The capital is one of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco, along with Marrakech, Fez and Meknes, and the truth is that I was very positively surprised on my trip. If you want to discover all the places to see in Rabat, where to eat, stay in a riad, etc., keep reading this one-day route to get to know Rabat.
The Medina, impossible not to visit in Rabat
Like most Moroccan towns, 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.
Its main artery is Mohammed V Avenue, and the most commercial streets, Souika and Cónsules, being around the first the Zoco del Oro, the Souk is Sebat (roof with reeds), being able to acquire also leather goods, carpets, kaftans, etc.
Cimetière Chouhada, to be amazed
Leaving the Medina towards the sea, we arrive at the Chouhada cemetery, a not very touristy but very impressive stop.
There with the ocean as a backdrop, in a sepulchral silence, in my case only broken by the songs of a funeral being held.
If you cross it down the hill you will reach the Rabat Lighthouse and the Rottemburg Fort, and on your right, the Rabat Beach.
Kasbah of the Udayas, the blue neighborhood
If you continue walking with the sea on your left, you will soon see a fortress in ochre tones. This gives access to the neighborhood known as the Kasbah of the Udayas, an area where lime and indigo blue predominate on their facades, which will remind you quite a bit of Chefchaouen or Asilah. It is named after the Arab tribe Udaya, who settled there in the 13th century to protect the city. The oldest mosque in Rabat is located here.
Walk aimlessly through its colorful streets until you end up, without proposing it, at Café Maure, where you can have a Moroccan tea (green tea with mint and sugar) with a view of the sea and Salé for 10 Dhs (1 euro). It reminded me, saving the distance, of the Café Hafa in Tangier.
If you go through the door at the back of this café, you will come across the Andalusian Garden, which will transport you instantly to the Alcazar of Seville with the cool shadows of its orange trees, its fountains and its reddish walls.
At the exit of the gardens, if you continue to the left, you will enter the medina again through the already mentioned Calle de los Cónsules, until Souika, where you can say goodbye to the souk again through the Bab Chellah.
Hassan Tower and Mohammed V Mausoleum
If you walk along the long avenue behind the Chellah Gate, you will reach the Hassan Tower, the ruins of an old 12th century mosque, composed of this minaret body by the same architect as the Giralda in Seville or the Koutubia in Marrakech, 44 meters high, surrounded by 200 columns of different sizes.
In the same esplanade as the tower, is the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, always guarded by royal guards (even on horseback) and built using noble materials, such as Italian marble.
The visit is free of charge.
Chellah, of the most surprising corners
My advice is that after this, take a Petit taxi that for about 10-12 Dhs (a little more than one euro), will take you to the Chellah. You can walk there in half an hour, but with the cheapness of the taxis it is not worth getting tired because the walk is not very nice.
The Chellah is a fortification that houses valuable Roman ruins: a forum, a hammam… and for several centuries it was abandoned until it was used as a necropolis where the first Merinid sultans are buried (the last ones are in Fez). Its minaret stands out.
It is a spectacular place both for its conservation and for the combination of Phoenician, Carthaginian, Roman and Arab culture in just a few meters. It is really very interesting and its price is only 10 Dhs the adult (1 euro). For me, without a doubt one of the must-sees in Rabat.
As a curious fact, it is home to a very large colony of storks, with more than 70 nests distributed in its interior. I have never seen so many and so close up.
Royal Palace, to see it… from afar
After the Chellah, you can go to the avenue and take another Petit taxi to the Royal Palace, or walk around the 12th century Almohad wall.
From the palace you can really only see its door, but it’s curious. But be careful where you leave the taxi, because ours stopped at the front and when we approached a lot of armed guards armed us the fight of 15.
It turns out that to “visit” the Royal Palace you have to enter from behind, through an area known as Mechouar, with a park and a mosque, where there is a police station that makes a passport control and once you have been booked they allow you a controlled access by many security personnel to the mini-city that contains the palace, so that you can approach the door, leaving a more than prudential distance, and take a couple of pictures. It’s not the visit of the year but it’s funny.
Avenue Mohammed V
To return to the area of the Medina from the Royal Palace, either on foot or by taxi, you will cross the aforementioned Mohammed V Avenue, where most of the institutions are located, such as embassies, the post office or the train station (useful if you are going to visit Fez or Meknes).
I think that with this tour we will have walked through the essential points to see in Rabat in one day, the rest of the free time can be spent shopping in the Medina or visiting some hammam, although there are not many in Rabat.
Eating delicious Moroccan dishes in Rabat
La Liberation, very economical
This coffee is extremely cheap, especially considering its location in the medina and in the middle of Mohammed V. Although there are some tourists, the site is mostly frequented by locals, I guess encouraged by its low prices.
Although its food is not the tastiest in Morocco, if you are looking to eat in Rabat for a little money, this is your bar. We have harira, a salad, kebabs and fruit salad, with bread, 2 soft drinks and a bottle of water for 89 Dhs (not even 9 euros).
Dar El Medina, luxurious oasis in the bustle
This restaurant is located in the busy Souika street in the Medina. However, it is incredible the peace that you can breathe in its patio in spite of being so close to the chaos.
The food is very good, although it is much more expensive. We have harira, vegetable couscous and seafood cake, with bread, fruit and two soft drinks for 270 Dhs (27 euros). Although I have to admit that we asked for too much because the cake was huge.
Dar Naji Centre, popular and crowded
The Dar Naji is located outside the medina, but almost right at the entrance, next to the Central Market. Although it is quite touristy it’s, good, nice and cheap.
It has a terrace located on the first floor of the building super nice, and we ate on this occasion 3 people for the modest price of 160 Dhs (16 euros). We had chicken as with a kind of super rich flour paste, mixed skewers and meat with plums, accompanied by tea, bread and water.
Sleep in Rabat in a typical accommodation
As I said before, in my opinion to fully enjoy the bustle of the city it is best to stay in the Medina, in my case I slept in the Dar Yanis, a typical riad with a central courtyard around which the rooms are distributed. It was very well located and with breakfast, for 45 euros, which for being Rabat is great.
You can book your room here.
I think that with this you can get a good idea of the city, having visited in this one day route the most interesting points to see in Rabat.