What to see in Tetouan, Morocco The city of Tetouan, in Morocco, is one of the most interesting in the north of the country, and so many of our circuits call here. It has a population of around 400,000 inhabitants […]
The city of Tetouan, in Morocco, is one of the most interesting in the north of the country, and so many of our circuits call here. It has a population of around 400,000 inhabitants and its historic medina is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, proof of its beauty and uniqueness, where battlements, colorful gardens and corners full of charm stand out. And for the luck of the traveler, it is a city not too exploited touristically, so you will enjoy it without agglomerations.
Tetouan, in Morocco, is known as the White Dove, in clear reference to the predominant color of its architecture, but also to its strategic position: its oldest part rises on a hill, as if it wanted to fly. In these lines we tell you everything you need to know about it: its location, a brief history, what to see in Tetouan and what to do in it, with special mention to the places in which to buy and eat.
It is located in the fertile valley of the Martil River, with the Rif Mountains to the south as a beautiful backdrop. Here, the climate is very influenced by the place where Tetouan is located: in the Mediterranean Morocco, that is, in the extreme north of the country. Although it is not a coastal city, it is located about 10 km from the sea, so its humidity and latitude make the climate more temperate and pleasant than in other regions of Morocco, and also more rainy, with about 80 days of rainfall per year.
Despite being located at the foot of a hill and being relatively close to the Rif, Tetouan is located at a very low altitude, just 90 meters above sea level, so you can not speak of a mountain climate. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild. The average summer temperature is 35ºC Celsius, while winter temperature is 22ºC Celsius, and thermometers rarely fall below 10ºC in January, their coldest month. Another characteristic of Tetouan, like Morocco, is its high number of sunny days a year, the best guarantee to enjoy any trip.
In the history of Tetouan there are very different periods, all of them interesting and some really important for the configuration of the current city. Especially noteworthy is its not always friendly relationship with the Spain of the past, broadcaster of Andalusian population centuries ago and political metropolis not so long ago, besides inspiring much of its architecture.
The foundation of Tetouan is relatively recent: it dates back to the beginning of the fourteenth century, in times of the Merino sultanate or Benimerin of Abu Thabit. It emerged as a military stronghold with the aim of launching operations against the city of Ceuta. But it soon found another reason to be: to become a nest of pirates who sailed the waters of the Mediterranean. This enraged the Castilian king Henry III, who razed this small town and deported its inhabitants around 1400.
That opened a parenthesis of about a century in which Tetouan was practically abandoned. But from 1492 until the end of the 17th century there was a renaissance that also came from the other side of the Mediterranean: the expulsion of Jews from Granada and later Moors from the rest of the Spanish kingdom caused thousands of people with those origins to settle here. Among them, the great promoter of this repopulation and Tetuan revival: Sidi Ali Al Mandari, in his flight from Granada to avoid the persecution of the Inquisition.
It was a period with ups and downs: it suffered a naval blockade by Philip II’s Spain in the second half of the 16th century, but it also assimilated the refined customs that the ‘heirs’ of Al-Andalus brought with them. Piracy and international trade continued, especially during the Mulay Ismail period, between the 17th and 18th centuries.
Already in the 19th century, hostilities with the Spanish continued and formed part of the operational board in the war of 1859-60 between both countries: initially the Spanish troops took Tetouan, but Morocco received it back two years later, in 1862, when Elizabeth II reigned in Spain and Morocco, Mohamed IV.
After a few decades of tense calm, hostilities returned at the beginning of the 20th century: in 1913 Tetouan came under Spanish rule again, this time as part of its Protectorate in the north of the country (with capital in Tetouan, precisely) and being splashed by the Rif War in that decade and the next. In 1956, as a result of the independence process that culminated in Morocco, Tetouan was finally integrated into the Kingdom of Morocco. Today, Tetouan continues to play an important administrative role, in this case as ‘head’ of the Rif, and in his royal palace summers King Mohamed VI, which accounts for the relevance given to the city by the Alawite dynasty.
To better plan what to see in Tetouan, it is advisable to divide the visit into two large spaces: on the one hand, the historic medina, declared World Heritage by Unesco, and on the other, the new city, emerged mainly in the first decades of the twentieth century. Below we tell you all the points of interest in this and that area.
As it happens in practically all the medinas of Morocco, the one of Tetouan has a genuine character: surrounded on three of its four sides by the old wall, its interior is a labyrinth of alleys, many of them steep and twisted, as it rests at the foot of the hill where, by the way, still stands much of the enclosure of the kasbah or castle.
Reaching the top is an effort for travelers with little physical background, but at the top awaits a very pleasant surprise: beautiful views of the entire city and the mountains of Rif, a picture that can also be seen largely from the nearby cemetery.
