Introduction to Rabat, Morocco
Rabat is the capital and the heart of Morocco. You can experience the rich Moroccan cultural heritage and learn about what Morocco offers first-hand here. Yet, many people ignore this highly underrated city, which makes an ideal starting point for your Morocco tour. Visiting Rabat Morocco's capital city is definitely something you should add to your Moroccan Itinerary.
From the unbeatable views of Kasbah des Oudaias and the beautiful Rabat Old Town to the Andalusian Gardens, the coastal city features many cultural and historic landmarks that make it an excellent place to visit.
This guide covers everything you need to know about Rabat, Morocco, and how to explore it to the fullest. Read on!
Why Visit Rabat, Morocco?
Morocco is one of the most vibrant countries in the world. While most of the cities in Morocco are great for a visit, Rabat has the perfect balance between being away from the hustle and bustle of the large cities and having a very relaxing stay while never falling short of fascinating places to explore.
Top Things to Do In Rabat, Morocco
The following are some of the must-visit places in the buzzing capital city:
Kasbah of the Udayas
The Kasbah des Oudaias is a beautiful fortress on a cliff overlooking the Bouregreg River in Rabat, Morocco. Constructed during the 12th century by the Almohad dynasty, this is one of the oldest structures in Morocco with a rich history.
If you had to describe Moroccan architecture in one picture, this place would be it. It features small houses with a distinctive blue-and-white look, narrow alleys, and intricately designed doorways throughout.
Over the years, the Kasbah of the Udayas served as a residence for the Sultan of Morocco, so you can admire the history it holds inside its walls.
With a museum, cafe, and lush green garden to catch some breath, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the unique and captivating places to visit on your trip to Rabat.
Royal Palace Rabat
The Royal Palace of Rabat is one of the most prominent landmarks in the city. The main buildings, the massive gates, and the stunning gardens and courtyards give you a feel of how grand this place is at first glance.
While this is a place you shouldn’t miss, it’s crucial to know that you can’t visit inside the palace as it serves as the official offices of the king and his family.
However, it is still one of those majestic spots you must admire from the outside, and click some pictures with the breathtaking exterior in the backdrop.
I did manage to get inside the main palace zone but it took 3 tries. Every entry we went to they told us to go to the next one but eventually we did get into the grounds. You will need your passport if you are not Moroccan and local ID if you are.
The gardens are nice, there are a few fountains which they only fill with water when the king is in residence but overall its not super incredible. It is good to see though.
The Hassan Tower was commissioned by the Almohad ruler Yacoub al-Mansour in the 12th century. The structure was originally planned to be part of the largest mosque of all Muslim countries and the largest minaret in the world. However, the project remained unfinished upon the ruler's death and was never completed.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monument is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in the city. The Islamic calligraphy stands out when you enter the tower.
Situated on a hill, you can go up the tower and get panoramic views of Rabat and its surroundings. You can see the city's spectacular skyline and the nearby Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
The square is open 24 hours but the tower itself is open from 6:30 am–10:45 pm every day.
Mausoleum of Mohammad V
While you are in Fortress Square, walk over to the opposite side of the Hassan Tower and visit the Mausoleum of Mohammad V.
This mausoleum serves as the final resting place of King Mohammed V, who was a pivotal figure in the history of Morocco, particularly known for his role in achieving independence from French colonial rule.
Celebrated for its stunning architecture, the mausoleum blends traditional Moroccan and modern styles. It is noted for its use of white marble and a green tiled roof, which are symbolic in Islamic architecture.
Open daily (times listed below), the mausoleum is free to enter and is really worth a visit. While it is only small it is beautiful both inside and out and you are free to take photos and stay as long as you like.
Opening Times for The Mausoleum of Mohammad V
|8 am–6 pm
|8 am–6 pm
|8 am–6 pm
|8:15 am–5:45 pm
|8:15 am–5:45 pm
|8 am–6 pm
|8 am–6 pm
Initially established as a Roman outpost named Sala Colonia in 40 AD, Chellah was very important during ancient times as it was used by the Phoenicians.
It was later transformed into a Muslim necropolis, and the site became a sacred burial ground for Muslim leaders. It was also once a thriving Jewish quarter, so no matter which angle you explore, you’ll find this archeological site to be of incredible historic significance to the area.
