Bastion 23, also known as Le Palais des Raïs (The Palace of Kings) is an Ottoman era fortress located in central Algiers.
Construction began in 1576 under the orders of the Ottoman Dey Ramdhan Pacha, who wanted to reinforce the defenses in the Lower Casbah, and continued until 1798. Bastion 23 was originally a part of the famous Casbah d’Alger but it is now isolated and separated from the rest of it due to the destruction and reconstruction of central Algiers during the French colonial era.
It was preserved by the French for it’s mauresque architecture and was classed as a historical monument in 1909. The Palais started to decay post-independence as many Algerians were poor and homeless, so families would often squat there. In 1980, the Ministry of Culture decided it would start the restoration process and announced that the Palais would become the official Centre of Arts and Culture.
Bastion 23 is one of my favorite places in Algiers. It is one of the few places that caters to the youth; there are often exhibitions by young Algerian artists and musicians. They also often hold creative workshops. Last summer, I went to a concert held by a young group of Algerian rappers and street artists, and a workshop on how to wear the traditional Algerian hayek, I plan on going to many more.
I would highly recommend visiting Bastion 23 during the summer, especially in the afternoon. Although the heat outside is often unbearable, the way the fortress is built and it’s location (right along the beach, which you can also visit but I definitely would not recommend that you swim in) allows for the most wonderful sea breeze to flow inside through the barred windows and it feels beautiful; it also allows you to appreciate the genius of the architecture.
Unfortunately, there are no guides, no leaflets, and no one to explain what each building is for or its history. A lot of the rooms are usually empty as the site is large and the museum does not have enough exhibitions running at once to fill them up, but it was still being restored last time I visited, here’s hoping they add more soon.
For more information on current or upcoming exhibitions, you can visit the official website: http://www.palaisdesrais-bastion23.dz/.