No matter how many times you visit Marrakesh, it still feels new, exotic and tinged with mystery. This ancient city is snuggled between the mountains and the desert. It has attracted visitors for a thousand years, drawn to its maze-like streets, beautiful buildings and unique, fascinating culture. Now it’s your turn to join them! We’ve put together this list of our favourite Marrakesh attractions to keep you busy
as you discover one of the top destinations in Morocco.
Lose yourself in the medina
Marrakesh isn’t the only city in Morocco with a medina — in fact, that’s just the local word meaning old town — but we reckon it has the best one of all. This confusing warren of narrow alleys and sudden dead-ends has been the heart of Marrakesh since the 12th century. Inside, you’ll find all kinds of stalls
and shops, markets, riads, souks and some of the best sights in Marrakesh.
We’ll be honest with you: you’re bound to get lost in the medina. Anyone who explores the medina without getting lost is probably doing something wrong! Don’t panic when you realise that you’re lost. In our opinion, that’s one of the best ways to see Marrakesh. Follow your nose and head in the direction of the nearest spice shop, or let the crowds lead you to a hidden gem of a food stall. This is how you’ll
find the soul of the city.
Embrace the madness of Jemaa El-Fna
When you make it to the centre of a maze, you’ll usually find a hidden treat — so what happens when you get to the middle of the Marrakesh medina? Well, you’ll stumble out into one of the most chaotic places in the city. Jemaa El-Fna is a sprawling square packed with stallholders, dancers, snake charmers, monkey handlers, jugglers, street magicians and pretty much anything else you could imagine. For a taste of something exotic and uniquely North African, visiting Jemaa El-Fna has to be on your list of the top activities to do in Marrakesh.
It’s busy by day, but Jemaa El-Fna really comes alive in the early evening. In fact, if you’re not a fan of crowds and noise, then steer clear of this crazy square once darkness falls. If, on the other hand, you want to embrace the majestic muddle of Marrakesh, there’s nothing quite like an hour exploring Jemaa El-Fna!
Enjoy some of the wackier local fare
If you’ve got a stomach of iron, then this has to be one of the most unusual things to do in Marrakesh! The Moroccan culinary scene is known all over the world for rich, delicious dishes like tagine and couscous — but they’re not the only things you’ll find on the menu.
As you explore the medina, you’ll come across vendors offering sheep’s brains, heart kebabs and spicy snails. The truly adventurous traveller won’t stop there, though — another local delicacy is a complete goat’s head, still with eyeballs and teeth. Well, when in Rome… Are you up for the challenge?
Breathe fresh air at the Majorelle Garden
This is one of the best things to visit in Marrakesh, but if you ask a local for directions, you’ll need to brush up on your French. Some people still refer to it as the Jardin Majorelle. Whatever you call it, this gorgeous botanical garden has become known as Marrakesh’s green lung. When you need a break from the hectic streets of the medina, this is one of the top things to do in Marrakesh.
In fact, the Majorelle Garden is a fairly new addition to the ancient city. Jacques Majorelle, a French artist, set it up in the 1920s, filling it with all the bright, vivid colours that he loved. Brilliant tropical flowers line the walkways, and there are soothing pools for you to sit beside and relax. There’s no better place in
Marrakesh to chill out for a couple of hours!
See Islamic art at the Bahia Palace
Islamic tradition says that human artists cannot draw living beings; to do so would be stepping on God’s toes. That’s why places like the Bahia Palace are filled with gorgeously intricate geometric designs. This massive complex is well worth exploring, particularly if you’re interested in art and architecture. You’ll want to get up close to examine those incredible geometric works, which took an unbelievable amount of skill to create.
The Bahia Palace was built in the 19th century. Only a few of its 150 rooms are open to the public, but they’re all quite stunning. However, you might be surprised that the palace has almost no furniture. There’s a funny story behind that. The palace was built by a rich local man. The Sultan was so jealous of his wealth that he ordered the ransacking of the palace. His men took away everything they could
carry — but they left behind the incredible decor, which remains one of the best Marrakesh things to see.
Soak up the atmosphere in a traditional hammam
Even if you’re not a big fan of spa days, we think that you should add an afternoon at a hammam to your list of the top things to do in Marrakesh. These traditional Arabic baths are a great place to relax, and as you immerse yourself in the warm waters, you’ll also have the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Traditional hammams are strictly segregated by sex. In Moroccan society, they’re almost like the bathhouses of Ancient Rome — a place where people can go to get clean and relax but also socialise and gossip. For the basic experience, you can just soak in the pools of different temperatures. Want something more exciting? Go for a full body scrub, massage treatments and hair washing. Hammams tend to specialise in vigorous scrubs that will remove all your dead skin. You’ll be left tingling all over, feeling rejuvenated and ready for a fresh day of action.
Admire the architecture of the Koutoubia Mosque
Unless you’re Muslim, you won’t be allowed inside the Koutoubia Mosque. In fact, there’s only one mosque in all of Morocco that lets visitors come inside, and that’s miles away in Casablanca. Despite that little hiccup, we still think a visit to Koutoubia is one of the top things to do in Marrakesh. Why? Because when you see just how beautiful the exterior is, you won’t need to worry about going inside. There’s more than enough to look at on the outside of the building.
Walk slowly around the minaret, as each side has its own unique style. Check out the copper balls right at the top and admire the incredible details in the mosque’s architecture. While you’re in the neighbourhood, be sure to go for a stroll around Koutoubia Gardens, too. This lush desert oasis is the perfect place to stop and rest.