The fortified, red sandstone walls show how grand this place was in its full glory because they still stand tall today. But within these walls is a whole other experience. The beautiful gardens and amazing ruins are really worth seeing.
Perfect for a leisurely walk in tranquility and some time away from the main city, unfortunately it is closed at present due to renovations. They are expecting to open in the very near future and it is something that is worth visiting when they are operating again.
The Medina of Rabat is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You get to experience the real essence of traditional Moroccan culture and architectural finesse with the narrow streets, restaurants, and busy souks.
You can find all types of traditional Moroccan goods and cuisine here. This is a great place to pick up some small handcrafted souvenirs to take home like rugs, pottery, jewellery, and more.
Personally, I found the Mdina's in Fes and Marakech to be a little better, but this one definately has a lot more practical products. It feels more focused on the local people than tourists like Fes and Marrakech are so its great for getting basic items at reasonable prices.
I bought a pop up mosquito mesh tent here. Super random I know but I needed one for other places in Africa and it was like $8 here and so useful.
Located in the Kasbah of the Oudaias, these gardens showcase a fusion of Moroccan and Andalusian architectural artwork, with elegant fountains, various tree and plant species, and geometric designs everywhere.
Lush vegetation, blossoms, and beautiful landscapes create a serene setting, perfect for a relaxing rest in the summer here.
Unfortunately I only got one day in Rabat that wasn't raining, so I spent a few hours hear that day just lying on the grass reading my book. It's very pretty and quite popular but everyone seems to just wander and stay pretty quiet which is nice.
Andalusian Gardens Opening Times
|10 am–7:30 pm
|10 am–7:30 pm
|10 am–7:30 pm
|10 am–7:30 pm
|10 am–7:30 pm
|10 am–7:30 pm
Exploring Rabat's Rich History and Culture
Rabat’s inspiring history and culture are so deep and extensive that you might need a few days to make it through the city. The fascinating structures, monuments, and architecture all around give a feeling that the city is frozen in time, which is actually true.
Historical places like the Royal Palace, Kasbah of the Udayas, and Hassan Tower serve as some of the main attractions, with newer markets and restaurants in Medina and the new city adding a hint of modernity.
From savoring authentic Moroccan food to walking through the narrow streets to the historical landmarks, you’ll have plenty of what Morocco has to offer to explore during your stay.
Best Time to Visit Rabat, Morocco
Rabat experiences a temperate climate throughout the year, making it a great destination for a visit anytime.
However, spring and fall seasons offer the best weather for exploring the outdoors without the extreme heat of summer.
Spring presents blooming landscapes and cultural festivals, while fall provides moderate temperatures and fewer tourist crowds compared to peak summer months. So, these are the best times to visit Rabat.
Summers in Rabat, especially in July and August, can be somewhat humid, though far from sweltering. The period from December to January is the coldest and sees the most rainfall, which might make sightseeing a bit challenging.
It's also worth noting that during the month of Ramadan, some attractions and restaurants may have altered schedules due to fasting. The month moves around every year with the lunar calendar, so just do a quick search to find if your travel dates might be clashing with the holy month and plan accordingly.
Checking for local events or festivals during your visit can also provide unique cultural insights and experiences since there’s always something fun happening in Rabat.
How to Get Around In Rabat
Rabat is a relatively small city, and many of its attractions are within walking distance of each other. So, you can explore most of it on foot without needing public transport.
However, with its well-connected and efficient transport system, getting around in Rabat is convenient, and there are several options available:
The petit blue taxis are the most common mode of transportation in Rabat. They are affordable, with a fare of only 5 dirhams. They can take up to three passengers. Make sure the driver has turned on the meter to avoid paying a ridiculously high fare.
If you want to travel to another city, consider taking the white grand taxis.
The Rabat-Salé tramway is a modern public transportation system that connects Rabat with its neighboring city, Salé. It’s well-maintained and used by the majority of people. Equipped with security cameras and free internet, this is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to get around the city and visit major sights.
If you’re not on a budget, you can arrange private drivers through your hotel or hire independently. They offer a more comfortable and convenient way to travel in the city.
Local Cuisine: What to Eat In Rabat, Morocco
Rabat is all about celebrating Moroccan culture. And the best way to do that is through savoring its local food.
Start with couscous, a filling dish blending veggies, meats, and tasty broth. It’s not too heavy yet filling at the same time.
