Tetouan, the white dove in the sky

Tetouan, in Morocco, is a Hispanic Moorish city called ‘La Blanca,’ located in the fertile valley of the Martil River with the Rif mountain ranges as a backdrop. This city has about 300,000 inhabitants and dominates the Oued Martil valley. Its crenelated walls, terraces, and gardens make up a beautiful landscape that is exploited by tourism. There is an excellent contrast between the new city’s very Spanish architecture and the medina, of much more discreet tones. In the market, the women dress in red and white striped cotton fabrics that are not seen anywhere else in Morocco.

On our trip to Morocco, we can include the city of Tetouan in the list of places to visit. We will discover a true jewel, a city little exploited touristically, whose historic center was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

History of Tetouan

History of Tetouan

The medina of Tetouan, Morocco’s Tetouan, was destroyed by the Iberians in the early 15th century after reaching its zenith in the 11th and 12th centuries. The Iberians demolished it in the early 15th century, but the medina is still there. This traditional Islamic city was rebuilt at the end of the 15th century by Sidi Ali Al Mandari, who had been emigrating from the Andalusian town of Granada to escape the persecution of the Inquisition. Tetouan has flourished as a dynamic center of economic, social, and cultural activities where Christians and Jews coexist peacefully. This city reflects an incredible variety of cultural influences such as Moroccan, Andalusian, Ottoman, and even European. Tetouan has contributed to enriching the history of Morocco in the last five centuries.

Medina of Tetouan

Medina Tetouan

If you wonder what to see in Tetouan, you will find a good part of the proposals in the medina. Under the mandate of Moulay Ismail, the city experienced a new period of splendor with constructions such as the wall or the Palace of the Caliph, which we can still admire today. It would help to visit the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Moroccan Arts, and the Medina. In the past, it was a military base. Spain also ruled it for a long time; it was even the capital of the Spanish Protectorate until it was freed when Morocco became an independent country. It looks like many towns in Spain because Muslims and Jews who fled Spain after the fall of Granada in 1492 built the city of Tetouan. Piracy is what you’re all about.

Tetouan architecture

 Tetouan architecture

The neighborhoods of Tetuán belong to three types of different architectural styles:

  • The Andalusian style (the medina)
  • The Spanish style of the early and mid-20th century
  • The post-independence class (suburbs)

Each class includes more or less essential variations on the evolution of styles and materials. A complete list of what to visit in Tetouan should include examples from these neighborhoods.

Climate of Tetouan

Tetouan has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. The average temperature in summer is 35 degrees Celsius, while 22 degrees Celsius in winter. The city has many sunny days a year.

What to see in Tetouan

see in Tetouan

What to see in Tetouan and for how long? Half a day or a full day is enough to know the city’s most important and symbolic places. For this reason, it might be best to hire an official guide at the tourist office to show us all this unknown medina’s hidden places and secrets.

Within the city, you can visit exciting things. The first thing that stands out in Tetouan is the beautiful houses of the Arab aristocrats, who are the descendants of those expelled from Al-Andalus by the Reconquest. Its homes are magnificent, with exquisitely carved ceilings painted with Hispano-Moorish designs. You will also find the peculiar work of the Tetouan tiles on the floors and columns. In this city, you can feel the Arab essence of Seville, Granada, Córdoba, and, in general, Andalusia.

The Medina of Tetouan has seven access doors. Several mosques and the Museum of Moroccan Art contain a beautiful collection of regional costumes and typical Moroccan musical instruments. The houses seen here are primarily ground floor and white, creating a harmonious environment ideal for enjoying pleasant walks. There are also artisans, such as weavers, jewelers, furriers, etc., who do fabulous works that we can acquire as souvenirs of the trip through Tetouan and Morocco.

When touring Tetouan, we can visit other sites, such as the Archaeological Museum, which contains valuable archaeological material from Roman ruins discovered in the region. A big square in the middle of Tetouan connects old and new. Before Plaza Hassan II, a big house that used to be home to the Sultan when Spain was in charge, it is now a real palace.

An example is a trendy neighborhood built during the period of the Spanish Protectorate, beautifully designed and complementary to the old medina, the vital center of the city. Today it constitutes a recognizable singular urban piece, which plays an essential role in the whole of the town, between the old medina and the new neighborhoods. It represents the most relevant physical trace of the Spanish presence in Morocco. It is an exciting area to see in Tetouan.

Many buildings of the Protectorate are worthy of admiration. Among its squares and streets, we will highlight the Plaza de Mulay Mehdi, formerly Plaza Primo de Rivera. It is the center of the capital of the Protectorate, where the Church of Nª Srª de las Victoria of 1919 is located, with its mission house. In the surroundings, you will find many details that will evoke the Spanish times of the city of Tetouan. This square has been the scene of the adaptation to the screen of the novel by María Dueñas ‘El Tiempo entre costuras, ‘for example, in the location of the reception of Serrano Suñer.

Mohamed V street and the monumental square of Hassan II, formerly Feddan, were restored for the king’s first visit in the 1980s. The Royal Palace locate there. In this square, you can also appreciate the old Spanish commissioner.

