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23 Best Things to Do in Marrakech & Surroundings

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TMarrakech: Panoramic view of the red-roofed buildings with the Atlas Mountains in the background.

Set between mountain and desert at the cultural crossroads of Africa, Arabia, and Europe, Marrakech remains a compellingly exotic port of call. Amidst a surge in popularity, this centuries-old market town has been able to preserve its individual mystique and timeless allure. It is a city of immense beauty and its fabulous palaces, bustling souks, and lush palm groves continue to exercise a powerful grip over tourists. Undoubtedly Morocco’s most intoxicating city, it’s impossible not to be captivated by Marrakech’s vibrant colors, heady scents, and inimitable feel. Here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Marrakech.

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How to Get Around Marrakech

Although it is a fairly big city, most of the must-see attractions in Marrakech can be found at or within walking distance of the medina (historic center). Walking is the best way to discover its many hidden gems and appreciate the true charm of Marrakech.

Getting around Marrakech on foot is relatively easy due to its flat terrain. Make sure to wear a comfortable pair of flat shoes rather than heels as the paving in the medina is often broken and hazardous. 

Orienting yourself around the medina’s serpentine alleyways can be a little tricky. Even if you do own a map, you’ll see that not only are the street names different from the nameplates, but many of the street signs are in Arabic which can make navigating even more confusing.

The best way to get around this is by keeping your GPS switched on or asking the locals for directions. Please note, however, that while you’ll find many locals offering to chaperone you around the medina, these individuals tend to charge high fees.

INSIDER TIP

Many of the medina’s streets are so narrow that only motorbikes and bicycles can get access here. This has led to the medina being increasingly plagued by kamikaze motorcyclists who go shooting through the crowds at reckless speeds – keep to the side of the road and try to watch out for the hazards of approaching traffic both in front and behind. Otherwise, you could get run over at great speed.

In order to save some time or save some energy, you can also get around Marrakech using the city’s relatively efficient public bus service. Buses are cheap but hot and overcrowded.

All public bus services in Marrakech are run by ALSA Marrakech. If you opt to use the bus, expect most buses to operate daily every 10 to 60 minutes, depending on the line. 

Fares range from 2-5 MAD (Morrocan dirhams) depending on the distance and the tickets can be purchased in cash directly from the bus driver. You can find more information about different bus lines and fares here.

Another alternative and fun way to explore Marrakech is getting around on a bicycle. Although traffic can be hectic at times, cycling in Marrakech is relatively safe. Marrakech recently launched the first bike-sharing system in Africa, Medina Bikes.

More than 300 bicycles are anchored in ten key points over the city and are available 24/7. A day pass costs 50 MAD while a weekly pass costs 150 MAD. More information can be found here.

I wouldn’t normally advise taking a taxi around Marrakech but they are certainly the fastest way around the city. Taking a taxi is certainly the quickest and most convenient way to reach Marrakech from the airport. Creamy-beige petits taxis (local taxis permitted to transport up to four passengers) are abundant and you can hail taxis on the street or from a taxi rank. 

Although petits taxis are obligated to charge you based on a metered price, they will always be reluctant to do so. Taxi scams are very prevalent in Marrakech. So before you get into a taxi, always insist on using the meter or agree on a price beforehand.

Most trips cost around 10-20 MAD and slightly more at night with a 50 percent surcharge. To avoid confusion with the driver or being scammed, clearly mark down the name and address of your destination on a piece of paper.

Things to do in Marrakech

While there is a substantial amount of great things to do in Marrakech the major attraction here is the city itself. Marrakech offers a complete sensory experience that is immediately captivating and thrilling.

Whether your interests lie in architecture, museum hopping, eating, shopping, getting your adrenaline racing, or just chilling in the gardens, there’s something to do for everyone in Marrakech.

Below we have compiled a list (in no particular order) of the best things to see and do in Marrakech.

  1. Get Lost in the Serpentine Alleyways of the Medina
  2. Go Through a Sensory Overload at Jemaa El Fna
  3. Make a Beeline For the Saadian Tombs
  4. Admire the Intricate Interiors of the Bahia Palace
  5. Go Shopping in the Souks
  6. Gaze in Wide Wonder at the Medersa Ben Youssef
  7. Admire the Koutoubia Mosque
  8. Take a Stroll Through Guéliz
  9. Check Out the Salons of the Dar Si Said Museum
  10. Feast on Some Delectable Moroccan Food & Take a Cooking Class
  11. Survey the City Walls and Gates
  12. Pamper Yourself with a Visit to a Hammam
  13. Meander Through the Lovely Majorelle Garden
  14. Marvel at the collection of the Photography Museum
  15. Explore the Mellah
  16. Visit the Ruins of the El Badi Palace
  17. Unwind By Drinking Moroccan Green Mint Tea
  18. Stay at a Traditional Riad
  19. Get A Glimpse of the Almoravid Koubba

1. Get Lost in the Serpentine Alleyways of the Medina

Marrakech: People walking on a street in the medina . PC: byvalet/Shutterstock.com

The medina is the old walled city of Marrakech which contains the bulk of the attractions, the souks, and riads. It is a beguiling warren of narrow, tightly packed alleyways and derbs (dead ends) enclosed by 19-kilometers of salmon-pink walls dating back to the 12th century.

If you see it from the air, the Marrakech medina, which is home to about 200,000 people, resembles a human honeycomb. It also seems to host the same number of tourists.

The medina has been the breeding ground for royals, international commerce, and cultural activities. Passing through the medina is like entering a time warp and diving into this exotic quarter is a must-do for any visitor.

Marrakech: Lovely view of potted plants in a quiet alley in the medina

The explosion of contorting alleyways of the medina is seemingly designed to confuse visitors, but getting lost is part of the fun—you never know what might lie around the next corner. 

As you stroll through its labyrinthine streets, you’ll notice that the medina has remained virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages, hiding palaces, mansions, and bazaars.

One or two alleys won’t do, be sure to invest a little more time here to uncover the unique elements of architecture and city life. With each new alley, you explore, you can be certain to encounter new sights and scents.

2. Go Through a Sensory Overload at Jemaa El Fna

Marrakech: View of the famous Jemaa el Fna at night

Arguably the best of all the interesting things to do in Marrakech, a visit to the fascinating Jemaa el Fna is a visit like no other.

This carnivalesque open square at the center of the medina is the pulsating heart of Marrakech where medieval and modern blend comfortably on a daily basis to play host to one of the most fascinating sensory spectacles in the world.

During the day Jemaa el Fna is at its least frenetic and is largely filled with just a few troupes of snake charmers, monkey handlers, water sellers, storytellers, acrobats, orange juice vendors, metal castanet-clanging musicians, and henna artists.

Marrakech: A crowd of people listening intently to a storyteller at Jemaa el Fna in the evening

The best time to visit Jemaa el Fnaa for photographs is when dusk falls. The square becomes a circus with itinerant musicians and entertainers drawing excitable crowds.

Musicians, transvestite dancers, fortune-tellers, herbalists, jugglers, boxers, clowns, and street entertainers create a cacophony of hoots, cackles, and wails.

Strolling around Jemaa el Fna can be a fun experience, but it can also be quite overwhelming (I know both Jacky and I felt that way on our first visit to the square). If you want a respite from the din, you can move over to one of the rooftop terraces surrounding the square.

