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A Capital Surprising with Its Numerous Attractions

Rabat is a city that we all know how to locate on the map, being the capital of Morocco. However, not everyone considers it a priority when thinking about a grand tour of the country. And that’s a mistake: this city has numerous attractions for all kinds of tourists, including those in the premium sector. Therefore, in these lines, we show you everything you need to know if you want to add this destination to your itinerary.

Table of Contents

Where is Rabat?

Rabat is bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, thus located in the western part of the country, halfway between the most northern Atlantic destinations (Tangier, Asilah) and the most southern ones (Essaouira, Agadir). A fundamental aspect of its geographical location is its proximity to Morocco’s most populated city (Casablanca, 90 km), which brings it closer to the concept of a large metropolitan area, as the zone has been immersed in urban growth for years, giving birth to other modern cities in the environment, like Mohammedia.

But what truly is a metropolitan area is the union of Rabat and Salé: these two cities are just separated by the humble Bu Regreg River, and they practically share the same pace of life and services. Adding both populations together, the number of inhabitants exceeds one and a half million.

How to get to Rabat?

These are the distances separating Rabat from the rest of Morocco’s major tourist destinations:

  • Casablanca: 80 km
  • Essaouira: 450 km
  • Ouarzazate: 510 km
  • Agadir: 540 km
  • Marrakech: 320 km
  • Asilah: 210 km
  • Fez: 200 km
  • Merzouga: 600 km
  • Tangier: 250 km
  • Chaouen: 250 km
  • Al Hoceima: 460 km


Being the capital, it has an extensive and varied communication network. Of course, it has an international airport (Rabat-Salé) close to the city (7 km) that, while not having as much traffic and as many air routes as Marrakech or Casablanca, is still a considerable option for many travelers. Here operate the country’s most important companies, such as Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia Maroc, as well as other major international airlines (Air France) and some low-cost ones, like Ryanair. Therefore, it has connections with cities like Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Rome, London, Seville, or Madrid.

Moreover, it is well integrated into the country’s railway network, not only with conventional trains but also with high-speed trains (Al Bouraq), connecting Casablanca with Tangier, passing through Rabat and Kenitra. This is an interesting option for those wanting to move between these cities in a comfortable and fast way. And for internal mobility, there is also a modern tram line, connecting the two cities of the metropolitan area: Rabat and Salé.

Furthermore, as expected, it is a significant node in the bus line network: although there is a wider variety of destinations this way, it is a slower and less comfortable service, though some buses reach high standards of quality. In any case, the most suitable option for a private trip is a vehicle, since some of the country’s most important highways reach here: the A1, coming from the south Atlantic coast (Casablanca, El Jadida, etc.), the A5, coming from the north Atlantic coast (Kenitra, Tangier) and the A2, coming from the center and east of the country (Meknes, Fez, Oujda).

However, despite being bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, it does not have a large passenger port, as is the case with other Moroccan maritime cities. Although in the 20th century military ships could dock here, what exists today is a small and exclusive marina for private and sports boats on the Bu Regreg River, which it shares with neighboring Salé, as it is actually on its riverbank.

How to get to Rabat

Rabat: history and context

As archaeological evidence in the area of Chellah shows, the origins of Rabat are very ancient and date back several centuries before Christ: here there was the presence of a Mauritanian kingdom with which the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians had relations, thanks to the possibilities of the Bu Regreg River. Additionally, the settlement called Sala in Roman times came to be a municipality with the rank of a colony.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area came under Berber rule, who continued to play a predominant role after the Muslim conquest, not without conflicts due to the spread of the heretical Kharijite doctrine in this territory. To fight against it, orthodox Muslims erected a convent-fortress, known in Arabic as ribat, which over time would derive in the current name of the city.

This settlement experienced a great boost during the Almohad period in the 12th century, whose empire reached the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. In fact, from the mid-century, significant works and extensions were carried out by Abd el-Mumen and Yacub al-Mansur, who contemplated the idea of making it his capital.

At that time, the transformation of the convent into an Alcazaba (kasbah, the origin of the current Kasbah of the Udayas), the city walls, and the project of a great mosque were framed, of which only the Hassan Tower is preserved. But after the death of that sovereign, the city fell into decline, and in the times of the Merinids, Rabat was little more than a modest walled village.

