The capital of Morocco, Rabat is a charming imperial city on the Atlantic seaboard that provides a relaxing contrast to the hustle and frenetic traffic of Marrakesh and Casablanca. Like many Moroccan cities, it is divided between the French-inspired “Ville Nouvelle” with pleasant leafy boulevards and the original 12th-century medina and walled town. However, its laid-back, accommodating atmosphere belies its notorious past which for years plagued European shipping with Barbary pirates and privateers. Today, Rabat may lack the excitement of Fes or Marrakech, but its easy-going nature and a mix of historic sites make it a fantastic starting point for experiencing Morocco. Allow a few days and you can take in the impressive ruins of the Hassan Mosque, the Mohammed V Mausoleum, the fortress Kasbah des Oudaias and the ancient Roman site of Chellah rebuilt by the Merinids in the 14th century.