The most unsavory and abhorrent aspect about Jemaa el Fna for me was seeing chained monkeys wearing nappies being paraded around by hawkers. Equally revolting was seeing snakes being coerced into performing for music for tourist cash.

Please be a responsible traveler and skip all performers using live animals as the exploitation of animals for entertainment purposes is downright cruel and the onus lies on us to refuse to partake in such egregious activities! 

Marrakech: A water seller dressed in a traditional colorful outfit at Jemaa le Fna. PC: Daniel M. Cisilino - Dreamstime.com

Instead, focus on the more unusual entertainment spectacles such as self-proclaimed “dentists”, who display their most recent extractions in neat piles as some sort of assurance.

There is also a certain intrigue in seeing the remedies of the herbalists, with their bizarre concoctions spread out before them. You also can’t fail to notice the water-sellers, roaming the square with their colorful wide-brim hats, studded leather girdles, and necklaces of polished brass cups.

Insider Tip

When strolling through Jemaa el Fna or Marrakech in general, remember to take photographs responsibly. Don’t go shoving your camera or phone into people’s faces haphazardly assuming they’ll be happy to have their photos taken—women especially. From my experience, most Moroccans are averse to having their photo taken and will generally make it known they don’t want to be clicked. Always ask permission before taking people’s photographs, and be aware that some locals, such as the water-sellers or street or musicians on the Jemaa el Fna, will expect payment in return for that perfect snap.

Marrakech: People dining at a food stall stocked with grilled meats at Jemaa el Fna. PC: Markpittimages - Dreamstime.com

In the evening Jemaa el Fna transforms into a huge open-air dining area. Makeshift stalls with gas lanterns cram the square and the air fills up with aromatic smells and plumes of cooking smoke. The variety of food is vast with spicy merguez sausages, grilled meats, tajines, salads, harira soup, and fried fish on offer. 

For the more daring traveler, Marrakech specialties such as snails in a spicy broth, sheep’s brains, skewered hearts, and goat’s heads complete with teeth and eyes are also on offer. I tried and surprisingly enjoyed the snails but balked at the prospect of eating animal organs.

The quality of the food varies but eating here is not about the food, it’s about soaking up the atmosphere in one of the most unique venues in the world.

3. Make a Beeline For the Saadian Tombs

Things to do in Marrakech: Beautifully decorated interior of the Saadian Tombs

No list of things to do in Marrakech would be complete without the splendid Saadian Tombs which constitute some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in Morocco.

The 66 royal tombs that are housed here date from the late-16th and early-17th centuries house the mortal remains of the Saadian Dynasty, which ruled Morocco from 1549 to 1659. The tombs were sealed off and hidden shortly after the fall of the dynasty and remained neglected for more than two centuries.

Modest in size the complex is beautifully decorated in the Alhambra style with plenty of carved cedar, stucco, and polychromic tiling. The tombs consist of two main mausoleums that are ranged around a small garden.

The mausoleum on the left as you come in is the finest – a beautiful group of three rooms, built to house Ahmed el Mansour’s own tomb and completed within his lifetime. The first chamber, originally intended as a place of prayer, now contains tombs.

The room is divided into three aisles by white marble columns. Fine mosaic tiling and the mihrab (a niche in a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca), with its pointed horseshoe arch, provide an elegant setting.

Marrakech: Lavish moorish interior of the stunning Hall of Twelve Columns of Saadian Tombs. PC: Checco - Dreamstime.com

The pièce de résistance is the stunning Hall of Twelve Columns, which contains the tombs of Ahmed el Mansour and his family.

The hall itself is a great masterpiece of Moorish architecture—dark, lavish, with a huge vaulted roof lined with gold-leaf decoration. Being architecture lovers, both Jacky and I were completely bowled over by its alluring beauty!

The walls are completely covered—,the upper section by a riot of stucco work and the lower section by an interlacing pattern of glazed tiles. The ivory-colored graves are beautifully designed and made from the striking Carrara marble that is particular to Italy, as are the 12 columns.

Insider Tip

Try and visit the Saadian Tombs early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. The late afternoon is certainly the best time for photography as the marble work takes on a golden hue in the light.

Marrakech: Elaborate gravestones in the garden of the Saadian Tombs.

The other mausoleum, older and more modest, consists of a room with two loggias and a prayer hall. Outside, the serene garden has countless headstones dotted among the bushes.

These mark the tombs of several children, attendants, and guards, and the sentry. Their gravestones are brilliantly tiled and often elaborately inscribed, similar to the privileged 66 given space within the mausoleums.

The Saadian Tombs are definitely worth the visit. Opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 09:30-12:00 and 14:30-18:00. The entrance fee is 70 MAD.

4. Admire the Intricate Interiors of the Bahia Palace

Marrakech: Elaborate tiled courtyard of the Bahia Palace

Arguably the most beautiful palace in Marrakech, the wonderful Bahia Palace is one of the city’s best tourist attractions. This palace, whose name means “Palace of the Favourite”, was built by two powerful grand viziers – Si Moussa, a former slave who had risen to become a vizier, and his son Ba Ahmed at the end of the 19th century.

The Bahia Palace complex consists of two sections, each built at different times. In total, the palace has a total of 150 rooms, only a fraction of which can be seen by the public – a stunning display of the period’s faux Moorish-style decoration, using the very finest Moroccan craftsmen.

The complex of reception rooms, courtyards, and gardens contains little in the way of furniture. The ruling sultan, Abdel Aziz, was so envious of the glory and riches of the Bahia that on the vizier’s death he commanded the palace be stripped and marauded.

However, the decoration is lavish, with zellij tiling, sculpted stucco, cedar-wood ceilings painted with colorful floral patterns and arabesques, along with the carved and painted wooden canopies of major doorways.

Marrakech: The elaborate Grand Courtyard of the Bahia Palace

The Grand Courtyard is one of the most impressive parts of the palace. Measuring 50 by 30 meters, it is paved with Italian Carrara marble and surrounded by an elegant and colorful wooden gallery trimmed in perky blue and yellow.

This gallery gives access to some 80 rooms which are believed to have been part of Ba Ahmed’s harem and the residences of his concubine.

Marrakech: Intricate marquetry and woven-silk panels of the ceilings in Bahia Palace

The most fascinating part of the Bahia Palace for Jacky and myself were the private quarters of Lalla Zineb, Bou Ahmed’s first wife. We were mesmerized by the intricate marquetry, woven-silk panels, carved stucco, and stained-glass windows. Crane your neck to see the sublime ceiling of dazzling and colorful patterns painted with rose bouquets.

Don’t skip a chance to see the Bahia Palace. It is open daily from 09.00-16:30. The entrance costs 10 MAD. Try to come in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.

Fun Fact

For decades, Marrakech’s hotels have featured in many well-known Hollywood productions. Among movies filmed in the hotels of Marrkech are Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (at the legendary La Mamounia Hotel), 2010’s Sex and the City 2 (at the Sahara Palace), and 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (filmed at the Selman Hotel).

