Visitor attractions in Morocco’s Tetouan city

Tourist attractions in Tetouan city

Many of our excursions include a stop in Tetouan, one of Morocco’s most fascinating cities located in the northern part of the country. With a population of almost 400,000, the old medina in Tetouan is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to its beauty and distinctiveness, featuring crenelated walls, vibrant gardens, and delightful corners. Fortunately, the city is not overrun by tourists, allowing you to enjoy it alone. Known as the White Dove, Tetouan’s architecture is mainly white, and the city’s oldest section rises on a hill as if it were about to take flight. In the following paragraphs, we will provide you with all the information you need about Tetouan, including its location, a brief history, and what to see and do, with a focus on dining and shopping options.

Tetouan's geographical setting and climate

Situated in the beautiful valley of the Martil River, with the stunning Rif Mountains to the south, Tetouan benefits from a unique location in Mediterranean Morocco, which is in the far north of the country. Despite not being situated on the coast, the city is only ten kilometers away from the ocean, which gives it a more temperate and pleasant climate due to its latitude and humidity when compared to other parts of Morocco. It is also a rainier city, with an average of 80 days of rainfall each year.

Tetouan is located at a low altitude of only 90 meters above sea level. Although it is situated at the foot of a hill and relatively close to the Rif, it does not have a mountain climate. Winters are enjoyable, but summers are extremely hot and dry. January is the coldest month and rarely sees temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. The average temperature during summers is 35 degrees Celsius, while the average temperature during winters is 22 degrees Celsius. Similar to Morocco, Tetouan experiences a high number of sunny days every year, ensuring that any vacation in the area will be enjoyable.

Tetouan Historical Narrative

The history of Tetouan is a captivating journey through various epochs that have left an indelible mark on the city’s present character. A significant chapter unfolds in its complex relationship with old Spain, which not only contributed to the Andalusian population centuries ago but also served as a blueprint for much of the city’s architectural landscape. Founded in the early 14th century during the Merinid sultanate under Abu Thabit’s reign, Tetouan began as a military stronghold aimed at launching attacks on Ceuta. However, it quickly evolved into a haven for Mediterranean pirates, drawing the ire of King Henry III of Castile, who, in 1400, razed the city and banished its inhabitants.

Between the 16th and 17th centuries, Tetouan experienced a cultural and economic renaissance, attracting millions of descendants of Jews and Moors expelled from Spain in 1492. Sidi Ali Al Mandari, a refugee from the Spanish Inquisition, played a pivotal role in the repopulation and revitalization of Tetouan.

The 16th century presented Morocco with challenges, including a naval blockade by Spain’s Philip II, but also opportunities as it embraced the sophisticated customs introduced by the ‘heirs’ of Al-Andalus. Trade and piracy flourished, notably during Mulay Ismail’s reign in the 17th and 18th centuries. Hostilities with Spain persisted into the 19th century, culminating in the 1859-1860 war, during which Tetouan was initially captured by Spanish troops but reclaimed by Morocco in 1862. Early 20th century, Tetouan found itself under Spanish control in 1913 as part of the Protectorate in northern Morocco, facing the challenges of the Rif War. Finally, in 1956, Tetouan joined the Kingdom of Morocco upon gaining independence. Today, Tetouan’s enduring significance, as the ‘capital’ of the Rif and a favored summer residence of King Mohammed VI, underscores its integral role in the ongoing legacy of the Alaouite dynasty.

Attractions in Tetouan city

To make it easier to plan a visit to Tetouan’s historic attractions, it is recommended to create separate itineraries for the medieval medina and the new city which developed mostly in the first half of the 20th century. Both areas offer a variety of interesting sights and experiences, so below we have listed all the attractions you can visit in each location.

Tetouan Medina

Tetouan, like most medinas in Morocco, has an authentic atmosphere. It is surrounded on three sides by an ancient wall, and inside the wall, there is a maze of narrow streets, many of which are steep and twisted. The city rests at the foot of a hill where a good part of the kasbah or castle still stands. Travelers with limited physical fitness might find it challenging to reach the top of the hill, but once they get there, they will be rewarded with stunning views over the entire city and the Rif Mountains. The same views can also be seen from the surrounding cemetery.

