Oran is one of Algeria’s most important cities and tourism destinations. This is due to its wealth of history and culture, its wonderful coastal location and its relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
Founded by Andalusian merchants in around 937 A.D., Oran has been conquered over the centuries by various civilisations, including the Romans, the Spanish, the Ottomans and the French, and this heritage can still be seen today in the city’s architecture.
Oran is steeped in art and culture. The city is home to the traditional Algerian music called raï and is also known as the “Paris of Algeria” due to its vibrant nightlife. Exploring the city and taking in its beautiful colonial buildings, the open-air museum of the old quarters of Sidi El Houari and Derb, and the stunning views enjoyed from the heights of the Santa Cruz Fort, is an unmissable experience for anyone visiting Algeria.
You can start your tour of Oran in the city’s central neighbourhoods, on foot, and then take public transport to the Santa Cruz Fort, built strategically on the top of the hill overlooking the city.
The hub of the city is the Place du 1er Novembre, also known as the Place d’Arms, which features a fountain and an interesting monument, as well as a beautiful theatre. From here you can move on to the large synagogue, opened in 1918 and at the time one of the largest and grandest in North Africa. In 1975 it was turned into a mosque. You can also visit the nearby Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, built by the French and now a public library.
Other interesting sights in the city centre are Bey’s Palace, the 1340 city walls and the New Castle, one of Oran’s most famous architectural monuments, built in the 16th century while the country was still under Spanish rule.
The Hassan Pasha Mosque is also worth a mention. Built in 1797 by Sidi Hassan Pacha in memory of the expulsion of the Spanish, it has one of the loveliest minarets in the whole of Algeria.
Continuing on to the older districts, Sidi El Houari is the ancient fortification of Oran, named after the city’s patron saint, an Algerian imam and a highly respected scholar. The highlights are the Spanish Gate and the Castello Viejo (‘Old Castle’ in Spanish).
Oran’s most popular place to visit, and one of the best known in Algeria, is undoubtedly the Santa Cruz Fort, which dominates the city and boasts breath-taking views of the Gulf.
But Oran’s historical buildings are not its only strongpoint. To get a real sense of local life, why not take a look round the market on Rue des Aures, where you can buy fruit, vegetables, olives, and local sweets, and treat yourself to a stroll along the buzzing waterfront?