5. Go Shopping in the Souks

Things to see in Marrakech: People in Souk Semmarine. PC: Petrajz - Dreamstime.com

North of the Jemaa el Fna, the souks of Marrakech are among the finest in the Islamic world, a labyrinth of narrow streets, partially roofed with makeshift mats piled high with a wonder of arts, crafts, and workshops.

Naturally, a trip to the souks is a must as it is part history lesson, part self-restraint test – to see how long you can keep your wallet in your pocket. The souks are also some of the best places to purchase souvenirs in Marrakech.

One of the most interesting souks is Souk Smata. Every shop and stall here sells nothing but pointy-toed slippers known as babouches made from the finest calf- and goatskin.

The shop owners here seem to be friendlier and more honest with pricing than in other souks. I found the slippers extremely hard to resist due to their vivid colors and intricate embroidery.

Marrakech: Illuminated lanterns in Souk Haddadine, the blacksmith's souk. PC: Petr Švec - Dreamstime.com

North of Souk Smata is Souk Haddadine, the blacksmiths’ souk. This was one of my favorite souks and makes its presence felt through the deafening noise of incessant hammering and clanging. Massive amounts of magical lanterns are strung in virtually every shop, giving the entire souk a fairy-tale appearance.

Watching the workers tirelessly bashing hot metal and shaping it into a range of everyday items such as trays, kitchen utensils, lanterns, wrought-iron grilles, locks, and keys will keep you enthralled.

Insider Tip: Haggling

Haggling is an intrinsic part of Moroccan culture, which tourists to Morocco either enjoy or loathe to such an extent that they forego shopping altogether. There are no hard-and-fast rules to this mind-game, other than never start bargaining for something unless you have a genuine interest in purchasing it. In Morocco, asking the price of an item is tantamount to agreeing to buy it, and time-wasters incur the wrath of sellers. Start your negotiations well below the asking price (a third is often advised).

If leather goods are what you crave, head to Souk Cherratin which is full of little shops overflowing with leather bags, belts, purses, and wallets. Rugs and carpets are an important feature of Marrakech’s traditional heritage.

Souk Zrabia specializes in rugs and carpets, and if you have the time and endurance you could easily spend the best part of a day here gawking at the bright, geometric designs. 

Must-see Marrakech: Colorful pyramid-shaped mounds of spices in the souks. PC: Viajamochileando - Dreamstime.com

Last but not least, don’t forget to check out Souk El Attarine—the famous spice and perfume souk. Here, you’ll be overcome by a vibrant mix of colors and aromas, with large vats piled high with exotic spices.

Spices in Marrakech souks are arranged in pyramid-shaped mounds. It is the perfect place to take more Instagram-worthy pictures in Marrakech.

If you are staying in Marrakech for a couple of days, I’d advise you to see the souks in parts on separate days by singling out a couple of specific crafts or products to see.

This a good way of taking them in, rather than being inundated on the back of one visit. The best times to visit are in the early morning and late afternoon.

6. Gaze in Wide Wonder at the Medersa Ben Youssef

Marrakech: Splendid marble tiled courtyard of the Medersa Ben Youssef

When visiting Marrakech, don’t pass up the chance to see Medersa Ben Youssef, an extraordinarily well-preserved 16th-century Koranic school. It was once of the finest and the largest religious schools in the Maghreb. Nearly 900 students from around the world studied here until the medersa fell out of use in the 1960s. 

The medersa was rebuilt by the Saadian sultan Moulay Abdallah in the 16th century having originally been founded by the Merinid sultan Abou El-Hassan in the mid-14th century. One of Marrakech’s most important Islamic monuments, it remains today among the region’s most splendid examples of Islamic art.

As is customary in Islamic architecture, the medersa’s austere exterior walls give no hint of the staggering ornamentation inside. Similar to the Saadian Tombs, no surface is left undecorated, and the stellar quality of its craftsmanship bears testament to the Saadian dynasty’s attention to detail.

In keeping with Islamic ordinance, representations of living creatures are notable for their absence. Instead, intricate geometric and floral motifs are repeated in mesmerizing patterns, an effect designed to focus the mind on the infinite power and purpose of God.

Marrakech: Beautiful blonde woman posing for a photo in the carved stucco archway of Ben Youssef Medersa

At the heart of the medersa is a light-filled marble courtyard with sturdy arcades down two sides, a rectangular ablutions pool in the middle, and a prayer hall. The profusion of zellij tilework coupled with carved stucco archways is simply a joy to behold.

Nothing beats to have a photograph or selfie taken in one of the windows or against a tiled backdrop that says “Here I am in Marrakech.”

Fun Fact

The Medersa Ben Youssef appears in the 1998 drama film “Hideous Kinky” starring Kate Winslet and is an account of a young English ‘hippy’ mother and her two daughters living in Marrakech in the early 1970s.

Marrakech: A furnished student's dormitory in Medersa Ben Youssef

Around the edge of the courtyard on both levels are the students’ dormitory quarters, 132 cells that would have been shared. The cells can be inspected (two have been furnished as they might have been at the time) and some of the upper-level cells offer slight but atmospheric views of the courtyard below.

When you see how small they are, you can’t help but fathom how nearly 900 students were once housed in the building.

Marrakech: Elaborately decorated prayer hall of Medersa Ben Youssef

Another highlight of the Medersa Ben Youssef is the elaborately decorated prayer hall, which has an octagonal cedar-domed roof supported by Italian Carrara marble columns.

The carved stucco mihrab is adorned with intertwining foliage, pine cones, and verses from the Koran in calligraphic script. There’s plenty of light in the hall due to the 24 small mosaic windows.

The Medersa Ben Youssef is open daily from 09:00-18:00. The entrance costs 10 MAD.

7. Admire the Koutoubia Mosque

Marrakech: Illuminated minaret of the soaring Koutoubia Mosque in the evening

About 300 meters west of Jemaa el Fna is Marrakech’s most prominent landmark, the Koutoubia Mosque. Like two sides of the same coin – one sacred, one profane – the Koutoubia Mosque and the Jemaa el Fna together embody the spirit of Marrakech.

The mosque lies on the site of a former Almoravid dynasty mosque and was constructed in the 12th century by the mighty Andalusian-conquering Almohad dynasty.

Koutoubia’s minaret is its most prominent feature. Standing like a sentinel, it is over 70 meters tall and visible for miles on a clear morning. The minaret’s proportions obey the canons of Almohad architecture: its height equals five times its width.

Such is its architectural influence that it later served as the prototype for the Giralda in Seville, as well as for the Hassan Tower in Rabat.

Each side of the minaret has a different decorative pattern. Common to all are floral motifs, arabesques, inscriptions, bands of molded terracotta, and windows with festooned arches. The minaret is topped by a finial of gilded copper balls, decreasing in size towards the top.

Local legend has it that they were once made from pure gold and that the balls were ‘gifted’ to the mosque by the wife of the Almohad Caliph Ya’qub al-Mansur as atonement for breaking her fast one day during Ramadan.

Insider Tip

Come once during the day to photograph the minaret against a backdrop of blue sky, and then again after sunset when the minaret is especially stunning when floodlit each night.

Unfortunately, as with nearly all mosques and shrines in Morocco, non-Muslims are barred from entering the Koutoubia Mosque.