Perfect your haggling skills at the Souk Semmarine
Every Moroccan city has several souks, the traditional bazaars where locals and visitors come to buy everything from souvenirs to fruit. Haggling is the name of the game here. It might make you feel uncomfortable, but you’ll have to get over that! Vendors will be offended if you don’t haggle — and you’ll miss out on some great bargains.
Haggling in Morocco is a true art. It’s worth watching some locals in action to get an idea before trying it yourself. Even if you don’t understand what they’re saying, you can’t mistake the gestures — the massive eye-rolls, huffing out great puffs of air, the shrugs and head-shakes. You’ll soon figure out this remarkable part of daily Moroccan life.
Souk Semmarine is one of the very best souks in the city. It’s open from 9 am until 9 pm, but we recommend either going early in the morning or late in the evening. That way, you’ll avoid the heat of the day. With a cooler head, you’ll soon be haggling with the best of them.
Explore the world of fashion at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent
Did you expect to find a museum dedicated to a legendary French fashion designer in the middle of a Moroccan city? Well, Marrakesh is full of surprises! The Musée Yves Saint Laurent is, as its name suggests, all about Monsieur YSL himself. In fact, YSL was a pied-noir — that is to say, a Frenchman of European heritage born in North Africa during the colonial period. Although he spent most of his adult life in France, he never forgot his North African childhood and drew inspiration from the colours and textures of Morocco.
Yves Saint Laurent travelled to Morocco twice a year to design his collections, and today, the museum that bears his name is one of the top things to do in Marrakesh. It’s an intriguing place that explores not just fashion but also the unique influence that Morocco has had on French culture.
Have a night out in Guéliz
Most visitors to Marrakesh focus on the older parts of the city, particularly that wonderful medina. However, don’t forget that Marrakesh is a thriving modern city, too. You’ll see that most clearly when you enter Guéliz, which is also known as the new town.
Although it’s a stone’s throw from the medina, Guéliz can feel like another world. It has palm-lined avenues, carefully manicured parks and broad, European-style boulevards. This is where you can pick up modern, fashionable clothes and accessories. It’s also where you’ll find Marrakesh’s bright young things after the sun goes down. Unlike in the medina, you’ll be able to buy alcohol without any problems here — there are special shops that cater specifically to non-Muslims.
A walk through Guéliz can feel a little strange for many visitors. After all, you probably came to Marrakesh for the ancient culture and history — so what are you doing in a big, modern city that feels more European than Moroccan? We think it’s still worth spending a bit of time here. It’s a handy reminder of modern Morocco, and it will make you appreciate how much things have changed.
Take a look inside the Medersa Ben Youssef
Now, let’s go back in time again — to the 14th century, to be precise. That’s when this Quranic school was founded. For centuries, Muslim scholars have learned to recite the entire Quran by heart, and this was one of the places where such lessons took place. Although the Medersa Ben Youssef is no longer in use, a trip here is definitely one of the top things to do in Marrakesh.
From the outside, you might think that the building is a bit plain — even, whisper it, boring. Looks can be deceiving, though. The real beauty is in the interior. Colourful tiles, intricate geometric designs and light-filled courtyards are just a few of the wonders waiting for you as you stroll through these hallowed halls. Didn’t your mother teach you not to judge a book by its cover?
Rock the Kasbah at one of the oldest mosques in town
You won’t be allowed inside the Kasbah Mosque unless you’re a faithful Muslim, but we reckon it’s worth paying a visit — at least to admire the towering minaret and delicate arches on the outside. Plus, it gives you a chance to explore the Kasbah District, one of the oldest parts of Marrakesh.
Nowadays, the Kasbah District is a pretty quiet part of town; if you’re looking for excitement, head to the northern part of the medina. However, it’s a good spot for a visit if you’re a film buff. Movies like Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Alexander the Great were all shot here. Fancy yourself a bit of an action hero? Then go for a walk around the Kasbah and see what you can recognise from the
Go back in time at the ruined El Badi Palace
This is one of the top things to do in Marrakesh — but only if you’ve got a good imagination! El Badi Palace, built in the 16th century, was supposed to be one of the most impressive palaces ever constructed. Its 360 lavish rooms were decorated with onyx, gold leaf and the finest marble. It was truly a marvel of the time — but sadly, it didn’t last long.
What happened to El Badi Palace? Well, less than a century after it was built, the Sultan of the time decided to take all those fabulous things for himself. He stripped the palace bare, removing every trace of luxury. To give you an idea of how impressive El Badi was, it took the Sultan’s men a full twelve years to fully ransack it. Since then, it’s been in ruins.
Still, these are some of the most picturesque ruins around. Keep an eye out for the crowds of storks who make their home here, nesting on the old stones. According to Berber legend, storks are actually men from distant lands transformed into birds. The desert dwellers traditionally revered these noble creatures, so stay respectful as you’re exploring the ruins.
See the old Jewish Quarter at Mellah
You might be surprised to learn that this proudly Muslim city has a Jewish Quarter — and it’s true that today, you won’t find many Jews in Mellah. However, it was once a thriving part of town, and traces of the old Jewish community remain as a reminder of a time when people of different religions could live in harmony together.
Although most Jews left Mellah in the 1940s, in recent years, there have been efforts to revitalise the neighbourhood, turning it into one of the top things to do in Marrakesh. The synagogues have been restored, the old street names are back, and the Jewish cemetery has become a hotspot for visitors. For a
taste of something totally different in Marrakesh, don’t miss Mellah.
Are you ready to explore Marrakesh? Join us for a five-day whistlestop tour of Morocco, or if you’ve got more time, sign up for our nine-day adventure from Marrakesh to the Sahara. Discover the mysteries and delights of this ancient city for yourself!
P.S. Would you like to know more about Morocco? Read our article.