10 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Tetouan
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A favorite with traditional architecture fans and culture lovers, Tetouan is an atmospheric city with a pretty medina that is its prime tourist attraction.
Set amid Morocco's lush Rif Mountains region, which is one of the best places to visit in the country for hiking, Tetouan and its surrounding area is an excellent base for trekkers and nature lovers here to set out and explore Morocco's northern hill country.
Nearby is the famed Rif town of Chefchaouen, where the medina is painted in shades of blue. As well as the plentiful trekking opportunities from here, one of the top things to do is simply stroll and photograph the alleys while exploring the old town.
Chefchaouen is an easy day trip from Tetouan, though there's plenty of accommodation options if you want to stay overnight.
To help you decide what to include on your trip, see our list of the top attractions and things to do in Tetouan.
See also: Where to Stay in Tetouan
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Explore Tetouan's Medina
Tetouan's medina (Old Town) has retained its authentic Andalusian soul, which makes this town the most Hispano-Moorish influenced of Moroccan cities.
This is a thoroughly atmospheric place to explore, and architectural historians regard it as the country's finest preserved medina.
Every twist and turn down an alleyway brings you to a new picture-perfect local scene, with lots of lovely, slightly crumbling buildings lining the narrow lanes.
A couple of traditional houses within the medina have been opened up to the public in recent years as small museums and cultural centers. They are well worth seeking out during your medina strolls.
Of particular note, Dar El Oddi (on Derb Oddi) is a painstakingly restored medina mansion that now hosts the Visions of Tetouan picture and photograph collection, which traces the city's history from the 16th to the 20th century.
While exploring the medina's fortress walls, built by Sultan Moulay Abderrahman, you can check out Tetouan's interesting Ethnography Museum, which is inside the Bab el-Okla gate of the ramparts. Inside are well organized displays explaining and demonstrating local customs, from marriage ceremonies to daily life. After viewing the exhibits, you can climb up to the roof for photos over the medina.
Location: Main entry off Place Hassan II, Tetouan
2. Day Trip to Chefchaouen
If you're going to take just one day trip from Tetouan, make it to Chefchaouen, noted for being one of Morocco's most picturesque towns.
This is a holy city, 66 kilometers south of Tetouan, with some 20 mosques and sanctuaries, where thousands of the faithful participate in an annual pilgrimage.
For many visitors though, Chefchaouen's chief appeal is in its incredibly photogenic streets. The alleys and houses within the medina are all painted in a blue-wash, a tradition that began in the 1930s. There are few actual sights. A trip here is more about wandering the wriggling alleys and soaking up the ambience.
For things to do, though, don't miss visiting the much-restored kasbah within the medina, which is now home to Chefchaouen's small ethnographic museum. And for panoramic photos over the medina, take the easy two-kilometer hike east of town, following the Ras el-Maa river, to the Spanish Mosque.
3. Shop amid Tetouan's Souk District
The medina's souk district is a fun place to barter for goods, snack to your heart's content from the many stalls, and get involved in the bustling local action.
El Fouki Market is where Tetouan locals go to buy their bread. You'll find loaves of all shapes and sizes fresh from the oven on sale here, including the traditional flat, round loaves.
Guersa El Kebira is where the clothing and textile traders set up shop, with wonderful local textiles to buy.
The El Hot Market is where you'll find beautiful ceramic work and goldsmith-handcrafted jewelry. For shoppers looking for a special gift, the souk district is not to be missed.
You'll find prices here are cheaper than in the more tourist-orientated markets of Fes and Marrakesh.
4. Trek in Talassemtane National Park
Lying just southeast of Tangier and Tetouan, the Rif Mountains are a paradise for hikers, trekkers, and mountain bikers.
Talassemtane National Park is one of the most popular, and most convenient, areas of the Rif Mountains to explore, with trailheads beginning at Chefchaouen.
Walks here, between isolated villages, take in the best of the Rif's lush, thickly forested hills; distinct wind-carved geological features; and panoramas that at times stretch out to the Mediterranean.
There's excellent bird-watching potential (including buzzards and golden eagles) on hikes, and the chance to spot Barbary apes.
Trekking, and all other activities within the national park, including guide hire, can be organized in Chefchaouen.
5. Brush Up on History at the Archaeological Museum
In Tetouan's Ville Nouvelle, this museum's exhibits include the superb Roman mosaic of "The Three Graces," unearthed at the Lixus archaeological site (near the town of Larache on Morocco's northern Atlantic coast).
There are also displays of artifacts from sites across northern Morocco, including prehistoric tools, coins, bronzes, and pottery.
The museum also houses an excellent library with more than 60,000 volumes dedicated to the preservation of North African literature.
For anyone interested in history, a visit here during your Tetouan stay is well worth it; particularly if you are later visiting, or have already visited, Lixus on your travels.
Unfortunately, the museum's exhibits do not have labels in English.
Address: Avenue al Jazaar, Tetouan
6. Take a Resort Beach Break on Cabo Negro Beach
While Agadir on the Atlantic Coast remains one of Morocco's most popular beach escapes, the resort towns of the Mediterranean are hugely popular with domestic tourists.
