Rabat, Morocco’s capital city, is a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. Located on the Atlantic coast, Rabat is home to a rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant local culture.
Whether you’re a history buff, a culture lover, or just looking for a new adventure, there’s something for everyone in Rabat. Here are the top things to do in this amazing city.
Explore the History and Culture of Rabat
Immerse yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture of Rabat, Morocco. From its ancient ruins to its modern museums, this city has something to offer for every traveler.
The History of Rabat
Rabat has been a center of power and influence for centuries. The city was first settled by the Phoenicians, and later became a Roman settlement. During the Middle Ages, Rabat was ruled by the Almohads and the Marinids, two of Morocco’s most powerful dynasties.
Today, you can still see the ruins of these ancient civilizations in Rabat, including the Chellah Necropolis and the Hassan Tower.
In 1912, Rabat was invaded by the French who also established a protectorate there and opened it to extensive development to the south and west. This sparked growth within the city resulting in an increase of its population along with its prestige as a new administrative, educational, and cultural center of Morocco.
To honor this period in history, Moroccan Independence Day is celebrated on November 18th to commemorate the return of Sultan Mohammed V to Morocco after his exile. The country gained official independence in 1956.
Today, Rabat is divided into two main sections: its Medina or old-walled city and its Ville Nouvelle or new city built by the French. It’s easy to wander through cobbled streets and take in Rabat’s magnificent architecture ranging from traditional Arab-style buildings to more contemporary designs.
One of the must-visit places in Rabat is the Hassan Tower. Built in the 12th century, it was meant to be the largest mosque in the world, but the death of Yacoub al-Mansour left everything stagnant. Despite being unfinished, the beauty of the tower strikes out and it is now one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Hassan Tower was commissioned in 1195 by Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour, an Almohad ruler. The tower served as the minaret of an incomplete mosque and is an impressive feat of engineering, reaching a height of 44 meters (144 feet).
It is part of a complex which includes traditional Islamic monuments such as a zaouia (oratory), a madrassa (religious school) and mausoleums. Today, visitors can explore this complex by taking advantage of guided tours as well as audio tour guides available at the ticket office.
Visitors to Hassan Tower will be treated to stunning views from the top level and can learn more about Moroccan culture and history with on-site exhibits. There is no entrance fee for visiting during non-holiday times, making it an affordable way to experience Rabat’s culture for all travelers.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace of Rabat is the official residence of King Hassan II and his family, located in the heart of the city. The palace complex consists of two main buildings: the grand building and its annexes, which include several residences and offices for members of the royal family.
The grand building is situated on a large open space called Dar es Salam, which translates to “house of peace” in Arabic. It was built by Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour in 1195 and has been expanded over centuries by subsequent rulers.
The palace has a spectacular façade made up of intricate stonework and decorated with carvings depicting battles and scenes from Moroccan history. Visitors to the palace can take guided tours to learn more about its fascinating history and view some stunning artifacts such as ancient manuscripts and ornamental furniture.
The Kasbah of the Udayas
The Kasbah of the Udayas is an ancient hilltop fortress located in Rabat, Morocco. It was first built as a citadel by the Almohads in the 12th century and was later refurbished by other sultans throughout its history. The Kasbah is focused on a large square surrounded by ramparts, walls and towers, giving it a distinct and imposing presence.
Today, visitors can explore this impressive fortress while learning more about its rich heritage. At the center of the kasbah lies a mosque which remains faithful to traditional 11-12th century Almohad design elements such as zellij tile work, arched windows and intricate stucco decoration. There are also several smaller buildings within the complex which provide insight into traditional Moroccan lifestyles and customs.
The Udayas Kasbah offers spectacular views across the boulevard leading to Rabat’s beaches, making it an ideal destination for both sightseeing and photography. It is also conveniently located near other popular attractions in Rabat such as Hassan Tower and Royal Palace, providing an easily accessible escape from city life into Morocco’s historic past.
The Chellah Necropolis
The Chellah Necropolis in Rabat, Morocco is a beautiful and historical site that has become one of the most sought after destinations for travelers visiting Rabat. Built by the Almohads in the twelfth century, this necropolis is situated on the banks of Bouregreg River and consists of an impressive complex of ancient ruins, including walls, towers, courtyards and an old mosque.
What fascinates me most about Chellah Necropolis is the way it pays homage to both Islamic culture and Moroccan history. It captures the eye with its tranquil courtyard gardens with its cactus trees, fragrant flowers and birdsong providing a perfect backdrop to explore this incredible place.
In addition to its stunning architecture and lush greenery, visitors can also view artifacts left by previous centuries such as pottery shards, coins and pieces of furniture which provide insight into how life was once lived here.
The impressiveness of this site is unmistakable and I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in Rabat. Its combination of beauty, heritage and tranquility make it one of the greatest attractions in Morocco that I have ever seen.