More unique places to visit in Tetouan: the Mellah or Jewish quarter. You can see their former home Franco located near Bab el Okla.

Spanish construction can also be seen at the train stations, which appear in some scenes from the movie “El Tiempo entre costuras.” The old bus station in the city is also an example of Spanish construction.

What to visit in Tetouan for shopping

Tetouan for shopping

· For those who like shopping promenades, Calle Terrafin is one of the essential arteries in Tetuán, where many local artisans are concentrated, divided into sectors according to their specialization. There we can find beautiful handicrafts of all kinds and materials.

· There are several bazaars and shops within the medina to purchase handicrafts. The most notable objects are those made of chinaware, teapots, lamps, rugs, Yebali hats, Beni Said ceramics, and leather and wood articles.

· In the Sok el Hot square, selling aprons is typical, with small striped rugs with bright colors.

· Near the Guerra Kebira square, you can find several antique shops with beautiful pieces from Tetouan and Morocco.

· In Calle Luneta, we find paintings with typical motifs and Arabic-style furniture.

· The jewelry items can be found on Tarrafin Street, near the Plaza del Fedan and the Royal Palace.

· Visiting the craft center next to the old railway station is very interesting. You can see the artisans working with leather, weaving rugs, making jewelry, etc.

· In the ensanche (commercial area), there are exciting fabric stores for decoration, beautiful fabric or raffia rugs, furniture of all kinds, some inlaid in mother-of-pearl, lamps, Venetian mirrors, music, etc.

· Bab Nuaded and Gourna are the places to go if you want everyday items like sportswear, watches, perfumes, jewelry, etc. They are next to the gate with the same name.

· For food items, you have to go to the market.

· One reason for Tetouan’s fame in Morocco is its confectionery. Suppose you want to buy sweets, pastries, or pasta. In that case, there are several pastry shops: the most famous are those in Rasmoni, near Mohamed V, and Elfedal, in the area of ​​the Puerta de la Reina.

Also, we will show you where to eat in Tetouan because the city is a great place to try some of the best Moroccan food. Tetouan is famous, among other things, for its delicious Tallinn of anchovies and its good fresh fish.

The best cafes and pastry shops 

In addition to the gastronomy mentioned above by Tetouan, Morocco also sets its sights on it for its pastries. This city has a rich tradition of making sweets. Here we leave you some of the most famous places in Tetouan.

· Rahmouni Pastry is Located on Rue Youssef Ibn Tachfine. It is one of the best-known pastry cafeterias in Tetouan. It has a mixture of Arabic and Spanish sweets.

· Café Maníla: Allal ben Abdallah, in front of the Avenida cinema and next to the Atenas hotel. Cafeteria with good breakfasts. Its specialty is juice with avocado.

· Café Paris: Located in Place Moulay el Medi. It’s a big deal in Tetouan. It is a trendy old cafe. Its windows look out over Place Moulay el Medi.

· Cafeteria Randa Rue Youssef Ibn Tachfine. The elegant cafeteria is where you can have breakfast or a snack.

· Pasteleria Avenida Place Aldala. One of the best places to visit in Tetouan is to buy Arabic pastries.

The best Restaurants in Tetouan

· La Unión Avda. Mohamed V, La Unión building and El Fénix. Dishes of traditional gastronomy and homemade food.

· The fish corner Chakib Arsalane street. The fish specialty at a very reasonable price.

· Riad in Redoubt Zankat Zawya 38. Restaurant with charm and Moroccan style inside a beautiful Riad.

· Riad Blanco 25 Rue Zawiya Kadiria. Moroccan and international food. It offers a la carte food at noon and breakfast and snacks in the evening. The starters cost 40 DH and the main courses 80 DH.

What to visit in peripheral Tetouan: the surroundings


Near Tetouan, many towns and cities are worth a visit, so you can take advantage of the trip to see them. The surroundings of Tetouan are famous, above all, for the coastal, tourist, and vacation cities of Mdiq, Martil, Marina Smir, and Cabo Negro.

Facing Tetouan, Morocco offers visitors the Sierra de Beni Hosmar or Gorges, in which impressive and rugged mountains surround the city from the south. To visit them, you can access them by several routes, generally in poor condition, and the use of all-terrain vehicles recommend.

We will take the ring road of Tetouan and continue in the Turret direction. Buselmal is a popular place for Tetouan people because of the high quality of its water and how green and lush the area is. The route climbs up until it reaches the source of Buselmal. An ideal place to have tea from which to see Tetouan from a bird’s eye view.

We continue describing the roads that leave from Tetouan with those places of interest that we can find:

· CHAUOEN ROUTE. Route P-28 is followed in a southerly direction, crossing the river Martil. On the left is the Tamuda ruins.

· TAMUDA: ruins of a city of possible Carthaginian origin, later Mauritanian, and finally Roman. It must have existed from the 3rd century BC to the beginning of our Era. Its importance is based on being the only pre-Roman city in North Africa. A jewel, so visiting Tetouan is also an archaeological experience.

