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Marrakesh is a vibrant and fascinating city in Morocco known for its historical landmarks, relaxing hamamms and delicious food.
It’s where history and modernity collide effortlessly, with souk market sellers still flogging traditional textiles, pottery and jewellery like their ancestors did thousands of years before them, and yet there is an element of luxury that comes with staying here.
Visitors will find there are plenty of great things to do in Marrakech, Morocco, from exploring the bustling streets to relaxing in the many gardens.
But to find the best attractions in Marrakech, we interviewed Amanda, a frequent traveller to Marrakech since 2004, when she met her Marrakechi husband.
And unlike many visitors to the red city her trips have a distinctly local flavor. Amanda tells us what to do in Marrakech as well as shares tips on places to eat, stay, shop, drink, and play.
Take it away Amanda.
- Is Marrakech Worth Visiting?
- Things to Do in Marrakech
- 1. Check out the Souk Markets
- 2. Visit the El Badi Palace
- 3. Take a Moroccan Cooking Class
- 4. Relax in a Hammam
- 5. Splash Around at Oasiria Waterpark
- 6. Explore the Neighborhoods in Marrakech
- 7. Try the Street Food in Marrakech
- 8. Try Moroccan Wine
- 9. Take a Free Walking Tour
- 10. Catch a Performance at The Royal Theater
- 11. Take a Trip to The Sahara Desert and Atlas Mountains
- 12. Visit the The Marrakech Arts Festivals
- 13. Check out the Saadian Tombs
- 14. Admire the Architecture of Ben Youssef Madrasa
- 15. Check out the Bahia Palace
- 16. Marvel at the Koutoubia Mosque
- 17. Take a Day Trip to Ouzoud Waterfalls
- 18. Visit the Marrakech Museum Courtyard
- 19. Visit the Yves Saint Laurent Museum
- Where to Stay in Marrakech
- Best Time of Year to Visit Marrakech
- Getting To and Around Marrakech
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Marrakech
- More Northern Africa Travel Tips
Is Marrakech Worth Visiting?
Marrakech is the city of legends. One of the first things that attracted me to visiting Morocco was the mix of European, Middle Eastern and African culture and flavors. Marrakech epitomizes this.
It’s also perfect for any type of traveler; from the luxury traveler to the budget backpacker, from families with young children to senior citizens.
While Marrakech is known for its lively markets there is so much more to the city, from charming riads and enchanting gardens, and that’s what makes it worth visiting, in my opinion.
Things to Do in Marrakech
Now you know the reasons why you should add Marrakech to your bucket list, it’s time to show you the top attractions in the city!
1. Check out the Souk Markets
At the top of any visitors list is a trip to Djem L’Fna or the central souk and market.
Over the years it has been commercialized more and more. The layout can be confusing however it is divided into different sections such as the woodworking souk, the clothing souk, the leather goods souk (otherwise known as tanneries), the spice souk etc.
My best advice is to go as deep in as you can and then start shopping.
Anything on the perimeter will be the most expensive and odds are very good that you will find the same things for less money further inside.
Aside from visiting the souks of the medina (off of d’jem l’fna) there are a few other locations to get your shopping in.
Gueleiz is known for its boutique and specialty shops. This is not the rough and tumble haggling/shopping but higher end. Some of my favorite shops in this district are;
Moor (7 Rue de Liberte) – traditional Moroccan clothing updated and with a modern feel. They also have lovely home décor items.
Scenes de Lin (70 Rue de Liberte) gorgeous textile boutique featuring natural linens from Morocco and around the world as well as offering other cloth goods. Fabrics can be made into custom products.
Naturelle (5 Rue Sourya) Argan based products are all the rage and that’s what you’ll find at Naturelle. High quality products that are acquired through a commitment to helping the producers of argan in southern Morocco.
The Mellah is the Jewish Quarter of Marrakech (though the Jewish population itself is waning). Here you’ll find some great gold and jewelry as well as a wonderful spice souk. Remember to haggle for the best price.
In recent years gold has not been such a bargain. Sellers for the most part are looking for market rates or close to them.
Nearby you’ll also find Place Ferblantier where metalwork is for sale. This is the place to get Moroccan lanterns and lights as well as other metal furnishings.
