Visit Rabat: what to do in this magnificent city?
What to see and do in Rabat? A visit to Rabat is an encounter with one of Morocco’s most interesting cities. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for your visit to Rabat.
Also known as ar-Ribat in Arabic, Rabat is the kingdom’s second largest city after Casablanca. But above all, it’s the capital of Morocco. Indeed, Rabat is an imperial city on the Atlantic coast, opposite the city of Salé.
If you’d like to visit Rabat, you should know that it’s steeped in history. From its streets decorated with numerous masterpieces to its modern infrastructure, from the parks that line the city to the various events that contribute to your comfort… Everything affirms the authenticity of this Moroccan city. And if you’re wondering what to see and do in Rabat, you’ve come to the right place. Find out all you need to know about this historic city and modern capital of Morocco.
What to visit in Rabat
Want to know what places of interest you shouldn’t miss when planning a visit to Rabat? Here’s the answer with my selection of 18 must-see sights in this Moroccan city!
#1 The Kasbah des Oudayas
On my trip to Rabat, I started the first day by visiting the Kasbah des Oudayas. This is a “city within a city”. I don’t know how else to describe it! It’s surrounded by walls and is one of Rabat’s most beautiful tourist sites. To get in, you have to pass through the Bab-Al-Oudaïas gate.
The kasbah was built by the Almoravids as a ribat, a military camp overlooking the Bouregreg river. In fact, it was this district that gave the city its name, “Rabat”. In the 18th century, the kasbah became one of the first palaces of the Alaouite dynasty.
Inside, I was very impressed by the narrow streets lined with walls painted white and blue. I recommend taking a stroll along the alleys to enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s a haven of peace that attracts many of the region’s artists.
By the way, don’t forget to enjoy a mint tea with a gazelle horn at the Café Maure. It’s also an address not to be missed! What’s more, you’ll be able to enjoy a panoramic view of the beach. A must if you want to visit Rabat.
#2 Le Souk de Rabat
Just a stone’s throw from the Kasbah des Oudayas is the Souk de Rabat! While it can’t compare to the Souk in Marrakech or the medina in Essaouira, it’s still a great place to visit if you’re planning a trip to Rabat.
The Rabat Souk stretches for a kilometer from Rue des Consuls to the Kasbah des Oudayas. If you enter the Souk from Rue des Consuls, you’ll immediately see the workshops that make Rabat’s famous carpets.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get a chance to visit on Thursday, but I’m told that, to this day, many women make the carpets on site and sell them at good prices. As for the men, I’d advise you to go to Souk es Sebat if you want to buy a pair of babouches at a better price. The undeniable advantage of the Rabat Souk is that there are no winding alleys. Unlike in Marrakech, you won’t get lost.
#3 The Hassan Tower*
The emblematic landmark of Rabat. The Hassan Tower is a historic monument that towers 44 m above the city. In the 12th century, it was designed to become the largest mosque in the world. However, when Sultan El Mansour died, construction was halted.
It remains unfinished to this day, even though it was supposed to be sixty meters high. However, even if the construction of the Hassan Tower was abandoned, it’s a source of great pride for the local people. In fact, at the time of my visit, it was being restored. Like all other mosques in the country, with the exception of Casablanca, it is unfortunately forbidden to visit the Hassan Tower.
However, it is possible to contemplate this monument with its intricate designs from its landscaped garden. The Tour Hassan stands at the end of an esplanade lined with hundreds of pillars. It is here that national ceremonies are celebrated in the presence of Prince Mohammed VI.
#4 Mohammed V Mausoleum
The Mausoleum of King Mohammed V is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its Arabo-Andalusian architecture is simply breathtaking. Located opposite the Hassan Tower, the Mohammed V Mausoleum served as a place where Moroccans gathered for Friday prayers before the declaration of independence.
Entrance to the Mausoleum is free, except on Fridays during prayer. To enter, you need to take a staircase that leads directly to the sarcophagus containing the remains of the late King Mohammed V. The same room also contains the remains of King Hassan II and Prince Abdellah.
Made of green tiles, the mausoleum’s roof recalls the green color of the Moroccan flag, synonymous with royalty. To this day, Mohammed V, the father of independence, remains in the hearts of Moroccans. A site not to be missed on your visit to Rabat.
