Must-See Places in Oran, Algeria

One of the largest and most significant cities in Algeria is Oran. Oran was founded around AD 937 by Moorish Andalusian traders. The city’s history has been influenced by Byzantines, Ottomans, Romans, French, Spanish and Arabs to name a few.

Located in the northwest of Algeria, Oran is a coastal city with stunning colonial architecture and vibrant, yet relaxed energy. Prepare to be left bedazzled by French and Ottoman inspired structures and architecture that monopolize the cityscape. When Oran was constructed, it was inspired by the seaside resort of Nice in France.

With all the things to do in Oran, you can easily spend two days exploring the history and culture that the bustling coastal city has to offer.

Santa Cruz Fort

Santa Cruz Fort

One of the most famous landmarks in the city is the Santa Cruz Fort, which is visible from almost every corner of Oran. Santa Cruz fort was built in the 16th century by the Spanish, after they defeated the Ottomans. The fort is perched on top of the Aidour mountains. The fort is most easily accessed by car, as the cable car shut down. Visit the Aidour mountains to enjoy the view, and wander around this historic structure.

Santa Cruz Chapel

Santa Cruz Chapel is another important landmark in Oran. The chapel is located right below the fort. It was built in 1850 by the French, when there was an outbreak of Cholera which took thousands of lives in Oran. It’s said that the statue of the Virgin Mary was placed atop the chapel in order to protect the city from the pandemic. The view of the city is incredibly impressive from the chapel.

Sacred Heart Cathedral Oran library
Sacred Heart Cathedral of Oran, currently a public library, in Oran, Algeria

Oran Library

Originally built as a Catholic Cathedral in the early 1900s, Sacré Coeur was converted into the Oran Library after independence. Oran Library is definitely worth a visit, especially as it’s a fine example of Byzantine architecture.

Arènes d’Oran

Built in 1890, the Arènes d’Oran was originally a bullring- which is no surprise since the city was occupied by the Spanish. This arena is one of the rare bullrings in Africa and the only one in Algeria. Today, the arena has been turned into a space for the exhibition of art.

Place d’Armes

The Place d’Armes, otherwise known as The Place du Premier Novembre, is the focal point of the city. It’s relatively easy to find the square, as the major roads of Oran converge here. An obelisk stands in the middle of the square, which includes a relief portrait by one of the nation’s foremost anti-colonial leaders, Emir Abdel Kader. A statue called La Gloire tops the obelisk. The square is famous for its landmarks, including the Opera House, Hotel de Ville and its Lion statues.

Front de Mer

The Front de Mer, otherwise known as seafront boulevard, is one of the most beautiful walks you can take in Oran. The boulevard overlooks the port and is palm tree-lined for nearly 2 km, with views of the sea on one side and with views of buildings, shops and parlours on the other side.

The famous Fort of Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Chapel can be seen in the distance, straddled on the mountains.

Marché Bastille and Mdina Jdida Market

As fresh food is important to locals, it only makes sense that markets are a huge part of Algerian culture. If you want to sample the traditional food, buy souvenirs and get a cultural experience, venture to Marché Bastille or Mdina Jdida Market.

The Abdallah Ibn Salam Mosque 

Once one of the largest synagogues in North Africa, the Great Synagogue of Oran became the Abdallah Ibn Salam Mosque after Algeria gained its independence. The synagogue was built in 1880, inaugurated in 1918, and converted to a mosque in the 1960s- which was named after a 7th century Jew that converted to Islam.

The Sidi el Houari District

The first ever district in the city is the Sidi el Houari District, which is split into three quarters. Each quarter has its own charm.

The oldest part of the district and Oran itself is Casbah. The old port is found along the coast below the Aïdour, while Saint-Louis is built around the church with the same name.

The entire district is built along the slopes of the Wadi Rhi and Aïdour, and the district overlooks the sea. Explore the historic district on foot and gaze at all it has to offer.

Ain el-Turck

Ain el-Turk is a seaside resort around 15 km outside of Oran. The coastal town’s name means “Fountain of the Turks”. Originally, the town was called El Eurfa- it was home to a plethora of nomadic people who sold goods at the port of Oran in the past.

The area itself was named after the beach, and it’s a major draw for locals and tourists alike.

Today, Ain el-Turk is lined with cafés, restaurants, accommodation and attractions including Trouville, Saint Roch and Bouisseville.

La Gare D’Oran

It’s worth visiting La Gare D’Oran to soak in the slow decay of the city’s colonial heritage. Constructed during the 19th century in Moorish style, the station is in relatively good condition and the building is quite attractive. 

Be prepared to be fascinated by one of the best must-see places in Oran. The station’s interior is distinctly of French character, the presence of the Spanish is also symbolized by the Andalusia style that is evident in the design of the benches and the handrails.

Musee National Ahmed Zabana

If you have enough time, take a guided tour around Musee National Ahmed Zabana. The museum is home to a part of the city and country’s cultural and political history. 

What makes the museum stand out amongst the other must-see places within the city is that you can trace the beginning of Oran from the Stone Age to the Modern Era. The museum holds the keys to knowing the city.

You will be intrigued by the magnificent artwork collection, great mosaics, old sculptures and the terracotta representations.

The Sebkha

Located in the northwest of Oran, the Sebkha is a saltwater lake that’s listed by Birdlife International as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area.

The lake is home to migratory birds like the shelduck and flamingo. If you’re a bird watcher, you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the lake.

The Sebkha is also a Ramsar site, being surrounded by cork oak forests, aleppo pine and eucalyptus.

Foret de Msila

Located on the hills of Boutlélis, just west of Oran, Foret de Msila is a 1,560 hectare forest that is known for its recreational activities.

Whether you go for a walk, jog, or to cycle- you will enjoy the pathways throughout the protected forest, which does its best to provide the city with an eco-friendly tourist site. Aleppo pine and cork oak trees cover the majority of the forest.

So, go ahead. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and breathe the fresh air. 

Madagh beach oran

Madagh 1 and Madagh 2

Just west of the city centre, two beaches are located in a cove: Madagh 1 and Madagh 2. They are known for making a great day trip and for their exceptional scenery. 

The beaches boast a backdrop of mountains and lush green forests, and are seperated by a stream.

The beaches get busy during the summer months, especially over the weekends as both locals and tourists alike visit Madagh 1 and Madagh 2 to escape the city.