It took more than four centuries for Rabat to experience a new impulse: that given by the Moriscos expelled from Spain during the reign of Philip III (1609). One of the activities that brought the most success to its inhabitants was piracy, with the Kasbah of the Udayas as the center of operations, sowing terror among the ships of all Europe for about two centuries. At first, they operated autonomously and later, with the endorsement of the new Alaouite dynasty.

However, the second half of the 18th century marks a new period of decline, not only due to internal disputes and setbacks from abroad (mainly by the French), but also due to the great earthquake of 1755 and its subsequent tsunami, which modified the configuration of the Bu Regreg estuary and rendered the local port unusable.

Sultan Sidi Mohammed tried to restore some splendor to the city by building a royal residence, and although he did not achieve the success he hoped for with his venture, that construction ended up being the first nucleus of the current Royal Palace and a significant factor for establishing the capital of the French Protectorate in Rabat in 1912: it was used as a residence by the Alaouite sultan Moulay Youssef, as well as his son Mohammed V, one of the architects of the country’s independence in 1956.

Around it, the new administrative city of Rabat was developed and today it is the official residence of the King of Morocco.

What to see in Rabat

Why travel to Rabat

Inserting Rabat as a stop in your Morocco trip is a decision full of reasons. Here are some that will convince you and make this city one of your favorites in the country:

  • It’s the capital and, like any other, gathers not only the country’s major administrative centers but also its symbols of power. In its streets, you’ll discover among its citizens the pride of being Moroccan.
  • A city with premium, high-quality services: another advantage of its capital status. The presence of high-level officials and professionals linked to political and economic power facilitates the existence of experienced companies and professionals in the luxury sector.
  • A city well endowed with historical monuments: although Rabat’s role as a capital is relatively recent, it also boasts numerous points of interest from an architectural, artistic, and historical perspective. Not in vain, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO thanks to constructions like the Hassan Tower or the Kasbah of the Udayas, among others, but also to its 20th-century buildings, following its selection as the capital of the French Protectorate.
  • First-rate museums and modern collections: Rabat aims to be the country’s spearhead, showing how Morocco is fully integrated into the world’s artistic and cultural circuits. This is demonstrated by museums like the Mohammed VI (MMVI), in a spectacular newly built building. Or the art galleries that have emerged around the museum, although there are also exhibition centers dedicated to traditional decorative arts.
  • The natural and popular charm of the Atlantic: Rabat is bathed by this ocean and its citizens are very aware of it, in beaches as lively as the Plage de Rabat. Its Corniche (both maritime and riverine) is ‘sprinkled’ with motorized traffic noise, but it’s an interesting walk for those who traverse it. Moreover, on the outskirts of the city, there are coastal corners that retain a certain charm, despite modern urban and industrial developments.
  • One of Rabat’s nicknames is the ‘City of Gardens’, which gives us clues about the richness and variety of these refined green spaces, so important in Arab culture.
  • It is one of the most lively cities for students, as it has the largest university campus in the country: Mohammed V University.

What You Can't Miss in Rabat

The tourist attractions of Rabat are spread across two main areas: the historical medina and the neighborhoods beyond the medina. Additionally, the neighboring city of Salé offers spaces worthy of visiting for those who have more time available.

What to do in Rabat

Historical Medina

This is the area surrounded by walls built by the Almohad Yacub Al Mansur at the end of the 12th century, which still stand on three of their sides. Here, you will find the main historical monuments of the city, such as:

  • Kasbah of the Udayas
  • Udaya Museum
  • Hassan Tower
  • Archaeological Museum
  • City walls and gates:
    • Almohad Walls
    • Andalusian Wall
    • Bab el-Had
    • Bab Laalou
    • Bab Chellah
  • Great Mosque
  • El-Atiqa Mosque
  • Es-Sunna Mosque
  • Mohammed V Mausoleum
  • Royal Palace
  • Museum of Popular Arts
  • Museum of the History of Civilizations
  • Andalusian Gardens
the Modern City of Rabat

Beyond the Medina: the Modern City

Rabat is one of the cities where the expansion and modernization efforts of old Moroccan cities during the 20th century are most evident. Being the capital of the French Protectorate, it underwent significant renovation, and this spirit continues today with the construction of avant-garde infrastructure, such as bridges and skyscrapers. Some places of interest beyond the historical medina, even on the periphery and surroundings, include:

