The 20 Best Things to Do in Marrakech
Marrakech, known as the “red city” for the color of its buildings made with adobe and local earth, is one of the so-called Moroccan imperial cities, along with Rabat, Fez, and Meknes. The offer of things to see and do in Marrakech is enormous.
Located in the southern part of Morocco, it is one of its most important and attractive cities for the traveler, accumulating several monuments considered as World Heritage Sites.
Its foundation dates back to the year 1062 and became the Islamic empire’s capital. The old city, the medina, is located in the center, surrounded by walls 10 meters high and more than 15 kilometers in the perimeter. Outside of it is the more modern city, part of which was built during the period of French colonial rule.
For the visitor. Marrakech is a city with a large number of attractions, full of mosques, palaces, gardens, and charming places to discover. An exotic city that allows us to carry out interesting activities to enjoy an unforgettable trip.
The 20 best things to do in Marrakech
1. Jemaa el-Fna, a square that transforms between day and night
The Jemaa el-Fna square is the nerve center of the Marrakech medina, the place where the public life of the city unfolds. Knowing this square is discovering a magical place that offers us two very different faces, one during the day and the other at night.
Under the sunlight, Jemma el-Fna is full of exotic activities and characters as peculiar as monkey tamers, snake charmers, and water carriers. The stalls crowd the square and are dedicated to selling the most diverse objects.
When night falls, the atmosphere changes completely and it is the stalls selling various types of traditional food that take over the square. Experiencing it is one of the things to do in Marrakech that you cannot miss under any circumstances.
2. Watch the day go by on the terrace of a bar in Jemma el-Fna, drink orange juice, dine in a stall
The Jemaa el-Fna square occupies such an important role in the daily life of Marrakech that it provides some of the essential activities for visitors to the imperial city.
Having a mint tea on one of the terraces of the bars adjacent to the square will allow us to observe the activities that take place there from above. It is also a privileged position to be a direct witness to the changes that take place at nightfall.
Another delicious custom is to have fresh orange juice at one of the many stalls that surround the square and, of course, dine at one of the night stalls. Typical Moroccan food at affordable prices.
3. Contemplate, even from the outside, the famous Koutoubia mosque and its minaret
Very close to the Jemaa el-Fna square is the Koutoubia mosque, the most important in the city, which at one time became one of the largest in the entire Islamic world. Its name refers to “the booksellers” whose stalls surrounded it in its early days, back in the 12th century.
As is the norm in the city, entry is not allowed to those who do not profess the Muslim religion. However, it is very attractive to contemplate its unmistakable silhouette and its minaret, which evokes the Giralda in Seville so much. The almost 70 meters high of this minaret makes it the tallest construction in the city.
4. Stroll through the souk of Marrakech and haggle on purchases
From the north of the Jemaa el-Fna square, a whole labyrinth of narrow streets stretches out, in which a display of hundreds of stalls selling all kinds of products takes place every day.
It is a huge souk where the characteristic products of all the traditional guilds of Marrakech are exposed, selling everything from clothing and crafts to spices, food, and typical products of all kinds.
To buy in the souk, it is inevitable to participate in the haggling ritual, in which the sellers of this place are true masters. To reach a fair price, you should probably not initially spend more than a third of what they ask for. However, his theatrical attitudes and natural ability make it very difficult to hit that sweet spot.
5. Visit the peculiar Jewish quarter of Mellah
It is not a very common visit, but it is very interesting since it is a neighborhood that dates back to the 16th century when it welcomed one of the largest Jewish communities on the European continent, expelled mainly from Spain and Portugal. At present, synagogues such as Al Azama and a characteristic Jewish cemetery are preserved.
A walk through its streets to admire its atmosphere and its legacy is another of the visits that we recommend you do in Marrakech.
6. Enjoy the Menara and Majorelle gardens, an orchard in the middle of arid terrain
On the harshest days of summer, the traveler can find a moment of rest and a breath of fresh air in one of the city’s gardens. The best known are those of Menara, erected in 1870 on what until then had only been a large pond from the Almohad period. Around it, thousands of olive trees obtain their own irrigation from its waters.
More modern is the Majorelle Gardens, designed in the 1920s by the French painter of the same name, which opened to the public in 1947. Its leafy trees allow you to breathe freshness on the driest days of summer. In the garden, there is a multitude of plant species such as cacti, bamboo, palm trees, banana trees, coconut trees, and a significant number of aquatic plants.