The Mausoleum of Mohammed V
Visiting the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat, Morocco is an experience that I won’t ever forget. As one of the most important landmarks in Morocco, it serves as a testament to the country’s past, present and future.
The mausoleum itself is located within a beautiful complex surrounded by lush greenery and lush gardens. Inside, visitors will find a magnificent marble enclosure which houses the tombs of Morocco’s late king and two of his sons. The structure also features incredibly detailed stucco, wood and tile work that pays homage to traditional Islamic architecture.
What impressed most about this monument was its solemn atmosphere – visitors are encouraged to reflect on the legacy of the late King while admiring its beauty. A visit here is sure to be both inspiring and humbling at the same time. It is a vivid reminder of how powerful and influential Moroccan leaders have been over many centuries.
Experience the Local Culture in Rabat
Located alongside the majestic Bou regreg river, this city has centuries’ worth of influences from the Berber and Arab cultures as well as French colonization – making it a truly fascinating place.
Rabat’s culture is deeply rooted in both its ancient past and modern influences. Influenced by the powerful Berber empire that took control over 1500 years ago, there are many characteristics from their culture still seen today — including religious beliefs such as Islam and traditional practices like henna tattooing.
In more recent times, France has also made its mark on Rabat around 120 years ago when the country colonized them. As a result, there are now many symbols of French influence throughout the city that clearly demonstrate how two radically different cultures have blended together in harmony.
Exploring Rabat’s culture and Modern Morocco can be a truly enlightening experience. One of the best ways to do this is by visiting its many museums and historical sites, allowing travelers to get an up-close look at all that this city has to offer.
Dar Al-Makhzen Palace
Once home to Morocco’s royal family and now open for tours. This sprawling complex features a variety of rooms filled with artifacts from the region’s history and visitors can also observe the traditional Moroccan architectural style up close.
Other notable cultural attractions include Chellah, a ruined ancient Roman settlement located just outside of Rabat’s walls that is home to various ruins and monuments, not least of which is a stunning medieval tower.
Visit the National Museum of Moroccan Art
The National Museum of Moroccan Art, located in the city center, is another great destination for travelers keen to explore Rabat’s culture. Inside this extensive museum, visitors will find exhibits featuring artifacts from a range of cultural backgrounds – including Islamic, Jewish and Berber objects.
From ancient coins to traditional pottery, there are plenty of items on display that showcase the richness and diversity of this vibrant city. The museum also offers guided tours in multiple languages so even if you don’t speak French or Arabic, you can still appreciate the incredible pieces here
Explore the Souk Al Harti
Exploring the famous Souk Al Harti should also be on your list if you’re looking to immerse yourself in Rabat’s culture. This traditional market, located in the heart of the city, has been serving up a range of goods for centuries and provides a great opportunity to purchase and observe local Moroccan wares.
From spices and perfumes, to colorful clothing and handmade crafts – the Souk Al Harti is an essential part of any trip to this incredible city.
Enjoy a Traditional Moroccan Meal
Moroccan cuisine is famous for its flavorful spices and delicious dishes. Some of the must-try dishes in Rabat include tagine (a slow-cooked stew), couscous (a steamed grain dish), and b’stilla (a savory pastry filled with chicken or pigeon).
- Tajine: A classic stew made with various ingredients such as lamb, beef, or fish, slow-cooked in an earthenware pot and served with couscous.
- Couscous: A fantastic side dish made of grains and vegetables cooked together in broth.
- Kefta: Spiced meatballs grilled or fried, usually served on bread.
- Mint Tea: Sweetly spiced tea served hot, often enjoyed after dinner.
- Baklava: Delicious layers of thin pastry filled with nuts and syrup – perfect for those with a sweet tooth!
Take a Stroll Along the Beach
Rabat is located on the Atlantic coast, and its beautiful beaches are a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to relax or an adventurous day of water sports, Rabat’s beaches have something for everyone. Some of the best beaches in Rabat include:
Ain Diab Beach
Ain Diab Beach is a long stretch of sandy shoreline located just a few minutes from the city center. It’s a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports, and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes along the beachfront where you can grab a bite to eat.
Bouregreg Beach is a more secluded spot, located a short drive from the city center. It’s a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the scenery, and there are plenty of opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and other water activities.
Oued Bou Regreg Beach
Oued Bou Regreg Beach is a hidden gem located just a short walk from the city center. It’s a quiet and peaceful spot, surrounded by lush vegetation and stunning views of the river and the Atlantic Ocean.
Family Things to do in Rabat
The Wildlife Adventure at Rabat Zoo
For those who love animals and nature, a visit to the Rabat Zoo is a must. This modern zoo is home to a wide variety of animals, including lions, monkeys, and exotic birds. With its spacious enclosures, educational exhibits, and beautiful gardens, the Rabat Zoo is a great place to spend a day with family and friends.