However, this shouldn’t deter you from enjoying the palm-tree-studded Koutoubia Gardens, attractively laid out with pools and fountains, colorful roses, orange trees. The gardens are perfect for a short stroll and accord excellent views of the Koutoubia Mosque.

8. Take a Stroll Through Guéliz

Marrakech: Modern apartment complexes in the neighborhood of Gueliz (New Town). PC: Ben Bender, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Taking its name from the hill that rises above it, Guéliz is the New Town and the heart of modern Marrakech. The wide Avenue Mohammed V, its main thoroughfare, runs all the way down to the Koutoubia Mosque, and it’s on and around this boulevard that you’ll find the most of the interesting things.

Although lacking in specific sights, Guéliz has spacious boulevards, parks, French-style cafés, and smart boutiques, which make a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the medina.

If you’re looking to kill some time people-watching or sinking your teeth into a vacation read, there are far fewer hassles with mendicants and touts, making this an ideal spot to chill or meet up with mates.

Guéliz was laid out with the arrival of the French in the early 20th century. The new colonial masters built their own quarter as they preferred to live away from the medina where the local Moroccans lived.

Despite the number of modern buildings, a few vestiges of the French colonial influence are still evident in some of Guéliz’s architecture. Of course, the majority of the structures in Guéliz are now contemporary Arabian-style buildings with vast expanses of tinted plate glass.

9. Check Out the Salons of the Dar Si Said Museum

Marrakech: Elaborate marble tiled courtyard of the Dar Si Said Museum

One of the major points of interest in Marrakech, the Dar Si Said Museum has an excellent collection of antique Moroccan artifacts and crafts. The museum occupies a particularly impressive riad, built in the 19th century by Si Said, brother to Vizier Bou Ahmed of Bahia Palace fame. 

Though modest in size compared to the Bahia Palace, the central building is arranged around courtyards with graceful arcades. Home to the Museum of Moroccan Arts since 1932, Dar Si Said’s collections are laid out thematically on three levels.

Exhibits scattered around the labyrinthine ground floor include an impressive selection of Moroccan artifacts – ornately carved wooden panels and painted Berber doors; old Qurans and antique leatherwork bags; a fascinating display of Berber daggers; jewelry made of amber, ivory, and silver; and brightly colored traditional clothes and fabrics. 

Besides the exhibits, it’s the building itself that really warrants a close look. Winding corridors eventually lead to a central courtyard that is filled with flowers and cypress trees. It is furnished with a beautifully tiled fountain set beneath a painted wooden gazebo and gorgeously painted and tiled doors to all four sides. 

Marrakech: The 11th century decorative ablutions basin in Dar Si Said Museum. PC: Robert Prazeres, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t forget to see Dar Si Said’s oldest and most prized artifact—an early 11th-century rectangular basin for ablutions carved in Cordoba from a single block of marble. It was brought to Morocco from Islamic Spain by the pious Almoravid Caliph in spite of its decorative eagles and griffins, which defy the Koran’s prohibition of artistic representations of living things.

What is even more bewildering is that it was left unsullied by the Almoravid dynasty’s equally iconoclastic successors, the Almohads.

Take the stairs that lead up to the sumptuous Reception Room. A highlight of a jewel of Moorish design, its cedar dome, zellij tiles, and a stucco frieze are a bewitching sight. The upper floor is home to a selection of traditional wedding palanquins and assorted village carpets.

Marrakech: Intricately woven carpets in the Dar Si Said Museum. PC: Oleksandr Tkachenko - Dreamstime.com

The collection of carpets is top-notch and there is good information about the provenance, weaving methods, and style of each piece. There are also some interesting display cabinets with silverwork and intricate wooden boxes.

The Dar Si Said Museum totally warrants a visit. The museum is open daily from 09.00-12:00 and 15:00-18:00. The entrance costs 70 MAD.

10. Feast on Some Delectable Moroccan Food & Take a Cooking Class

Tasting some authentic Moroccan cuisine is one of the best things to do in Marrakech. This was one of the things I was looking forward to the most before my trip and it didn’t disappoint. Moroccan cuisine is a reflection of the country’s

colorful history, with strong influences from Africa, Arabia, and the Mediterranean. This coupled with the culinary traditions of both its Arab and Berber inhabitants lays the foundation for some of the best nosh in the world.

Moroccan cooking is strongly characterized by the use of flavorsome spices. Spices such as cayenne, saffron, chilies, cinnamon, turmeric, parsley, ginger, cumin, paprika, and black pepper all play a key role in Moroccan cuisine. Here are some of the Moroccan dishes that you should consider eating while in Marrakech:

Harira: a comforting Moroccan soup of lamb, lentils, chickpeas, beans that is spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, turmeric, and coriander. During Ramadan, harira is often served at dusk to break the fast. It is delicious and I recommend a squeeze of lemon to add a little zing to the taste.

Moroccan Cuisine: Kefta tajine of meatballs and gravy

Tajine: a slow-cooked stew or casserole traditionally cooked over a smoldering charcoal fire in a distinctive earthenware pot with a conical lid in which it is cooked, which is also called a tagine and from where the dish gets its name.

A distinctive hallmark of Moroccan cuisine is the blending of savory with sweet and tajines typically combine meat with fruits with sensational results. In my opinion, this is undoubtedly the best Moroccan dish.

Tajines come in many mouth-watering flavors including lamb with prunes and almonds, chicken with preserved lemons and olives, beef with quinces, spicy minced meatballs that are slow-cooked in a rich tomato sauce (Kefta tajine), but can consist of just vegetables. 

Tanjia: Not to be confused with the ubiquitous tagine, tanjia is the signature dish of Marrakech. Just like tagine, tanjia owes its name to the earthenware vessel in which it is prepared. It’s often cooked in a terracotta urn with large cuts of beef, mutton, or lamb and ingredients such as saffron, cumin, garlic, and lemon.

Once the urn is filled, it’s placed in the furnace of the local hammam, on the coals. Marrakchis leave it there all to slowly cook for a few hours to obtain tender meat.

Morrocan food: Couscous served with lamb and carrots

Couscous: In the restaurant scene, the once-ubiquitous couscous has been displaced by the more versatile tajine in terms of popularity, but it is the Moroccan national dish and remains a firm favorite in Moroccan homes. Couscous is basically hand-rolled semolina grain steamed until plump and fluffy.

It is generally topped with a stew of chicken or lamb, chickpeas, courgettes, turnips, tomatoes, and carrots. I assure you, no matter how many times you’ve eaten couscous before it just tastes so damn better in Morocco.

Moroccan food: Pastilla, a savory crispy pie filled with shredded pigeon and topped with almonds

Pastilla: a sweet and savory crispy pie traditionally filled with shredded pigeon (though chicken and fish are now increasingly used), egg, crushed almonds, and raisins. The mixture is enclosed in a filo-like pastry called warkha, which is topped with lemon, sugar, saffron, and cinnamon.

A festive dish, it is prepared for great dinners and wedding ceremonies. I really liked pastilla and indulged in many helpings of it.

Moroccan food: Chebakia coated with honey syrup and sesame

Moroccans are famed for their sweet tooth and there is a motley of fantastic sweets and desserts worth trying. Some of the best Moroccan sweets are sfenj—a deep-fried Moroccan doughnut, and chebakia— a Moroccan cookie or pretzel which is made of strips of dough shaped into a flower, deep-fried until golden, then coated with honey syrup and sesame.

