Rabat is Morocco’s capital and Royal City with a long and rich history. Established in the 12th century by the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu’min, it was named Ribāṭ al-Fatḥ, Camp of Conquest.
Over the centuries, Rabat has been home to various groups of people, including Andalusian Moors and the Sallee Rovers (Barbary pirates). During the French protectorate, it was made the administrative capital of Morocco.
Today, Rabat is home to a medina, millah, and the Tower of Hassān. It is a modern city, with a royal palace, university, national library, embassies, and many international organizations.
The city is known for its textile, carpet, blanket, and leather industries, as well as its fruit and fish processing and brick and asbestos manufacturing. Rabat is well-connected to the rest of Morocco by road, railway, and air.
Some of the best things to do in Rabat include checking out the Kasbah of the Udayas, exploring the medina and its souks, sampling traditional Moroccan food, visiting the Hassan Tower and the Royal Palace, taking a scenic stroll along the Bouregreg River, and exploring the Chellah ruins.
Don’t forget to take a guided tour of the Oudaya Museum and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Relax in one of the many parks or head to the beach for some sun, sand and surf!
20 Best things to do in Rabat, Morocco
1. Kasbah of the Udayas
The Oudaya Kasbah is one of the best things to do and see in Rabat because it is an iconic attraction of the city, situated along the northern shore of the Bouregreg River, with its entrance facing the Atlantic Ocean.
It was constructed in 1146 by the Almohad Empire as a fortification and expanded under the rule of Sultan Moulay Ismail.
In the 17th century, Spanish exiles, some of whom turned to piracy and slave trade, settled in Rabat and declared it an autonomous state known as the Republic of Salé. After 44 years of independence, the kingdom was unified by the Alaouite dynasty, which still rules Morocco today.
The kasbah and its adjacent medina are now popular tourist attractions, with a mosque, museum, and gardens. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Oudaya Kasbah is home to an impressive Almohad gate, Bab Oudaia, and the Old Mosque, which is one of the jewels of Almohad art. It is also home to a residential neighborhood, with its distinct blue and white walls, and the Andalusian Gardens.
You can visit the Oudaya Museum, which is housed in a residence built for Moulay Ismail, and displays many collections of jewelry testifying to the expertise of Morocco’s craftsmen.
The Chellah is one of the best things to see in Rabat because it is the city’s uniquely historic site. Built by the Romans and later expanded by the Almohads and Merenids, the ruins consist of a main road, the Jupiter temple, a triumphal arch, and a minaret and medersa.
It served as an important trading post of the Roman Empire and later as a royal burial ground and holy necropolis. Today, it is a tranquil place full of overgrown fruit trees and storks, a visible reminder of the city’s long history and significance.
3. Hassan Tower
The Hassan Tower is a grand reminder of a mosque that was never completed located in Rabat, Morocco. Built under the rule of Yacoub El Mansour in 1195, the mosque was meant to be the largest in the world and influenced by a variety of Muslin and Moorish styles.
Construction was halted when the sultan died and a 1755 earthquake destroyed much of what had already been built. French and Moroccan archaeologists excavated and reconstructed the site in the 20th century.
Today, the Hassan Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with several columns that show the intended layout of the mosque and six levels inside connected by ramps.
The Hassan Tower is located in the Quartier Hassan and is best visited at dawn or dusk when the light casts a lovely hue on the complex.
4. Mausoleum of Mohammed V
The mausoleum of Mohammed V is one of the best things to see in Rabat, standing proudly in front of the Hassan Tower. Constructed between 1962 and 1971, it is a symbolic tribute to the beloved late monarch, a reminder of the nation’s liberation.
Within the monument, one can find the tombs of his successor, Hassan II, and his second son, Moulay Abdallah. Visiting the mausoleum is an opportunity to admire traditional Moroccan art.
The exterior features a white marble pavilion topped with green tiles, and the interior is adorned with intricate motifs, sculptures and zellige on the walls and ceiling, showcasing the skill of Moroccan craftsmen.
Rabat is a fascinating city filled with a variety of historical sites and monuments. The medina of Rabat is definitely worth exploring as it is full of traditional shops, cafes, and stalls selling mentha leaves.
The streets are lined with leather footwear bazaars, craft shops, and souvenir stands that offer unique items like Rabat and Berber carpets, copper goods, jewelry, antiques, and wooden items.
Visitors can take home a variety of bargains and souvenirs, including mentha tea which is sometimes called Moroccan vodka due to its affordability.
6. Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI)
The Mohamed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is a public institution aiming to promote modern and contemporary art from Morocco and around the globe.
It has a collection of art works of Moroccan and international artists. The museum provides educational programming and workshops for the public. It also has a library and auditorium.
7. National Zoo
The Rabat Zoo is one of the best things to do and see in Rabat for families and kids. It offers a unique experience for visitors, immersing them into the depths of nature and wildlife.
Its 50 hectare area is home to a variety of species, from Atlas lions to Barbary sheep and baboons. Its design specifically fits the climate of each species, with two corridors simulating the Atlas Mountains.
This new form of zoo design allows visitors to experience a much more natural environment than ever before.
8. Villa des Arts
At the heart of Rabat sits Villa Des Arts, a stunning art museum that merges Moroccan heritage with contemporary art. The villa and its gardens offer a tranquil retreat from the city and regularly host exhibitions of various mediums as well as cultural activities like improvisation theater and talks on literature, philosophy, and science.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an art enthusiast, you’ll be captivated by the stunning architecture and accessible artwork.
Villa Des Arts is a place where intellect and artistic creativity meet, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to explore universal concerns without any preconceived notions.
9. Andalusian Gardens
The Andalusian Gardens might sound like they were made by someone from Spain’s Andalucia region, but they were actually designed by a French person.
When you walk through the gardens, you’ll feel like you’re in Andalucia thanks to the fountains and variety of flowers. Like most of Morocco, you’ll probably see a lot of cats wandering around.
Pro tip: The gardens, café, and Kasbah of the Udayas are all close to each other, so it’s a good idea to check them all out one after the other. It’s a perfect spot for a chill morning or a relaxing break after a busy day exploring the city.
Salé is an old city located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, at the mouth of the Wadi Bou Regreg. It dates back to the 10th century and was once a vibrant merchant port and entrepôt.
It earned a bad reputation in the 17th century, when it became the base of the Barbary pirates. As a result, it was frequently attacked by European naval squadrons.
These days, Salé has grown together with Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, and it is now a residential area. There are several mosques and mausoleums in Salé, the most sacred of which is the tomb of Sīdī Abd Allāh ibn Ḥasan, the city’s patron saint.
11. Dar al-Makhzen – the Royal Palace of Rabat
The Dar al-Makhzen Palace is a stunning building situated in the center of Rabat, Morocco. It is the official residence of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and his family. It has been a residence for Moroccan Sultans and Kings since the 700s, and was replaced by a new palace in 1864.
It has a mechouar parade ground, library, accommodation for the Royal Guard, a cookery school and the Collège Royal. It has hosted the wedding of King Mohammed to Princess Salma and was the birthplace of the late King Hassan II.
Unfortunately, it is not open to visitors, yet those in Rabat can get decently close before the guards ask them to leave.
12. Mawazine Festival
Mawazine Festival is one of the best things to do in Rabat for music lovers. It is a massive music festival that’s been named the biggest in the world with the highest ratio of visitors per stage.
Mawazine means Rhythms of the World, which represents Morocco’s open and welcoming attitude to people from all over the globe.
Some of the biggest names in music like Stevie Wonder, Maroon 5, Ellie Goulding and many more have performed there.
The festival attracts over 2.5 million people annually and the best part is that most acts are free, making it a must-visit event if you’re ever in Morocco.
13. St Peter’s Cathedral
St. Peter’s Cathedral is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church located in downtown Rabat, Morocco. Construction started in 1919 and was completed in 1921, with Hubert Lyautey presiding over the debut.
The two towers of the church are still visible from the Rabat skyline today. Mass is celebrated every other day at the church and it is still a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. With its Art Deco architecture, it is a stunning sight to behold.
14. Jardins Exotiques de Bouknadel
Les Jardins Exotiques de Bouknadel are public gardens located north of the city of Salé. Founded in 1949 by the French horticultural engineer Marcel François, they opened to the public in 1961.
In 2002, ownership of the gardens was transferred to the Moroccan State and underwent renovation. The gardens include many diverse spaces, such as Nature Gardens and Culture Gardens, as well as an aviary, vivarium, and a maze.
The gardens are open daily, except for Monday mornings and during certain holidays, for a fee. Visitors can also enjoy light meals and refreshments at the Moorish Café or kiosk near the entrance.
15. Le Dho Restaurant
The Dhow is a great place to dine if you’re near the Kasbah Oudayas. It’s definitely one of a kind, and the menu is full of yummy dishes that mix different culinary cultures.