During July and August, when the temperatures soar inland, Moroccans decamp to Cabo Negro Beach (13 kilometers northeast of Tetouan) in their droves. The wide sandy shoreline here is one of north Morocco's best beaches and is dotted with resorts usually offering all-inclusive beach break deals.
Outside of the peak summer season, Cabo Negro hits the snooze button and the beach is often quite empty. If you're in Tetouan during spring or early fall and fancy a lazy beach day, this is the place to lay out your beach towel and soak up the sun with few other beachgoers in sight.
Obviously if you day-trip here from Tetouan in summer, prepare for the beach to be crowded.
7. Café Hop in Tetouan's Ville Nouvelle
Tetouan's Ville Nouvelle (New City) is centered along Avenue Mohammed V, which begins at the wide plaza of Place Hassan II, sided by The Royal Palace and the Pasha Mosque.
All along the road are cafés where locals come to meet up with friends in the evenings. Do as they do and pull up a seat, grab a coffee or mint tea, and people watch for a while.
For some sightseeing in the Ville Nouvelle, walk from the plaza, up Avenue Mohamed V, to the lovely old Spanish cathedral of Iglesia de Bacturia, which is still fully functioning. Afterwards, head to the Tetouan Museum of Modern Art, based in the town's old railway station building and home to one of Morocco's best collections of contemporary Moroccan artwork.
Address: Avenue Mohammed V, Tetouan
8. Mountain Bike or Hike in Al-Hoceima National Park
This large national park area covers a swath of the central Rif Mountains region swooping down to the coast, and is much less visited than Talassemtane National Park.
The main access point into the national park is the coastal town of Al-Hoceima, 234 kilometers southeast from Tetoaun.
Inside the protected area, the inland area of the park is home to endemic endangered thuya trees as well as carob, wild olive, and Aleppo pine. The isolated villages within the park are connected by dirt tracks, which can be navigated by 4WDs or mountain bikes.
The coastal area of the park is home to dramatic limestone cliffs and isolated beaches.
9. Sunbathe and Swim at Martil
About 10 kilometers east of Tetouan, this easygoing fishing port is also a popular coastal resort, particularly during July and August, when Moroccans flock here for their summer beach holiday.
Plenty of shoreside restaurants dish up the catch of the day, and the nice strip of sand gets very busy on weekends.
The entire shorefront area is scrubbed up and modern, so don't expect any traditional atmosphere, but a visit here makes an interesting contrast to the old-world charm of Tetouan.
You can easily hop here on a day trip or, if you're seeking sea breezes, you could alternatively base yourself here, but be aware that much of Martil's accommodation scene is apartment rentals, as the tourism industry here is aimed squarely at the domestic tourism market.
10. Drive Morocco's Northeast Coastline
The northeast coastline of Morocco is home to breathtaking scenery and is prime country for hiring a car for the day and taking a road trip.
The winding highway hugs the shore, taking you past petite villages and lovely beaches at every twist and turn.
It's a slice of rural, coastal Moroccan life that's hard to beat, plus you're likely to spot a patch of sand along the way that is completely empty, great for impromptu picnicking and a quick swim.
Head southeast from Tetouan, following the coastal highway down to El Jebha village, for the best of the panoramic views on offer.
History of Tetouan
A white Andalusian city set upon the Mediterranean Sea near Tangier, Tetouan traces its origins back to the 3rd century BC, when it was a settlement called Tamouda, which existed until AD 42 when it was destroyed by Roman armies.
When the Merenid sultan Abu Thabit constructed a kasbah at Tetouan in 1307, the Muslim city began to find its form. But as a refuge for Barbary pirates, Tetouan drew the wrath of the Castilian King Henry III, whose forces overran the city and sacked it in 1399.
For a century thereafter, Tetouan went into a period of decline until coming under the Andalusian influence of refugees from Granada.
From 1484, the city took on some of the rich architectural and cultural character of Muslim Spain, traces of which can still be seen today.
In 1913, Tetouan became the capital of Spain's protectorate until independence in 1956.
Located in an agricultural area, Tetouan today is a market center, where grain, livestock, citrus fruit, and handicrafts are traded.
Where to Stay in Tetouan for Sightseeing
Most accommodations in Tetouan are guesthouses and small hotels in the mid-range and budget brackets.
Luxury & Mid-Range Hotels:
- Right in Tetouan medina, Riad El Reducto is popular for its friendly staff, ornate traditional decor, and lovely roof terrace.
- For a more contemporary stay, Hotel Al Mandari is within easy walking distance to the medina and has light-filled, bright modern rooms with mountain views.
- Set in the medina, with panoramic views from the terrace, Riad Dalia Tetouan has colorful rooms, some with original arched doorway features, and an included breakfast.
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Along the Coast: After Tetouan, head west to Tangier to sample Morocco's main Mediterranean city and then south to dive into the past imperial splendor of Rabat. Venturing farther south down the Atlantic coast, you'll find busy and modern Casablanca, home to the Hassan II Mosque and Morocco's favorite beach resort Agadir.
More Medinas: Tetouan's medina is a relaxed place to wander. For the full-on bustling and chaotic medina experience, head to Fes then balance the frenetic energy out with a side-trip to quieter Meknes. Finish up in the most photogenic of all of Morocco's medinas, at Marrakesh, with its maze of wriggling blush-toned alleyways.