The medina’s winding lanes evoke images of medieval Andalusian villages and neighborhoods. This is no coincidence, as the region was primarily built by Jews and Moors who were banished from Castile in the late fourteenth century. The tile decoration, which is frequently found on the pavement, walls, and columns, is similar to that of many locations in southern Spain. Tetouan’s markets and shops offer traditional handicrafts, including jewelry, fur, carpentry, and the famous Kasra cookies. The locals wear a variety of attire, from brownish tones of peasants to white djellabas for men and red and white striped cotton suits for women. Here’s a list of Tetouan attractions, roughly listed in order around the Place de Hassan II:

1. Location de Hassan II

The Place el Mechouar, an expansive square in the heart of the city, is a significant landmark that connects the historic old town with the bustling medina. With its vibrant atmosphere and picturesque surroundings, this square is a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re admiring the ancient architecture of the old town or exploring the vibrant markets and shops in the medina, the Place el Mechouar is an ideal starting point for your journey.

2. Royal Palace or the Caliph's Palace

The palace, which was originally the residence of the sultan during the Spanish Protectorate, has a rich history and is now used by the Moroccan monarch as a vacation destination. With its stunning architecture and regal ambiance, the palace is a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage. Its grand halls, intricate details, and luxurious furnishings offer a glimpse into the opulence and grandeur of the past. Today, the palace stands as a symbol of Morocco’s enduring legacy and is a popular attraction for tourists seeking to experience the country’s rich history and culture.

3. A segment of El Yun

Nestled beneath the Kasbah lies a vibrant community brimming with life and culture. As you explore the area, you’ll come across several noteworthy landmarks including the Sidi Ahmed El-Nayi Mausoleum, a stunning testament to the region’s rich history and heritage. The Souk el-Fuki, a bustling marketplace filled with exotic goods and treasures, is also nearby. For those seeking spiritual enlightenment, the El Musaimidi mosque offers a serene and peaceful place for reflection and prayer.

4. Kasbah

Nestled within the heart of a timeless landscape lies a formidable stronghold, steeped in rich history and fortified by the Spanish army. Over the years, the fortress has stood as a symbol of strength, enduring many wars and battles. During the Spanish Protectorate, the army expanded the fortress, transforming it into a grand barracks that housed soldiers and their families. Today, the fortress remains an impressive testament to the power and legacy of the Spanish empire.

5. Bab Mkabar

This gate holds a special place in the history of the wall, as it is the oldest one that still stands today. It is located near the cemetery, giving it a unique and somewhat eerie atmosphere. The gate is a testament to the craftsmanship of the builders who constructed it, with its intricate detailing and sturdy construction still evident after all these years.

6. Cemetery

This gate, which dates back to the earliest days of the wall’s construction, is situated near the cemetery. Despite its age, it still stands strong and sturdy, a testament to the skill of its builders.

7. El-Blad district

The artisan district is an energetic and vibrant neighborhood, filled with artisans and their creations. The central square, Place de l’Usaa, is a bustling hub of activity, where locals and visitors alike come to browse, shop, and socialize. From the sounds of street musicians and the smells of delicious food wafting from nearby cafes, to the colorful array of handmade crafts and goods on display, there is always something to see and experience in this lively part of town.

8. Regional Nationalism Museum

A museum chronicles events in Tetouan and Morocco’s history up to independence. The museum is located in a 19th-century structure with a beautiful interior courtyard and iron beams.

9. Museum and Bab el Oqla

The gate that stands before us is a remarkable structure, not only for its aesthetic appeal but also for its functionality as a miniature fortification. This gate serves as the entrance to the Tetouan Museum of Moroccan Art, also known as the Ethnographic Museum. It is home to an impressive collection of furniture, costumes and various everyday objects. The museum provides a unique opportunity to witness the Andalusian influence on local artists. With its captivating displays and intriguing exhibits, it is undoubtedly one of the most captivating and intriguing attractions that the city has to offer.

10. Rue Ahmed Torres

Located in close proximity to the Mellah, which is the Jewish quarter of the city, lies one of the main streets in the medina. This bustling street is filled with vibrant colors, sounds, and smells that are sure to captivate your senses and leave a lasting impression.

11. Mellah

Nestled in the heart of the old Jewish neighborhood, the Isaac Bengualid Synagogue stands as a testament to 19th-century architecture. With its intricate design and unique features, it continues to captivate visitors with its rich history and cultural significance.

12. Craft college

There is a training center that specializes in teaching traditional arts to students who are interested in various art forms. The facility is open to tourists who want to explore different forms of art, including regional tiles such as zellige.

Ensanche: The new city, Andalusian Tetouan

The “New City,” also known as “Ensanche,” is situated to the west of the Medina in Tetouan. During the time this area was established, Tetouan was the seat of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco. The purpose of the new city was to extend or “widen” the existing city in an orderly fashion, which would make it easier for people to move around and facilitate the flow of traffic. At that time, cars were just starting to become popular as a mode of transportation. One of the most remarkable things about this new city is that it was constructed in the Andalusian architectural style, which is a descendant of earlier Moorish Andalusian architecture. However, it was designed with a modernist aesthetic that was in vogue at that time.

