Rabat is the capital city of Morocco, and it is one of the most traditional places in the entire country. Many visitor pass by Rabat and head to other cities like Marrakech and Fes instead. While those cities are wonderful and are certainly worth visiting, Rabat offers visitors an entirely different perspective on Morocco that shouldn’t be missed.
Rabat might not have the same popularity other major cities like Marrakech and Casablanca have, but the capital of Morocco does deserve your attention since it presents some good history and culture that is unique to the place.
As a more traditional city, Rabat is a place where Moroccan culture is strong and vibrant. While Rabat may not have the glamorous experiences that Marrakech has or some of the cushy conveniences that Casablanca has, it certainly belongs on any Morocco trip itinerary.
Best things to do in Rabat
1. Wander the Streets of the Medina
In Arabic, the word medina means city. When you visit Moroccan Imperial cities, the word medina refers to the old, walled-in part of the city. The medinas are essentially the historic centres of Morocco’s most famous cities, and they are usually where tourists go first.
Like most Moroccan towns and cities, its purest essence is concentrated in the Medina, full of narrow and intricate streets full of life. However, I must admit that this one seemed to me cleaner and more orderly than others, being easier to orientate.
Within the walls of Rabat’s medina, you can find narrow streets, beautiful buildings, lively markets, and some of the best restaurants in the city. While there are some great things to do outside of the medina, the city’s real magic is inside its walls and most of the best things to do in Rabat are here.
2. Visit the Mausoleum of Mohammed V
Mohammed V was the first king of Morocco after it declared its independence from France, and he is widely considered to be Morocco’s most revered hero. His name springs up everywhere in Morocco, much like Washington in the United States. In Rabat you can find his mausoleum, where he and his sons are buried. Hassan II, the son that became the next king, is nearly as famous as his father is buried in this same mausoleum. Entrance into the Mausoleum of Mohammed V is free for all visitors, but it closes between 12-2pm every day. Paying your respects to the first king of Morocco is definitely one of the best things to do in Rabat.
The Oudayas Kasbah is a fortified area of the city that was historically used as a bastion against invaders. This 11th-century group of buildings is not only famous for its stunning blue walls and narrow alleyways it also has a fascinating history full of pirate stories. It also reminded me quite a bit of Chefchaouen!
If you’re unable to make it to the famous blue city of Chefchaouen then you can at least get the consolation prize in Rabat as the neighborhood of Oudayas Kasbah is a mini version of Chefchaouen. Granted, there are more white walls mixed with the blue, but it’s still a fascinating quarter to explore.
Its use and significance changed over time, and it has also been destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions. Nowadays, the Oudayas Kasbah is one of the most popular tourist sites in the city, with a museum, some beautiful structures, gardens, and a café. Visiting the Oudayas Kasbah feels like a step into another time period, and it is absolutely one of the best things to do in Rabat.
Visit the museum and mosque and the Andalusian Gardens while you are there. This is one of Rabat’s main tourist attractions so coming early in the morning is recommended.
4. Head to the Hassan Tower
Hassan Tower is an icon in Rabat, and one attraction that’s a must see. It represents an unfinished mosque, which was supposed to be the largest minaret, and part of the largest mosque, in the world.
However, after the death of Sultan Abu Yusuf Yakub al-Mansur in 1199, all construction was stopped. The tower stands at 44m and is made of the red sandstone that’s popular all over Morocco. The pillars that remain make for some great photos, and shows the scale of the complex size.
Despite what many people think, the Hassan Tower does not get its name from King Hassan II, who was the son and successor to the legendary King Mohammed V. Hassan II is legendary throughout the country, and the Hassan Tower is one of the most imposing, beautiful structures in all of Rabat. It would make sense to link the two together! However, the tower was named and built several centuries before the reign of King Hassan II, and the name overlap is just coincidence.
Visiting the Hassan Tower and admiring its ornate beauty is one of the best things to do in Rabat, and the tower itself is located very close to the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, which is also on this list.
Compared to the bustle of nearby cities like Casablanca and Fez, Rabat is an oasis of calm. If you’re feeling yourself getting stressed with the frenetic nature of Moroccan city life, Rabat could be a chance to slow everything down. That’s not to say that Rabat is lacking in culture or history, just that it offers up sights in a gentler way. And its fabulous combination of old and new architecture makes it a wonderful tourist attraction.