Strolling through the streets of the medina, it is no coincidence that images of villages and historic neighborhoods of Andalusia come to mind, as this area was built mainly by Jews and Moors expelled from Castile since the late fifteenth century. Both on the pavement and on the walls and columns it is common to find tile decoration, precisely as it happens in many places in southern Spain.
Here, the traveler feels close to the homes of the most entrenched Tetuani, and can contemplate small souks and shops where traditional handicrafts are still made and sold. Among the professionals best represented here are jewelers, furriers, carpenters or pastry chefs, who sell typical kesra biscuits, very popular in Tetouan and Morocco in general.
Although the atmosphere that reigns here is not so radiant white as in the new city, many other genuine tones will come your way, especially in the clothes of its inhabitants: brown colors of the peasants, White chilabas in men and reddish-white striped cotton suits of women who go shopping daily.
Here is a list of places to see in Tetouan, more or less in order of appearance if you make a circular tour from the Place de Hassan II:
Place de Hassan II: also known as Place el Mechouar, it is the square that connects the medina with the new city, of which we speak below.
Palace of the Caliph or royal palace: former residence of the local sultan in times of the Spanish Protectorate, and currently residence that the Moroccan monarch uses in holiday periods.
El Yun district: this is the district located below the kasbah. Here you can find the Musaimidi Mosque, the Sidi Ahmed El-Nayi Mausoleum and the Souk el-Fuki.
Kasbah: old fortress that was enlarged and used as a barracks by the Spanish troops in times of the Spanish Protectorate.
Bab Mkabar: one of the historic gates of the wall, is the closest to the cemetery.
Cemetery: open to non-Muslims, except on Fridays, it has tombs richly worked in Moorish style and views of the surroundings that invite peace.
Barrio de el-Blad: a lively area of artisans whose main square is Place de l’Usaa
Regional Museum of Nationalism: museum in which different episodes of the history of Tetouan and Morocco are recounted, until reaching its independence. Interesting especially for the building that houses it, a house with central courtyard and iron beams, built in the nineteenth century.
Bab el Oqla and Ethnographic Museum: probably the most beautiful gate of the wall, which is actually a small fortress. Today it houses the Ethnographic Museum or Museum of Moroccan Art in Tetouan. It is one of the most interesting in the city for its collections of furniture, costumes and numerous everyday objects where the Andalusian influence on the local arts is appreciated.
Rue Ahmed Torres: one of the main streets of the medina, near the Mellah
Mellah: former Jewish quarter where the Isaac Bengualid Synagogue, built in the 19th century, is still preserved.
Craft school: institution for training in traditional arts, which is also open to tourists interested in different techniques, such as local tiles (zellige).
To the west of the medina is what is known as the new city or Ensanche: it is a new neighborhood emerged in the early twentieth century, when the capital of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco was Tetuán. It followed the example of many other Spanish extensions and its objective was, therefore, to extend or ‘widen’ the city in an orderly manner, facilitating urban mobility and traffic at the time, where the car was already beginning to become popular as a means of transport.
The particularity of this new city is that it was built in the image and likeness of Andalusian architecture, which in turn inherited the Moorish Andalusian style of the past, but this time with the modernist tastes prevailing at the time. In addition, in its last major reform, the Junta de Andalucía participated, which served to modernize the space and strengthen stylistic ties with southern Spain.
On the other hand, this Moorish-modernist neighborhood served as the perfect setting for the series El tiempo entre costuras, a television adaptation of the novel by María Dueñas. Therefore, one of our circuits has precisely this argument, touring the places where the seamstress Sira Quiroga moved.
Old square cousin of Rivera de Tetouan today called Moulay el Mehdi
This neighborhood has as main axis the Boulevard Mohamed V, in direction west-east. In this avenue and on both sides there are streets drawn with square and cartabón, where you can find the following points of interest:
Church of Our Lady of Victory: Christian temple built in 1919 in eclectic style, which even today officiates masses for believers of this religion.
Plaza Muley El Mehdi: formerly called Primo Rivera Square.
Zauia Isauia: Islamic school and guest house built in the early 19th century.
Instituto Cervantes: beautiful modernist building that houses the headquarters of this important Spanish institution, responsible for teaching Spanish to students from Tetouan and Morocco in general.
Feddan Square: large square that serves as a meeting point for many Tetuani.
Archaeological Museum: is the main museum of the city, where archaeological pieces from the sites of the north of the country are exposed.
Museum of Modern Art: although it is not located exactly in the Eixample, it is one of the most outstanding places in contemporary Tetouan.
It is located in the old railway station, Hispano-Muslim style, today renovated with this use, which gives it more charm if possible
If you plan to spend several days in this city, you can consider making an excursion to the surroundings, which preserve interesting surprises and charming places that have little to do with Tetouan.
