Morocco’s capital and its seventh largest city, Rabat may not be as popular tourist destination as the other Imperial Cities, but it has a charm of its own. From metropolitan areas to palm-lined boulevards, Rabat has a lot to explore. Well-maintained and comparatively relieved of traffic, it’s a pleasant retreat for those who have just vacationed at Casablanca.
Rabat is known for its cleanliness and safety. This administrative capital is also the home of King Mohammed VI, who lives in his palace Dâr-al-Makhzen, located in the Touarga commune. Although the entry inside the palace is not allowed, you can still admire its colorfully tiled walls from afar.
The city has a central beach, where taking an evening stroll is sure to detoxicate you of all the fatigue. With multiple old buildings and an evocative Medina, Rabat is a great choice for sojourn.
Take benefit of it not being as popular and crowded as the other big cities in the country and wander in the swirling lanes of its walled Medina. There’s a lot more you can do in and around the city.
Options to stay and eat are abound! You will find comfortable hotels and luxurious riads to savor the traditional lifestyle of Morocco. The delicious couscous and tajines are found almost in any restaurant. However, if you are more willing to stick to European or Mediterranean dishes, that is also possible in Rabat. Its nightlife buzzes with bars serving exquisite wines and chilled beer.
Getting in the Capital City of Rabat
While, the city has its own Rabat airport, the flights that land here are generally domestic or international flights from Europe. So, chances are that you will arrive at Casablanca airport and then take a land transit, like bus, train, or car to Rabat.
Your transit can be based on your budget or how you want to travel around in the country.
If you are staying in the nearby Sale city, which is on the other side of the river Bou Regreg,
Getting Around the City
Exploring Rabat has become extremely easy with the Rabat tram, which is well-maintained and will take you to almost all major attractions. Most attendants will be able to communicate in broken English if not fluently. You will easily fine a ticket booth at most stops, making it easy to get around the city.
There two only two tram lines – Line 1 and Line 2, which make travelling in the unknown place less complex, Trams are available in every 20 minutes.
Things to Do in Rabat
If you are visiting Rabat and worrying about what is there to see and discover around, then read on.
While the city has something to explore at every nook and corner, those who are time bound can pick the twelve most important sites in Rabat.
The Hassan Tower
When in 12th century, Rabat first became the capital of the kingdom, its then ruler Yaqub al-Mansour undertook the project of building a mosque that will be the largest in the entire world. However, he died before the building was completed and the project was abandoned. What was built was destroyed by an earthquake in the year 1755. Today, the only a part of that incomplete building remain in the form of the glorious Hassan Tower. Granted the status of UNESCO World Heritage, the 44-meter high tower stands tall at the Bou Regreg estuary and is surrounded with beautiful gardens.
The Walled Medina
Nestled by the sea, this Medina was the full extent of the city till the early 20th century. This 17th century architecture has a well-planned orderly grid that lets you explore the place easily. Its small and can be travelled in about half a day. The old design of medina creates stark contrast compared to the extremely modern houses and embassies.
Main market street is in Rue Souika. The line-up shops sell everything from spices to tourist trinkets. You are likely to find many vendors with Rabati rug, typically those finished in red with a rectangular pattern and contrasting borders.
Built above the Bou Regreg river, the castle Chellah has housed both Phoenicians and Romans, before the Islamic rule. The castle was left abandoned in 1154, until 14th century when Merenid sultan Abou Al Hassan Ali decided to build a burial ground on the top and surrounded it with the defensive wall that stands even today.
The complex was damaged in 1755 when the earthquake hit Lisbon. Today, it is easy to explore the castle and marvel at its history. Once a year, the Chellah Jazz Festival is organized in the ruins and makes for a great experience.
Rabat is on the Atlantic Ocean, which means it has some exotic beaches in the store to spend the evenings. Temara and Skirat are two popular Rabat beaches where you can go an enjoy the sandy shores, cool breezes, and the coast of Atlantic Ocean.
Kasbah of Udaya – Mini Chefchaouen in Rabat
If you have traveled to Chefchaouen and loved it or never got a chance to saunter through its blue lanes, you can head to Kasbah of Udaya. Build in 11th century, the place is hued blue, creating a beautiful backdrop for your photographs. The place is home to cafés, Andalusian Gardens, and Oudaias Museum. There is a Kasbah Mosque but entry for non-Muslims is not allowed.
Sale – Rabat’s Neighbor
Settled on the other side of river Bou Regreg River, the historic city is awash with monuments and shrines. Enclosed by fortified walls, ramparts, and bastions, the medina of Sale is an experience that is not to be missed. One of its main gates is Bab Lamrissa, which leads to the ancient quarters of Jews who once lived there. Now very few of these Jews are left in the city.
As you explore it, you will come across several decaying houses that desperately need restoration. Lined up in the Sebta Street are old shops and souks from where the locals get their supply of daily use items. Among these shops will be some, selling the freshly baked Moroccan pancakes, called msemen.
Sale is also famous for Great Mosque, which is the third largest in Morocco.