· BEN-KARRICH THE BAHARI. Following the road, you reach this town on the western slopes of the Beni-hozmar mountains, 11 km from Tetuán. Farming and anti-TB sanatorium headquarters were built in the 1940s by the Spanish, and now they live in this building. Today, in the center of its region, the seat of the bajalato, there are still some civil and military buildings from when Spain ruled. I like this park because it is beautiful and has a waterfall from the mountain.

· A few kilometers from Benkarrich, you reach this rural commune, a crossroads between Chaouen and the new road for Ben Ider and Mouley Abdeselam. End of the old military railway, surrounded by high mountains. Following the Chaouen route is the Najla or Palmera reservoir, with a beautiful landscape surrounded by pine forests.

· MULEY ABDESELAM. Suppose we continue along the Muley Abdeselam road. In that case, the landscape is filled with pine forests and centenary cork oaks in the upper part. Many sources, streams, and wildlife make the area a natural park of great beauty. This route is divided into two: to the right, it communicates with the province of Larache; to the left, you reach the mythical Mount Yebel Alan of, more than 1,000 meters altitude, from which to see Tetouan and its entire region. There lie the remains of the venerated saint Muley Abdeselam, the Mecca of the poor, a place of pilgrimage and pilgrimage for the entire region,

· BENI-HASAN: If we follow the Chaouen route from Zinnat, we will arrive at this souk on a hill 700 meters high on the western slopes of the Jebel Kelti. Today it is a lively rural souk, usually a place to start excursions through the mountains on Thursdays.

· ROUTE OF OUED LAUD. You follow the coastal route in an easterly direction; along the road of the same name, you reach the coast, the rural commune of Azla, a place of summer and fishermen. From here, there is a complicated, tortuous, but beautiful coastal route that goes up to Cabo Nazar and through many coves to finish in Oued Laud.

· OUED-LAUD. Urban commune at the mouth of the river of the same name, with a vital beach and a summer resort. It is an urban commune dependent on Tetouan, which develops thanks to national tourism, agriculture, and fishing. There are remains of the barracks of the Protectorate, and the main mosque has an octagonal minaret.

Very close to this city, on the road to Chaouen, the lively Beni Said souk of the plot takes place on Saturdays. Once a week, the Kabyles come down from the mountains, a colorful spectacle where donkeys and pottery abound.

Suppose we follow the route to Bou Hamed. In that case, we enter the province of Chaouen, arriving at the coastal town of Ka Arras or Caseras, which is dedicated to fishing. The road continues along the beautiful beach of Tharga, dominated by a small rock crowned with an old Portuguese castle, to finish at the magnificent beach of Stehat.

Where to sleep: The best riad and hotels in Tetouan

The beaches between Ceuta, in Spain, and Tetouan, in Morocco, are the most beautiful beaches in Morocco, which you cannot miss, especially if you visit the city in summer. There are luxury hotels and bungalows to stay in near the beaches. In Tetouan, there are also several luxury hotels and some good-budget hotels. Many even have rooms with a roof terrace with magnificent views. Most of them are designed to make your stay here calm and relaxing. Several hotels with specialties serve authentic Moroccan cuisine if you want to eat. Many hotels have bars, pools, and spas to make you feel like you are living a high life. It’s the same for the staff, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Tétouan called the White Dove?

In the north of Morocco, not far from the Mediterranean Sea, lies the city of Tetouan. This region has been nicknamed “The White Dove” because of the allure of its many whitewashed structures. There are several legends surrounding the origin of this nickname; here are two of the most popular:

1. Tetouan has a long and rich history, marked by numerous cultures and religions. In the 19th century, Spanish authorities ordered that all buildings in Tetouan be painted white to encourage cleanliness and hygiene. As a bonus, the white paint helped maintain a cooler temperature inside the buildings by reflecting the sunlight. This practice persisted long after the departure of the Spaniards, contributing to the now iconic white color of the city.

2. In Arab culture, the dove represents purity and tranquility. Tetouan’s whitewashed architecture is a symbol of the city’s commitment to religious and cultural tolerance. As a sign of its welcoming and peaceful character, “The White Dove” is an apt nickname for this metropolis.

What is Tetouan known for?

Tetouan, a city in northern Morocco, is celebrated for its unique fusion of Moroccan and Andalusian cultures and its rich historical heritage.

The Tetouan Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is famous for its impeccably preserved Andalusian architecture, labyrinthine streets, and bustling markets, making it a prime tourist destination.

The city boasts a vibrant artistic and cultural scene, with numerous art galleries, museums, and cultural centers such as the Abdelkrim El Khattabi Museum and the Spanish-Moroccan Cultural Center.

Tetouan’s culinary scene reflects its diverse influences, with traditional Moroccan dishes like couscous, tagine, and b’stilla showcasing Andalusian flavors.

The city’s stunning beaches along the Mediterranean coast, including Martil Beach and Cabo Negro Beach, draw visitors seeking relaxation and recreation.

Additionally, Tetouan is renowned for its traditional handicrafts, including ceramics, leatherwork, and textiles, which can be found in the city’s bustling markets and souks.

With its rich history, vibrant culture, and natural beauty, Tetouan offers an enchanting experience for travelers.

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