Insider’s Guide to Tetouan, Morocco

A photo of the center of Tetouan in Morocco. This is the center of town.

Perfectly poised atop a slope on the edge of the Mediterranean coast, Tetouan Morocco offers you the best of both worlds: a largely untouched medina with an authentic taste not easily found elsewhere in Morocco and a strategic location from which to explore the surrounding area. Resting on the foot of the Rif Mountains and a few kilometers from the sea, this quiet town is often overlooked by visitors for all the wrong reasons.

Founded in the 15th century by Muslim and Jewish refugees fleeing Christian Andalusia and then later occupied by the Spanish for almost two centuries, Tetouan’s history reflects the true multicultural nature of Morocco. And this history comes alive today in the city’s architecture, shops, restaurants, arts, culture, museums and monuments.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Tetouan’s poor reputation for its conmen and a deteriorating medina meant that the city was almost empty of outside visitors. Fortunately, in more recent years Tetouan has been practically reborn with much needed restorations and a new, more welcoming atmosphere that you will want to experience.

What to Do

Market in Tetouan, Morocco

Discover the medina: Tetouan’s medina might be one of the smallest in Morocco, but it is unquestionably its most complete. Largely untouched since the 17th century save for a few recent restorations, the Spanish-influenced medina is garnished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander through its various ethnic quarters – Andalusian, Berber and Jewish – and experience Morocco’s multicultural history first-hand.

Book an art tour: What better way is there to immerse yourself in the traditional Moroccan culture than by getting to know some of its local artists? In Tetouan, you can embark on a guided visit and meet some of the city’s finest artisans by visiting their workshops, observing them work and hearing about their fantastic stories.

Take a day trip: Tetouan’s strategic location makes it the ideal base from which to explore the surrounding region. The picturesque blue-walled town of Chefchaouen is easily reachable within one hour and a half by car and the laid-back fishing port of Martil is just 10 km away. Right on the coastline, and less than 15km away, you can also find the beautiful (and crowd-free) beach of Cabo Negro.

Explore the mountains: A trip to Tetouan is unarguably also a trip to the Rif Mountains. For the avid adventure-seeking visitors, the Rif Mountains offer an excellent opportunity for some serious hiking, trekking and mountain biking. Nature lovers will also be able to enjoy the region’s excellent bird watching potential and gorgeous scenic views.

What to See

What to see in Tetouan

Archaeological Museum: Two cities rose and fell in the premises of Tetouan before the city’s founding in the 15th century. The Archaeological Museum is dedicated to exploring this prehistoric Tetouan, exhibiting beautiful artifacts that teach visitors about the city’s historical roots. Antique coins, pottery items, mosaics and ancient inscriptions are just some of the things you can expect to explore in this museum. Open Wed-Mon from 9am to 4:30pm.

Grand Mosquée: Although non-Muslims are not usually allowed to enter mosques in Morocco, the Grand Mosquée is still an admirable sight to witness from its outside. As Tetouan’s largest mosque, the Grand Mosquée is one of the most beautiful historic buildings of the city and its minaret is one of the tallest in the medina.

Ethnography Museum: One great way to learn about Morocco’s history and traditions is to observe its ancient communities’ most prized collections first-hand. Within the various exhibition halls of this excellent museum, you will be able to view all kinds of objects from embroidered pillows to skillfully decorated baskets, weapons, crafts and traditional wedding items. In the kitchen area, you can even get a small taste of traditional Tetouan cuisine and take a sip of some non-alcoholic drinks that are prepared on the premises. Open Mon-Sat from 9am to 4pm.

Tetouan Museum of Modern Art: Tetouan is known for its exceptional artistic community, so it is only appropriate that one of Morocco’s two modern art museums is located here. Set in a gorgeous Andalusian-style former railway station, the Tetouan Museum of Modern Art houses a permanent collection of contemporary Moroccan art and a variety of visiting exhibitions. Open Mon-Sat from 9am to 7pm.

Dar Sanaa: This artisan center, which is set in a stunning Hispano-Moorish building just outside Bab el-Okla, was originally established in 1919 by famous Italian painter Mariano Bertuchi with the aim of preserving the Hispano-Moorish art heritage in Tetouan. Today, Dar Sanaa offers a number of courses on traditional Moroccan arts such as wood carving, painting, leather, embroidery, zeilij and more. You can visit the exquisite building with its studios and lovely courtyard to gain some insight into the local art culture in Tetouan. Open Sat-Thu between 8:30am and 2:30pm and on Friday between 8:30am and 11:30am.

Iglesia de Bacturia: The Spanish influence on Tetouan is very much still alive today and nowhere is that clearer than in the city’s only surviving church, Iglesia de Bacturia. Originally built in 1917, the church is still active today, catering to the city’s scarce Catholics and ringing the bells every hour. In Muslim and mosque-heavy Morocco, it is a one-of-a-kind experience to visit Iglesia de Bacturia. Daily mass is held at 7pm and on Sundays at 11am.

Where to Eat

Where to Eat in Tetouan

Riad Blanco Restaurant: For an elegant evening in Tetouan, nothing beats the Riad Blanco Restaurant’s impeccable style. Its excellent menu combining a mix of modern and traditional Moroccan cuisine features some interesting fish dishes and will leave your mouth watering for more. Inside, there is Moroccan and Western seating areas and in the summer, you can enjoy your meal in the quiet garden. Reservations are highly recommended. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Snack Yousfi: If you’re on the go but still need something fulfilling and delicious, Snack Yousfi is the place to go. With enormous baguettes overflowing with a variety of toppings of your choice, grab your lunch here and you will be completely satisfied until breakfast. Open daily from 10am to midnight.

Riad El Reducto Restaurant: Located in the luxurious Riad El Reducto, this exquisite restaurant is the ideal setting for a quiet evening in Tetouan. The Andalusian-influenced décor combined with a delicious menu create the perfect atmosphere for you to relax and unwind after a full day of sightseeing. The friendly staff speak a host of international languages and will ensure you enjoy an unforgettable evening. Open daily.

Snack Taouss: Traveling with children or with a particularly picky eater? At Snack Taouss, you get the best of both worlds. This charming snack bar serves a mean burger and fries as well as inexpensive pizzas, which will satisfy the least adventurous of tastes. But for those who want to get to know Morocco’s traditional cuisine, expect to find a good tajine and harira (tomato and chickpea soup) here. You can eat on the go or enjoy your meal in the small seating area upstairs. Open daily between 11am and 11pm.

Other Articles on Tetouan

Morocco’s Northern Port Cities

5 Places You Won’t Go in Morocco, but Should!

Navigating Morocco’s Medinas

Image credit: yeowatzup, elmuz, daverugby83