Many people don’t even realise that Rabat is the capital of Morocco. Many mistakenly presume it to be Marrakech or Casablanca. Although Marrakech is the main tourist city in Morocco, and Casablanca is the economic centre, the capital is actually Rabat. So, is Rabat worth visiting? Absolutely! Rabat is surprisingly relaxing and refreshing, and contains some fantastic historical sites and beaches.
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Rabat was never supposed to be on my Morocco itinerary. I had wrongly presumed I would enjoy three days in Casablanca. I couldn’t be more wrong. I hated Casablanca, and cut my stay there short by a day or two, and added on Rabat. And I was so glad that I did!
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Is Rabat worth visiting?
Rabat is absolutely worth visiting. It is a clean and safe city, which would offer any first time solo traveller a fantastic introduction to Morocco. The souks are friendly and hassle free and there are few touts and scammers. The Medinah is full of fresh juice stalls, street food stalls and beautiful Riads. Rabat is also home to several amazing sites including Oudayas Kasbah, Hassan Tower, Mohammed V Mausoleum and Chellah (historical site). If you haven’t already thought about visiting Rabat, please add it to your list as a must see in Morocco. Plan to spend at least one or two days in Rabat.
Pros of Rabat
Rabat is a hassle free and relaxing place. In my opinion, it has all the pros of Morocco (souks, Kasbah and Arabic architecture) and non of the drawbacks! The locals are honest and kind (they don’t send you the wrong way like in Fes and Marrakech!). The streets are clean (they are swept with palm leaves!) All in all, it’s a fantastic city. Rabat is certainly not how I expected the Moroccan capital to be.
We stayed in the beautiful Riad Amaris where we were welcomed to a gorgeous gold and blue colour scheme and a mint tea and Moroccan biscuit from Anis. The Riad has a fantastic roof terrace. Breakfast was included and was a spread of crepes, Moroccan bread, honey, olives and jam. We loved it so much that we decided to book one more night there before flying home!
Well Positioned and Accessible
Rabat is a very accessible city with an airport that serves many parts of Europe and the USA.
It is also accessible by train station (Gare Rabat Ville), which is efficient and well organised. You can get to Rabat by train from Marrakech, Fes and Casablanca. If you are travelling by train I would recommend first class as it is much more roomy and comfortable, with extra room for your luggage, for not too much more on the price.
Clean and Organised
Let me be honest, travelling from Casablanca to Rabat is a bit like the contrast between Delhi and Dubai!! I can’t stress enough how beautiful and safe Rabat feels as a solo female traveller. The roads are beautifully tarmacked and lined with palm trees. The roads have proper crossing points with a green man, and the police have a strong presence and are always helpful.
Many pavements in Rabat are smooth and have sloped for wheeling luggage and suitcases. I haven’t seen anywhere this wheelchair accessible in the whole of Morocco. As much of the city is also relatively flat, I would recommend Rabat over any other city for someone with mobility issues.
Stress free Souk and Medina
Even within the medina, people are helpful and not trying to rip you off. The Rabat souk is the only souk in Morocco where I have had near to zero hassle from touts and shop keepers. This relaxed atmosphere means that you can let your guard down and enjoy bartering for your souvenirs. There are plenty of great value cafes and food stalls within the medina – I liked cafe Izmi where I got a sharwarma and salad for just 30 Dirhams (about £3!) the juice stalls will make you orange juice and pomegranate juice from fresh fruit!
Don’t miss the famous Oudayas Kasbah. Before you enter, take a look at the archeological site before the main gate, which is remnants of the original fort (discovered only around 20 years ago when they wanted to build a car park!) Then you are ready to go through Bab Oudayas (the main gate). Ignore the small number of one or two boys near the gate who try to get your attention and tell you where to go! Inside the Kasbah, you will find juice vendors, art stalls and beautiful Arabic doors. Walk all the way through to come out by the ramparts (with canons) overlooking the ocean. Also, don’t miss the nearby Andalusian gardens.
From the Kasbah you will be able to look down at the Rabat Beach (la plage). This area is popular with surfers and you can also get beginners surf lessons.
Mohammed V Mausoleum
Plan to spend at least an hour exploring the Mohammed V mausoleum and the Hassan Tower.
The Mausoleum of Mohammed V is one of the most stunning examples of Moroccan architecture that I have seen so far. The guards outside (some are on horses at the entrance) are usually happy to have photo taken, just check with them first. Inside the mausoleum it is lined with beautiful geometric tiles and Moroccan flags. Don’t forget to look up at the spectacular ceiling…
Opposite the Mausoleum you will see Hassan tower, which is the minaret of an incomplete mosque. It is a symbol of Rabat, and one of the most famous sites in the city. You cannot go inside or climb the tower, but you can go up to it and observe it from all angles.
Cons of Rabat
Any cons about Rabat? I honestly can’t think of many at all! They were doing a bit of renovation at the train station when we were there, but although a few bits looked run down, it was clear that they were doing it up. An inconvenience in Rabat is that the taxis can’t go right into the Medina, you have to get out at the top and walk into it with your bags, but this is usual in Morocco. If you stay in a Riad, quite often there can be a quite a few stairs to climb to get to your room.
Also, at the time of writing (December 2023), Chellah, the medieval fortified Muslim necropolis and ancient fortified site, was closed for refurbishment. This was disappointing, though understandable. Maybe next time!
But, the biggest con of Rabat? We didn’t have enough time there!
Is Rabat worth visiting?
So, is Rabat worth visiting? Absolutely! I cannot say enough good things about the Moroccan capital. If you don’t have Rabat on your itinerary please consider adding it. The weather, cleanliness and sightseeing will not disappoint you! If you are considering visiting Morocco but worried about accessibility then Rabat is your best option in Morocco. If you are a solo traveller thinking of Morocco for the first time, then Rabat should be your first choice! Fly into Rabat and then consider moving on to Marrakech by train.
I hope that I have sold it to you! If you have any top tips or comments on Rabat then I’d love to hear from you. Please comment on my blog below, or find me on Instagram.
Next stop, Fez!
Further Reading on Morocco
If you enjoyed this article about Rabat and whether it is worth visiting, you might also like to read…..
- One day in Rabat
- Is Casablanca worth visiting?
- One day in Casablanca
- 2 days in Marrakech
- What not to do in Morocco