Marrakech is a city that seamlessly blends the old with the new. The city’s name served as the foundation for the country’s name, emphasizing the town’s historical significance.
The main tourist draw within the medina’s high red walls is just soaking up the atmosphere, with snake charmers and slick shop salesmen both contending for your attention amid a noisy, colorful bustle that embodies Morocco’s lively personality.
Marrakesh’s souqs are the greatest site to visit in Morocco for shoppers, since they offer the complete range of Moroccan artisan work, while the medina’s dispersion of beautifully adorned ancient buildings are some of the country’s most recognized landmarks.
Marrakech is also the entryway to Morocco’s High Atlas region, which offers hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and a variety of other recreational pursuits. On one of the many Marrakech day tours available from the city, you may get a taste of Moroccan mountain life even if you only have a brief time.
With our list of the best attractions and activities to do in Marrakesh, you can see what the city has to offer.
Due to recent global health and safety challenges, certain businesses may be temporarily shuttered.
1. Shop the Medina Souks
Marrakesh’s labyrinthine medina (old city) area is the town’s main draw for many visitors.
The tight passageways are a kaleidoscope of colors, scents, and noises that will undoubtedly be the highlight of your trip’s sightseeing.
There are numerous shopping possibilities where you may put your haggling hat on and haggle to your heart’s content, in addition to simply meandering (and getting lost) around the crowded maze.
The maze of passageways between Place Rahba Kedima and Place Ben Youssef is the primary souq area.
Fondouq Namas, a historic trader caravanserai that today houses a plethora of carpet businesses, is located just off Place Ben Youssef. One of the primary medina districts for spice and spice mix purchases is Rahba Kedima.
The metalworkers’ neighborhood is Souq Haddadine, while the leatherworkers’ workshops are in Souq Cherratine, which is immediately to the north.
Traditional textile vendors line the tight crisscross of passageways between Souq el-Kebir and Souq Smata’s main thoroughfares, while Souq Lebbadine west leads to the skinny alleys of Souq Teinturiers (the Dyers souq).
2. Experience Djemaa El Fna After Dark
The life of Marrakech revolves around this enormous square at the entrance to the medina.
The Djemaa El Fna (nobodies’ assembly place) is a bustling hub of bric-a-brac merchants, musicians, storytellers, fortune-tellers, and snake charmers that comes alive in the late afternoons and lasts until midnight.
An evening spent here, meandering between the acrobat troupes and local musical ensembles, is authentically Moroccan.
The northern section of the square fills up with booths providing inexpensive meals and snacks as the sun sets. It’s also easy to get away from the chaos of the square and relax at one of the many cafés that line the perimeter. From their rooftops, several of these cafés give the best panoramic views of all the Djemaa El Fna bustle.
Address: Mohammed V Avenue, Marrakech
3. Stay in a Medina Riad Hotel
The riad hotels of Marrakech are an experience in and of itself, and for many visitors, a trip to Marrakech is as much about the hotel as it is about the city.
A riad is a classic medina home with a courtyard in the center. Many have been renovated, remodeled, and reopened as boutique hotels in the luxury and mid-range categories over the last few decades (though Marrakech even has a backpacker hostel based in a restored riad).
Others merge contemporary style with traditional design, while some are palatial in both historic ambiance and Moroccan artisan characteristics.
In the larger riads, modern conveniences and amenities like plunge pools and on-site hammams (Turkish baths) are widespread, and many even offer evening meals on request.
4. Admire the Koutoubia Mosque
With its magnificent, 70-meter-tall tower visible for kilometers in every direction, the Koutoubia Mosque is Marrakesh’s most recognized landmark.
According to local mythology, the muezzin (he who calls the faithful to prayer) for this mosque had to be blind when it was first erected since the minaret was so tall that it overlooked the ruler’s harem.
The mosque, which was completed in 1162, is regarded one of the most important works of Almohad architecture.
The foundations of the first mosque erected on this location can be seen in the archaeological excavation area on the northwest side of the minaret. The Almohads demolished it and replaced it with the existing mosque.
Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the Koutoubia Mosque.
Address: Mohammed V Avenue, Marrakech
5. Stroll around Majorelle Gardens
Painter Jacques Majorelle created these gorgeous tropical gardens consisting with cacti, palms, and ferns.
Majorelle, who was born in the French town of Nancy, moved to Marrakech for health concerns and became famous for his paintings of local Moroccan life.
But it was this garden, as well as the brilliant blue (now known as Majorelle blue) painter’s studio he lived in on the grounds, that made him renowned.
After Majorelle’s death in 1962, the property was purchased by French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, whose ashes were spread in the gardens after his death in 2008.
Majorelle’s old painting studio, which is now a beautiful museum dedicated to Berber craftsmanship, is located on the grounds.
A museum dedicated to the life and fashion legacy of Yves Saint Laurent, which also offers a program of temporary exhibitions, is located just next to the entrance to the gardens.