Moreover, the Junta de Andalucia played a significant role in the recent makeover of the area, which modernized it and strengthened its stylistic ties to the south of Spain. This Moorish-modernist district served as the perfect backdrop for the television series “El tiempo entre costuras”, which was based on the book by Mara Dueas. One of our trips visits the locations where the seamstress Sira Quiroga lived, making a case for this area. The Boulevard Mohamed V runs across this area from west to east and serves as its main axis. The points of interest are located on the streets that are drawn in a square and bevel pattern on either side of this avenue.

1. Señora de la Victoria Church

Constructed in the year 1919, the Christian temple boasts of an eclectic design that is sure to leave anyone in awe. Presently, the temple serves as a venue for conducting religious services and is a beautiful and serene place to visit.

2. Moulay El Mehdi square

Formerly called Primo Rivera Square.”Located in the heart of Tetouan, Morocco, Moulay El Mehdi Square is a historic public space that was once known as Primo Rivera Square. With its charming blend of Spanish and Moroccan architectural styles, the square is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike. It features beautiful fountains, shaded seating areas, and a bustling market where visitors can shop for everything from handmade crafts to fresh produce. Whether you’re looking to relax and people-watch or explore the city’s vibrant culture, Moulay El Mehdi Square is a must-see destination in Tetouan.

3. Zaouia Isauia

During the early 1800s, a guest house and an Islamic school were built. These structures were erected with the purpose of accommodating travelers and providing education to those who were interested in Islamic teachings. The guest house was likely equipped with basic amenities to make the stay of travelers comfortable, while the Islamic school may have had classrooms, a library, and a prayer hall. The construction of these buildings during this period highlights the importance of hospitality and education in the society of that era.

4. Instituto Cervantes

Nestled in the vibrant city of Tetouan, Morocco, there is a remarkable Spanish institution that takes on the noble task of educating students from all over the country in the Spanish language. What sets this institution apart is not only its dedication to fostering linguistic skills but also its mesmerizing modernist architecture that is sure to leave visitors in awe. The offices of this institution are housed in a magnificent edifice that boasts sleek lines, intricate details, and a stunning visual appeal that is impossible to miss.

5. Square in Feddan

Located in the heart of Tetouan, Feddan is a spacious square that serves as a popular spot for locals to gather and socialize. The square is surrounded by a bustling array of shops, cafes, and restaurants, making it a hub of activity and a prime location for people-watching. With its open layout, well-maintained landscaping, and ample seating, Feddan offers a welcoming atmosphere for visitors and residents alike. Whether you’re looking to catch up with friends, enjoy a cup of coffee, or simply take in the sights and sounds of the city, Feddan is a must-visit destination in Tetouan.

6. Historical Museum

The museum I’m referring to is the main one in the city, which houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the ancient sites located in the northern region of the country. If you’re interested in learning more about this museum, you can find additional information on the page dedicated to museums.

7. Modern Art Museum

One of the most remarkable places in modern Tetuan is located outside the Ensanche area. Despite this, it is a beautiful spot thanks to the fact that it is housed in a former railroad station with Hispano-Muslim architecture. The place has been renovated specifically for this purpose, which adds to its charm.

Things to do near Tetouan

If you intend to stay in this city for a few days, you might want to think about taking a trip out to the surrounding areas, which nevertheless include some intriguing surprises and lovely locations unrelated to Tetouan. The ideal way to get to these places is to plan a road trip, which our agency can assist you with by putting a private car and a driver at your disposal. The following are a few of the more intriguing roads around Tetouan:

The Mediterranean coast path

Tetouan is only 10 kilometers away from the Mediterranean coast, which is extremely close. Because of this, the Tetouanese and northern Moroccans who live in the country favor this road as one of the best. There are hotels and other accommodations geared on beach, sun, and relaxation tourism in places like Mdiq, Martil, Marina Smir, and Cabo Negro.

Visit Oued Laou

As you embark on this alternative route towards the coast, you will notice a stark contrast from the previous one. The breathtaking landscape is dotted with coves and cliffs, creating a setting of outstanding ecological significance. This path leads to a long-established local summer resort and fishing region that has managed to retain its traditional farming and fishing occupations. However, with time, Oued Laou, the final destination of this path, has witnessed a shift in its demographics.

The population is now more focused on domestic tourism, attracting visitors from Tetouan and other parts of Morocco. The region boasts of several attractions, including the synagogue’s octagonal minaret, which stands tall against the clear blue sky, the barracks, a reminder of the Spanish administration, and the calm fishing boats anchored on the shore. If you happen to visit on a Saturday, you can explore the area near Oued Laou Beni Said, where a bustling souk is held. You will be greeted with a plethora of pottery items, and the sight of donkeys carrying goods is a common occurrence.

