As the capital of Morocco, Rabat is home to the country’s most important museum, the Royal Palace and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, as well as several historical sites. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, with the Bou Regreg River to the west separating it from its sister city of Salé, Rabat is a beautiful place. It has a much quieter atmosphere than nearby Casablanca. And for many tourists, a visit to Rabat can be a pleasant surprise and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of other Moroccan cities. History buffs will enjoy walking through the Chellah excavation site and exploring the beautiful Oudaias Kasbah .
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1 Oudaias Kasbah
Rabat’s Kasbah district is one of the city’s top tourist attractions. Within the 11th-century fortress walls, a quiet and small neighborhood of winding white-and-blue avenues was built in Andalusian style. This is the perfect place for aimless, meandering walks and the winding alleyways are a joy to photograph. Don’t miss the Rue el Jamma in the district, where you will find the Kasbah Mosque . Built in 1150, this is the oldest mosque in Rabat. Keen photographers should also note that the district has nice views of Sale and the Atlantic Ocean.
Location: Off Boulevard Tariq al Marsa
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2 Hassan Tower
Built by the Almohads, the unfinished Hassan Tower was the work of ruler Yacoub al-Mansour and is said to have been the minaret for his grand vision of a mosque on this site. After his death in 1150, construction was abandoned and this 45-meter tower is all that remains of its original plan. Beautiful and intricate motifs and designs cover the facade of the tower, hinting at the opulence of what al-Mansour had in mind. The Hassan Tower is next to the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
Location: Off Rue Abdel Moumen
3 Mausoleum van Mohamed V
The glittering mausoleum of King Mohammed V lies in the state on the spot where, after returning from exile in Madagascar, he gathered thousands of Moroccans to thank God for giving their country independence. The opulent burial chamber is beautifully decorated, with zellige tiles covering the walls surrounding the large marble tomb. It is a showcase of Moroccan traditional design. Non-Muslims cannot enter the adjoining mosque, but can view the burial chamber of the mausoleum from above, provided they are respectfully dressed (shoulders and knees covered).
Location: Off Rue Abdel Moumen
4 Chellah Necropolis
The remains of the 14th century Merenid Citadel city of Chellah are an atmospheric place. The walled ruins are positioned on an older Roman city called Sala, which archaeologists discovered evidence of in the 1930s. Parts of both settlements can be seen today. Chellah flourished as a Merenid citadel in the early 14th century. The crumbled ruins of mosques and mausoleums they built here are now covered with sprawling brambles and provide nesting grounds for storks. The excavated Roman part of the site contains a forum, a bath and a temple. For a good overview of the entire Chellah ruins, a terrace with a view offers a beautiful view over the site.
Location: Off Boulevard ad Doustour
5 Oudaias Museum and the Andalusian Gardens
Within the Oudaias Kasbah are the beautiful Andalusian Gardens, which were created at the beginning of the 20th century. The Oudaias Museum, located in the gardens, is housed in the lavish 17th-century lodge built by Moulay Ismail as his first residence in Rabat. At the far end of the lodge is a room with an old Moroccan interior. Cushions in brocade, silk and gold cover the divans around the room. A little further on is an exhibition of ancient illuminated Qurans, jewellery, pottery and musical instruments.
Location: Off Rue Bazzo
6 Archaeological Museum of Rabat
Built in 1932 and enlarged several years later to display invented finds, this museum is home to Morocco’s best archaeological collection. The prehistoric section brings together human remains from the Middle Paleolithic period to the Neolithic, illustrating the continuity and size of the population at this time. Pre-Roman civilizations are well represented. The Roman and Hellenistic exhibits are famous and the collection of bronzes is incredibly impressive. Even if you are not a museum person, this is the one museum about your Morocco that you should not miss.
Address: Rue al-Brihi Parent
Rabat’s sprawling medina area has a distinctly Andalusian style to its buildings, as most of the architecture here dates back to the 17th century, when Muslims arrived from Spanish Andalusia. This makes it very different from the medina of Fes and Marrakesh. The two best shopping streets are Souk es Sebbat and Rue Souka , and a number of interesting buildings within the district make it worth a stroll here. Note in particular the Koubba Mosque as well as the Merenid Fountain and Grand Mosque both on Rue Souka. The Mellah (Jewish Quarter) is located in the southeast corner of the medina and has an interesting flea market.
8 Museum of Contemporary Art Mohammed VI
For anyone interested in the modern art movement in Morocco, this new museum is one of Rabat’s top attractions. Housed in an impressively renovated building dating back to the French colonial era, the collection is small but includes artwork from nearly all of the country’s top names in the art world. A visit here makes a nice contrast to viewing the traditional craft work for which Morocco is rightly famous and shows the contemporary side to the country’s long artistic expressions.