#5 El Chellah
This is my favorite place! In fact, all travelers consider El Chellah to be the most romantic place in Morocco. Situated on the site of the ancient Roman city of Sala Colonia, El Chellah is an enchanting place that has been abandoned for centuries, especially since Fez was designated the capital of Morocco.
Here you’ll find tombs, the mosque of Abou Youssef Yacum with a fountain for ablutions, green spaces and historic monuments dating back to 1400 B.C. They’re all in ruins following the earthquake of 1755, which destroyed most of the site. All you have to do is wander around the ruins and imagine life as it was.
But don’t worry! You’re in for a real treat! Nature is resplendent and calm is the order of the day. This ancient city is a favorite spot for lovers who want to find out what to see and do in Rabat. And it’s not just tourists who come here. Many locals pass through here, especially at sunset. The view of the Bouregeg river is so splendid.
I’d also like to tell you that in springtime, El Chellah creates many mysteries and legends. Today, it’s here that the Chellah Jazz Festival is organized every year with the collaboration of the European Union.
#6 The new town
The new town of Rabat was built under the French Protectorate in 1912. It is home to the Archaeological Museum and the Post Office Museum. Lined with numerous colonial buildings, the streets of the new town are recommended if you’re looking for a place to stroll.
To the south, you can see Dar al Mahkzene, the Royal Palace. It comprises a mosque, a royal college, numerous ministerial buildings, barracks and a vast garden. The complex is surrounded by a wall and is impossible to visit, although King Mohammed VI does not live there.
However, I recommend that you visit the Sounna Mosque to get a better idea of Dar al Mahkzene. At the gateway to the Royal Palace is the Méchouar, the forecourt where the various festivities in honor of the King are celebrated.
#7 Rabat Zoo
This is Rabat’s national zoological garden. It’s also a popular spot for many tourists visiting Rabat. If you have the chance, this is a place not to be missed when visiting Rabat. The Rabat Zoo is home to over 130 species of animals from the Atlas Mountains, the savannah and the typical North African desert. For the record, this zoo is home to many Atlas lions.
It’s a great place to visit with family, friends or groups. Children can easily approach ponies, eagles and parrots. They can even feed the giraffes. It’s impossible to get bored, because there’s so much diversity! What’s more, the staff are very welcoming. And if you’re traveling alone, you can also take advantage of this place to visit its educational farm.
#8 The Museum of History and Civilization
As explained above, Rabat has a formidable historical heritage. So it’s only natural that Rabat should be home to the Museum of History and Civilization, formerly known as the Archaeological Museum. Here, you can learn about the city’s history from prehistoric times to the Islamic era, as well as that of the entire region and the ancestral tribes of the Magreb.
#9 Saint-Pierre Cathedral
Morocco has long been home to a variety of religions. You’ll find Muslim religious buildings, of course, but also Jewish and Catholic ones. If this religious edifice stands out, it’s for its immaculate whiteness and striking geometric shapes. Built in 1930, this cathedral stands in the Hassan district of Golan Square.
#10 The Botanical Gardens
This microsystem in the heart of the city was designed to showcase the world’s 250 ornamental plants. Today, the garden features over 650 different local, tropical, subtropical and desert species. A soothing place to take a serene break, this verdant park is home to many species of birds that choose to take refuge here.
#11 Mawazine Festival (Rhythm of the World)
This is a thematic festival held in Rabat every May and organized by the “Sahara Morocco Tours” association. Its aim is to showcase different musical cultures from around the world. Renowned artists such as Shakira, Elton John, Alpha Blondy and many others have already taken part. So, if you’re lucky enough to visit Rabat in the spring, don’t miss this festival.
#12 sports activities
With so many beaches to choose from in this Moroccan capital, there’s no shortage of opportunities for water sports enthusiasts. You’re spoilt for choice with surfboards, windsurfers and jet-skis along the coast. And if you head for the Oudayas beach, you can discover the coastline aboard kayaks.
You can also play golf at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. And why not visit an equestrian club in Akrach, near Rabat, for horseback riding? For the more adventurous, why not visit the Salé flying club for an introduction to paragliding, light aircraft piloting or hang-gliding?
#13 Going out at night in Rabat
I’d also like to show you where to go out at night in Rabat! It has to be said that this Moroccan capital is also a festive nightlife city, with plenty of places to enjoy yourself. There’s no shortage of bars and nightclubs to enjoy with friends or loved ones.
