Best Things To Do in Marrakech
The major attraction here is the city itself. Marrakech's vibrant colors, aromatic dishes, indecipherable sounds and inimitable feel will linger in your memory long after you leave its corridors. Plan to spend most of your time in or around the medina, Marrakech's fortified old city. Marvel at ancient, elaborately decorated sights like the Saadian Tombs, the Badi Palace and Koutoubia Mosque before testing your haggling skills in Jemaa El Fna. And don't forget to save time for quintessential Moroccan experiences, such as camel rides in the desert and soaks in hammams (public baths).
Updated April 9, 2018
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The heart of Marrakech lies in its historic city center – a UNESCO World Heritage site. For centuries, the medina acted as a political and economic hub whose influence radiated throughout the Middle East. Royals resided here, international trade took place here and cultures developed here. As you stroll through this 11th-century labyrinth of alleyways, you'll see that Marrakech's history remains intact.
Past visitors said that the medina is a must-see, especially at night. Most of its popular food and merchandise stalls are situated in Jemaa El Fna, but for a less crowded atmosphere, explore the streets outside the medina's main square. It's easy to lose your bearings here, so some former travelers also suggest visiting with a guide. Companies that offer guided walks around the medina include Marrakech Guided Tours and Marrakech Tour Guide – both recommended by recent travelers.
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It's hard to miss Jemaa El Fna. Sitting at the center of the medina, this open-air square stands as the city's main gathering spot. By day, Jemaa El Fna hosts dozens of entertainers, from snake charmers to fortune tellers to herbalists. By night, the area fills with the aromas of piping hot couscous, grilled meats and simmering vegetables from the food stalls. From the square, narrow alleyways lead intrepid shoppers through a maze of souks (markets), composed of spice vendors and carpet sellers who will stop at nothing to get you to buy something. Here's a tip: Never settle for the original price. Half the fun of shopping around Jemaa El Fna is practicing your bargaining skills. Most hawkers will negotiate with you, but walk away if you encounter a stubborn seller.
Recent visitors praised Jemaa El Fna's bustling marketplace but suggested visiting at night when there's more to see. Several also stressed the importance of saying "no" when you do not want an item or service and suggested keeping a close eye on your belongings since pickpockets are regularly spotted here.
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Within walking distance of must-see sights like Jemaa El Fna, the Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs sits the intricate Bahia Palace. This 19th-century palace exemplifies the lavish lifestyle of the Moroccan elite. Before it was accessible to the public, this property housed various Moroccan royals. Although the palace was ransacked in the early 1900s, members of the royal family continue to occasionally stay here. Meanwhile, visitors can check out the public areas of the property, which feature rounded entryways that lead to colorful mosaics and intricate latticework, as well as cool, shady walkways that guide you to vast, sunny courtyards and gardens.
According to previous visitors, this beautiful palace is worth visiting, especially if you love history, art or architecture. However, several cautioned that the property can get crowded later in the day, so consider arriving before 10 a.m.
- #4View all Photos#4 in MarrakechCastles/Palaces, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDCastles/Palaces, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
It's hard to imagine at first glance, but during the 16th century, the Badi Palace was once a playground for Saadian royalty. Today, all that remains of the Badi Palace are picturesque sandstone ruins, the skeleton of a once opulent home. But you can still envision the Badi's grandeur as you stroll past the four sunken gardens and empty reflecting pools, walk beneath the 50 chandeliers and eight Venetian sconces in the prayer hall, and admire the 300,000 alumnium tiles that adorn the roof. The former palace also houses several objects from Koutoubia Mosque's minbar (or pulpit) that are worth a look.
To fully comprehend the extent of the Badi Palace, several travelers suggest checking out the property's exhibits and paying extra to see the minbar. Others highly recommend taking in the city panoramas from the palace's rooftop terrace.
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In the southwest corner of the medina, within walking distance of the bustling Jemaa El Fna, lies Marrakech's most recognizable landmark, Koutoubia Mosque. Featuring intricate tile work, salmon-hued walls, expansive archways and an impressive 253-foot-tall minaret (or tower), this 12th-century Moorish mosque has served as the model for several other notable religious sites, including the Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco, and La Giralda in Seville, Spain.
Recent travelers enjoyed visiting Koutoubia Mosque, adding that it's a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Many were also quick to praise the building's beautiful architecture. However, if you're set on seeing the inside of a mosque, consider heading elsewhere, since this one does not permit entry to non-Muslims.
