Rabat is the capital of Morocco and the second most populated city in the country after Casablanca. Despite its political importance, in the tourism framework it is in the background (although unfairly). You will not lack things to do in Rabat: from enjoying the wonderful Necropolis of Chellah to getting lost in the blue of the Kasbah of the Udayas. In this post we tell you 25 things to do in Rabat. We also leave you with the best areas and hotels to stay in the capital of Morocco. Here are the best places to eat in Rabat.
25 THINGS TO DO IN RABAT
Visit the Mausoleum of Mohamed V
The Mausoleum of Mohamed V is the main attraction of Rabat. The tomb of the “father of Moroccan independence” is simply spectacular. It was designed by no less than 400 different artists and is in the classic Arab-Andalusian style, with traditional Moroccan art. Mohamed V has been one of the most beloved kings in the history of the country. He refused to apply the anti-Semitic laws of the Vichy regime and went so far as to protect more than 400,000 Moroccan Jews.
The site where the mausoleum is located is highly symbolic. When he returned from his exile in Madagascar, on November 18, 1955, he announced the independence of the Moroccan kingdom on the esplanade of the Hassan Tower, precisely where the mausoleum was built.
It is important to know that the entrance to the adjacent mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. If you want to see the tomb of Mohamed V and his family you will have to do it from a viewpoint at the main entrance of the mausoleum.
This is another one of Rabat’s emblems. The Hassan Tower is a minaret of the mosque of the same name. It is an unfinished tower. The ruler at the time, Yacoub al-Mansour, wanted to build the largest mosque in the world after Samarra in Iraq. However, after his death, the works were paralyzed and the plan remained a plan. The Hassan Tower is 45 meters long when it should have been more than 60.
If you visit Rabat you can’t miss the Necropolis of Chellah. Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs lived in this site. Although the Phoenicians were probably the first to occupy the site, the city did not develop until the arrival of the Romans. The place was perfect: located near the Atlantic and next to the Bou Regreg, a navigable river.
However, centuries later the Romans abandoned it and later the Arabs settled there. They built a mosque, several sanctuaries, a madrassa, among other buildings. Without a doubt, it is a good historical place to understand more about the region, its occupation and the different cultures that followed.
And best of all, the entrance is almost free: it costs 10 dirhams (a little less than 1 euro approximately). Despite being located on the outskirts of Rabat, it can be reached in about 35 minutes on foot from the centre. If you prefer to go by taxi, it should not cost you more than 200 dirhams (about 2 euros). Without a doubt, one of the must-do visits in Rabat.
Royal Palace of Rabat
Like all major cities in Morocco, Rabat has a Royal Palace. As you might well imagine, the King of Morocco does not reside in this spectacular palace. It is used as the seat of government and other institutions, as Rabat is the political and institutional center of the country. Entry to the building is completely prohibited. In fact, there is a lot of security. If you want to see it, you will have to be content with walking around its gardens and watching it from afar. And above all, don’t take pictures of the guards.
Breathing the air of the capital
As we have said, Rabat is the capital of Morocco and this can be seen by walking through its streets. You will see much more police, government buildings… In short, it has a very different air to the other cities of the country, much more orderly and institutional.
Strolling through the Medina of Rabat
If you’ve been to Fez or Marrakech, the Medina of Rabat will not seem like much to you. It’s totally different, mainly because of its architecture, Andalusian style. The buildings were constructed in the 17th century, coinciding with the time when the Muslims arrived from Andalusia. The Rue des Consuls is one of the main streets and there you can find products of all kinds.
Visit Mellah, the Jewish quarter of Rabat
Another attraction to see in Rabat is the modern Jewish quarter of Mellah. We say modern because it was created relatively recently: in 1808, during the reign of Sultan Moulay Slimane, the more than 6,000 Jews who lived in the city were forced to reside in this area reserved for them.
Today, however, there are hardly any Jews left in the capital. The exodus was enormous in the 1950s, when more than 300,000 Moroccan Jews from all over the country left for Israel.
Kasbah of the Udayas
This is one of the main tourist attractions of the city, if not the main one. Inside the walls of the 11th century fortress, magic is hidden: a small and quiet neighborhood full of white and blue buildings that remind a little of Chefchaouen. If you want to disconnect from the bustle of the capital, getting lost in its streets is ideal.
Enjoy the views of the Atlantic Ocean
Besides its beautiful blue and white streets and having the oldest mosque in Rabat, the Kasbah of the Udayas has other attractions. Especially for the views it offers of the Atlantic Ocean and Salé from its viewpoint.