2. Visit the El Badi Palace
Marrakech has many historical sites, but the most famous is the ruins of the El Badi Palace. The palace was originally built in 1578 by the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur of the Saadian dynasty.
It was built using materials from Italy and Mali and took several decades to build. The purpose of the palace was to show off the Sultan’s wealth and power, and where he could hold parties.
But after he died in 1603, the palace was neglected and eventually fell to ruins. Many of the valuable materials such as marble were striped and reused in other buildings, but the remains still lie for visitors to see.
You can make out the shape of rooms, and in some areas see some intricate detailing from the original structure.
3. Take a Moroccan Cooking Class
A cooking class is a great way to appreciate the intricacy of Moroccan cooking and take home a unique souvenie.
Morocco is known for delicious food that are rich in flavor and color, and are usually using recipes that have been passed down through generations.
In a cooking class, you learn all about the spices and ingredients used in Moroccan cooking and their uses.
There are many cooking schools around the city, but I recommend the Hakima’s Moroccan Cooking School because your participation goes towards funding literacy and job skills for Moroccan women.
4. Relax in a Hammam
For a relaxing thing to do in Marrakech, try to visit a hammam. The traditional Moroccan bath is an experience in and of itself.
You are welcome to visit any of the neighborhood baths but may feel more comfortable in a more resort like setting.
La Bain Bleu and Les Bains de Marrakech are two suggestions though many hotels also have a hammam on the property.
5. Splash Around at Oasiria Waterpark
Are you looking for things to do in Marrakech with kids? Then the whole family will love splashing around at Oasiria Waterpark.
Oasiria is a fun family activity and where you can cool off from the blazing heat of the Moroccan sun.
This waterpark is located slightly outside of Marrakech but has a free shuttle service running from Gueliz.
Make sure to bring your own towel and plenty of water. Snacks are allowed though there is a café and pizza restaurant on site.
6. Explore the Neighborhoods in Marrakech
I often feel the best way to get to know a place is to wander around the neighborhoods and take it all in.
The Kasbah is the old residential center of the city and for the most part still inhabited by families who have lived here for decades.
There are side shops down the main thoroughfare and small markets off to some of the sides. You’ll find some great food stalls set up here as well.
Gueliz/Hivernage is the “new city” and is a boutique shopping epi-center. Gueliz has fashionable shops and restaurants as well as art galleries.
Medina is the old city. The medina is a maze of winding streets that winds off of all sides of d’jem al fna and stretches back to residential areas. It’s home to the traditional houses known as riads, which are colorful and iconic examples of Moroccan architecture in Marrakech.
7. Try the Street Food in Marrakech
I truly believe the best food you will eat in Marrakech will be street food. I say that with a nod of caution because any intrepid traveler has been told not to do this. I’ve never gotten sick eating anything in Morocco but that’s not to say you won’t.
Street vendors offer a variety of foods; from fresh fruit, cookies, stews and tajines, grilled brochettes, sandwiches, and soups.
Eat at least once in djem l’fna at the open air stalls. Try the snail soup. Stop for breakfast at a hole in the wall shop. Pick up a string of sfinge (Moroccan doughnuts) for a snack.
I know there are some nice upscale restaurants in the city, but street food is the heartbeat of the city.
A quick note about water. Marrakech’s water is filtered and safe to drink however bottled water is cheap and accessible. Brushing your teeth might be alright in tap water but stick to bottled water for drinking.
We highly recommend that you use a reusable filtered water bottle to reduce plastic usage, which is terrible for the environment – plus it will save you money! This one by Grayl comes highly recommended for good filtration and removal. Don’t skimp out on having something that will clean your water and keep you healthy.
If you need to refresh yourself, Morocco’s Mint Tea is legendary!
Be sure to try Tangia, the signature dish of Marrakech. You won’t find it anywhere else in Morocco (and if you do you shouldn’t eat it!).
It’s traditionally the “bachelor” meal because of the easy preparation, but I promise you’ll never eat lamb so tender and full of flavor.
8. Try Moroccan Wine
Morocco is a Muslim country so alcohol is a little more difficult to come by, but you should definitely try some Moroccan wine if you have the chance.
When it comes to finding somewhere to drink, most larger hotels have bars and some have rooftop terraces that double as bars.
Bo-zin is a restaurant/bar located a bit outside of the city center, located on Rue de l’Ourika, but very accessible by taxi. It features a restaurant, bar and beautiful outdoor garden area with traditional tents.
