Rabat may be Morocco’s capital, but this city is often overlooked by travelers, as most tourists tend to visit larger cities like Fez and Marrakesh. Rabat, however, is a city that encapsulates Moroccan culture and history, and it’s home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you want to experience the traditions and culture of Morocco without the chaos and the crowds of Morocco’s larger cities, consider visiting Rabat, which will surely intrigue you with its colorful market, its impressive historic and religious sites and its rich culture.
After visiting the city of Fez, I decided that I wanted to explore more of Morocco, so I made my way to Rabat. I like having the flexibility to make spur-of-the-moment travel plans, which is why I always rely on HotelTonight to help me book my accommodations. Within minutes on HotelTonight’s website, I had booked a great last-minute hotel in Rabat, and I was ready to immerse myself in the Old World beauty and culture of the Moroccan capital.
My time in Morocco had already taught me plenty about medinas, and you certainly can’t visit a Moroccan city without wandering through the busy, colorful and often chaotic medina. I was relieved to discover that Rabat’s medina was much calmer and more manageable than other medinas I’ve explored, such as the one in Fez. Since Rabat attracts fewer tourists than many other Moroccan cities, the medina is less crowded and the vendors are less aggressive. Despite the fact that the Rabat medina is smaller than those in Fez and Marrakesh, there’s still plenty to excite the senses in this market. You’ll find everything from fragrant spices and colorful fabrics to electronics and even pets.
Located just outside the city of Rabat is Chellah, a former Roman city that is now a historic site full of ruins. At Chellah, you’ll find both Roman ruins and Islamic ruins, and you’ll learn a bit more about the long, rich history of this North African coastal town. The old fortress of Chellah is surprisingly well preserved, especially considering the fact that it was abandoned all the way back in the 12th century. As I explored the ancient ruins of Chellah, I found myself imagining what life was like in this major commercial center during Roman times.
As the oldest part of Rabat, the Kasbah is where you need to go if you want to truly understand the rich history and culture of this Moroccan town. The Kasbah des Oudayas is enclosed in a walled city, originally built for defensive purposes, and inside the gates you will find whitewashed streets, beautiful blue buildings and narrow alleyways. There is little room for cars in the Kasbah, so the streets are peaceful and pedestrian-friendly. My favorite part of my entire stay in Rabat was getting lost in the picturesque blue and white streets of the Kasbah and getting a taste for not only what life is like for locals in the Kasbah, but also for what life used to be like centuries ago.
Rabat is situated on the Atlantic Ocean, so naturally this area is home to some great beaches. While many of the beaches get fairly crowded during the warmer months, you can still find a peaceful spot of sand if you know where to look. I ventured just outside of Rabat to the beach of Mehdya, where I was able to relax, enjoy the sunshine and cool off in the ocean. There are many other beaches near Rabat, and there’s even the popular Rabat Beach located right below the Kasbah. Whether you head to Rabat Beach or journey outside of the city looking for calmer stretches of sand, you’ll be able to enjoy a nice afternoon at the beach.
The more I explored Rabat, the more often I stumbled upon beautiful new buildings, streets and gardens. The Andalusian Gardens only add to the beauty and charm of Rabat, and you will find these French colonial gardens in the Kasbah. If you’re looking for some shade and some greenery on a hot Moroccan day, simply wander through the idyllic streets of the Kasbah until you find the Andalusian Gardens.
Rabat is one of the more interesting Moroccan cities I’ve visited. Not only is it quite a tame, calm city for an Arab capital, but it’s also steeped in history, and you can spot relics of this fascinating history all over the city. Rabat has an array of global influences, such as Roman, French and Islamic influences, all of which combine to make Rabat beautiful and complex. Rabat is also much less stressful and hectic than other Moroccan cities I’ve visited, so I felt an unusual sense of peace throughout my entire stay. As I packed up my bags and headed out of Rabat, I thought about the incredible beauty and the rich culture of this Moroccan capital, and I was so glad I was able to book a last-minute Rabat hotel through HotelTonight and make this spur-of-the-moment getaway possible.