Best Things to Do in Marrakech
The passage of different civilizations and dynasties, the times of the French protectorate, and Spanish colonialism have all shaped a rich heritage and an unparalleled mix of cultures in one of Morocco’s five imperial cities. So that you don’t miss out on any details if you visit it, we tell you what to do in Marrakech.
If you decide to make a trip to Marrakech, discover its most famous corners included in the UNESCO list. In this article, we will take you almost by the hand through its streets, monuments, landscape, and customs, without forgetting the cuisine or places to stay.
Unique things to do in Marrakech
These are our recommendations on top attractions to see and the best things to do in Marrakech without rushing, I’m sure there are many more things.
1. Walls and Gates of the Old Medina
This is the ideal spot to appreciate the spectacular bastions of red-ochre soil, the natural color of the local material that surrounds the Medina. Only here can one understand one of its nicknames “the red city”. Depending on the time of day, you can also see orange or pink.
The city wall has 19 gates, the most important being the monumental Bab Agnaou, “Gate of the mute ram without horns”. Built in the 12th century by the Almohads, it gave access to the southern area, where the caravans and traders from the desert and Black Africa came from.
After going around a good part of the wall, very forgotten by conventional guides, it is worth going to the Old Medina through Bab Agnaou, to introduce you to a fascinating world.
2. Great Medina or Old City
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985. It is essential to let yourself be carried away by its smells, colors, noises, but above all, by its people.
A word of advice! Walk with the curious eyes of a child, forget about guides. Go into all the places where the entrance is allowed.
Touch, smell, feel and taste, without fear…, even if they want to sell you something. Feel the fascination of a unique place, of red, orange, and ochre streets. A place where the sound of a motorbike makes you jump out of your skin, where cats roam around the fish stalls while bees swarm around the exquisite honey and almond sweets.
You’ll pass through lavish palaces, small mosques, arched streets where a hairdresser cuts your hair while listening to music that invites you to dance and you’ll see beautiful hands of Fatima at every door. Rotten smells are combined with aromas of spices. Fish shops next to herbalists, hostels next to riads.
In the old medina, you will hear the laughter of the children coming out of the school and the singing of the prayer coming from some hidden Mosque.
3. Jemaa el Fna Square
Inevitably, your steps will lead you to the heart of Medina, the Jemaa el Fna square, declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.
This is the main cultural space of Marrakech and symbol, on its own merits, of the city since its founding, back in the eleventh century. Although at that time its use had nothing to do with the present. UNESCO recognized the exceptional concentration of traditions and popular customs of Morocco represented by a good number of artistic expressions, musical and religious.
This place deserves all your attention. It needs to be observed over different hours. You have to listen to the music, the stories of the storytellers, the sound of the motorcycles, and even the song of the muezzin calling for prayer in nearby Koutoubia.
Be fascinated by the night, when the food stalls take up space and the smoke produces almost dreamlike images.
Prepare to be assaulted by the “customer catchers” with slogans that would make any advertiser versed in the subject blush.
A few fish, olives, pickles, and to top it all off, the cake stands to awaken your sweet tooth. The most important thing not to be overwhelmed? Don’t rush! Walk around and look at the different options first.
If you take your time, you’ll see the places occupied almost exclusively by Moroccan families or local workers, they’re the best!
Behind some stalls that only sell glitter and western paraphernalia, there are simple stalls where the locals sit, where you will live an experience that is 100% genuine.
The square is a party that catches the tourist, the traveler, the foreigner, a mixture of story and reality.
Not everything in the square is “teasing the tourist”, there is simply a role-playing game, where everyone plays their own role.
But if you go beyond the “I’m being fooled!” moment, you discover the true essence of the place.
Another essential feature of this square is its panoramic terraces. From the heights the show is magnificent, and you also have priceless panoramic views of the square and the Koutoubia.
Although the essence is below. Welcome to the biggest open-air theater in the world!
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4. Vibrant Souks
A large door on the south side of the square gives access to another of Marrakech’s must-see areas, the souks district.
It is a meaningless street following the trail of the different guilds located in perfect harmony in their relevant areas. For Westerners, this world represents veritable chaos of corridors, shops, donkeys, cars, motorbikes, people, and items of all kinds and uses.
The souks are distributed in small squares that give way to alleys expanded towards the infinite. If you are a lover of shopping, this is your place. Shops and stores, of all kinds, tastes, and accessibility are spread around one of the most interesting souks in Morocco.
Here you will discover the art of haggling, so-called because it involves its own game and customs.
In the souks you will never see the prices set, nothing has a value labeled. There is nothing left to do but haggle.
5. Bahia Palace
Magnificent Andalusian style palace that means “Palace of Beauty”. Its extension is eight hectares distributed in rooms, patios, and gardens. The palace is empty. When the last vizier died, his wives and close relatives took everything.
That is why it is better to take the tour with a guide who will explain its history, otherwise, you may be disappointed.
The palace is very close to Jemaa el Fna Square. Getting there is an interesting walk through the streets of the Old Medina.
