage you from coming here.
7. Sample street food
Medina Jdida is also a great area for sampling street food. Vendors set up all over the area, selling figs, fruit and various sandwiches.
No trip to Oran is complete without tasting kerentica, which is a specialty of the city. Kerentica is a cake made from chickpea flower and eggs.
8. Learn about the city
The Ahmed Zabana National Museum was named after Algerian national hero Ahmed Zabana. The museum is housed in a lovely building on Boulevard Zabana.
There are two-levels at the museum, with the first showing the story of Algeria’s struggle for independence. The second level holds archaeological discoveries, ancient artworks and sculptures.
9. Head to the beach
Around 15 kilometres outside of Oran is the seaside resort area of Ain el-Turck. The area itself was named after the beach, which is a major draw for tourists.
Ain el-Turck means ‘Fountain of the Turks’, though in the past this coastal town was called El Eurfa. It was then the home of a plethora of nomadic people who sold their goods at the city’s port.
Today, the strip is lined with accommodations, cafés and restaurants that cater to tourists. It also has a few great attractions, like Saint Roch, Bouisseville and Trouville.
10. Go bird watching
The Sebkha of Oran is a saltwater lake that sits northwest of Oran. The lake is listed as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area by Birdlife International.
Bird watchers should not miss out the opportunity to visit the lake. Migratory birds that call the lake home include the flamingo and shelduck.
The lake is also a Ramsar site, being surrounded by eucalyptus, aleppo pine and cork oak forests.
11. Breathe in the fresh air
The 1,560 hectare Foret de Msila is just west of Oran on the hills of Boutlélis. It is a lovely forest that is known for its recreational activities.
Cyclists, joggers and walkers will truly enjoy the pathways throughout the forest, where they can breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The majority of the forest is cork oak and aleppo pine trees.
Foret de Msila is a protected forest that does its best to provide Oran with an eco-friendly tourist site.
12. Watch the boats
Oran’s main port is one of the most important in the country. It is a great place for boat lovers to watch freighters, cruise ships and private shops coming in and out of the country.
Ferries arrive regularly from Sète, Alicante, Marseilles and Almería. Some of these are passenger and car ferries, so you can easily get on one of these boats and head on a Mediterranean adventure.
13. Party until the late hours of the night
Oran has a thriving nightlife scene that is sure to please any night owl. In fact, it is the centre of Algeria’s nightlife.
La Corniche, which runs along the seafront, is Oran’s main partying strip. You will find plenty of bars, lounges and nightclubs along this stretch that cater to all types of clientele.
The poshest nightclubs and lounges are located within the luxury hotels, like the Sheraton Hotel, but you don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy them.
14. Get pampered in a spa
Oran is not known as a spa city, although it does have some great spas that will pamper you. Spend an afternoon getting a massage, soaking in a Jacuzzi or releasing toxins in a steam room.
Some of the best spas in the city are in the top-end hotels, like the Royal Hotel Oran – MGallery Collection and the Four Points by Sheraton Oran. There are also a few independent spas in the city that offer a variety of spa services.
15. Enjoy beautiful scenery
Madagh 1 and Madagh 2 are two beaches in a cove just west of the city centre. They are known for their exceptional scenery and make for a great day trip.
The two beaches are separated by a stream and boast a backdrop of a lush green forest and mountains. It is a fantastic place to take some stunning holiday photos.
During the summer months, the beaches can get quite busy, especially on the weekends, as locals also enjoy coming here to escape the city.