Top 10 Things to See in Rabat

By Claire | Updated Nov. 10, 2021

Rabat, located in the northwest of Morocco on the Atlantic coast, was one of the four imperial cities and became the capital city in 1912 when Morocco was a French protectorate. The historical attractions, which are mostly listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, make this capital enchanting and worthy for short stays or stopovers. Here, we have detailed the top 10 attractions in Rabat.

Hassan Tower

Hassan Tower and the 312 columns dotted around it is the most symbolic architectural structure in Rabat. In the 12th century, the plan was to build it into the biggest mosque in the world but the construction gradually stopped after Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour died so the mosque was never completed.

Hassan Tower's history has been pretty calamitous. The tower used to be 85 meters high but it was shortened to 45 meters because of a fire. The pillars around it were basically destroyed during an earthquake in 1755. However, the incomplete pillars that are left form a graceful, picturesque scene.

The Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Located in front of Hassan Tower, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V shines brightly on the square. It's completely white on the outside with a jade-colored triangular spire and has detailed Moroccan decorations inside. It took 10 years and about 400 craftsmen to build this astonishing mausoleum for the reigning king.

The first floor is normally only open for politicians while normal visitors can enjoy the superb designs on the second floor. The royal guards honorably stand at the square's two side entrances. Every morning at 7am, the handover ceremony of the royal guards can be watched on the square at the side near Hassan Tower, which is a treat for early birds.

The Kasbah of the Udayas

Rabat was founded in 1150 to take advantage of its strategic coastal location. The Kasbah of the Udayas is a citadel and one of the architectural structures that was used for strategic military defense in the 12th century. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the start of the Alaouite Dynasty (1666 to the present day), the first royal palace was also built there. Now, the essence of the architectural style from the Almohad Dynasty can still be appreciated through the city walls and gates, especially the gate of the kasbah (Bab Oudaia).

The Andalusian Gardens, the Oudayas Museum, and the viewing platform inside are also open to the public. Standing on the viewing platform, you will be able to see the old Rabat port, the estuary of the Bou Regreg River, and the panoramic view of Sala (Salé) city.

Chellah

Chellah is located in the northeast of Rabat. It was a 14th-century Merenid citadel-town and also the first residential area along the Bou Regreg River, dating back to when Phoenicians first set a trading site there. Evidence of Phoenicians and Carthaginians can still be found there. 

The Romans also built their city, Sala Colonia, with military units very close to the former site so you can see relics that include a triumphal arch, court, and public bathhouse. A royal mausoleum was built in Chellah during the time of the Merenids with huge city walls and gates.

Due to the earthquake in 1755, most of the structures were damaged but this place is very atmospheric with the vicissitudes of history.

The Medina

The Medina of Rabat gradually formed after the settlement of Morisco refugees and the changes were not obvious until now. Unlike the medinas in Marrakech and Fez, the houses there are whitewashed and adorned with blue paint at the bottom.

The souk is only a part of this residential area but it thrives with vendors selling various items, such as leather products, fabrics, lamps, babouche slippers, and Berber carpets. The Kasbah of the Udayas is not far from the market.

Andalusian Gardens

Inside the Kasbah of the Udayas, hidden behind the walls with crenellations, the Andalusian Gardens are like a tender heart of the stronghold. With a range of trees, date palms, roses, and red hibiscus flowers, the gardens are a great place to wander around and lighten your mood. 

The Oudayas Museum, which used to be the first residence of Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif, was built in the 17th century and is also located in the gardens. The museum displays jewelry and national costumes from each successive dynasty.

Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMVI)

The MMVI opened in 2014 and is the first independent large-scale museum for contemporary art in Morocco since the country gained its independence from France. This museum combines Rabat's identity, urbanism, and the diversity of Moroccan culture, with collections from over 200 Moroccan artists.

The Madrasa of Abu al-Hasan

Sala (Salé) city in Rabat has several madrasas (Islamic schools). The Madrasa of Abu al-Hasan is the one that is most recommended for understanding the Islamic educational system unless you are also paying a visit to Fez.

The architecture of the Islamic schools is always the highlight and the Madrasa of Abu al-Hasan is a good example of this. It is beautifully decorated with zellige tiling and carved wood panels.

You can also climb up to the roof and enjoy wonderful views of Rabat across the Bou Regreg River.

Rabat's Archaeological Museum

For archaeology and history lovers, the Museum of History and Civilizations is a great place to visit as it houses the most expended collections of related artifacts ever found in Morocco, including prehistoric, pre-Islamic, pre-Roman, and Roman ones.

Stone tools, tomb fragments, rock carvings, fossils, weapons, and cooking utensils provide abundant information about the past. Excellent exhibits will grab your attention, such as the 'Dog of Volubilis' bronze sculpture, the marble 'Ephebe Crowned With Ivy', and 'Head of a Young Berber'.

St. Peter's Cathedral

Pope Francis has visited St. Peter's Cathedral in Rabat, making this cityscape a more valuable place.

The latticework of its windows reflect the fine artistry of Moorish architecture. Both the outside and inside are whitewashed; therefore, the area that displays the cross is adorned with mosaics, stained glass, and radiant strips.

Visit Rabat with Us

Usually, one day is enough to discover the enchanting Rabat but, if you want to pack in more, a flexible tour with a private guide and car will buy you more time.

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