6. Saadian Tombs
An interesting funeral complex was discovered in 1917. Be patient to visit them, they are the must-do in Marrakech! The most impressive part is the mausoleum of Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur and his family.
The visit does not take more than half an hour. The whole building is made up of a collection of tombs (about a hundred), where the warriors of the Saadian dynasty and the servants of the sultan were buried.
7. Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens
The mosque is one of the symbols of the city. Its minaret of 69 meters, is the roof of Marrakech. From its peaceful garden, you can see the whole of the Koutoubia. Access is forbidden to non-Muslims. It emphasizes his precious sandstone of the so typical pink color in the city.
Koutoubia means “mosque of the booksellers” since in its beginnings, it was surrounded by bookstores. Now they have been replaced by the garden, the orange stalls, and the tourists.
8. The Jewish Quarter – Mellah
The Mellah, “place of salt”, dates back to the time of the trade-in salt extracted from the Atlas that served to preserve food. The enriching monopoly of this trade was in the hands of the Jewish merchants settled in Marrakech. Today, practically nothing remains of that community.
Located outside the walls, in the southern part of the Medina, we cross the Bab Agnaou gate to walk through one of the most interesting areas of Marrakech. The streets, of different architectural connotations concerning the old Media, are full of shops of spices, aromatic plants, carpets, street stalls, and crafts.
You can also visit some of the famous herbalist shops where the “Berber doctors” follow ancestral traditions to prevent and cure diseases of all kinds, based on herbs and ointments.
In this area let yourself be pampered, from any stall you will be invited to a delicious mint tea, with no obligation to buy. Although you have to be careful, the market area is full of “hooks” to attract tourists to certain shops where you can feel violent because of the attitude of the people in charge.
The Mellah catches by an interesting architecture differentiated from the rest of Marrakech, the houses have wooden balconies, a peculiarity of the Jews in this city.
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Where to Stay in Marrakech?
The city has endless possibilities for accommodation to suit all budgets.
In our case, we have stayed in hotels with a good number of complementary services that have made the stay perfect, such as a swimming pool (especially when the heat is high), restaurant, bar, live music, etc.
Where to Eat in Marrakech?
We share with you the places where we have eaten on our visits to the city:
In the same square, one of the classics to enjoy its atmosphere, although they go up a bit with the prices.
A nice place with a Moroccan menu, but where you will also find other varieties such as pizzas or pasta. Good prices. Another place to enjoy the views of the Old Medina.
Albaraka Moroccan Restaurant
A nice riad converted into a restaurant. They offer tasting menus of Moroccan specialties.
At night there are performances of traditional music. Located on one side of the square, the interesting thing is what happens inside and not outside.
Le Tanjia Restaurant
If you feel like giving yourself a little luxury this place is one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood of El Mellah near the palaces of El Badi and Al Badia.
A spectacular tasting menu of local dishes. Highly recommended for dinner. The charm of its candlelit terrace is priceless.
Jemaa el Fna Square stalls
If you feel like giving yourself a little luxury this place is one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood of El Mellah near the palaces of El Badii and Al Badia.
A spectacular tasting menu of local dishes. Highly recommended for dinner. The charm of its candlelit terrace is priceless. Jemaa el Fna Square stalls: Dare to go into this place in the afternoon-night.
If you do not want to end up feeling that you have been taken for a ride, we recommend that you first take a look at the different stalls, take a good look at the menus, the prices, and above all look at the stalls where the local people dine.
In all of them there is a menu with a fixed price, ask for it! They will always give you an appetizer consisting of bread, olives, and tomato sauce
If you are not willing to pay for it (this is where you get the scare) don’t accept it, tell them nicely that you didn’t ask for it and nothing happens.
The best thing? Taste the typical products of the stalls with only one specialty. For example, some specialize in harira, others in snails, others in kebabs. Try to dine on them, you’ll see what an explosion of flavors.
The dinner should not be more than 25Dh.
Knock Knock Cafe
We are very excited about this place located in the old Medina.
Three floors with different rooms complemented by a panoramic terrace. Vegetarian options, local food, tasting menu, and good homemade dishes. Quick attention, very good prices and a nice and simple decoration very much in line with the place.
Plan your escape from Marrakech
The Modern and Luxurious Side of the City
Apart from these places, there is a modern, luxurious city outside the old medina, but less attractive. A Marrakech that looks more and more like our cities of empty shopping malls and large avenues with brands that are repeated ad nauseam, you decide what to visit!
These have been our tips on what attractions to see and things to do in Marrakech. Now we leave you with the recommendations to plan your escape.
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How To Get Around in Marrakech?
Use the taxis
And to get around, use the taxis, if you share them they are very good value and are the most comfortable way to travel around the city. Get ready for the chaos of the traffic!
As you can see, we have left you a good battery of tips on what to see and do in Marrakech, a city that offers a wide range of possibilities.
Even though we sometimes hate it very much, when we return home we only dream of going back and continue enjoying it – this city is pure magic!
We hope that you found useful information on what attractions to see and things to do in Marrakech. If you have any questions, please let us know!
If you are considering desert trips from Marrakech, contact our friendly team of experts to help plan your trip.