6. Visit the Medersa Ben Youssef
Ben Youssef’s lavishly painted Medersa is one of Morocco’s greatest examples of Saadian era artwork. This theological institution, which was established in 1565 and is located directly across from the Ali Ben Youssef Mosque, formerly housed 900 students and was the country’s largest center for Quranic study.
In classic Islamic architecture style, the warrens of apartments where students previously slept are packed around small internal courtyards, but the main internal courtyard is the real feature here.
This medersa is one of Morocco’s most magnificent buildings, with excellent zellige tiles, stalactite ceilings, cedar-wood carving, and Kufic inscriptions employed as ornamentation throughout the courtyard’s interior.
7. Soak in a Hammam
The medina can be a hot, dusty, and congested place to be, but there is a traditional way to unwind and refresh after you’ve finished your sightseeing and shopping.
A hammam (also known as a Turkish bath) is a classic community bath with a multi-domed interior dedicated to bathing. At its most basic level, the procedure entails heating, cleaning, and exfoliating your skin, with a short massage as an added bonus.
While public hammams may still be found throughout the medina and serve the community, many ancient and newly constructed hammams cater to guests and provide an excellent introduction to Moroccan hammam culture.
Some of the more opulent hammams also provide modern spa services, including a variety of beauty treatments and massages.
8. Be Dazzled by Bahia Palace
The Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed, who served Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I, had this magnificent peacock of a palace erected for him in the late 19th century.
The interior decorating is a brilliant exhibition of Moroccan artisan work that incorporates zellige tiles, painted ceilings, and intricate wrought-iron embellishments to depict the rich lives of people high up in the Sultan’s favor at the time.
The haram area’s huge marble great courtyard and magnificent salons are the two main attractions, while the grand riad’s verdant internal courtyard, with its banana-leaf plants and citrus trees, provides a peaceful refuge from the city.
Address: Medina, Marrakesh, Rue Riad Zitoun el Jedid
Read More: Best Day Trips Marrakech
9. Hot-Air Balloon Ride Over the Marrakech Countryside
In Marrakesh, several firms provide morning hot-air balloon rides, which offer panoramic views of the city, palm trees, surrounding parched plateau, and the Atlas Mountains’ spine in the distance.
The stunning landscapes are well worth the early dawn start for photographers.
Flights often take off shortly after sunrise and last an hour, with a picnic meal of traditional Berber cuisine served afterward and return transports to the city center.
After the hot-air balloon trip, more expensive tours often incorporate a camel ride or a quad bike tour, or offer private baskets rather than sharing the balloon basket with other guests.
10. Cycle or Horse Ride in the Palmeraie
The Palmeraie (palm groves) region of Marrakech is located just northwest of the city.
The palmeraie, which is home to about 50,000 date palm trees, is a good alternative to staying in central Marrakesh, where there are many of villa-style luxury boutique hotels.
Even if you aren’t staying in the palmeraie, you can take a break from the city in this peaceful, shady refuge, which is a popular spot for cycling, horseback riding, quad-bike tours, and camel rides.
A couple of local firms offer half-day cycle trips that extensively cover the area, and Palmeraie-based stables offer horse rides that explore both the palmeraie and the surrounding countryside.
11. Check Out the Saadian Tombs
The Saadian dynasty ruled Marrakech from 1524 to 1668, and this 16th-century burial site is home to 66 members of the Saadian dynasty.
The ruler Al-Mansour, his successors, and their closest family members are all buried here.
The mausoleums are nestled among an overgrown garden in this rambling, dramatic location.
A magnificent surviving mihrab can be found in the main mausoleum (where Moulay Yazid is buried) (prayer niche).
The Alawite successors closed up the Saadian Tombs, which were only rediscovered in the early twentieth century.
The entrance to the Saadian Tombs is a narrow lane near to the Kasbah Mosque’s southern wall.
Address: Medina, Marrakesh, Rue Kasbah
12. Visit Dar Si Said
Vizier Si Said erected this exquisite old palace, which now houses a wonderful collection of Berber jewelry in skillfully crafted silver, Taroudant oil lamps, terracotta antiques, embroidered leather, and marble.
A display of Moroccan rugs and an astonishing collection of traditional Moroccan door and window frames, which emphasize the country’s unique architectural styles, are also on display.
It’s a great spot to spend a few of hours if you’re interested in the evolution of North African art and crafts.
The Maison Tiskiwin, located near the Dar Si Said, houses a wonderful collection of Saharan-themed costumes, jewelry, weaponry, musical instruments, textiles, and furniture curated by Dutch art historian Bert Flint. The museum also has a branch in Agadir.
Location: Medina, Marrakesh, off Rue Riad Zitoun el Jedid
13. Admire the Interiors of Marrakesh Museum
The Marrakech Museum (Musee de Marrakech) houses an eclectic collection that includes everything from modern art to Qur’anic inscriptions, as well as local ceramics, textiles, and coins.
The building itself, however, is the actual pleasure of a visit here for most guests.