  • Seaside Promenade
  • Mohammed V University
  • Mohammed VI Bridge
  • Mohammed VI Skyscraper
  • Rabat Grand Theater
  • Les Orangers Neighborhood
  • Aguedal Neighborhood
  • Chellah Necropolis
  • Mohammed VI Museum of Modern Art (M
  • Rabat Beach


Currently, Salé is part of the metropolitan area of Rabat, yet it retains its unique character, largely derived from a history somewhat different from Rabat’s. Probably founded in the 11th century, its walled medina developed significant artisanal and commercial activities (leather, wool, carpets), which brought it into contact with European powers and endowed it with great cultural refinement, including richly decorated madrasas and mosques. In the 17th century, it shared with Rabat the protection and promotion of pirate activities, which led to foreign bombardments as retaliation. After the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 1755, Salé fell into serious decline and has since remained in the shadow of Rabat, which grew during the time of the French Protectorate. Today, however, it walks hand in hand with the capital and shares development projects.

  • Historical walls and gates:
    • Bab el-Mrisa,
    • Bab Dar Sina
    • Bab Septa
    • Bab Chaafa
  • Great Mosque
  • Marina or Yacht Harbor
  • Villa Beach
  • Merinid Medersa

Rabat for a Premium Traveler

As expected, Rabat is one of the most interesting tourist destinations for premium travelers, offering exclusive services not only for tourists but also for the local elite. The list of proposals includes spaces and activities such as:

  • La Tour Hassan Palace: A historic 5-star hotel combining traditional Moroccan architecture with modern amenities. The hotel features extensive gardens, a swimming pool, several restaurants, and a luxury spa.
  • Hôtel Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses: Part of the international Sofitel chain, located amidst Andalusian gardens. It includes a spa, gourmet restaurants, and elegant rooms.
  • Villa Mandarine: A villa converted into a luxurious boutique hotel. Surrounded by a large garden with orange trees, the hotel offers individually decorated rooms and suites and an intimate atmosphere.
  • Riad Kalaa: Located in the heart of Rabat’s medina, this riad has been restored with attention to detail and offers an authentic experience with modern amenities.
  • Rive Hôtel: Situated next to the Bou Regreg river, this hotel offers panoramic views, modern and well-equipped rooms, and several restaurants and bars.
  • Dawliz Resort & Spa: Recently renovated, this hotel is near the beach and offers a luxurious experience with its spa, swimming pool, and gourmet restaurants.
  • The View Hotel: This modern hotel offers panoramic views of the city and features luxury amenities, elegant restaurants, and a rooftop pool.

Luxury Restaurants in Rabat:

  • Le Grand Comptoir: A French restaurant with an elegant atmosphere and a varied wine selection.
  • Le Dinarjat: Located in a riad, this restaurant offers an authentic Moroccan experience in a luxurious atmosphere.
  • Le Ziryab: Situated in the Hotel La Tour Hassan Palace, it offers a mix of Moroccan and international cuisine.
  • La Villa Mandarine: Inside the eponymous hotel, known for its tranquil atmosphere and exquisite cuisine.
  • Le Borj Eddar: Overlooking the river, this restaurant offers Moroccan and international dishes in an elegant setting.

Luxury Areas in Rabat:

  • Mohammed V Avenue: One of the main arteries of Rabat, dotted with luxury shops, boutiques, and international brands.
  • Quartier Souissi: One of the most exclusive areas where you can find luxury shops, ambassadorial residences, and beautiful villas.

Yacht Harbor:

  • Bouregreg Marina: Located between the medina of Rabat and the city of Salé, this marina is a luxury complex housing yachts, restaurants, shops, and apartments. It’s a vibrant place, especially during the evenings.

Golf Club:

  • Royal Golf Dar Es Salam: One of the most prestigious golf courses in Morocco. Situated in a 440-hectare cork tree forest, the complex offers three courses: red, blue, and green. The red course is particularly renowned and has hosted international tournaments.

Spas: While there are several hotels in Rabat offering spa and wellness services, the Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses is especially known for its luxurious spa offering a variety of treatments.

However, if you are looking for a tailor-made trip with these types of services and many others that may be useful to you, you can contact Chic Morocco: we are an agency specialized in these types of experiences, with quality transportation, top-tier accommodation, and many other personalized experiences, both in Rabat and throughout the country, whether for a vacation in the city or as part of a broader circuit.

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