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A capital city that surprises with its many attractions

Rabat is a city that we all know how to locate on the map for being the capital of Morocco. However, not everyone places it among their priorities when thinking about a grand tour of the country. And it’s a mistake: this city has numerous attractions for all types of tourists, including premium travelers. Therefore, in these lines we show you everything you should know if you want to add this destination to your roadmap.

Table of Contents

Where is Rabat?

Rabat is bathed by the Atlantic Ocean and is therefore located in the western part of the country, halfway between the northernmost Atlantic destinations (Tangier, Asilah) and the southernmost (Essaouira, Agadir). A fundamental fact of its geographical location is its proximity to the most populated city in Morocco (Casablanca, 90 km), which brings it closer to the concept of a large metropolitan area, since the area has been immersed for years in an urban growth that has given birth to other modern cities in the area, such as Mohammedia.

But what is truly a metropolitan area is the union of Rabat and Salé: these two cities are barely separated by the humble Bu Regreg river, and practically share the same rhythm of life and the same services. Adding the population of both, the number of inhabitants exceeds 1.5 million.

How to get to Rabat?

These are the distances that separate Rabat from the rest of the major tourist destinations in Morocco:

  • 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

As it is the capital city, its communications network is wide and varied. Of course, it has an international airport (Rabat-Salé) close to the city (7 km) which, although it does not have as much traffic and as many air routes as Marrakech or Casablanca, it is an option to consider for many travelers. The most important airlines in the country operate here, such as Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia Maroc, as well as other major international airlines (Air France) and some low cost airlines, such as Ryanair. Therefore, it has connections with cities such as Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Rome, London, Seville and Madrid.

It is also well integrated into the country’s railroad network, not only in terms of conventional trains but also high-speed trains (Al Bouraq), which connects Casablanca with Tangier, passing through Rabat and Kenitra. Therefore, this is an interesting option for those who want to move between these cities in a comfortable and fast way. And for internal mobility, there is also a modern tramway line that connects the two cities of the metropolitan area: Rabat and Salé.

In addition, as is logical, it is an important node in the network of bus lines: although the variety of destinations is greater this way, it is a slower and less comfortable service, although some buses reach high quality standards. In any case, the most suitable option for a private trip is the vehicle, since some of the most important highways of the country reach here: the A1, which comes from the southern Atlantic coast (Casablanca, El Jadida, etc.), the A5, which comes from the northern Atlantic coast (Kenitra, Tangier) and the A2, which comes from the center and east of the country (Meknes, Fez, Oujda).

On the other hand, 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 twentieth century military ships could dock here, what exists today is a small and exclusive marina for private and sport boats on the Bu Regreg River, which it shares with neighboring Salé, as it is in fact on its river bank.


Rabat: history and context

As archaeological evidence in the Chellah area shows, the origins of Rabat are very ancient and date back to several centuries before Christ: there was the presence of a Mauritanian kingdom with which the Phoenicians and Carthaginians had a relationship, thanks to the possibilities of the Bu Regreg river. In addition, the settlement called
in Roman times became a municipality with the status of a colony.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area came under Berber domination, who continued to play a predominant role after the Muslim conquest, which was not without conflict due to the spread of the heretical Khariji doctrine in this territory. To combat this, the orthodox Muslims built a fortress convent, known in Arabic as the
which later became the current name of the city.

This settlement experienced a great impulse in times of the Almohads in the 12th century, whose empire reached the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. In fact, since the middle of that century, important works and extensions were carried out by Abd el-Mumen and Yacub al-Mansur, who was considering the idea of turning it into his capital.

The transformation of the convent into an alcazaba (kasbah, origin of the current Kasbah of the Udayas), the city walls and the project of the great mosque, of which only the Hassan Tower remains, are part of this period. But at the death of this sovereign, the city fell into decline and in the time of the Marinids, Rabat was little more than a modest walled village.

More than four centuries had to pass before Rabat experienced a new impulse: the one given by the Moors expelled from Spain during the reign of Philip III (1609). One of the most successful activities for its inhabitants was piracy, having as its center of operations the Kasbah of the Udayas and sowing terror among ships from all over Europe for nearly two centuries. Initially, they operated autonomously and later, with the approval of the new Alawite dynasty.

However, the second half of the 18th century marked a new period of decline, not only because of internal disputes and setbacks from the outside (especially from the French), but also because of the great earthquake of 1755 and its subsequent tsunami, which changed 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 have the expected success with his enterprise, this construction ended up being the first nucleus of the current Royal Palace and an important factor for the establishment here of the capital of the French Protectorate in 1912: it was used as a residence by the Alawite Sultan Moulay Yussef, as well as his son Mohammed V, one of the architects of the country’s independence in 1956.

The new administrative city of Rabat developed around it and today it is the official residence of the King of Morocco.