Chebakia’s chewy, crunchy texture makes it a favorite in Moroccan households throughout the year but it is most enjoyed during Ramadan. 

If you’re really interested in Moroccan cuisine, you should consider taking one of the fantastic cooking courses on offer. Besides meeting interesting new people, cooking classes are a great way to get an insight into the local history and culture.

You also learn about ingredients native to the region and also the local eating etiquette. Naturally, you’ll get to eat loads of delicious food along the way! Jacky and I had a very memorable experience on our cooking course and would strongly recommend signing up for one.

11. Survey the City Walls and Gates

Marrakech: The pinkish-red city walls of Marrakech

The Marrakech medina’s amazingly well-preserved walls measure about 10 meters high and are 19 km in circumference. The walls date back to the early 12th century when, under threat of attack from the Almohads of the south, the ruling Almoravid emir, Ali Ben Youssef decided to encircle his garrison town with fortifications.

Until the early 20th century, prior to the French protectorate, the gates were closed at night to prevent anyone who didn’t live in Marrakech from entering.

The walls are built from pisé (a blend of mud, straw, and lime), which becomes as hard as brick on drying. The distinctive pinkish-red hue of the walls is a result of pigments in the local earth and has earned Marrakech the epithets “Red City” or “Ochre City”.

On your way around, notice the holes that pierce large sections of the walls and gates. Although these look like loopholes through which weapons could have been fired, they were in fact designed to allow refreshing breezes to blow through the walls into the city within.

The wall includes a series of gates that provide fortified points of entry and exit. Eight of the 12 original babs (arched entry gates) leading in and out of the medina are still in use. Some of the well-known gates are Bab el Khemis, Bab Aghmat, and Bab Aylen, Bab el-Khemis, and Bab el-Robb.

Marrakech City Gates: The lovely Bab Agnaou entry gate

The loveliest and best preserved of the arches in the medina is undoubtedly Bab Agnaou. This monumental gate, whose name means “hornless black ram” in Berber, marked the main entrance to the Almohad palace, and its function was hence primarily decorative.

Its impressive sculpted façade consists of alternating layers of stone and brick surrounding a horseshoe arch. Tinges of red with tones of greyish-blue can be found in the sandstone.

Insider Tip

The best time to visit the walls is in the early morning or just before sunset. Their warm ochre color changes according to the hour of the day and the intensity of the light. Personally, I think the walls look best in the evening when they take on an almost rust-colored hue and are also illuminated.

12. Pamper Yourself with a Visit to a Hammam

When wanting to unwind while sightseeing in Marrakech, nothing is more revitalizing than a steam and scrub at a hammam, a Moroccan bathhouse. A soak and scrub at the hammam is an age-old ritual of Moroccan life and a quintessential experience.

Trust me, after a long day of sightseeing along Marrakech’s dusty streets, a good scrubbing will rid you of all the city grime, making you fresher and more invigorated than ever before!

Until fairly recently, only the wealthiest Moroccan homes had a properly equipped bathroom, and this is often the only place to get clean for those households that still lack running water. Although bathrooms are way more common nowadays, most Moroccans go to their local hammam, partly for the deep-pore cleansing that home showers don’t provide, but also for catching up on the latest gossip.

There’s also a strong religious and spiritual connotation attached to the hammam, with many Muslims cleansing themselves here before their ritual prayers.

Hammams usually include three steam rooms of increasing temperatures and are separated by gender. Public hammams are strictly segregated—some may be men- or women-only, or have separate entrances, while others are open to certain sexes at certain hours or on separate days.

Regardless of which hammam you choose, the ritual is fairly the same. Once in your hammam attire, head into the steam rooms, find a spot to sit down, and begin the process of opening the pores through sweating. Then, the resident masseur will douse you in warm water, along with Moroccan black soap—a greenish-black gel made from olive oil and macerated olives. 

The attendant will then rinse you off, give you a good pummelling, and scrub you with a kessa (coarse scrubbing mitt) to remove the dead skin. Beware, this isn’t a delicate procedure, so use the word “bshwiya” if you want your attendant to be more gentle.

After you’re done, relax afterward in the cool room.  At the end of it all, you’ll come out looking as good as a shiny newborn baby. Hammam treatments typically last for about 45 minutes.

There are dozens of hammams to choose from, from the traditional public neighborhood hammams to the upmarket spa-style hammams. For a private hammam, you’ll only need to pack clothes to change into after your session.

Visiting a public hammam will be cheaper, but you will have to bring your own kit, which includes a scrubbing mitt, soap, brush, shampoo, towel, sandals, a change of clothes, and a towel to dry off with. 

A visit to a public hammam will cost 10-100 MAD (depending on the hammam),. Expect to pay anywhere between 250-600 MAD at a mid-range hammam while luxury hammams easily cost upwards of 1000 MAD.

Based on our experience and information we’ve been able to glean the following are the best hammams and spas in Marrakech—Les Bains de Marrakech, Hammam Dar el-Bacha (city’s largest traditional public hammam), Hammam Mouassine, Hammam Rosa Bonheur, Les Bains D’Orient, and Royal Mansour.

If you want the authentic hammam experience with all the locals, rather than the one polished up for the tourists, stick to a public hammam.

13. Meander Through the Lovely Majorelle Garden

Marrakech. Lily-covered ponds and palm trees in the Majorelle Garden

The beautiful Majorelle Garden is like a small psychedelic oasis in the heart of the new town and is undoubtedly one of the must-see attractions in Marrakech. This small botanical garden was founded in the 1920s by French artist Jacques Majorelle and reflects his affection for contrast and strong color.

It took a period of nearly 40 years for the garden to take form, with plants sourced from all over the world. After Majorelle’s passing in 1962, the garden fell into disrepair until it was salvaged from ruin by French designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Marrakech: Inside the lovely Majorelle Garden

The garden has been masterfully restored and is divided by four walkways to create parterres of brightly colored tropical flowers. The feeling of tranquillity is enhanced by the verdant bamboo thickets, giant ferns, palm trees, huge cacti, and lily-covered pools. Most magnificent of all is the flowering masses of red and purple bougainvillea. 

An electrifying shade of cobalt blue—the color of French workmen’s overalls (so Majorelle claimed) is used abundantly throughout the garden. Inspired by the Berber homes of southern Morocco, it is most famously on Majorelle’s former studio.

Marrakech Majorelle Garden: The brilliant cobalt-blue coloured villa among the trees

This brilliant cobalt-blue pavilion perfectly offsets the terracotta paths, pots, and pergolas. The drenched colors, shady pools, and graphic shapes are reminiscent of an Impressionist painting, making the Majorelle Garden one of the most Instagrammable places in Marrakech.

Insider Tip

The best time to visit Majorelle Garden for photographs is in the afternoon when the light is ideal for snaps.

The studio has been converted into a small Berber museum that contains a collection of Berber crafts and artifacts such as antique carpets, textiles, ceramics, Berber jewelry, and fine embroidery. The highlight of the museum is definitely the beautifully carved wooden doors and ceilings.

Do not miss out on a chance to visit the Majorelle Garden! It is open daily from 09:00-18:00. The cost of admission is 100 MAD.