7. Get to know the great palaces of the imperial city
One of the most important buildings in Marrakech is the Bahía Palace, originally from the late 19th century. More than a decade took the construction of this great palace that occupied 8 hectares of land, distributed among its 150 rooms, as well as the different patios and gardens.
It was built with great pretensions, destined to be the most spectacular palace in the whole world, and today the decoration of its impressive walls, doors, and ceilings worked in wood remain as witnesses of this intention.
The Badi Palace, built in the final years of the 16th century, saw much better days since today it only appears to us in ruins. Its name means “the incomparable” and it came to have more than 300 rooms, all of them sumptuously decorated, based on turquoise, gold, and glass.
Have you already booked your accommodation in Marrakech? If you have not booked it yet, it will be useful to know what the different areas of the city are like so that you can choose the one that best suits you: Where to stay in Marrakech
8. The Palm Grove of Marrakech, a gratifying and essential visit to do in Marrakech
However, when it comes to talking about orchards in Marrakech we cannot forget its impressive Palm Grove, more than 100,000 specimens distributed over a territory of more than 13,000 hectares that have become an essential visit. According to a curious legend, the origin of the palm grove is found in the hosts of the founder of Marrakech, Youssef Ben Tachfine.
Tradition says that these soldiers camped in this very place and threw the seeds of all the dates they ate, giving rise over time to this enormous number of palm trees. A very pleasant way to visit it is to take a ride on a dromedary, a true classic for visitors to the “red city”.
Despite the age of this area, it is currently the center of a luxury urban plan that includes hotels, private residences, and golf courses.
9. Take a carriage ride through the avenues of Marrakech
In addition to dromedary rides, another classic attraction for the traveler is to enjoy a carriage ride. A very traditional and complete route, about two hours of pleasant walk is the one that covers the itinerary from the Jemma el-Fna square to the Palmeraie Golf Palace Hotel, located at the end of Palm Grove.
10. Knowing the Sahara desert: a unique and incomparable experience
From Marrakech, we have at our disposal the possibility of knowing nothing less than the largest desert in the world, such as the Sahara. More than 9 million kilometers make up the largest arid area on the entire planet.
Through excursions by car or 4×4, you can reach the two main areas, Zagora, closer and with fewer dunes, and Merzouga, with dunes up to 150 meters high.
A good way to complement the visit to the desert is to spend the night in a typical Berber haima, under an incredible starry sky and watch the impressive sunrise between the dunes.
11. Relax in the middle of the trip with a visit to a hammam
To relax while we share a traditional Arab custom, we can visit one of its famous steam baths with exfoliation of the skin, the hammams. Apart from that main function, the hammam is a true meeting place.
This has become a custom, to the point that each neighborhood has one of them, generally in the vicinity of the mosques. Of course, they have different rooms for visitors of both sexes or they establish different hours so that they do not coincide inside.
In the traditional hammams, it is essential to bring your own towel and flip-flops, as well as the traditional exfoliating black soap and a kessa sponge, which can be found at any street stall. As you can well imagine, it is one of the most relaxing activities to do in Marrakech.
12. Impossible to visit Marrakech and not drink mint tea accompanied by Arabic sweets
If it is a question of getting to know and integrating into the Moroccan culture, we cannot forget the ubiquitous tea. In Marrakech, the specialty is mint tea and the custom is to take it accompanied by some succulent cakes or typical pasta. Honey, pistachio, and almonds are ingredients that cannot be missing in these sweets.
On a practical level, it will be good for you to know what are the alternatives to go from the airport to the center: How to go from the Marrakech airport to the center
13. Experience the contrast between the new city and areas like Gueliz, the “European neighborhood”
Although the traditional part of Marrakech is the best known and enjoyed by visitors, the city has evolved a lot following the new times, creating new areas that are also worth visiting.
Gueliz is one of those new neighborhoods chosen to live by most of the foreign citizens residing in the city. This “European neighborhood” is very marked by the presence of large avenues such as Mohammed V, with its more than 3 kilometers in length.
This area is much more westernized and there are distinguished establishments, such as the most luxurious clothing stores. It is also rich in international restaurants, including pizzerias and hamburgers for those who miss them on their trip to a Moroccan city.
14. Relaxation and modern music in the beach clubs of Marrakech
Another way to enjoy the new times in Marrakech is to visit the beach clubs installed in the “red city”. In general terms, the beach clubs are large swimming pools (even larger than 3,200 square meters) around which Balinese beds and sun loungers are installed.