Mausoleo Mohamed V

Why travel to Rabat

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

  • It is the capital and, like any other, it brings together not only the country’s major administrative centers, but also its symbols of power. And in its streets, you will discover among its citizens the pride they have in being Moroccan.
  • A city with premium services of the highest quality: this is another advantage offered by its role as a capital city. The presence of high-level officials and professionals linked to political and economic power facilitates the existence of companies and professionals with experience in the luxury sector.
  • A city well endowed with historical monuments: although Rabat’s role as capital is relatively recent, it also has many points of interest from an architectural, artistic and historical point of view. Not in vain, it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco thanks to buildings such as the Hassan Tower or the Kasbah of the Udayas, among others, but also to its 20th century buildings, as a result of being elected capital of the French Protectorate.
  • First class museums and modern collections: Rabat aims to spearhead the country and show how Morocco is fully integrated into the artistic and cultural circuits of the world. This is demonstrated by museums such as the Mohammed VI Museum (MMVI), in a spectacular building of recent construction. Or the art galleries that have sprung up around the museum, although there is also no lack of exhibition centers dedicated to traditional decorative arts.
  • The natural and popular charm of the Atlantic: Rabat is bathed by this ocean and the citizens are very aware of it, on beaches as lively as the Plage de Rabat. Its Corniche (both maritime and fluvial) is ‘dotted’ with the noise of motorized traffic, but it is an interesting walk for those who pass through it. In addition, on the outskirts of the city there are corners of the coastline that retain a certain charm, despite modern urban and industrial development.
  • One of Rabat’s nicknames is ‘City of Gardens’, which gives us a clue to the richness and variety of these refined green spaces, so important in Arab culture.
  • It is one of the most lively cities for students, since it has the largest university campus in the country: Mohammed V University.

What not to miss in Rabat

Rabat’s tourist attractions are distributed in two large areas (the historic medina and the neighborhoods beyond the medina), to which must be added the neighboring city of Salé, with areas worth visiting for those who have more time at their disposal.

Kasbah Oudayas Rabat

Historical Medina

It is the area surrounded by the walls built by the Almohad Yacub Al Mansur at the end of the 12th century, which are still standing on three sides. Here you can 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
  • Mausoleum of Mohammed V
  • Royal Palace
  • Folk Art Museum
  • Museum of the History of Civilizations
  • Andalusian Gardens
Rabat ciudad moderna

Beyond the medina: the modern city

Rabat is one of the cities where the desire to expand and modernize the old Moroccan cities during the 20th century can be best appreciated. As the capital of the French Protectorate, it underwent a major renovation, and this spirit continues today with the construction of avant-garde infrastructures, such as bridges and skyscrapers. These are some of the places of interest that today can be visited beyond the historic medina, even in the outskirts and surroundings:

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


Today, Salé is part of the metropolitan area of Rabat, although it has not renounced its own character, which derives largely from a history somewhat different from that of Rabat: probably founded in the eleventh century, within its walled medina developed an important craft and commercial activity (furs, wool, carpets), which put it in contact with European powers and gave it a great cultural refinement, with richly decorated madrasas and mosques. In the 17th century it shared with Rabat the protection and promotion of pirate activity, which earned it reprisals in the form of foreign bombardments. After the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 1755, Salé fell into serious decline and since then has always been in the shadow of Rabat, which grew during the French Protectorate. Today, however, it walks hand in hand with the capital and shares development projects.

  • Walls and historic gates: Bab el-Mrisa, Bab Dar Sina, Bab Septa, Bab Chaafa
  • Great Mosque
  • Marina or marina
  • Villa Beach
  • Medersa of the Merinids

Rabat for a premium traveler

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

  • La Tour Hassan Palace: A historic 5-star hotel that combines traditional Moroccan architecture with modern comforts. The hotel has extensive gardens, a swimming pool, several restaurants and a luxury spa.
  • Hôtel Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses: This hotel belongs to the international Sofitel chain and is located in the middle of Andalusian gardens. It features a spa, gourmet restaurants and elegant rooms.
  • Villa Mandarine: A villa converted into a luxury 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 comforts.
  • Rive Hôtel: Located 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 located near the beach and offers a luxurious experience with its spa, pool and gourmet restaurants.
  • The View Hotel: This modern hotel offers a panoramic view of the city and features upscale amenities, elegant restaurants and a rooftop pool.

Luxury restaurants in Rabat:

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

Luxury areas in Rabat:

  • Avenue Mohammed V: This is one of the main arteries of Rabat and is dotted with luxury stores, boutiques and international brands.
  • Quartier Souissi: It is one of the most exclusive areas and you can find luxury stores, ambassador residences and beautiful villas.
  • Marina:
  • Bouregreg Marina: It is located between the medina of Rabat and the city of Salé. This marina is a luxury complex that houses yachts, restaurants, stores and apartments. It is a vibrant place, especially during the evenings.
  • Golf club:
  • Royal Golf Dar Es Salam: It is one of the most prestigious golf courses in Morocco. Located in a forest of 440 hectares of cork trees, the complex offers three courses: red, blue and green. The red course is especially well known and has hosted international tournaments.
  • Spas: While there are several hotels in Rabat that offer 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 this kind of services and many others that can be useful for you, you can contact Chic Morocco: we are an agency specialized in this kind of experiences, with quality transportation, first class accommodation and many other personalized experiences, both in Rabat and in the rest of the country, either for a vacation in the city or as part of a wider circuit.

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