14. Marvel at the collection of the Photography Museum

Marrakech museums: Interior of the Photography Museum. PC: saiko3p/Shutterstock.com

If you’re big on photography and are looking for things to do in Marrakech, don’t skip the Photography Museum at all costs. This museum features a private collection of more than 8000 photographs, this collection is only about Morocco and covers the period 1870 to 1950.

These photographs not only invite you on a journey back into the past of Marrakech but also document the social, cultural, and technological changes in Morocco. 

Set in a traditional riad in the medina, the museum is spread over three levels. The ground floor’s rear salon contains the museum’s oldest photos depicting various Moroccan scenes and landmarks.

The historic photographs reflect not only the Moroccan life of the past, but they also offer key insights into the history and technical development of photography.

I particularly enjoyed the portraits of Moroccan men and women through the ages. The chambers on the first floor surrounding the balcony showcase some excellent younger works of Moroccan photography, those from the early to the mid-20th century.

Don’t forget to check out the short 1957 documentary Chez Les Berbères du Haut-Atlas, by Daniel Chicault, which gives a fascinating insight into rural Berber life from that era. This marked the first time that the Berbers were filmed in color and the scenes, even if you don’t understand French, are astonishing.

Finally, don’t forget to check out the museum’s rooftop terrace which offers tasty Moroccan cuisine and sublime city and mountain views.

The Photography Museum is open daily from 09:30-19:00. The price of admission is 50 MAD.

15. Explore the Mellah

Marrakech Mellah: Interior of the Slat al-Azama Synagogue. PC: Jaroslav A. Polak/Shutterstock.com

If you’re looking for some offbeat things to do in Marrakech, you should definitely head to the mellah, the city’s intriguing former Jewish Quarter (once a small, walled-off city within the city). The Saadian Sultanate established the mellah in the mid-16th century.

At the time, the Jewish community was a vital financial resource and was in charge of most of the Saadian Sultanate’s key sugar and salt trade and comprised the majority of Marrakech’s bankers, tailors, goldsmiths, and metalworkers. 

The Mellah enjoyed significant autonomy during its zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries with its own fountains, gardens, synagogues, and even souks. Under their dhimmi status, Jews were not allowed to own property outside the mellah until the arrival of the French in 1912, so all expansion took place within its walls.

In the mid-20th century, with the establishment of Israel and the end of the French protectorate, there was an exodus of Jews to France, and Israel and only a handful of Jews remain in Marrakech today. Although the mellah is now almost entirely Muslim, it still contains vestiges of its once-vibrant Jewish community.

Stroll around to see the faded grandeur of the houses and balconies, many of which are decorated in stucco and zellij designs. Notice how the mud-brick houses are a little taller and the streets are narrower than the ones in the other parts of the medina. 

The mellah is home to the Slat al-Azama Synagogue which has been around since the end of the 15th century having been founded by Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain. It is a functioning synagogue and is still used for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Marrakech Mellah: Beautiful blue-tiled interior of the Slat al-Azama Synagogue. PC: EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

Though the interior is nothing special (except the oriental style carpets, the Star of David motif, and the gold and brass fixtures), the synagogue has a pretty, blue-tile inner courtyard. Other rooms contain evocative photographs charting the history of the mellah and present a fascinating tableau of the Jews in Morocco to the present day.

The Slat al-Azama Synagogue is open from 09:00-18:00 (Sunday-Thursday) and 09:00-16:00 (Friday). The admission costs 10 MAD.

Marrakech Mellah: Rows of whitewashed graves in the Miara Cemetery. PC: posztos/Shutterstock.com

About 200 meters east of the synagogue is the Miara Cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco. A blinding mass of whitewashed graves dating from the beginning of the mellah itself are spread across the sprawling cemetery.

Some of the gravestones have been built with scripts carved in Hebrew, while others are undecorated with candleholders. It is both serene and eerie at the same time.

The Miara Cemetery is open daily. It is customary to leave a small donation (10-20 MAD) for the caretaker.

16. Visit the Ruins of the El Badi Palace

Mararkech: The vast ruins of the El Badi Palace on a sunny day

The 16th-century El Badi Palace was said to be among the most grandiose palaces ever built. Carrara marble, Indian onyx, crystal, and coverings of gold leaf decorated the walls and the ceilings of its 360 rooms.

It survived for barely a century and in 1683, Moulay Ismail, the second sultan of the current Alaouite dynasty, demolished the palace and stripped it bare (a procedure that itself took 12 years) and carted the riches to furnish his own vast palace in Meknès. All that remains today are the denuded mudbrick ruins.

The palace was commissioned by the Saadian sultan Ahmed el Mansour and took 25 years to complete. It was used as a mammoth showpiece for opulent receptions and audiences with foreign ambassadors.

Though significantly in ruins, and reduced throughout to its red pisé walls, an aura of luxury and grandeur still lingers. The most notable features are the vast central courtyard, over 130m long and nearly as wide, and what remains of its once-famous sunken gardens, ingeniously irrigated by pools. 

Marrakech: Storks nesting on the crumbling walls of the El Badi Palace

Today, the most endearing feature of El Badi Palace is the presence of nesting storks that police the protrusions in its crumbling walls.

Considered sacred, an old Berber belief has it that storks are actually transformed humans. Don’t hesitate to climb the walls to have one of the best views of Marrakech.

Insider Tip

The El Badi Palace complex is a vast sight with very little shelter, so it’s generally best not to visit in the heat of the afternoon. It’s also handy to bring some bottled water.

Marrakech: Man walking in an underground corridor of the El Badi Palace

Remember to check out the series of underground corridors and dungeons along the southern wall of the palace. The chambers are only partially lit lending it a calm, mystical place and slightly spooky feel.

The El Badi Palace is open daily from 09.00-17:00. The entrance costs 70 MAD.

17. Unwind By Drinking Moroccan Green Mint Tea

Traditional Moroccan mint tea in ornamental glasses beside a silver teapot

Sightseeing in Marrakech can get wearisome and overwhelming at times. To overcome this burden, the best elixir (besides a visit to the hammams) is drinking loads of Moroccan green mint tea, the country’s national drink.

Tea is as much an institution amongst Moroccans as it is for the Turks, Indians, or British. Drinking tea has become one of the most ubiquitous aspects of Moroccan social and business life.

The thirst-quenching drink is prepared in distinctive silver-colored teapots by mixing Chinese gunpowder green tea with sprigs of mint and varying amounts of sugar.

The technique of pouring is almost as crucial as the drink itself and the tea is poured from a height to cool and aerate the hot liquid into slender glasses decorated with a gold or colored filigree ornamentation.

Being a tea-lover myself, I must have helped myself to at least five cups a day for detoxifying and relaxing.

18. Stay at a Traditional Riad

Morocco riad: Decorative interior courtyard of a traditional riad. PC: Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock.com

Why bother booking a humdrum and charmless stay at a run-of-the-mill hotel when you have so many atmospheric riads in Marrakech at your disposal.

In contrast to checking in a large hotel, staying in a riad is a more unique and culturally rewarding experience. A riad is a traditional Moroccan dwelling with an interior garden or courtyard. In Arabic, the word riad literally translates to “garden”. 

