Less than three hours from London, yet virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, Algiers
is one of the Mediterranean's most mesmerising cities, a captivating mélange of faded French grandeur and neo-Moorish folly crowned by a legendary casbah.
Were "Alger La Blanche" situated on the northern edge of the Mediterranean, this dazzling euphony of blue and white would be one of Europe's most sought after destinations.
A lived-in, weather-warmed city, the Algerian capital is home to some of the most exuberant, playful art deco architecture anywhere in the world. Yet the boulevards of this Mediterranean Paris are also lined with mosques and minarets, notably the 17th century Fishermen's Mosque, as well as neo-Moorish delights such as the Grande Poste.
The casbah of Algiers remains one of the world's most mythical labyrinths: "a masterpiece of architecture and town planning" according to Le Corbusier, the casbah's huddled houses tumble down the hill-side before seemingly spilling over into the sea.
Algiers receives virtually no Western visitors: one has the sense of being a privileged guest in one of the Mediterranean's most historic cities.
Although the infrastructure in Algiers far from matches European or American standards, the city has a series of charming hotels, including the art deco Safir overlooking the port and, high above the bay of Algiers, the St George with its luxuriant gardens.
Arrive Algiers. Transfer to hotel in central Algiers followed by orientation tour and dinner in former hamman.
Walking tour of central Algiers including esplanade (panoramic views of port, art deco Hotel Safir, National Assembly, neo-Moorish Prefecture), Place des Martyrs (situated at the foot of the casbah and housing 17th century El Djedid Mosque) followed by Place Emir Abdelkader (with famous statue in honour of the founder of Algerian nation) and Grande Poste (Algiers' quintessential neo-Moorish building, adorned with minarets, triple arches and a huge cupola).
Whole-day excursion to the Tombeau de la Chrétienne (royal mausoleum of Mauritania, one of North Africa's most enigmatic archaeological survivals), Tipasa (UNESCO World Heritage site bordering the Mediterranean adorned with a Roman amphitheatre, 4th century basilica, forum, old port and delightful museum) followed by Bastion 23 (Ottoman Palais des Rais converted into art and architecture museum).
Anglo-Algiers including historic Hotel St George (where Eisenhower and Churchill planned allied invasions of southern Europe), series of beautiful white villas constructed by British architect Benjamin Bucknall, Church of the Holy Trinity (memorials commemorating the lives of Algiers' English residents from 1580 onwards), lunch in historic Hotel Safir (liberated by the British) followed by excursion to Sidi Ferruch (scene of the first landing by the French in 1830 and, in 1942, the site of American landings).
Monument to the Fallen (constructed in 1982 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Algerian war of independence against France), Museum of the Liberation, Museum of Fine Arts (one of the Mediterranean's great "undiscovered" art galleries with work by Algerian painters and canvasses by Pissarro, Gauguin and Monet) followed by Jardin d'Essai (vast complex of gardens, including a French and English garden, celebrated for its fine avenue of dragon trees).
Bardo Museum (prehistory and ethnography), Museum of Antiquities and Islamic Arts followed by visit to casbah, including lunch in private home and visits to mosque and Museum of Arts and Crafts.
Time at leisure (bookshops, shopping) followed by transfer to airport and return journey.