Go to Chaouen

Explore the beauty of Tetouan and Morocco by visiting the picturesque blue village of Chaouen. Along the journey, discover other fascinating locations such as Tamuda’s pre-Roman archaeological ruins and the renowned anti-tuberculosis sanatorium in Ben Karrich el-Bahari. Journey through stunning pine and cork oak forests as you make your way to the breathtaking landscapes of Muley Abdeselam. Many people extol the legendary Mount Jbel el Alam, which rises about 1,200 meters above sea level and offers sweeping views of Tetouan and the surrounding area. By the way, Moulay Abdeselam is a respected saint whose mausoleum attracts visitors from all around the area.

Where to eat or drink in Tetouan

Tetouan is a great destination for foodies as it offers an opportunity to taste the amazing Moroccan cuisine. The city is especially well-known for its excellent fresh fish and wonderful anchovy sauce. If you’re looking to experience the exquisite cuisine of Morocco, Tetouan is one of the best locations to do so. The city’s restaurants typically serve high-quality, fresh fish because of its proximity to the ocean. In addition to the seafood, there are also several cafes and pastry stores where you can indulge in some sweet treats. To help you make the most of your visit, we have compiled a list of ideas on where to eat, what to do, and where to stay in Tetouan.

Riad Blanco

If you’re looking for a place to indulge in some mouth-watering Moroccan and other cuisines, then Zawiya Kadiria Rue is the perfect spot for you. Located in a bustling neighborhood, this restaurant offers an extensive a la carte menu for both lunch and dinner that will leave you spoilt for choice. From traditional Moroccan dishes to international delicacies, their menu has something for everyone. You can also stop by for snacks or brunch and enjoy their cozy ambiance while relishing your favorite dishes.

Riad El Reducto

Discover a delightful and picturesque setting nestled within the walls of a beautifully preserved historical building. You’ll be enchanted by the old-world charm and character of this unique location.

Restaurant La Union

Nestled amidst the bustling Mohamed V Avenue, the historic La Union and El Fénix building invites you to savor the authentic flavors of homemade cuisine. Delight in a range of traditional dishes that are prepared with the freshest ingredients and served with a dash of love.

Cafe de Paris

One of the most bohemian cafes in Tetouan is situated in the Plaza Muley El Mehdi and boasts a glass facade. Café Manila (Adarghal Abdelkader) is also one of the oldest coffee shops in the city. The Muley El Mehdi Square, which is famous for its breakfasts and avocado juice, is just a few blocks away from this location. Additionally, visiting the pastry shops in Tetouan is a delightful cultural experience, as the city and Morocco place high importance on regional pastries. ERRAHMOUNI, located in the center of the Eixample on rue Youssef Ibn Tachfine, is one of the most well-known pastry shops in the city. It offers an intriguing fusion of Arabic and Spanish sweets.

Where can I buy in Tetouan

Embark on a delightful shopping expedition in Tetouan, focusing on acquiring local handicrafts. A key avenue for this endeavor is Ben Larbi Torres Avenue, conveniently situated near the Caliph’s Palace. This vibrant locale is a hub for local artisans, strategically organized by their areas of expertise, with a special emphasis on exquisite jewelry. Within the medina, you’ll find numerous bazaars and shops offering a diverse array of regional crafts, ranging from teapots, lamps, and rugs to caps, pottery from Beni Said, leather goods, wood sculptures, and more.

Venturing into the Ensanche, or new town, reveals captivating stores, particularly those specializing in fabric or raffia carpets, home decor items, mirrors, and beyond. The School of Arts and Crafts, located near Bab el Oqla, adds a cultural touch to the shopping experience. While not a conventional retail space, it occasionally hosts events or fairs, showcasing the students’ creations, including leatherwork, jewelry, and pottery.”

Where to stay in Tetouan

Tetouan, a beautiful city in Morocco, offers a variety of hotels that cater to different budgets and preferences. The Ensanche area is particularly known for its hotels, some of which have fine dining restaurants that serve delicious meals prepared by renowned chefs. These hotels offer luxurious amenities and stunning rooftop views of the city. For those looking for a more traditional experience, there are charming riads in the medina that have been renovated from historic houses. The riads have a central courtyard and feature traditional furnishings, woodwork, and tilework. In recent years, new hotels have been built along the Mediterranean shore, especially vacation resorts that have swimming pools, solariums, and other facilities for relaxation.

Tours through Tetouan

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