Riads typically have no windows onto the street outside, and all windows instead open inward to an open-air central courtyard. They still retain much of their original decorative and structural elements including colorful zellij tiles, antique furnishings, silky tadelakt walls, painted cedar wood ceilings, and arched colonnades.

When staying at a riad, you can rest in the shade of an orange tree, take a dip into a pristine lantern-lit pool, or gaze across the red-roofs of Marrakech from the roof terrace while downing a glass of refreshing mint tea.

During the protectorate years, the French established the new city outside the medinas and many Moroccan families abandoned their riads in favor of apartments or villas in the new neighborhoods. Toward the end of the 1990s, due to the surge in tourism and demand for accommodation, some Europeans and affluent Moroccans began buying and restoring the medina’s riads.

Most riads are 18th- or 19th-century Medina town-houses and come in all sizes and levels of luxury. Each has its own unique style that is a personal reflection of the owners themselves.

Inside you’re more than likely to find romantic bedrooms with a touch of Moroccan decor, welcoming service, fantastic rooftop terrace vistas, and delectable breakfasts. Regardless of whichever riad you opt for, it’ll be a great experience and you won’t be disappointed!

Insider Tip

Riads have been designed to keep naturally cool so if you plan on traveling to Marrakech during the winter, make sure to choose one that is equipped with a heater.

19. Get A Glimpse of the Almoravid Koubba

Marrakech: The beautiful Almoravid Koubba with its characteristic keyhole arches

Last but not least on our list of the best places to see in Marrakech is the Almoravid Koubba, the sole example of Almoravid architecture in the city. Best described as a cross between Islamic monks and members of the military, the Almoravids were an Imperial Berber who founded the city of Marrakech in the 11th century.

From here, the empire managed to extend its dominion over the western Maghreb and conquered a large part of the Iberian Peninsula. During their 80-odd years of rule, Marrakech rose to prominence as a great walled capital with verdant gardens, grand palaces, mosques, and madrasas.

Dating back to the beginning of the 12th century, the building probably served as the center of an ablutions area for the nearby mosque, a much earlier incarnation of the 19th-century Ben Youssef Mosque that stands today. Relying on drainage systems dug deep down in the ground, the Koubba had a system of latrines, showers, and faucets for drinking water.

Quite miraculously, it was the only building spared by the Almohads, successors of the Almoravids, when they destroyed most of the city’s “impure” Almoravid architecture.

It has also played a seminal role in the development of North African architecture. The koubba’s ribbed vaulting, keyhole arches, dome carvings, and decorative floral and vegetal patterns have been emulated by later dynasties.

Things Not to do in Marrakech

The following are popular activities in Marrakech that we personally felt are overrated or just not worth the effort.

1. Visit the Marrakech Museum

The Marrakech Museum is one of the most well-known museums in the city. Housed in a palace built in the late 19th century, the building itself has beautiful rooms and ceilings, with the central courtyard being the standout.

However, the presentation of the museum exhibits, primarily decorative arts, is rather appalling. The exhibits themselves are quite underwhelming and many are dingy and poorly laid out or labeled.

To add to the gripe, there is no information in English with all the information being provided in Arabic and French. Finally, the entrance fee to Marrakech Museum is 70 MAD which is so not worth the price tag. Save your money and go visit some other museums in Marrakech.

2. Visit the Tanneries

Marrakech: Workers in the tanneries on a sunny day. PC: Petrajz - Dreamstime.com

You would think that in a city famous for its leather products, a visit to the tanneries in Marrakech would be worth it. Well, think again! The tanneries themselves are quite interesting to see and present a scene that has barely changed in 1,000 years. 

The biggest problem with the tanneries in Marrakech is that often travelers get conned here. Hustlers will either try to persuade you that you have to pay them to enter the tanneries or they won’t let you leave until you’ve forked over some dough.

The “tannery scam” is a very well-orchestrated scam in Marrakech and sadly one that the local authorities don’t seem too concerned to do anything about.

Finally, the tanneries exude an overpowering stench emanating from the substance used to make the hides supple, a mix of pigeon droppings and animal urine.

Even though small bunches of mint are handed out to help cope with the strong odor, it can still make you feel squeamish. So, skip the tanneries and save your money!

Day Trips From Marrakech

Marrakech is situated in an ideal location meaning that the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains, golden sands of the Sahara, and the wild Atlantic coastline are within easy striking distance of the city.

This provides the scope for plenty of exciting activities. The following are some of the best day trips from Marrakech.

1. Essaouira

Essaouira: Panoramic view of the ramparts and the whitewashed buildings of the medina

The laid-back coastal town of Essaouira, about 180 kilometers west of Marrakech, provides much-needed relief from the latter’s heat and crowds. Whereas Marrakech is defined by a uniform pinkish hue, this sun-drenched town on the Atlantic is blue and white.

It is one the most enchanting spots in Morocco and its allure stems from its charming fusion of the 18th-century medina, temperate climate, slightly alternative atmosphere, photogenic port, and wide sandy bay. 

Essaouira is a perfect place for a quiet stroll with the major attraction being the town itself. It is also famed for its numerous beaches and offers world-class watersports in abundance. Due to the constant flurry of winds, Essaouira is known as the “Windy City.”

I recommend taking this full-day tour (10 hours) to Essaouira. The tour is well managed and even includes a short break at an interesting Argan oil cooperative run by local women.

2. Ouarzazate & Aït Benhaddou

Ouarzazate: Panoramic view of the town with the snow-capped Atlas Mountains in the background

Once known for being an isolated military outpost during the French protectorate years, Ouarzazate is today famous as Morocco’s Hollywood. Discovered by Hollywood in the 1960s and 1970s, Ouarzazate was something of a boomtown in the 1980s with the construction of several luxury hotels.

It is somewhat of a non-descript town nowadays and the only real attraction is the Kasbah Taourirt, a huge complex built by the Glaoui dynasty. The kasbah today is partly ruined, but it’s been undergoing restoration from time to time.

Though Ouarzazate never really attained the heights it was destined for, the cinematic surrounding terrain continues to lure visitors and big-budget film productions.

The Jewel of the Nile, Kundun, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Alexander the Great, and Babel are some of the most prominent films to have been shot in or around Ouarzazate.

For an intriguing taste of Ouarzazate’s cinematic credentials, pay a visit to the Atlas Studios to see some of the old construction sets.

Aït Benhaddou: Fantastic view of the mudbrick defensive wall with the Atlas Mountains in the background

The fortified village of Aït Benhaddou is as magnificent an example of kasbah architecture as you will find in the world. Towering mudbrick defensive walls and corner towers surround the collection of plain earth houses, lofts, and stables.

The kasbah’s towers are artistically decorated with blind arches and geometric designs in negative relief. Seasonal rains wash off some of the mud so the houses require constant maintenance. Around ten families still call the kasbah home.

Aït Benhaddou is so picture-perfect and unbelievably gorgeous that you’ll constantly be busy snapping photos. Unsurprisingly the village has proved a major hit with film directors. David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and Orson Welles used it as a location for Sodom and Gomorrah.

Aït Benhaddou: View of the mudbrick defensive towers

Probably established as early as the 11th century, the village is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. A walk among its beautiful little labyrinth of mudbrick houses and twisting alleyways transports you back in time.

