Although Marrakech is not the capital of the country, it is probably the most famous city in all of Morocco and the ideal place to start learning about the culture of Morocco. It is called the pink city because pink is the most seen colour in the chaotic streets of its medina. However, the green and blue of the Majorelle gardens, or the indescribable multicoloured palette of the lively Jemaa-el-Fna Square, are also present in this vibrant city. Marrakech was the starting point of our Globe Trotter Guide
trip through Morocco, and in this post we are going to tell you the best things to see and do in Marrakech.
1. Get off to a great start wandering around Jemaa el-Fna square
, located in the heart of Marrakech's medina. It could be considered as the pure essence of the city, a place full of life, a hive of characters, vendors, improvised restaurants, fruit stalls and show performances.
Tip: to get the most out of this place, it's best to climb a rooftop at sunset (the one at Cafe Glacier is muuuuuy bien) and enjoy the show while drinking mint tea.
Something that unfortunately still exists are animals in exhibitions such as monkeys and snakes. Please don't take pictures with them.
2. Take a walking tour with a local guide
, it's one of the best ways to get to know more about this mysterious city. When you finish, don't be cheap - leave a good tip, the guides will help you a lot! Ours (Karim) told us a thousand things about the city... The tour lasted about 4 hours and was super in-depth!
3. The minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque
is the most famous icon of Marrakech. With its 77 meters of height it conquers the sky of the city and becomes the focus of the cameras of the tourists at any hour of the day. Although access is reserved for Muslims (apparently the only great mosque that can be visited in Morocco is the one in Casablanca), it is very worthwhile, as just seeing it from the outside impresses.
Tidbit: the Giralda of Seville is inspired by this minaret.
4. You won't have to go far to get the best views of this emblematic tower. At the back extends the Parc Lalla Hasna, with a fountain in the middle of the promenade that aligns with the mosque. For us, the panoramic view is one of those that cannot be forgotten.
5. Another thing to do in Marrakech is to visit the Saadian tombs
, where the members of the Saadi dynasty (and their servants) rest eternally. In particular, don't miss the room of the twelve columns, with the tombs of Ahmad Al-Mansur (sultan from 1578 to 1603) and his family members. The twelve exquisitely carved marble columns are crowned with a marvellous wooden dome. The entrance costs 70 dirhams, we went around 13:00 and we had to make haste, we think it is better to go later in the afternoon.
6. The Madrasa Ben Youssef
is one of the essential visits of Marrakech. The madrasas are Muslim schools where the Koran is studied, but also other subjects of general culture. This is the most important school in the country, and its architecture and decoration must be impressive. We say "must" because we could only see it from a terrace in front of us, as it was in the middle of a reform project until mid-2020 (we already have an excuse to return to Marrakech some day).
7. Bab Agnaou's door
is one of the old entrances by the wall of Marrakech. For us it is the most beautiful, but it is not the only one: other interesting gates are Bab el Jedid, Bab Doukkala and Bab el Khemis.
History: the ancient city is surrounded by a wall that still stands today and that measures almost 20km!
8. Get to know the Bay Palace
, which was built at the end of the 19th century with the idea of creating nothing more and nothing less than the most beautiful palace in the world. We do not know if it was achieved. However, what we can say is that this is one of the best things to do in Marrakech. It is a complex palace of more than 100 rooms, each full of details, paintings, tiles, stained glass and marble. And not by chance it is considered by many as one of the great masterpieces of Moroccan architecture. The entrance fee is 70 dirhams (7$ approx).
9. Another interesting palace in the old part of Marrakech is the Badi Palace
. At first glance it may seem that they are "only ruins" but, as they say, they are "ruins with a lot of charm". However, in its peak, it must have been much more astonishing because, it is said, it had more than 300 rooms, all decorated with luxurious materials and styles of the time. The only bad thing is that the entrance fee, which like almost everything in the city, is worth 70 dirhams.
10. Get lost in the souks (markets) of the medina
of Marrakech. Formerly the streets were grouped by product genre, as in Medieval Europe with the guilds, in this way there was the souk of blacksmiths, spices, carpets ... Today it is more of a tangle of stalls with souvenirs for tourists, although if you move a little to the north, you can see more authentic shops and workshops.
Sim tips to getting a good deal: Arm yourself with patience, dust off your bargaining technique and if someone tells you to follow them to the Berber market (or somewhere...) don't go! We were using the Maps.me app and knew where we were at all times.
11. Take advantage of your stay, and experience the traditional way of life in a riad
. They are small hotels with several rooms
distributed around a central courtyard. They are usually super nice, welcoming, with the typical Moroccan architecture and decoration. By the way, if you don't have budget problems (lucky!) you can stay in one of the most beautiful luxury hotels in the world: La Mamounia. We were content to be in the Riad Basma and it was a success: well located, with rich breakfasts and an owner who is lovely.
12. The Marrakech Palm Grove
, with its more than 100,000 palm trees, can be a fascinating place to visit on your trip. Although if you're going to visit more areas of Morocco, we think it's not worth it to go there, you'll get fed up with palm trees!
13. Did you know that Marrakech has a Jewish quarter
? We are talking about the Mellah, the place where many of the Jewish citizens who had to escape from Spain found refuge. Here you can visit the synagogue of Al Azama or the Jewish cemetery. Undoubtedly an original and alternative visit to do in Marrakech.