The ideal is to schedule a road route to travel to these destinations, for which our agency can help you with a private vehicle and a driver at your disposal. Here are some of the most interesting routes around Tetouan:
The Mediterranean coast is very close to Tetouan, just 10 km straight ahead. Therefore, this route is one of the preferred by Tetuani and Moroccans residing in the north of the country. Places like Mdiq, Martil, Marina Smir and Cabo Negro have hotels and facilities oriented to rest and sun and beach tourism.
It is another route towards the coast, but in this case very different from the previous one. It is a traditional local summer area and fishing activity area, where coves and cliffs predominate, in an environment of high ecological value.
Oued Laou, the end of this route, is an increasingly busy population with national tourism, either from Tetouan or from Morocco, although its traditional farming and fishing activities are maintained. Among its most unique prints are the octagonal minaret of its synagogue, the barracks of the time of the Spanish protectorate and the fishing boats quietly moored on the shore.
Near Oued Laou is also interesting Beni Said, especially on Saturdays, time when a souk is celebrated where ceramics is the star product and donkeys, an animal that is usually present in it.
The blue village of Chaouen is one of the most beautiful around Tetouan and Morocco in general. It is therefore also part of our northern circuits. But it is also possible to enjoy other interesting places along the way, such as the amazing archaeological remains of Tamuda, from pre-Roman times, or Ben Karrich el-Bahari, in the mountains of Beni-hozmar, with a famous for being a tuberculosis sanatorium built by the Spanish in the 1940s.
It is also worth continuing to Muley Abdeselam, among pine forests and century-old cork oaks, for landscapes of extraordinary beauty. Many crown the mythical mount Jbel el Alam, almost 1,200 meters from which to see Tetouan and its entire region. Muley Abdeselam, by the way, is a revered saint, and his mausoleum is a place of pilgrimage and pilgrimage for the whole region.
In addition to what to see in Tetuan and where to sleep, here we show you where to eat, because the city is a good place to enjoy the magnificent Moroccan cuisine. Tetouan is famous among other things for its delicious anchovies and its good fresh fish.
One of the best places to enjoy the magnificent cuisine of Morocco is Tetouan. Among its most famous dishes is its tajine of anchovies. Thanks to its proximity to the sea, restaurants in the city usually offer good fresh fish. In addition, there are numerous cafes and pastry shops for a sweet drink.
Riad Blanco: on rue Zawiya Kadiria. It offers Moroccan and international food, you can eat a la carte at noon and for dinner. It also offers breakfast and snacks.
Riad El Reducto: charming place inside a historic building.
Restaurant La Union: offers traditional cuisine and homemade food, in the old building La Union and El Fénix, in the middle of Mohamed V avenue.
Cafe de Paris: located in the heart of Plaza Muley El Mehdi, with its glazed façade. It is an institution and one of the most bohemian cafes in the city.
Cafe Manila (Adarghal Abdelkader): is one of the most traditional cafes in the city. It is located some streets from Muley El Mehdi square, known for its breakfasts and avocado juice.
In addition, the local pastries are highly valued in Tetouan and Morocco, so touring the pastry shops is a very pleasant cultural experience. In this regard, we can highlight:
Pastry shop ERRAHMOUNI. located in the rue Youssef Ibn Tachfine, in the heart of Eixample. It is one of the most famous in the city and offers an interesting mix of Arabic and Spanish sweets
In Tetouan you can enjoy a good shopping tour, with the intention of acquiring local crafts. Ben Larbi Torres Avenue is one of the most important roads in this sense, very close to the Palace of the Caliph. Here are concentrated numerous artisans’ shops divided into sectors according to their specialization, with special mention to jewelry.
Inside the medina there are several bazaars and shops, where you can also buy local crafts. From teapots and lamps to carpets, hats, Beni Said ceramics, leather goods, wood carvings and more.
In the Ensanche or new city you will also find different interesting places, especially those that sell fabric or raffia carpets, home furniture with varied decoration, mirrors, etc.
Finally, a place that mixes the cultural and the commercial is the School of Arts and Crafts, near Bab el Oqla: although it is not a sales space to use, sometimes they organize fairs or events to publicize the work of the students themselves, ceramics, jewellery and leather.
As in the rest of Morocco, in Tetouan there are hotels of different categories, especially in the district. Some of them also have a restaurant and their kitchens are also among the best valued in the city. It is possible to find luxury proposals, as well as other more affordable but with services and spaces full of charm, such as rooftops overlooking the city. In the medina there are also riads full of charm, usually old houses renovated around a central courtyard and traditional decoration, where there is no lack of wood and tiles.
In addition, in the surroundings of Tetouan new hotels have emerged, especially on the Mediterranean coast in the form of holiday resorts, with swimming pool, solarium and other spaces oriented to rest.Share this tour