The lounge is really cozy and inviting. They always have something going on like live bands, karaoke, DJ, jazz and theme nights. It’s the perfect spot to relax after work & definitely worth checking out if you’re out late – they stay open till 4am every night!
16. Traditional Hammam
Heading to Morocco and want to experience a traditional Moroccan steam bath? Look no further than the hammams in Rabat! Hammams offer a unique experience of relaxation and pampering and provide a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
The steam and heat will help your body and skin to relax, as well as providing some much needed peace and quiet.
Most hammams also offer body scrubs and massages, so you can truly unwind. So don’t forget to include a hammam visit in your Moroccan itinerary!
17. Rabat Beach
Rabat Beach is a great place for a beach getaway, located just 1.3 km from the city center. It’s a straight coastline with crystal clear turquoise water and fine golden sand, so no special shoes are needed.
There are plenty of amenities such as sun umbrellas, beach restaurant, changing rooms, and toilets, plus the opportunity to take part in different activities such as catamarans, jet skis, sup-surfing, sea kayaking, and beach volleyball.
The beach is supervised by a lifeguard during the season and is easily accessible with parking directly on the beach. There are also other beaches within a 5 km radius, Sale Beach.
18. Rabat Lighthouse
Rabat has a really cool lighthouse. It overlooks Boulevard Mokhtar Gazoulit and is still in use. It’s super impressive – it’s a tall, round, white structure with a gallery and a working light.
It was built way back in 1920 and stands at a whopping 31 meters. Pretty awesome!
19. Bou Regreg Marina
Marina Bouregreg is a great spot for boat lovers! Located at the mouth of the Bouregreg, between Rabat and Salé, it has 250 berths up to 30 meters long and 4 meters deep.
It’s protected by two piers and you need to call VHF 10 to get the harbor master’s help when entering the channel.
People can now enjoy the beautiful scenery around them while also taking advantage of the marina’s many amenities.
20. Souks and markets
Rabat is a bustling city that blends modern and traditional features. Shopping in the capital offers a unique experience, with a wide range of local crafts, as well as major international retail brands.
You can find everything you want at the city’s wide boulevards, malls, souks, and markets. From watchmakers to jewelers, opticians, and clothing shops, there are plenty of options for everyone.
The medina is a great place to find leather goods, slippers, bags, traditional fabrics, and carpets. You can also try the local cuisine and get Moroccan pastries and spices.
Embroidery is another popular art that Rbatis master perfectly. At Oulja complex you can find pottery, wrought iron, and basketry objects.
With its deep-rooted tradition and modern creation, Rabat will surely satisfy all your shopping needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Rabat worth visiting?
Rabat is the capital and fourth largest city of Morocco, and is definitely worth visiting for its rich history, culture, and landmarks such as the Hassan Tower, the Royal Palace, the Kasbah of the Udayas, and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
What is Rabat known for?
Rabat is the capital of Morocco and is known for its historical sites such as the Hassan Tower and the Royal Palace, as well as its picturesque medina and coastal location on the Atlantic Ocean.
Is Rabat nicer than Casablanca?
Rabat is a beautiful city, with its ancient medina, grandiose Hassan Tower and modern boulevards. Casablanca offers a more cosmopolitan vibe, with its vibrant nightlife and wide range of activities. It’s up to you to decide which city you prefer.
How many days do you need in Rabat?
Rabat is a city full of fascinating attractions, with something to discover on every corner. Depending on your interests, you can plan a 2-3 day getaway to explore the city’s highlights, or take your time and enjoy a longer stay of up to a week or even more.
What are the unique things to do in rabat?
Exploring its historical monuments, visiting modern art galleries and museums. Enjoy traditional Moroccan cuisine, stroll through the old medina and souks, or take a boat cruise on Bouregreg River. You can also explore the nearby beaches, shop in the city’s bustling markets, or go on a day trip to explore the nearby Rif Mountains.
What are the best things to do in Rabat at night?
Rabat’s nightlife offers something for everyone; explore the vibrant local cafés & restaurants, visit a traditional Moroccan hammam, or take a stroll along the marina and watch the sunset.
What to see in Rabat in one day?
Rabat offers something for everyone. From historic sites like Chellah and Hassan Tower, to modern attractions like the Royal Palace and tranquil gardens, you can enjoy a full day of sightseeing in this charming Moroccan city.
See more: Where to Stay in Rabat First Time
So there you have it, the best things to do in Rabat, Morocco for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.