14. If after so many squares, mosques, alleys, souks and hustle and bustle, what your body asks for is a dose of healthy relaxation, a very good place to visit is the Jardin Majorelle
, botanical gardens full of local and exotic plants. And when we say full it's like this: they seem to have more than 300 different species... a whole green oasis! Curiosity: it was created in 1919 by the French painter Jacques Majorelle, a lover of Marrakech and in 1980 the designer Yves Saint Laurent acquired it, also attracted by this place. We went on a Saturday morning and we stayed without entering: the tail was in-men-sa (thank you Instagram), so we decided to move on from the subject.
The price of the garden is 70 dirhams and the price of the annexed museum is 100 dirhams. If you want to do both visits, the best thing is to go to the museum box office where there will be fewer people (be careful because here you can only buy museum tickets or the combined museum + garden, but not the garden alone).
15. The name already says it all: the Secret Garden
is a little secret corner in the center of the medina of Marrakech. Walking around here is like taking a breath of fresh air, although (50 dirhams), a bit expensive for what it is. We did not go up to the tower (35 dirhams extra) but the terrace where there is a cafeteria located had good views.
16. If you close your eyes and think of Marrakech, the most likely thing is the picturesque corners of the medina. But, Marrakech has a more modern area: we are talking about the Gueliz district
. It is a good alternative if you are looking for new and quality accommodation. In addition, there are avenues, shops, malls and cafes with a more western style.
17. Have an orange juice, tea or whatever you like at Dar Cherifa
, the oldest riad in Marrakech's medina. It's a real treat (and not as expensive as you might think: drinks for 2-3$, food for 8/16$).
18. One of the most popular spots in Marrakech was the Rahba Kedima Square
, in the old spice souk. Although the market is not as local as it might have been a while ago, it has a snagging ambience. Also around the square are some of the best terraces in Marrakech, such as Nomads or Cafe des epices.
19. If you're passionate about photography or experiencing a bad weather day, the Casa de la Fotografia
is a good place to hang out. Here you can stroll through photo exhibitions portraying 19th and 20th century Morocco.
Plus: on the terrace there is a rather cool cafeteria. Price: 3$ approx. The area is a little far from the most commercial heart of the medina, so you can enjoy a pleasant and less touristy walk.
20. Go to Quobba Almoravide
, the last building still standing from the time of the Almoravids, founders of the city in 1062 and characterised by religious puritanism and quite austere art. We saw it from the terrace of Jad Jamal (we had a very rich tea there too), the best thing is to go up before sunset to enjoy this moment, and you will hear the call to prayer from the mosque of Ben Youssef, right next door.
Book a lunch or dinner at Amal, a restaurant that not only serves exquisite dishes, but also does commendable social work, giving work to women in disadvantaged situations (widows, divorced, orphans, etc).
To end the day in the best way, there is nothing better than taking a relaxing bath and a massage in a traditional hammam
21. Do you have more time at your disposal? Visit Essaouira
! This small fishing village is one of the most beautiful and picturesque spots on the Moroccan coast and although it is ideal to spend several days there, there are day trips from Marrakech that can fit your itinerary.
22. Another day trip from Marrakech is the one that takes you to the Ouzoud waterfalls
, where you can have a refreshing swim. To get there you have the option to rent a car (a 2 hour drive) or sign up for a tour (better option if you are not going to do more roadtrip).
And, of course, since you are in Morocco, why not take the opportunity to visit one of the most extraordinary places in the world: the Sahara Desert
. There are many multi-day tours that take you to the desert of Merzouga or Zagora, with other stops along the way, such as the famous Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou.
What to see and do in Marrakech
Sure, we may have forgotten some other things to see and do in Marrakech, but these are a good start to know the essentials of the city. If you have been and you think something is missing or you know original places to visit, leave us a comment!
Where to sleep in Marrakech
The best area is to stay within the walls, in the heart of the Medina (see ideas here
). But this is a very wide space! In our experience, we would tell you to look for a road as close as possible to Jemaa el-Fna square. We stayed at the Riad Basma Marrakech, where Hanna attended us exceptionally well!
How to get to Marrakech from the airport
When we arrived at 11 p.m., we preferred to hire the pick-up service directly from our accommodation. The price of this service should be 15$ (until 8 pm) and 20$ at night. Keep in mind that in Medina you can't go by car, so it's normal to be picked up at the airport and taken to Jemaa el-Fna Square (or any other nearby and accessible place), and there someone will be waiting for you to accompany you on foot.
You can also take a taxi without prior reservation (price from 70 MAD, but be hard on the bargaining). Although in this case it will be more trouble to find the accommodation, as you will have to walk around Medina unsupervised.
To return by taxi, the price from the plaza to the airport is approximately 100 MAD (about 10$).
As for public transport, there is a bus stop a little further from the airport (apparently about 800 meters) where a bus passes to the center. The price is 30 MAD. We didn't try it but feel free to look into it.
How to get around Marrakech
Yellow taxis are the best option. The price for a ride from Jemaa el-Fna Square (where there are lots) to either side of Gueliz, Jardines Majorelle should not be more than 20 MAD (you will be asked first 50 or more, so haggle a bit).
You can also opt for city buses. ALSA is the company in charge of this service and the price for a ticket within the city is 4MAD (paid directly to the driver). You can calculate the routes directly with Google Maps or on the official website.
[author]The Globe Trotter Guides is a website started by a few friends who love traveling. You can follow their adventures on their blog