Spain in Morocco? You got it! Just like there are traces of Arab culture in southern Spain, there are the Spanish exclaves in Morocco: Melilla and Ceuta.

Spanish exclaves in Morocco, map
All territories part of southern España (Spain), including the Spanish exclaves in Morocco (Marruecos). Map by Wiki Commons

Background and Political Status

Both Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Melilla and Ceuta, were parts of several empires throughout the centuries. Combined, they have been under Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Hispano-Visigothic, Amazigh, Phoenician, Punic, Ummayyad, Idrisid, Almoravid, Almohad, Marinid, Wattasid, and Portuguese rule, just to name a few (Wikipedia)! In fact, it wasn’t until the late 15th century that Melilla, and late 17th century for Ceuta, that these territories became part of Spain.

As their rocky history, the current political status of these Spanish exclaves in Morocco is quite controversial. Since its independence, Morocco has claimed the sovereignty of both Melilla and Ceuta on several occasions. Naturally, Spain has refused to give them away to this day. As such, these Spanish exclaves are part of the European Union, and you get a passport stamp every time you enter and exit!

What to see in Melilla, Spain

Ciudad Vieja 

Named Rusadir under Phoenician rule, one of the best attractions in Melilla is the Old City (Ciudad Vieja) itself. In passing, make sure you checkout the only true evidence of Gothic architecture in Africa, Capilla de Santiago, by the city walls.

Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Melilla's Ciudad Vieja
Melilla harbor and Ciudad Vieja (Photo by Antonio Moreno Verdulla, Flickr)

Almacenes de las Peñuelas and other museums

While in town, head to one of Melilla’s museums to learn more about its place in history. They include exhibitions about a variety of cultures, including Jewish, Berber, and Christian. Particularly, the museum complex Almacenes de las Peñuelas is a fascinating one, with great explanations of the artifacts and other exhibitions.

Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Melilla La Vieja
Next door to the Museo de Arqueologia y Historia in Plaza de los Aljibes (Photo by Colin Hepburn, Flickr)

Parque Hernández

A stroll around this park is like a visit to a little botanical garden in the middle of town. Its palm trees, views and design may keep you occupied for hours at a time, if you wish. Great for people watching or just wind down and read a book.

Las Cuevas del Conventico

Seeking a little adventure? Then visit Melilla’s caves (Las Cuevas del Conventico) for some beautiful ocean views and underground history.

What to see in Ceuta, Spain

Plaza de Africa

Like Melilla, the best spots to see at this Spanish exclave in Morocco is the plazas. The best is the one right in the town center, Plaza de Africa. from here, you’ll be able to get snap great photos of the architecture. Make sure you walk by the catedral and ayuntamiento.

Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Ceuta cathedral
Catedral la Asunción, Ceuta (Photo by Enrique López-Tamayo, Flickr)

Parque Maritimo del Mediterraneo

For a sightseeing break, take a dip at the Maritime Park. The tree “lakes” are lovely, but the grounds and views are even better. Walk around the castle and sculptures after reading a book (or two), or even be greeted by views of Gibraltar on a clear day. Several facilities available on site and alcoholic drinks are served. If you can, pay a visit during the weekday, as travelers say rates are even cheaper then.

Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Ceuta Maritime Park
Parque Maritimo, Ceuta (Photo by Jose María Mora Camacho, Flickr)

Casa de los Dragones

Ready for more sightseeing? Casa de los Dragones is q unique, must-see building. Located on Calle de Millan Astray ( 1, 51001), its a perfect mix of Moorish and Spanish influences. The arches and dragon sculptures will keep the design and architecture junkie busy for some time. An interesting fact? Apparently, this building has some Masonic symbolism. Take lots of photos from various angles!

Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Ceuta Casa de los Dragones
Casa de los Dragones (Photo by Pedro Redondo, Flickr)

Conjunto de las Murallas Reales

As with many exclaves and colonial territories, the fortresses are omnipresent. While in Ceuta, a unique experience is to catch a concert right at the Murallas Reales. You may even catch a great Spanish dinner pre or post-concert. ¡Buenisimo!

Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Ceuta Murallas Reales
Las Murallas Reales (Photo by ♥ photosforliving, Flickr)

Take a short ferry ride from the southern coast of Spain or go inland from Morocco and experience these unique gems in Africa. Melilla and Ceuta, the Spanish exclaves in Morocco!

Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Ceuta sunset
Golden sunset in Ceuta coast by Pedro Redondo, Flickr


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Maria Laborde

Completely enamored with the Middle East and Africa, Maria Laborde is a twenty-something budget traveler that has lived, studied and traveled extensively throughout the region. Through tales, tips, travel guides, and everything in between, she shares her knowledge and love for the Arab world on Art of Backpacking and her niche blog Travel The Middle East. Moreover, Maria is the author of LatinAbroad | Nomadic Translator, where she shares her tales, photos and advice after traveling to more than 20 countries across 4 continents. Follow her adventures on Google+, Twitter @latinAbroad and 'Like' her Facebook page.
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