Rabat is the capital city of Morocco, and it is one of the most traditional places in the entire country. Many visitor pass by Rabat and head to other cities like Marrakech and Fes instead. While those cities are wonderful and are certainly worth visiting, Rabat offers visitors an entirely different perspective on Morocco that shouldn’t be missed. As a more traditional city, Rabat is a place where Moroccan culture is strong and vibrant. While Rabat may not have the glamorous experiences that Marrakech has or some of the cushy conveniences that Casablanca has, it certainly belongs on any Morocco trip itinerary.
This post is going to cover the best things to do in Rabat, how to get there, how to get around, safety, and more. While this post won’t cover what to wear when visiting Rabat, I did write a whole post on what to wear in Morocco that I recommend reading before your trip. As Rabat is very traditional, the information in that post will be extremely useful to you when you pack.
Is Rabat Safe to Visit?
Morocco is often the first country that westerners visit in the Arab World, and this is largely due to its level of familiarity. Morocco kind of bridges the gap between European and Middle Eastern culture and influence, and it truly does make for a great first Arab country to visit. In truth, Morocco is unique in and of itself, and while there are components of both European and Arab culture in Morocco, it has developed a culture of its own over its 1000 years of existence.
Regardless, my point is that if this is your first time visiting an Arab country, you are likely to be apprehensive. As an American, I heard plenty of stories of terrorism, violence, and crime associated with “the Middle East,” and even I was a bit apprehensive about visiting Morocco for the first time. Well, there are several things wrong with that fear, but I think the most important one to note is that Morocco isn’t even in the Middle East. Morocco is as far from the Middle East as New York City is from Mexico City, or London is from Istanbul. Italy and Greece are both closer.
In my experience, Rabat is a very safe place.
Morocco is a very safe country to visit. There are few threats of violence in Morocco, and I would argue that there is no more threat of violence in Rabat than there is in major cities in Western Europe or the United States. While you should take caution in any new place that you travel, there is no need for any different level of caution than you would have in Paris or Rome. Personally, in all of my experiences in the Arab World, I have felt just as safe as I would have in Europe. This includes cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Marrakech, and Casablanca.
In my experience, Rabat is a very safe place. There is very little real or violent threat to you as a foreigner in Rabat. With that being said, there is definitely a risk of pickpocketing. Rabat is actually the one place in all of my travels where I was dangerously close to being pickpocketed. A young man grabbed my phone that was in my pocket, and if my friend hadn’t been paying attention, I probably wouldn’t have noticed until it was too late. I will ashamedly admit, though, that I was careless that day and was carrying my phone in my back pocket. Especially within the narrower streets of the Medina, Rabat is a city with major pickpocketing risk. However, as long as you keep an eye on your belongings, the risk of anything else happening to you is very slim.
Best Things to Do in Rabat
1. Wander the Streets of the Medina
In Arabic, the word medina means city. When you visit Moroccan Imperial cities, the word medina refers to the old, walled-in part of the city. The medinas are essentially the historic centers of Morocco’s most famous cities, and they are usually where tourists go first. Within the walls of Rabat’s medina, you can find narrow streets, beautiful buildings, lively markets, and some of the best restaurants in the city. While there are some great things to do outside of the medina, the city’s real magic is inside its walls and most of the best things to do in Rabat are here.
2. Visit the Mausoleum of Mohammed V
Mohammed V was the first king of Morocco after it declared its independence from France, and he is widely considered to be Morocco’s most revered hero. His name springs up everywhere in Morocco, much like Washington in the United States. In Rabat you can find his mausoleum, where he and his sons are buried. Hassan II, the son that became the next king, is nearly as famous as his father is buried in this same mausoleum. Entrance into the Mausoleum of Mohammed V is free for all visitors, but it closes between 12-2pm every day. Paying your respects to the first king of Morocco is definitely one of the best things to do in Rabat.
3. Check Out the Oudayas Kasbah
The Oudayas Kasbah is a fortified area of the city that was historically used as a bastion against invaders. Its use and significance changed over time, and it has also been destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions. Nowadays, the Oudayas Kasbah is one of the most popular tourist sites in the city, with a museum, some beautiful structures, gardens, and a café. Visiting the Oudayas Kasbah feels like a step into another time period, and it is absolutely one of the best things to do in Rabat.
4. Head to the Hassan Tower
Despite what many people think, the Hassan Tower does not get its name from King Hassan II, who was the son and successor to the legendary King Mohammed V. Hassan II is legendary throughout the country, and the Hassan Tower is one of the most imposing, beautiful structures in all of Rabat. It would make sense to link the two together! However, the tower was named and built several centuries before the reign of King Hassan II, and the name overlap is just coincidence.
The Hassan Tower is the minaret of what was supposed to be a grand mosque, and the minaret itself was going to be the biggest in the entire world. Sadly, the project died out, and the mosque remains incomplete to this day. Still, visiting the Hassan Tower and admiring its ornate beauty is one of the best things to do in Rabat, and the tower itself is located very close to the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, which is also on this list.
5. Spend a Day Across the River in Salé
Salé is like a sister city to Rabat. Many people commute in from Salé to Rabat every day, and the two cities have been intimately intertwined for a very long time. Salé isn’t nearly as big or grand as Rabat, but there are two main reasons I think spending a day or a few hours in Salé is one of the best things to do in Rabat.