Address: Avenue Moulay Hassan
9 New city
Rabats Ville Nouvelle (New Town) is home to the Archaeological Museum and also the surprisingly interesting Postal Museum (on Avenue Mohammed V), which brings together an excellent collection of Moroccan stamps, telephones and telegraph machines. The streets of the Ville Nouvelle are home to a wealth of French colonial architecture and are a pleasant place for a stroll. Right on the edge of the district, Avenue Hassan II follows the 17th-century Undulations Wall that separates the modern city from the medina .
South of the Ville Nouvelle is Rabat Royal Palace , built in 1864 and fenced off from the surrounding area with a large wall. The complex is not open to the public because the current king still uses the palace as his residence. You can get good photos of the palace’s exterior near Sunna Mosque .
Location: Central Rabat
10 Abul Hassan Medersa
Directly across the Bou Regreg, opposite Rabat, the town of Sale is home to several interesting medersas (madrassa – Islamic school of learning) and mausoleums. In particular, the Abul Hassan Medersa is worth a visit. Dating back to the Merenid era in the 14th century, it has an interior covered in beautifully restored examples of traditional religious decoration, including zellige tilework and carved wood panels. If you climb to the roof, you can enjoy a beautiful view across the water to Rabat .
Address: Rue Ras ash-Shajara
11 Sale Medina
The medina area in Salé is a quaint and picturesque place to spend a few hours in the afternoon. Like the Abul Hassan Medersa , the district is also home to Salés’ Grand Mosque , the Mausoleum of Sidi Ben Ashir with its photogenic whitewashed tomb and the Fondouk (khan) al-Askour . There are also some wonderfully atmospheric souks , where you can join the locals and try your hand at haggling. The malls here are a local affair and aren’t overly beaten up for the tourists, providing an interesting counterpoint to the souk streets of Marrakech and Fez.
Location: The main entrance of Bab el-Jedid or Bab Lamrissa
Established as a military fortress by Morocco’s first French Resident General in 1912, Kenitra is a modern city on the road to Tangiers. While the town doesn’t have much to offer visitors, it makes a great base for trips to nearby Mahdia with its long beach, a windsurfer’s paradise. Other nearby attractions include the interesting Kasbah neighborhood and the Roman garrison site of Thamusida. The ruins of Thamusida include a temple, bath, housing and a large garrison camp area.
Location: 46 kilometers north of Rabat
Rabat was founded in the 12th century as an outpost for the Arab army and was given the generic name for the Ribat military camp, which is still in use today. For centuries, Rabat and Salé were rival principalities, but eventually Rabat came to dominate the area. Salé’s power was eventually completely eclipsed by its larger neighbour.
In the early 17th century, Rabat became a center of anti-European piracy, with its stronghold at the Kasbah des Oudaias. Rabat first became a modern capital in 1912 by the French rulers of Morocco and remained the nation’s capital after independence in 1956. The city is the residence of the royal family.
Where to Stay in Rabat for Sightseeing
To experience all the fascinating sights and sounds of Rabat, the best area to stay is in the city center, near the medina and the Kasbah of Oudaias with its warren of alleys and old buildings. Other attractions such as Hassan Tower and the Royal Palace are a short taxi ride away. Some of the best accommodation options are in riads, a type of traditional Moroccan guest house with a courtyard. Here are a few highly rated hotels in this convenient and central location:
- Luxury Hotels: The Hotel la Tour Hassan, which is distinctly Moroccan, has a pool and spa and is within walking distance of the Medina, the Kasbah of Oudaja, the Hassan Tower, and the Royal Palace. About two kilometers from the Royal Palace, the Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses has a more contemporary Moroccan style and overlooks an acre of palm-lined gardens and a lovely outdoor swimming pool. Villa Diyafa Boutique Hotel & Spa is located at the end of the luxury hotels in Rabat’s embassy district, a short taxi ride from the city’s attractions. It offers limousine transfers and personal butlers for select rooms.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The Riad Kalaa is located near the coast and just inside the medina. It has an elegant Moroccan style, about eight minutes walk from the Kasbah of Oudaias. Nearby Dar El Kebira is another stylish guest house with a hammam and spa. Breakfast is served on the roof terrace. Le Diwan Rabat – MGallery Collection offers colourful, modern rooms a short walk from the Medina and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
- Budget Hotels: Just outside the gates of the medina, Riad Meftaha is an authentic Moroccan guest house, with a peaceful courtyard and striking tile work. The nearby Riad El Bir, in the heart of the Medina, is popular for its comfortable rooms and caring owner. Also in the Medina, Riad Zyo is housed in a modern white-washed building, with chic rooms, a small pool in the courtyard and a roof terrace.