I suggest this fulfilling full-day tour (13 hours), which I know is pretty long, but it just takes four hours to get to Ouarzazate from Marrakech. The tour takes you through an amazing natural landscape and the winding Tizi n’Tichka Pass Road that passes through fertile valleys and accords you spectacular views of pisé villages.

Finally, the tour takes you to the Atlas Film Studios and the awe-inspiring village of Aït Benhaddou. Highly recommended!

3. Quad Biking in the Agafay Desert

Three individuals on quad bikes in the Agafay Desert in the afternoon

For adrenaline junkies, a day of quad biking in the nearby Agafay Desert is one of the best day trips from Marrakech. The other popular outdoor activity is an equally exhilarating hot air balloon ride. The arid desert landscape surrounding Marrakech is crisscrossed with dusty roads and tracks.

The terrain is rocky with wild palm groves, arid rivers, and jbilets–volcanic rock landscapes formed naturally over millions of years. Being at the foothill of the Atlas mountains you’re treated to a stunning vista of the mountain range up close.

Jacky and I both immensely enjoyed our time on the quads zig-zagging up into the hills through small hamlets. Along the way, marvel at the pristine countryside, discover traditional Berber villages and houses, which seem to have remained practically unchanged for more than 200 years.

The quad biking excursion will provide you with an unforgettable experience that you’ll continue to cherish in the future.

Since we were so pumped about zooming around on quad bikes we opted for a full day’s tour (8 hours). I personally feel it’s best to go for a full day because it takes time to get to and from the desert and to have a decent amount of time riding the quad-bikes.

The tour was excellently managed with friendly professional guides and even included a traditional Berber lunch.

4. Ourika Valley

Ourika Valley: View of a picturesque Berber village in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains

The Ourika Valley is a picturesque region of gorges in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, which gets its name from the terraced fields running alongside the river. It is renowned for its scenic beauty, cool and clean air.

Its close proximity to Marrakech makes it a popular day-trip destination, during the oppressively hot summer months. A visit to the Ourika Valley will accord you the opportunity to see traditional 16th and 17th-century Berber villages.

The four main places of interest in the Ourika Valley are the winter ski resort of Oukaïmeden, which is also a great hiking spot in the spring and summer; the straggly riverside village of Setti Fatma, known for its series of cascading waterfalls; Jbel Toubkal, which at 4,167 meters is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains; and the gorgeous village of Asni with its intriguing red-walled Kasbah, and attractive orchards.

I highly recommend this excellent full-day tour (8 hours) which takes you through the heart of the Ourika Valley. The excursion is very professionally managed and includes a knowledgeable English-speaking guide.

You also get the opportunity of seeing the local women producing Argan oil and having a traditional Berber lunch. We went on this tour and I can tell you it’s an experience not to be missed!

Where to Stay in Marrakech

The best place to stay in Marrakech would undoubtedly be in the medina. Virtually all the must-see attractions in Marrakech can be found here, so it’s a perfect base for sightseeing.

Although the assortment of hotels in Guéliz and Hivernage offer more facilities and sometimes better value for money, it’s only by staying in a riad in the medina that you can hope to immerse yourself into the local culture and aesthetic. 

There are more than 1000 riads available for guests to stay at in Marrakech. These riads range from basic budget accommodations with shared bathrooms to luxury accommodations that feature some of the city’s finest craftsmanship alongside beautifully cultivated gardens, oasis-like pools.

Budget: Riad l’Heure d’Eté, this centrally-located riad is one of the best value for money riads in Marrakech. Just 5 minutes’ walk away from the Jemaa el Fna, plenty of shopping and dining options nearby.

Mid-range: Riad El Walaa, an excellent mid-range choice that has the aura of a boutique hotel and comes with the necessary modern amenities. Rooms are tastefully decorated and the breakfast is excellent. The location is pretty good, Jemaa el Fnaa is just a short walk away.

Luxury: Dar Assiya Le Grand, one of Marrakech’s best luxury riads. Set in a former noble residence dating back to the 15th century, it is conveniently located in the medina. With a characteristic central patio and a decorative fountain, it preserves the typical structure of an ancient luxury riad. All rooms are wonderfully decorated, creating the sumptuous look of a luxurious Marrakshi home.

Marrakech Travel Tips

What is the best time to visit Marrakech?

Marrakech is a year-round destination and when you travel depends on what you want to see and experience there. The best times to visit Marrakech are late autumn and early spring i.e. from March to May and between September and November.

These are the seasons known for their desirable weather, affordable accommodation rates, and also when the surrounding hills and valleys are an explosion of colorful flowers.

Winter in Marrakech is usually bright and sunny, but it can also be cold, especially at night when temperatures can drop to below freezing. Avoid visiting Marrakech in July and August when the summer heat is at its most oppressive and when it sees a large influx of tourists.

Christmas and New Year is another peak period and the city is packed to the core, with hotels and riads booked up months in advance.

How Many Days Should I Spend in Marrakech?

Marrakech is not exactly a large city and as such, possesses proportionately few crowd-pulling sights and monuments. Most visitors are content to pass their time sunning themselves on rooftop terraces with regular forays into the medina and souks.

Unless day trips from Marrakech south to the mountains or to the coastal region of Essaouira and Agadir are on your agenda, three or four days in Marrakech should suffice.

Is Marrakech safe?

Yes. Overall, the security risk to travelers in Marrakech is low. Violent crime in Marrakech is rare and the most serious threat for tourists is always pretty theft.

Although you are unlikely to get mugged, the city does have its fair share of bag-snatchers and pickpockets, especially in markets and other crowded areas.

Be particularly careful when walking around the dark alleys of the medina late at night. Use common sense and vigilance with valuables, particularly at night, and you will be fine.

In recent years, though hustlers and con men have been largely cleaned off the streets in Marrakech by police clampdowns, some continue to operate around the medina.

Although, they can be persistent and sometimes unpleasant, stay calm, and politely decline their offers. Don’t hesitate to threaten to go to the police if you feel genuinely threatened or harassed. Hustlers will scurry away at the prospect of police involvement.

Women—particularly those traveling alone or in pairs—are likely to suffer from catcalls and whistles, though there is normally little physical risk. A few simple common-sense measures should help to keep the problem to a minimum, such as avoiding eye contact and wearing modest attire that covers your shoulders, chest, midriff, and knees.

Carrying yourself in confidence on the streets can help deter all but the most persistent males.

Can You Drink Alcohol in Marrakech?

Although Islam strictly prohibits the consumption of alcohol, you can purchase alcohol in Marrakech. There are only a couple of bars in the medina that serve alcohol and they are horrendously expensive.

If you want to have a drink, it’s best to head to one of the numerous moderately priced bars and nightclubs in Guéliz (New Town). It’s also possible to purchase alcohol from bigger supermarkets and convenience stores in Marrakech outside the medina.

How Does Tipping in Morocco Work?

As far as tipping in Morocco is concerned, it is customary to tip porters, chambermaids, other hotel staff if they are particularly helpful, and waiting staff.

You are expected to tip in restaurants and cafés unless a service charge is included. There are no hard-and-fast rules for the amount, although 10 percent would be appropriate.


Now, what do you think? What are some of the best things to do in Marrakech? And is Marrakech on your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

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