Le Comptoir, located on Rue Echouada, is another good option if you’re looking for a meal or nightcap. It is similar in ambiance to Bo-zin but a little more expensive.
Djellabar, Villa Bougainvillé 2 rue Abou Hanifa, Hivernage, is a great place for drinks. I really like the modern bohemian feel of Djellabar. Come for dinner and drinks, check out the shopping for some really unique art, books, and fashion items, and enjoy a good glass of wine.
9. Take a Free Walking Tour
I feel like Marrakech is written about all over the place so my best tip would be to make friends with a local and have them show you around.
If you don’t know a local, you should take a free walking tour, which are always run by friendly locals who love their city. Not only do you get to see all the highlights with a knowledgeable guide and learn about the history and culture, but you can ask your guide for recommendations on where to eat, drink and explore off the beaten path.
This will help you experience the real Marrakech and not the tourist packaged version. Of course, the tours are free, but it’s expected to give your guide a tip if you enjoy the tour.
10. Catch a Performance at The Royal Theater
If you’re looking for things to do in Marrakech at night, then a visit to The Royal Theater is a must.
The theatre itself is gorgeous, with a stately 21st-century design, featuring an open-air stage and a classic domed room.
The theatre hosts several operas, ballets and classic music concerts. The Royal Symphony plays throughout the year.
Check with the Marrakech tourist office (Office National Marocain du Tourism) to see what’s on when you’re there.
11. Take a Trip to The Sahara Desert and Atlas Mountains
The most famous desert in the world, the Sahara. Of course, no trip to Morocco would be complete without taking a trip out to see it in all its vastness.
If you have time on your side, I recommend doing a three day trip to the Sahara which includes a camel ride through the desert to the Atlas Mountains, which are often snow-capped in the winter and vibrant with swaying palm trees in the summer.
Have you ever wanted to sleep under the stars in a Berber village in the desert and wake up to the incredible dunes surrounding you from every angle? Now’s your chance!
Just outside Marrakech is the UNESCO-listed Ait Ben Haddou, the Valley of the Roses, and Tinghir, Todra Gorge and Erg Chebbi dunes, the highest dunes in Morocco.
It’s a desert paradise, and a landscape so unique to Morocco you won’t believe you’re still on planet Earth.
To see it all, it really takes a few days, following the Tizi Ntichka pass to the high Atlas Mountains.
12. Visit the The Marrakech Arts Festivals
There are two major festivals in Marrakech worth visiting if you happen to be in the city at the right time.
The Marrakech International Film Festival and Marrakech Popular Arts Festival are two big events to attend if you’re in town.
There are many smaller festivals through the year, but the film festival and popular arts festival are the biggest and most bustling events.
13. Check out the Saadian Tombs
Another top attraction in Marrakech to not miss are the Saadian Tombs. The tombs are the resting place of the historic royal necropolis and are located on the site of the Kasbah Mosque, inside the royal kasbah.
They are the graves of the Moroccan monarchy, dating back to the Saadian dynasty (1578–1603) and a few royals from after this dynasty.
It is one of the best preserved examples of Saadian architecture, since the tombs feature intricate decoration and design.
For history lovers, don’t miss the opportunity to see this ancient style in its preserved form.
14. Admire the Architecture of Ben Youssef Madrasa
For those looking for beautiful Moroccan buildings with classic Moroccan styles, you will love the design of the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the largest Islamic college in Morocco.
The school features some of the most beautiful examples of Andalusian-Arabic architecture, with arched windows and geometric carvings in the plasterwork. The school was built in the 14th century by Sultan Abou al Hasan, but it’s now a museum.
Visitors can wander the old college halls and visit the dorms where students studied the Quran and other science and religious subjects.
It’s a great place to visit if you are curious about the Islamic religion and traditions, as well as see the beautiful building.
15. Check out the Bahia Palace
Another beautiful building known for its intricate decoration is the Bahia Palace. Along its walls and floors, you’ll see several thousand tiles, as well as geometric patterns carved into the walls stucco.
The Grand Courtyard of the Bahia Palace is the place to be to see this intricate beauty in all its glory.
The Bahia Palace was built in the 19th-century palace by Si Musa, grand vizier of Alaouite sultan Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman.