The atmosphere is enlivened by live music played by a DJ. Highly frequented by tourists, the Nikki Beach Marrakech and the Plage Rouge stand out for their popularity. Two excellent options to cool off from the sweltering climate of Morocco, and enjoy its good atmosphere.
15. Back to tradition with a visit to the Ben Youssef medersa
The medersa or madrasa of Ben Youssef is another of the traditional visits to Marrakech. It is a Muslim school specializing in religious studies, designed to serve a nearby mosque. In this case, we are facing the largest and most important medersa in all of Morocco, although its origin is ancient and it has been standing since the year 1565.
Inside its 130 cells, it came to house a number close to 900 students. The decoration made with colored tiles is truly spectacular, as is its central patio, which is decorated with an impressive iron lamp.
16. Visit the Saadian tombs and its impressive Hall of the Twelve Columns
Another of the star places that must be seen in Marrakech are the Saadian tombs. Although they date from the last years of the 16th century, they were discovered and opened to the public in 1917. The beautiful main mausoleum, known as the Room of the Twelve Columns, justifies a visit and is labeled as one of the essential ones.
These dozen columns carved in marble support a dome made by hand in cedar wood. Also noteworthy are the adjoining rooms of the Mihrab and the three niches. Nearly 100 tombs are housed in the enclosure gardens, destined for warriors and servants of that dynasty.
17. Eating is another of the great attractions of Marrakech
Lunchtime in Marrakech is a real pleasure and constitutes one of the main attractions for the traveler. The city is very well supplied in this regard, not only with traditional dishes but with a more international flair.
The most typical dishes in Marrakech, as in the rest of Morocco, are tajines and couscous. Tajines refer to containers containing fish and meat stews, while couscous is the traditional semolina grain stew with lamb or chicken.
To eat, it is possible to choose from varied offers, with quite affordable prices. Dining in one of the many food stalls in the Jemaa el-Fna square is quite an experience, both for the taste of the products consumed and for the exotic and unique atmosphere that exists throughout the square.
18. Excursions to unique surroundings, such as the Ouzoud, Essaouira, or Ouarzazate waterfalls
It is very common to make some excursions from Marrakech to some of the extraordinary places in the area and enjoy unique countries. One of the favorite excursions is the visit to the Ouzoud waterfalls, the largest in the North African territory, with 110 meters high.
Getting to know Essaouira, declared a World Heritage Site and known by nicknames such as the “pearl of the Atlantic”, is another of the favorite concerns of visitors to Marrakech. Less than 200 kilometers from the “red city” is this small, fortified town that lives on fishing and allows us to consume seafood and fish at an incomparable price.
The possibility of taking excursions from Marrakech brings us closer to beautiful cities such as Ouarzazate, called the “gate of the desert” and also popularly known as the “Hollywood of Africa”, for having some large film studios and being the setting for such mythical films as Los Ten Commandments.
The route of the Ourika river allows you to admire the landscapes typical of the High Atlas, with the intense contrast that they represent compared to the arid and flat classical territory of Morocco.
19. Shopping in practically the entire city
There are many typical products, most of them of artisan origin. In some cases, they are even made directly in the stalls themselves. They are very appropriate items to take as a souvenir of Marrakech.
In addition to the immense offer of the souk, there are many markets and stalls that offer different types of products such as leather and fur, tanned with very old techniques. Among the fabrics, the djellabas, tapestries, and rugs stand out and it is possible to buy interesting objects made of silver or copper.
Other products that enjoy enormous acceptance and are offered in multiple places are dates, sweet honey pastes, and spices, of which there is an impressive concentration in Rahba Kadima square, better known precisely as spice square.
20. Cultural visits for museum lovers
Back to cultural tourism, Marrakech also has some interesting museums that allow us to better understand the life and culture of this Moroccan city. The most important is the Museum of Marrakech, located in the rooms of an old palace from the late 19th century.
The rooms in which the museum’s collections are exhibited are distributed around a large patio in which an impressive lamp stands out. The exhibition is based on traditional Moroccan objects, among which weapons, carpets, and ceramic samples stand out.
The Dar Si Said Museum, the oldest in the city, officially known as the Museum of Moroccan Arts, is also very interesting. In relation to the objects that are exposed, it is larger than the previous one, with an interesting collection of traditional and everyday pieces, such as different musical instruments and pieces of furniture.