Try Tagine, a slow-cooked stew packed with saffron, cinnamon, and cumin for those who like layered flavors.
For a unique taste, savor Pastilla, a sweet-savory pie filled with pigeon or chicken, almonds, and spices.
Maybe warm up with Harira, a traditional Ramadan soup, or enjoy Mechoui, succulent slow-roasted lamb or goat. Along the coast, relish fresh seafood—from grilled fish to seafood tagines—an absolute treat.
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Travel Tips for Visiting Rabat, Morocco
The following are a few helpful travel tips to ensure you have a smooth experience in this charming city:
Respect Local Customs
Morocco is a conservative country. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious or rural sites and areas, as a gesture of respect for local customs and traditions. Public displays of affection are against the norms.
Currency and Bargaining
The local currency is the Moroccan dirham. Cash is widely used, but major cities also accept credit cards.
Bargaining is common in markets. You can use your negotiation skills for a better deal but do so respectfully. If you haggle, do it if you want to buy the item, so you’re not wasting their time.
Visiting Cultural Sites
Explore Rabat's historical sites like Kasbah des Oudaias, Hassan Tower, and Chellah, but check opening hours in advance. Be respectful at religious sites, and don't forget to remove your shoes before entering mosques.
If you’re not allowed in, you can always observe the mosques from outside.
Rabat has a Mediterranean climate. Summers can be hot, so carry sunscreen and stay hydrated. Winters are mild but can be rainy, so keep a light windbreaker if you can.
Learn basic etiquette, like using your right hand for gestures and greetings, as the left hand is traditionally considered unclean. Greet locals with “Salam Alaikum” (peace be upon you), a customary Arabic greeting, but a simple “hello” usually works too.
Where to Stay In Rabat
From riads to luxurious hotels, Rabat offers plenty of options for a delightful stay. The following are a few accommodations you can consider, depending on your budget:
Located a short walk from the iconic Hassan Tower, the Imperial Boutique Hotel Rabat is a 3-star hotel that offers a cozy retreat for guests. There is an on-site restaurant, and each room is furnished and features modern amenities, including a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a shower.
The hotel also provides car rental services, allowing guests to explore the city without hassle.
The historic Kasbah of the Udayas is only a few minutes away by foot, and the Rabat-Salé Airport is only 8 kilometers from the property.
- Central location
- Free WiFi
- 24-hour front desk
Room rates start at US $62 per night, including breakfast.Check Prices
Right next to places like the National Library of the Kingdom of Morocco and the National Institute for Agricultural Research, this 4-star accommodation is one of the best places to stay in Rabat.
Plus, it’s right on top of a mall, so if you’re here for shopping, you can go all out without worrying about transporting your shopping back to your accommodation.
The property features a private entrance for utmost convenience, so you can easily bypass the mall and head straight to your place.
The air-conditioned apartment units are designed for comfort, featuring a comfortable seating area, and a flat-screen TV equipped with streaming services.
Each unit includes a well-equipped kitchen, a cozy dining area, and a private bathroom with a hairdryer, walk-in shower, and complimentary toiletries.
Some units offer the added luxury of a terrace or balcony with outdoor furniture, elevating your guest experience.
- Free WiFi
- Tea and coffee maker
- Washing machine
Room rates start at $83 per night.Check Prices
If you are looking for the ultimate luxury experience, don't look any further than Rabat Marriott Hotel.
A short walk from The National Library of the Kingdom of Morocco, the accommodation offers a lavish stay with exceptional amenities.
Head to the outdoor swimming pool and fitness center, and choose from 4 in-house restaurants. This 5-star hotel has round-the-clock room service and operates a 24-hour front desk, ensuring guests' needs are met at all times.
The air-conditioned rooms feature amenities like a coffee machine, minibar, flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom.
Some rooms offer city views too.
- Spa and wellness center
- Wake up service
- ATM on site
Room rates start at $231 per night with breakfast, including American and halal options.Check Prices
Conclusion: Why Rabat, Morocco, Should Be On Your Moroccan Itinerary
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Moroccan culture, there’s no place better than Rabat. With historical buildings and old town vibes, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in another time. Add to that the delectable local cuisine and beaches this city offers, and you are in for quite an experience in this often-overlooked city with a deep past.