It was used as the family residence, but after his son passed away, it was handed to the royal family who used it to entertain foreign guests. Even today, the King sometimes uses the palace when foreign guests come to visit.
When it’s not in use by the royal family, it’s a bustling tourist attraction, so be sure to get there early to avoid the crowds.
16. Marvel at the Koutoubia Mosque
Most local mosques are closed to non-Muslims, but tourists can see the design and architecture of the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest and most recognizable mosque in the city, from the outside.
The mosque is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built in 1147 by the Almohad caliph Abd al-Mu’min shortly after he conquered Marrakesh.
The original mosque was remodelled a short while later in 1158, but this is the building you see before you today.
It’s a classic example of Almohad architecture, and is decorated with geometric arch motifs. It’s one of the most striking buildings in the city, so be sure to check it out.
17. Take a Day Trip to Ouzoud Waterfalls
Contrary to popular belief, Morocco is not all desert landscapes. In fact, the Ouzoud Waterfalls are some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world!
At 110 m high, they are the second tallest waterfalls in Africa. To reach them, you must hike down winding trails, through rainforest and olive groves, as well as an argan oil plantation.
Then, you can get up close and personal with the falls on a relaxing boat ride. It’s one of the most unmissable attractions in Marrakech!
18. Visit the Marrakech Museum Courtyard
The Marrakech Museum is a fascinating museum showcasing exhibits on Morroco’s history, with a collection of weapons, pottery and artifacts found across different parts of Morocco.
The main reason to visit the museum is for the building itself, which is the former Dar Mnebhi Palace, which has the most beautiful central courtyard.
It was built in a late 19th century design with a huge chandelier in its centre and colorful tiles on the floor, with natural light pouring into the space from its domed glass ceiling.
Many photographers visit the museum just to snap photos of the courtyard, but do make sure to wander around the exhibits as well.
19. Visit the Yves Saint Laurent Museum
Marrakech is known for its luxury shopping and designer clothing, so why not learn about the history of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent at the museum dedicated to him.
The museum is set in the designer’s former home, known as Villa Oasis, and houses exhibits telling the story of his life’s work.
Also attached to the museum is the beautiful Majorelle Gardens, which were designed by a French artist, Jacques Majorelle, who actually holds the patent for the color blue used in the architecture of the garden.
Majorelle Blue is used several times in the home of Yves Saint Laurent. The house and gardens are simply stunning, and the perfect backdrop for photography lovers.
Where to Stay in Marrakech
To be fair I’ve stayed in very few Marrakech accommodations because I stay in our family home, however I have spent a good deal of time connecting with travelers and visitors to make a few recommendations.
One note worth mentioning, prices no matter where you stay in Marrakech will be much higher in the summer months.
If you travel during the off-seasons you will find accommodations at a fraction of the summer rates.
- Peacock Pavilions (Kilometer 13 Route de Ourzazate) If you want to have a relaxing vacation in Marrakech outside the hustle and bustle of the city center you must stay here. Peacock Pavilions is a guest house built by an American expat family and matriarch Maryam (who is a fantastic designer!) creates unique charm in each and every corner of this boutique hotel. Some unique features include an outdoor theatre, a dining tent and an outdoor gym. Shopping trips, babysitting, and spa reservations can also be arranged.
- Hotel Mamounia – I would really be remiss if I didn’t mention this shining beacon of Marrakech. Recently remodeled and updated the Mamounia is a landmark in Marrakech. The price is on the higher end but if you visit in the off season, it’s really worth it to spend at least one night here.
- Riads are bed and breakfasts that offer a handful of rooms. In Marrakech many riads are traditional homes that have been repurposed for renting rooms. Prices range from $20 a night to $200+ a night.
- Dar Najat (Dar Graoua Derb Lala Chacha #18) I have heard fantastic raves about this riad and the price is very good. Meals are provided on site. The one comment I have heard over and over about this riad is the service provided to guests is exceptional.
- Riad Layla Rouge (Rue el Ksour Derb Rokni 23) This is a riad/hostel located just off djem l’fna. If you’re hunting for a bargain this might be your stop! Hostel accommodations can be found for under $20 a night (depending on season) and a private room for around $60. The colors of Marrakech will surround you during a stay here!