Take a Day Trip from Rabat
Why not visit a view more moroccan cities when in Rabat? Either go from the main bus station (ctm bus station) , hire a car or head to the train station.
Visit Morocco’s famous blue city, Chefchaouen. It is located in the Rif Mountains of northwestern Morocco and is known for its striking blue-painted buildings and stunning natural scenery. The blue color is said to have been introduced by Jewish refugees in the 1930s, and it is believed to symbolize the sky and heaven, as well as being used to repel mosquitoes.
Chefchaouen is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world to admire its picturesque streets, traditional architecture, and relaxed atmosphere.
Chefchaouen is approximately 3 hours drive from Rabat, depending on traffic and road conditions. The scenic drive from Rabat to Chefchaouen offers beautiful views of the countryside and is a great opportunity to explore the region and experience more of Morocco’s unique culture and history.
Spending the day in Meknes is a great way to step back in time and take in an impressive array of historical monuments. Located just 85 km from Rabat, it was once known as the imperial city during Morocco’s Alawite dynasty.
The city is home to Bab Mansour, a grand gate leading into the city’s main square that is decorated with intricate carvings and mosaics. Visitors can explore the old imperial palace, or wander around its vibrant souks filled with everything from pottery to spices and traditional items.
The long walls surrounding the city are also worth checking out, which serve as constant reminder of its glorious past.
Oualidia is one of the best day trips from Rabat for beach-lovers and seafood connoisseurs alike. Located about 100 km south of Rabat, this picturesque coastal town is perched on the edge of an idyllic lagoon.
Oualidia’s attractions include sandy beaches lined with palm trees, lagoons filled with tropical wildlife, and a vibrant boulevard of restaurants serving up some delicious seafood. If you are looking for a bit more excitement, there are plenty of water sports facilities to choose from as well, ranging from surfing to kayaking and sailing.
Those looking for a slower pace can simply enjoy a day of sunbathing or stroll along the waterfront and admire the stunning vistas.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time to visit Rabat, Morocco?
The best time to visit this historic city is from spring to fall, when the weather is warm and sunny. Summer can be quite hot (it is North Africa!), so if you’re looking for cooler temperatures, it’s best to visit in the spring or fall.
Is Rabat, Morocco safe for tourists?
Rabat is generally considered to be a safe city for tourists. However, as with any large city, it’s always a good idea to be cautious and aware of your surroundings.
What is Rabat known for?
Rabat is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning architecture with plenty of historic monuments. The city is home to a number of historic buildings and monuments, as well as museums showcasing Morocco’s cultural heritage.
The Great Mosque in the old medina (old town), also known as the el-Kharrazin Mosque, is a beautiful example of Moroccan architecture, with its distinctive blue and white tiles adorning its walls. This mosque is considered to be one of the most important religious sites in Rabat and is open to visitors all year round.
The As-Sunna Mosque, located in central Rabat, was originally completed in 1785 by Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah. This impressive structure boasts a majestic dome which can be seen from afar and stands out amongst other buildings in Rabat’s skyline.
What is in Downtown Rabat?
Downtown Rabat is the capital city of Morocco and the country’s seventh largest city. It is home to many historical sites, such as Hassan Tower, Avenue Mohammed V, Chellah Necropolis, and the Medina of Rabat. The Medina of Rabat is a popular tourist destination that features 1621 traveler reviews, 1176 candid photos, and great deals for Rabat.
There are also several train stations located in downtown Rabat, including Mohammed V – Gare de Rabat and Gare de Rabat-Ville. Additionally, there are many hotels and accommodations available for visitors to stay in while exploring downtown Rabat.
What can I see in Rabat?
There is a lot to see in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, including the Royal Palace of Rabat, the Hassan Tower, the Kasbah of the Udayas, and the National Museum of Moroccan Art. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture lover, or just looking for a unique travel experience, Rabat has something to offer for everyone.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your trip to Rabat today and discover this modern capital city with deep-rooted history!
Travelling To Rabat
Getting to and from Rabat is easy and convenient, with plenty of options for both domestic and international travelers.
By Plane: Rabat has an international airport, Rabat-Salé Airport (RBA), which offers flights to multiple cities throughout the world. For anyone coming from within Morocco, there are also several domestic airports located nearby that offer flights to other cities within the country.
By Train: Rabat offers a wide range of train services run by ONCF that can take you anywhere in the country. The main station is Rabat Ville Train Station located in the city center. It provides direct access to Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes, Meknes, Mahdia, Tangier and other destinations.
By Bus: There are numerous bus companies operating in Morocco including CTM and Supratours that provide direct connections between different cities within Morocco as well as international destinations.
By Car: If you’re looking for more flexibility when you visit Morocco, renting a car may be the best option. Major rental companies such as Avis and Budget are available at Rabat-Salé Airport or can be arranged online in advance.