Firstly, the Great Mosque of Salé is the third-biggest and second-oldest mosque in all of Morocco and is very worth seeing. Secondly, while Rabat has a very authentic feel to it, Salé is about as authentic as it gets. If you are looking for a taste of the regular Moroccan day-to-day life, Salé is a great place to see it. While Rabat is one of the most authentic major cities in Morocco, escaping from the ritz of the capital offers an even clearer view into Moroccan life.
6. Pay a Visit to the Archaeological Museum of Rabat
Morocco’s unique culture today is what makes it such an attractive place to visit, and that culture is the result of influences from several different civilizations throughout the years that Morocco’s land has been occupied. The Archaeological Museum in Rabat pays homage to the many historical influences that have helped modern Morocco to take shape over time, specifically in the earliest days that the lands were occupied. Archaeologists have found some really incredible things buried in the earth below Morocco, and visiting this museum is absolutely one of the best things to do in Rabat.
How to Get to Rabat
Rabat has its own international airport – Rabat-Sale International Airport (RBA) – and there are a handful of decent flight options from Europe into it. However, I think 9 times out 10, your better option is going to be Casablanca’s Mohamed V International Airport (CMN). Casablanca has the biggest and busiest airport in all of Morocco, and you will almost always find better flight options into Casablanca than you will into Rabat. I mentioned in my guide to finding cheap airfare that major hub airports tend to offer the best flight routes and prices, and this is exactly true with Casablanca. While flying right into Rabat will make things easier getting to your accommodation once you land, the flight will likely have more layovers and cost a lot more money. Flying into Casablanca means you will need to transfer to Rabat once you land, but your flight will likely be much cheaper and take significantly less time.
On that note, Casablanca is just an hour and a half down the coast from Rabat, making the transit between these two cities easy and affordable. There are two main ways to get from Casablanca to Rabat: taxi and train. A taxi from Casablanca to Rabat costs between $50 and $75 and takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Trains run from Casablanca Port Station to Rabat Ville Station roughly every 30 minutes and cost about $5-7 per ride, taking just over an hour.
As Rabat is the capital, it is very well connected to other major cities in Morocco. There are direct train lines to several of Morocco’s major cities from Rabat, and any city that can’t be reached directly can probably be reached via just one stop in Casablanca.
How to Get Around Rabat
BY FOOT | TAXI
Despite being Morocco’s capital city, Rabat is actually pretty small – especially if you are doing the tourist circuit in and around the Medina. As a result, most tourists will be able to visit the city’s main popular locations by foot. If you ever need to go somewhere that is too far to walk, the best way to get there will be with the blue petit taxis, which are standard taxis that operate throughout the city. If you do get into one of these taxis, make sure to either agree on a price ahead of time or double check that the driver turns the meter on, as some shady drivers will neglect to turn on the meter and try to overcharge you at your drop-off point if you aren’t careful.
What Makes Rabat Special?
In my opinion, the best thing about Rabat is its authenticity. Rabat doesn’t seem to be made for tourists in any way. I mentioned in my Marrakech travel guide that part of Marrakech’s glory is that it has been able to offer such extensive attractions for tourists without fully abandoning its Moroccan core. Marrakech gears itself around tourism and tries not to lose touch with its Moroccan heart in the process. Rabat is the opposite. Rabat is Moroccan through and through, and focuses on preserving Moroccan heritage and culture first, and attracting tourist second. While this means that there are less touristy things to do in Rabat, it also means that you are likely to have an intimate and special experience.
On my first trip to Morocco, Rabat was the highlight. I visited Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakech on that trip. While Casablanca and Marrakech were amazing, Rabat felt much purer, culturally speaking. While I don’t mean to say that Marrakech or Casablanca are any less cultural than Rabat, I think that Rabat is a very special place that deserves a couple of days on any Moroccan itinerary.
Is Rabat Worth Visiting?
If you are planning a trip to Morocco, you have many decisions to make. There are so many awesome places to visit in Morocco, and it can feel impossible to pick one place over another. While some cities – like Marrakech – are unmissable, other cities get put on the chopping block. Rabat is often one of those cities, if travelers are even considering it at all.
In my opinion, Rabat shouldn’t be missed. Rabat is very authentic, beautiful, and significantly less congested that most of Morocco’s other popular cities. It is pretty uncommon that a country’s capital city is not one of its three most popular cities to visit, especially when that country is as small as Morocco! While the list of iconic things to do in Rabat is short, the vibrancy of the culture is strong and the experience that you will have, all else equal, is unmatched. You won’t find camel rides in the palm groves or luxury hotels that got Winston Churchill’s stamp of approval, but you will find bustling markets, packed streets, and true Moroccan culture. I don’t think Rabat is the best city to visit in Morocco at all; in fact, it came in third on my list of the best cities to visit in Morocco. However, if you have some extra days to fill on your trip itinerary to Morocco, Rabat is a pretty good place to check out.
That’s all we have for you about Rabat! Hopefully this post is helpful as you start planning your journey to Morocco’s capital city. If you were wondering “Is Rabat worth visiting?” I hope that this post has helped answer your questions!
If you’re planning a trip to Rabat, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!