Vacation Rentals in Marrakech
A last option to consider, especially if your visit will be longer term is apartment rentals in Marrakech. There are numerous furnished apartments available at anytime in the city.
When Moroccans travel in the country this option is one they usually use. Often this will put you in more residential neighborhoods but the price is much more bearable than a hotel stay.
I like this option the best for families that are traveling to Marrakech.
For more places to stay in Marrakech, scroll through the list below choose from the largest range of hotels, apartments, and guesthouses with our partner Booking.com. You get free cancelation on most rooms, and in most cases, you only pay when you stay.
Best Time of Year to Visit Marrakech
Fall (mid- Sept until early December) and Spring (March to May).
Summer in Marrakech is very, very hot and chances are you won’t want to be outside very much. Winter tends to be rainy and cool.
Ramadan is another month out of the year that you might not want to visit. During the Muslim holy month shop and restaurant hours are often changed and there is less activity as most of the country is fasting from dawn to dusk.
Getting To and Around Marrakech
Many major and discount airlines fly into Marrakech and Morocco’s train system runs a few times daily to the city. If you’re coming from Europe I would fly a low-cost carrier like EasyJet or RyanAir.
Major airlines that fly into Marrakech are Royal Air Maroc, Air France, Iberia, BMI and TAP.
I have found that it’s often easier to get much cheaper flights to Casablanca and then take the train to Marrakech. It takes more time but the cost difference often makes up for it.
If you’re looking to visit other parts of Morocco the train runs to major cities but no further south than Marrakech. Morocco does have a fairly good coach bus system to access small cities from the train line.
Supratours and CTM have the best reputation for bus companies, but Supratours is my preferred coach bus. They have commissioned the old train station as their depot.
Any taxi driver will be able to know the difference if you tell them the bus company you are looking for. CTM buses pick up near Bab Doukkala.
When getting around Marrakech, the best way is by taxi. There are two types of taxis, the grand taxi and the petit taxi.
Grand taxi’s tend to go from point to point (i.e. you can’t really tell them easily a specific point you want to go to). They also tend to cram as many people in as possible. Imagine 7 passengers in a 1970’s Mercedes sedan.
The petit taxi is the best way to get around Marrakech. They are reasonably priced and run on a meter, whereas with a grand taxi the price is agreed on ahead of time. They also will take you point to point.
Marrakech does have a bus system but the times are not very reliable and they are overcrowded. Let’s just say in nearly 8 years of visiting I’ve never taken a bus ride.
Check Skyscanner and Going (formerly, Scott’s Cheap Flights) for flight deals.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Marrakech
I love Marrakech because it’s always changing!
Visiting from year to year I feel like there is always something new and exciting happening. I do miss some of the old charm that has been erased in just under a decade but I am excited for the new possibilities as well.
Whatever you decide to do in Marrakech, remember to just enjoy yourself.
In Morocco people aren’t ever in a hurry so don’t try and keep a strict schedule, so just let what happens happen!
There’s a Moroccan saying when someone asks you when something will be done. The answer is “tomorrow after tomorrow” or it will happen when it happens!
Allow this ethos to seep into your mindset and let your worries fade away. The world will sort itself out around you as you just have fun.
Bio: Amanda is the owner of MarocMama a food and travel website focusing on Moroccan food, culture and traditions as well as living in a bicultural family. In 2004 she met and fell in love with her Moroccan husband in fairy-tale fashion on the streets of Marrakech and their journey hasn’t slowed down since. You can see her latest posts by visiting MarocMama, on Facebook, and following on Twitter.
Tours of Marrakech
Our partner, Get Your Guide offers tour operators with many Marrakech tours and attractions tickets. They have the lowest prices, guaranteed — no booking fees or hidden charges.
You can pre-book tickets and skip the line at top attractions and cancel up to 24 hours before.
Some best-selling Marrakech tours are below:
More Northern Africa Travel Tips
Are you planning on visiting other parts of North Africa? Then you may find these other guides helpful…
- 23 Beautiful Reasons to Visit Morocco
- Things to Do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands
- Top things to do in the Canary Islands
- What to Do in Ethiopia
- 5 Experiences Egypt Has To Offer Different Travel Tastes
- How to Become a Master of Baksheesh in Egypt
- What to do in Cairo, Egypt
Do you have tips for things to do in Marrakech? Let us know in the comments.