Marrakech is one of Morocco most famous cities attracting millions of international visitors each year. It’s also one of the liveliest cities, with a multitude of gorgeous riads, a historic medina (downtown), amazing architecture and so much more.
If you are visiting Marrakech, prepare yourself for adventure and immersion in Moroccans culture. If it’s your first time in Marrakech (or Morocco in general), it will be impossible to get bored in the city as every second of your visit will be an exploration. Even as a Morocco native who visited Marrakech a hundred times, I still get excited when I visit and I still find the city as charming and unique as in my first visit.
The Best Things to Do in Marrakech
I generally recommend at least 3 days to see most of Marrakech. Especially if you are planning on shopping for local products in the Medina. Shopping alone can take a few hours and sometimes more if you love finding original pieces.
Marrakech gets really hot during the summer. So unless you are used to hot temperatures, I’d recommend visiting outside of June-August period, to be comfortable sightseeing and to enjoy restaurants gorgeous terraces.
Before visiting Morocco, I’d recommend checking what is Morocco famous for, to have a high perspective of what to expect. To have a more specific perspective, here is the list of the best things to do in Marrakech and to absolutely not miss.
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 located in Marrakech downtown and is one of the liveliest places in Marrakech. Located strategically near the Medina and the Koutoubia (which we will see later), you will find yourself all the time gravitating around this square.
To get the most out of your visit, the best is to start your exploration a couple of hours before the sunset and stay late in the night. This way, you will be able to see all the square attractions and see the ambiance change 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 original 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 snakes’ charmers, monkeys’ trainers, storytellers and peddlers of traditional medicine. I always like the ambiance of the square just when it starts to get dark. The lights, music, and smells make the experience feel surreal.
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 better and 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.
There are many delicious Moroccan dishes to try at Jemaa El-Fna. So make sure you check Morocco traditional dishes, be curious and your taste buds will thank you!
However, if you are in Marrakech there is a dish you absolutely need to try. It’s called the Tanjia and it’s a local version of Moroccan meat tajine, cooked in clay jars while buried in hot ashes. The result is a dish with intense flavors and meat that melts in the mouth.
3. Marrakech Historical Monuments
Marrakech city was founded in 1062 by Abou Bakr ibn Umar, cousin of Almoravid king Yusuf ibn Tashfin. Through the years, 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.
4. 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. For more details, you can check the Majorelle official website.
5. 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, the place is perfect for taking stunning pictures!
6. Hike the Atlas Mountains
Cloaked with wildflowers through spring and summer, Morocco Atlas Mountains are a great opportunity for hiking and mountain biking treks, as well as picnicking and cozying in Moroccan tents in wild nature.
Located just a few hours drive from Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains are one of the best things to do in Marrakech, and yet, many visitors don’t know about them.
The Ourika valley is definitely one of the best spots in the Atlas Mountains, 60 km away from Marrakesh. Perfect to immerse in wild nature, chill in traditional Moroccan tents while drinking mint tea and eating delicious tajines. Heaven!
7. 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. For one hour or so 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.
8. Relax on a Rooftop
There are many rooftops terraces in Marrakech with a gorgeous view of the city. If you like to relax and watch people go by, you can find many cafés and restaurant around Jemaa El-Fna square from which you can sit and relax, tea or cocktail in hand.
9. Have a Squad or Camel Ride in Marrakech Palmeraie
The Palmeraie of Marrakech is a palm oasis of hundreds of thousands 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.
10. Shopping in the Medina Souks
When you are in Jemaa El-Fna square, Marrakech Medina and souks will be located a few meters away and will attract you with their colors and interesting handmade products. Entering the narrow streets and seeing all the local treasures will feel like being in an Alibaba cavern. If you lve shopping decor, jewelry, leather or anything local, expect to spend a few hours shopping and bargaining.
Shopping in Marrakech is definitely one of the most appreciated things visitors do in Marrakech. The key is to learn about Moroccan medinas shopping rules, to shop mindfully and get pieces that can be passed to the next generation.
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