Best Things to Do in Marrakech
Marrakech is one of Morocco’s most famous cities, attracting millions of international visitors each year. It is also one of the liveliest cities you can visit in a lifetime, with a high concentration of exotic and refreshing experiences. Even as a Moroccan myself, I can’t get enough of Marrakech, and I grab every occasion to visit this magical city.
There are the artisanal shops, the arabesque Riads, the historical Medina (downtown), the architecture, the music, the storytellers, the food, and so much more.
Visiting Marrakech is a big adventure and a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Moroccans culture. If it’s your first time in Marrakech (or in Morocco in general), it will be impossible to get bored.
We all got bored at least once during one of our trips. Some places are only good for food, sightseeing or sunbathing. But Marrakech, OMG! every second of your visit will be an exploration.
Even as a Morocco native and a Marrakech regular visitor, I still get excited every time I visit. This city is as charming and unique as in my first visit, twenty years ago.
The Best Things to Do in Marrakech
I generally recommend at least 2 to 3 days to see most of Marrakech. Especially if you are planning on shopping for local products in the Medina.
Marrakech gets really hot during the summer. Unless you are used to hot temperatures, it’s best to visit outside of the June-August period to be comfortable sightseeing.
If that’s your first time in Morocco, I recommend checking what is Morocco famous for, to have a high perspective of what to expect. To have a more specific idea of Marrakech and the best things you can experience, keep reading.
1. Exploring the Jemaa El-Fna Square
Visiting Marrakech begins with the exploration of the Jemaa el-Fna square, which is the busiest square in Africa.
Jemaa el-Fna square is one of the liveliest places in Marrakech. Located strategically near the Medina (downtown) and the Koutoubia (which we will see later), you will be constantly gravitating towards this square.
To get the most out of your visit, the best is to start your exploration a couple of hours before the sunset. This way, you can see all the square attractions and witness how the ambiance changes as the sun goes down.
During the day, Jemaa El-Fna place is mostly occupied by vendors, orange juice stalls and traditional water sellers with their traditional red outfit.
You can take gorgeous pictures of/with water sellers. Just ask nicely and thank them with a small 10-20 dirhams (~$1-2) tip.
As the day progresses, Jemaa El-Fna square becomes more and more crowded, with people gathering in small circles around snake charmers, monkey trainers, storytellers and peddlers of traditional medicine. I love the ambiance of the square just when it starts to get dark. The lights, music, and smells make the experience feel surreal.
Most of the time, people who perform at Jamaa El Fna rely mostly on tips to make a living.
That’s why tipping is important. I always tip every attraction I watch or I am part of. When you tip these showmen and showwomen, you can get pictures, videos, selfies and sometimes they can do a whole personalized show just for you.
2. Moroccan Cuisine
Once it starts getting dark, Jemaa El-Fna square will start filling with dozens of food-stalls offering casual seating and traditional Moroccan dishes.
Do not be put off by the street food: it is one of the best that can be found in Marrakech, and one of the best in the world as well. It is also cheaper than in the surrounding restaurants. The food will be cooked right in front of you while you can chit-chat with your friends, family and the people sitting next to you.
If you are in Marrakech, there is a dish you absolutely need to try. It’s called Tanjia. A local version of Moroccan meat tajine, slow-cooked in clay jars that were buried in hot ashes, for hours. The result is a dish with intense flavors and meat that melts in the mouth.
There are many other delicious Moroccan dishes to try at Jemaa El-Fna square or in the surrounding restaurants. Moroccan cuisine offers so many options, each very different from the other. So make sure you learn about Morocco traditional dishes so you don’t miss a bit.
3. Take a Moroccan Cooking Course
Speaking of Moroccan food. If you are an epicure and enjoy cooking, once you try Moroccan dishes you will likely fall in love (Duh!) and Google the recipes to see if you can make them back home.
If that’s the case, then don’t leave Marrakech without attending a Moroccan cooking course. After a couple of hours, you will find yourself familiar with the making of Moroccan tagines and other gourmet Moroccan dishes.
Even as a Morocco native, I love attending cooking courses. Moroccan cuisine changes depending on the cities and there is always something to learn from other regions.
The last time I was in Marrakech I attended Fatima’s course at Marrakech Cooking. Fatima is a Moroccan chef who combines professional cooking techniques with her grandmother’s cooking secrets.
This course is perfect for complete beginners. You learn how to correctly cut your vegetables, how to prepare your seasoning, how to avoid burning your tagine, and so many other practical tips to make the best Moroccan dishes of your life. If you enjoy cooking, learning Moroccan cuisine will be extremely fun, useful and worth every penny.