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When it comes to beautiful green spaces in Marrakech, Majorelle Garden, situated northwest of the medina, steals the show. The garden was crafted by French painter Jacques Majorelle (who lived in the Red City from 1923 to 1961). After his death in 1962, the property was bought by fellow Marrakech-lover and late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, and it was eventually opened to the public after Saint Laurent's death in 2008.
In this garden, you won't find the city's typical desert setting: Thick bamboo, palm and cactus groves shelter trickling streams, ponds filled with water lilies and a bright blue water fountain that matches the adjacent Berber Museum are just some of the property's features. An art gallery, a gift shop, a bookstore and a cafe are also located on-site.
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When you need a break from Marrakech's street hawkers and religious sites, consider checking out the Museum of Photography. Situated in the medina by the Medersa Ben Youssef, this photography museum features roughly 10,000 original prints from photographers like Jean Besancenot, Joseph Bouhsira and Pierre Boucher, many depicting various Moroccan scenes and landmarks. Collections with postcards, glass negatives and documentaries, plus a library with 19th- and 20th-century works are also available on-site.
Though some say this small museum is tricky to find, many rave about its photographs, adding that the facility does an excellent job of telling the city's history. Another highlight of this property is its rooftop terrace, which offers tasty Moroccan cuisine and breathtaking city and mountain views.
- #8View all Photos#8 in MarrakechSpasTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSpasTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
When the hustle and bustle of the Jemaa El Fna takes its toll, seek refuge at one of the city's hammams (public baths). A plethora of hammams are available in Marrakech, but some of its most well-known include Les Bains de Marrakech, Hammam Dar El Bacha and traveler favorites like HERITAGE SPA and Hammam Rosa Bonheur.
Hammams can intimidate first-timers. Those expecting a Western spa experience are often taken aback by the openness of the baths and the requirement to remove clothing. However, most past visitors said that their hammam attendants helped put them at ease, adding that the slight discomfort they initially felt was easy to overlook for such a "wonderful" experience.
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Though you could easily spend the majority of your vacation wandering around Marrakech's medina or historic mosques, no visit to Morocco would be complete without exploring the country's desert. A variety of tour options are offered, including all-terrain drives, camel rides and hikes. The Ourika Valley, the Atlas Mountains, Ouzoud Falls and the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou (a UNESCO World Heritage-listed group of clay dwellings that once served as a trading post) are just some of the locales you may see during a desert tour.
For half- or full-day excursions from Marrakech, visitors recommend local companies like M & A Tours, Dunes & Desert Exploration and Arib Voyages, citing their friendly guides and tasty lunches (which are served at a local restaurant or in a Berber home) as highlights. Multiday tours are also available from traveler-approved operators, such as RoughTours Company and Moroccan Active Adventures. These trips generally cover a few meals and accommodations (either a tent at a camp or a room at a hotel) for some or all nights of the itinerary.
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This cemetery, which sits just south of the medina, features more than 160 tombs filled with the remains of prominent Saadians (members of an Arab dynasty who are reportedly descendents of the prophet Muhammad) and their advisors and royal wives. First used in the early 14th century, the Saadian Tombs' intricate decor (think: cedar ceilings, colorful mosaics and Carrara marble headstones) was not added until the 16th century by Ahmed El Mansour. Unlike other ornate structures in the region, this property was not plundered by Sultan Moulay Ismail in the early 18th century, making it one of Marrakech's only surviving Saadian sites.
Although a few former travelers felt underwhelmed by the cemetery's grounds (especially after visiting the Alhambra in Granada), others appreciated its quiet atmosphere and "amazing" architecture. To avoid waiting in a long line to enter and feeling rushed while exploring this small attraction, several visitors recommended arriving shortly after opening.
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Moroccan dishes combine local proteins (think: pigeon, chicken and sardines) with an array of aromatic spices. Many eateries throughout the city serve traditional fare, but one of the best ways for foodies to try this one-of-a-kind cuisine is to sign up for a cooking class. Items generally prepared during cooking classes include tajines (a stew-like dish baked in its namesake pot), mint tea and various salads and desserts.
Overall, recent visitors enjoyed sampling and learning about Moroccan cuisine, adding that this fun experience cannot be missed. Many also heaped praise on their friendly chefs and guides, and said that this activity is great to do with kids. Several tour companies, hotels and culinary schools offer cooking demonstrations, including traveler favorites like Faim d'Epices, La Maison Arabe, Atelier de Cuisine and Urban Adventures.
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