Personally, I recommend the Purple, El Barrio Latino and Puzzle clubs for those who like to dance and sing. They’re all out of the ordinary, and the majority of their clientele are young party-goers. Alternatively, you can go to the Seven lounge, El Rancho or Ice Bar. In any case, you’ll always be able to enjoy yourself in Rabat.
#14 Shopping on your visit to Rabat
Shopping in Rabat means discovering local crafts and window-shopping in some of the biggest national and even international names. There’s no shortage of stores in this city.
In addition to the Souk, you can also visit Rabat’s main boulevards to find what you’re looking for. Clothing stores, jewelers, opticians and many other stores can offer you quality products. For example, don’t hesitate to visit the Mega Mall. It’s also a great place for bowling.
What to visit around Rabat
Now I’ll tell you what to do in Rabat! Whether you’re looking for exercise, relaxation, shopping or the best places to go out in Rabat, your stay in this Moroccan city will be richly rewarding!
Kénitra is just 40 km from Rabat. This modern city on the coast boasts Mehdia, a beach ideal for surfing with numerous spots. You’ll also find the Kasbah citadel, situated on a hill 70m above sea level, with a lovely view. Better still, on the way from Rabat to Kénitra, you’ll find the exotic gardens of Bouknadel and the magnificent Plage des Nations.
#2 Forêt de la Mamora
To the south-east of the city lies the Mamora forest. Over 50,000 hectares are planted with oaks and cork oaks. As well as being a place of peace and serenity, it’s also home to many species of birds. It’s also an ideal place to spot falcons.
On the road to Casablanca, just 30 km away, you can stop off in Mohammédia. This tourist and university town has a friendly atmosphere and its wonderful beach attracts many visitors, both local and foreign.
90 km from Rabat, you’ll find Casablanca, Morocco’s largest metropolitan area. With its mix of contemporary and authentic, you’ll be mingling with local customs and the city’s modernity. I’ve already written an entire article on this imposing metropolis and invite you to read it to find out more.
Getting to and around Rabat
It’s all very well knowing what to visit in Rabat, but first you need to know how to get there and get around. Here’s all the information you need to get around the Moroccan capital.
Visiting Rabat: administrative formalities
If you plan to stay in Morocco for less than 3 months, all you need is a valid passport covering your entire stay. This passport is also required for organized trips.
On the other hand, if your stay exceeds this period once you’ve arrived in Morocco, we recommend that you notify the Moroccan immigration service and request an extension, which may not exceed 3 months.
Getting to Rabat
To get to Rabat, you can easily find direct flights from mainland France or Spain. Rabat-Salé airport handles both national and international flights. That’s why it’s so easy to land in this Moroccan city.
Getting around Rabat
As far as getting around is concerned, if you’re staying in the medina, I recommend visiting Rabat on foot. But if you’re a little further afield, you may well choose a tramway line that serves Morocco’s major cities. For example, you can take the Bab Chellah stop to reach the medina, or the Bab Lamrissa stop to reach the Salé medina.
I’d also like to point out that it’s perfectly possible to take cabs or buses, but they’re usually uncomfortable. As an alternative, I suggest renting a car. Alternatively, ask your hotel if it offers an airport-Rabat transfer. That’s also a good tip! Afterwards, you can visit Rabat on foot.
When to visit Rabat
Rabat has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. So there’s no best or worst time to visit the Moroccan capital. However, the months of November and December should be avoided, as rain is very frequent.
Where to sleep in Rabat?
Although Rabat is divided into several districts, there’s nothing more pleasant than choosing the Medina district to visit this Moroccan capital.
For my part, I was lucky enough to stay at Riad Dar El Ghali, which has the advantage of allowing you to easily explore the old town. What’s more, it offers good value for money.
If you’re on a medium budget, I’d recommend Riad Idrissi. This riad is much appreciated for its location, just a few steps from the Kasbah des Oudaïa.
And finally, if you’re looking for comfort and can afford it, I recommend Riad Senso, with rates starting from 80.75 euros per night.
If you’d like some advice, don’t hesitate to use Booking to find the accommodation that suits your needs and tastes. On this site, you’ll find numerous ryads and hotels to suit all tastes and budgets. List of hotels in Rabat here.
If you ask me, I think Rabat is a very pleasant city. But it’s similar to other Moroccan cities that have a medina. Rabat’s medina, however, has one very impressive feature: the Kasbah de Oudayas, packed with treasures from the past.