4. Marrakech Historical Monuments
Marrakech city was founded in 1062 by Abou Bakr ibn Umar, cousin of Almoravid king Yusuf ibn Tashfin. Through the centuries, the city established itself as a cultural and historical center for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Jemaa El-Fna, around 200 meters / 660 ft, you will find the Koutoubia Mosque with its beautiful orange garden. The Koutoubia was built in the 12th century and has inspired many famous buildings such as the Giralda of Seville in Spain and the Hassan Tower of Rabat in Morocco.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech downtown, you can escape to the 12th century-built Menara, surrounded by romantic gardens, olive groves, and a gorgeous fish pond.
Another historical place to visit is the Ben-Youssef Madrasa, a Koranic school, and an Islamic college with breathtaking architecture and stunning tiles and wood art.
5. The Majorelle Garden
Unmissable in the new Marrakech, the Majorelle Garden, a botanical and artistic garden known for its frank blue color and exotic vegetation, was created back in 1923 by the famous French painter Jacques Majorelle. With the help of French architect Paul Sinoir, they enriched the garden with a Cubist oriental villa. Jaques Majorelle lived in the villa with his wife, from 1923 till the 1950s when they divorced.
The Majorelle Garden was owned by the famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. When Saint Laurent died in 2008, his ashes were scattered all over the place.
The Majorelle Garden and villa are now open to the public and house the Berber Museum, the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech as well as the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. If Art, Culture, and Fashion are your thing, you will love visiting the Majorelle Museum.
6. The Museum of Marrakech
To complete your exploration of Marrakech historical monuments, head to the Museum of Marrakech in the city’s center.
Located in the Dar Mnebhi Palace which was built at the end of the 19th century, Marrakech Museum building is a perfect example of classical Andalusian architecture and one of the most beautiful spaces of the city. You will feel as if you are in an Arabian fairy tale. Oh and don’t forget to bring your camera and wear your best outfit, the place is perfect for taking stunning pictures!
7. Hike the Atlas Mountains
Cloaked with wildflowers throughout the year, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco are located less than two hours’ drive from Marrakech.
They are a great destination for hiking and picnicking in cozy Moroccan tents in the wild nature. Yet, many visitors don’t know about them.
The Ourika valley is definitely one of the best spots in the Atlas Mountains at only 37 miles / 60 km away from Marrakesh. Perfect to immerse in the wild nature, chill in traditional Moroccan tents while drinking mint tea and eating delicious tajines. Heaven!
8. Have a Hammam Experience
You can’t visit Marrakech without discovering the luxury of Hammams, Moroccan traditional baths, and enjoying a relaxing massage and beauty ritual.
Bathing in the Hammams follows a definite ceremonial and steps to achieve a deep body cleanness. In a steamy room, your skin will be scrubbed and nourished with natural Moroccan beauty products (Ghassoul, rose petals and more) before getting a relaxing massage that will make you float and forget all your troubles.
9. Have a Mint Tea in Marrakech Rooftops
There are many rooftops terraces in Marrakech with a gorgeous view of the city. The best views are located in the restaurants and cafés surrounding Jamaa El Fna. They are perfect to relax and chill after hours of agitation and walking. You can have mint tea and pastries (very typical), lunch and dine.
10. Take a Carriage Ride in a Marrakech Traditional Caleche
This is another relaxing/fun thing to do in Marrakech.
Between El Koutoubia Mosque and Jamaa El Fna square, it is impossible to miss the long line of Marrakech colorful traditional caleches.
These elegant horse carriages are beautifully decorated and one of Marrakech’s most emblematic attractions. You can choose any caleche you like and have a tour of Marrakech.
This is a very romantic experience too, especially around sunset with Marrakech gentle wind breeze and flamboyant red sky. A ride on the caleche at sunset with someone you love will be a moment you won’t forget.
11. Have a Squad or Camel Ride in Marrakech Palmeraie
The Palmeraie of Marrakech is a palm oasis of hundreds of thousands of palm trees. Located outside Marrakesh, the Palmeraie is a natural heritage very appreciated by locals and tourists. Once there, you can either explore it by a camel or squad ride, or go to in-site fancy resorts like the Palmeraie Golf Palace, or Nikki Beach.
12. Shopping in the Medina Souks
Marrakech Medina is a must-see for all visitors. Located behind Jamaa El Fna, you’ll find yourself constantly attracted to the Medina and you will probably visit it many times during your trip.
Entering the narrow streets of Marrakech Madina and seeing all the local handicrafts really feels like being in an Alibaba cavern.
If you love shopping decor, silverware, jewelry, fashion or anything traditional and handmade, expect to spend a few hours shopping and bargaining in the Medina. Shopping handicrafts in Marrakech is probably one of the most rewarding things to do, but also one of the most challenging experiences. In order to be fully prepared, make sure you learn about Moroccan medinas shopping rules before your trip.
Master Moroccan Medinas and get what you want. Check my Morocco Ultimate Shopping guide.
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