Rabat’s Andalusian Gardens
After your visit to the Kasbah, another recommended thing to do in Rabat is to visit the Andalusian Gardens. Although they are nothing fancy, they are quiet, perfect for relaxation. The name is misleading, as they only look like Andalusian gardens. They were actually designed by a French architect in the 20th century.
Enter the Medina through the Bab El Had Gate
There is no better way to enter the Medina of Rabat than by passing through Bab el Had. When you cross this imposing gate you leave modern Rabat behind and enter the world of crafts, markets and haggling.
Walking in the Ville Nouvelle de Rabat
It was built in 1912 by the French during their protectorate. They wanted to build a totally different neighbourhood on the outskirts of the Medina as a residence for the French bureaucrats. In fact, the Ville Nouvelle in Rabat was the first in all of Morocco. Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture abounds in these parts of the city. The contrast with the alleyways and narrow streets of the Medina is striking. The main artery of the Ville Nouvelle de Rabat is the Avenue Mohammed V.
Falling in love with the elegant Avenue Mohammed V
It is the main avenue of the city and links the Medina with the Ville Nouvelle de Rabat. It starts at the foot of the mosque of Assounna and ends at the boulevard El Alou. During the tour you will find many shops and the famous hotel Balima. In front of this hotel is the Parliament of Morocco and other important buildings like the Bank Al Maghrib or the beautiful Post Office. Walking and observing the atmosphere is something very advisable to do in Rabat.
Getting to know the Assouna Mosque
And precisely where the elegant Mohamed V Avenue begins is the most famous mosque in Rabat. It was built by the Alaouites in the 18th century. Entry is forbidden to non-Muslims.
Visit the Mohamed VI Museum of Contemporary Art
In Rabat there is no museum as interesting as this one. Only the building itself is worthwhile. The museum houses modern and contemporary Moroccan and international art. As a curiosity, it is the first large-scale museum built in Morocco since the country’s independence in 1956. Overall the museum contains works by over 200 Moroccan artists. No doubt, a curious visit to make in Rabat. The entrance fee is 40 dirhams (about 4 euros).
Photographing the beautiful Post Office
It is one of the most outstanding buildings in the beautiful Mohamed V Avenue. It was built in the 20th century by the French architect Lafforgue. Don’t forget to photograph it!
Cathedral of San Pedro
Its construction began in 1918 but was not completed until 1930 with the completion of its two towers, which are among the most distinctive elements of the city’s modern architecture. St. Peter’s Cathedral is still active and Sunday masses are held there.
Museum of Archaeology in Rabat
And another interesting museum to see in Rabat is that of archaeology. It is the second most visited museum in the city after the one for modern and contemporary art. They have real treasures from the Roman period of the city. Without a doubt, the objects from Volubilis are the most worthwhile. If you have several days in the city, don’t miss it. The entrance fee is 20 dirhams (about 2 euros).
Shopping at the Megamall
And if you’re tired of all the sightseeing in town, head over to the Megamall to unwind. It’s an interesting shopping mall located on the outskirts of Rabat, near the embassy area. You’ll find all kinds of shops and some options of restoration. Ideal to spend an afternoon if you have enough time in the city.
Getting to know the embassy area
As the capital of the country, international embassies are concentrated outside Rabat. Although it is not a major tourist attraction, it is a curious visit to make in Rabat to learn more about the city.
Go to Salé to discover the Abul Hassan Madrasa
If you have several days in Rabat, it’s not a bad idea to visit Salé, the city on the other side of the river. This town of more than 800,000 inhabitants hides several attractions. One of them is the Abul Hassan Madrasa, also known as Medersa des Merinides.
It was built 700 years ago for religious education. It is right next to the Masjid Azam, a large Muslim mosque. The entrance costs 10 dirhams (about 1 euro).
Disconnect at the Exotic Gardens of Bouknadel
And outside Salé you can also visit these exotic gardens. If you like plants you will find your paradise here and if you are not a passionate person, at least you will be able to disconnect from the bustle of Rabat. In the 20th century a French horticulturist who was passionate about travelling wanted to represent various exotic microclimates in this space. The ticket costs 20 dirhams (about 2 euros).
Watch a sunset on the beach of Temara
Located on the shores of the Atlantic, Rabat also has a beach. The best one is in the outskirts, in Temara. You can easily get there by public transport: by bus 33 from Bab el Had. The views of Rabat are very beautiful.
Escape to Casablanca
And to finish this list of things to do in Rabat you can’t miss a visit to Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco. It’s only an hour away from Rabat. It is also a city that can be visited in a single day, so you can get there and back from Rabat easily. There is a train every half hour, so it couldn’t be easier – don’t miss the spectacular Hassan II Mosque!