The museum is located in the Mnebhi Palace, which was once the home of Mehdi Mnebhi (a Moroccan government official) but later became the seat of Pasha Thami Glaoui, the ruler of Marrakesh.
The architecture is a beautiful blend of traditional North African form and Portuguese components, with a stunning central courtyard space that includes a spectacular chandelier.
Address: Medina, Marrakesh, Place Ben Youssef
Read More: 15 Exciting Things to Do in Morocco
14. Explore the Badi Palace
One of the most evocative views in the kasbah area is the ruins of Al-formerly Mansour’s great palace. During his successful reign, the Saadian prince built the sumptuous palace, with pavilions set within a huge park of reflected lakes, but it was raided and destroyed soon after.
All that is left now are the shards of mosaic-tiled flooring, destroyed pavilions, and the high encircling walls. From the top of the walls, where storks have built their nests, there are excellent views across the medina.
After seeing the palace, visit the neighboring Mellah, Marrakesh’s old Jewish district. It was founded in the 16th century and is today primarily occupied by Muslims.
The tiny synagogue, as well as the enormous Jewish cemetery, have been beautifully renovated and can be visited.
15. Peek into the Almoravid Koubba
The Almoravid Koubba, also known as the Koubba Ba’adiyn, was built in the 12th century under Ali Ben Youssuf’s rule and is Marrakesh’s oldest monument still standing.
Although its original purpose is uncertain, some scholars believe it was the ablution house of a mosque that originally stood nearby.
Its plain façade (a squat, square building topped with a dome) conceals an intriguing interior, complete with an Almoravid-style dome ceiling.
The koubba was one of the few structures to survive the Almohad conquerors’ destruction of much of the older Almoravid architectural legacy.
Address: Medina, Place Ben Youssef
16. Picnic in Manara Gardens
This vast garden, which was formerly a royal retreat, is a tranquil oasis in the middle of Marrakesh. It’s a popular hangout for residents looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet.
The majority of the land is covered in olive orchards, but the enormous reflection pool with its elegant pavilion is the main attraction and reason for guests to come here. The pool and pavilion, which were built in the late 1800s, are a popular picnic and strolling spot for many Marrakcsh families.
On a clear day, the pool reflects the Atlas Mountain Range in its water, providing superb photo opportunity.
Menara Avenue, Marrakesh, Morocco
Where to Stay in Marrakech Morocco for Sightseeing
If you’re visiting Marrakech Morocco for the first time, and want to be in the heart of the action, the best area to stay is in the medina, near the Djemaa El Fna, the large square at its entrance. Some of the best-value accommodation options here are riads, traditional Moroccan guesthouses with inner courtyards that are shielded from the hustle and bustle of the medina outside; breakfast is usually included in the price.
Marrakech Luxury Hotels:
- Oranges and rose blossoms perfume the air at La Villa des Orangers, steps away from all the medina attractions and the Koutoubia Mosque. This is a Relais & Châteaux property, with three patios, a rooftop pool, and a spa with a hammam.
- In the medina, near the entrance to the old souk, Riad Dar Anika is a more affordable luxury option, with a lovely courtyard pool and warm Moroccan hospitality.
- If you prefer to stay away from the hubbub of the medina, the Four Seasons Resort Marrakech is a taxi ride away. Facilities include palm-lined pools, a spa, fitness center, and kids’ club.
Marrakesh Mid-Range Hotels:
- In the heart of the medina, the evocatively-named Riad Romance resides in a restored 17th-century building, with a lovely courtyard pool, cozy rooms, and a rooftop garden.
- Also in the medina, Dar Charkia, with a heated swimming pool, is in the Dar el Bacha antique dealers district. All the rooms are air-conditioned, and many come with a fireplace.
- Riad Karmela is a soothing oasis amid the medina, with a spa, restaurant, and personalized service. With its family apartments, it’s a great choice for those traveling with kids.
Marrakech Budget Hotels:
- In the medina and with a pool, Riad Sadaka has comfortable and cozy rooms and serves up tasty Moroccan cuisine, while Riad L’Orchidee has air-conditioned rooms, a plunge pool, and plenty of inviting nooks for relaxing and dining.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Marrakesh
Taking an organized tour is a great way to see all the highlights of Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains and experience the traditional culture without the hassle of finding your way around. Along the way, you’ll learn all about the area’s history, as well as insider tips and stories. These tours also include convenient pickup and drop-off at select hotels.
- Full-Day City Sightseeing Tour: The Marrakech Morocco Discovery Tour allows you to relax and enjoy the sights while a local guide takes you on a tour through the city’s labyrinthine backstreets and bustling souks, as well as historical highlights such as Bahia Palace and the Koutoubia Mosque. This full-day tour includes lunch at a medina restaurant, entrance fees, and pickup and drop-off from select hotels.
- Half-Day City Sightseeing Tour: Alternatively, the Marrakcsh Half-Day Private City Tour offers three to four highlights of the city with stops at Majorelle Gardens, Bahia Palace, and the Saadian Tombs followed by a medina walking tour. Transport is included.
- Small-Group Atlas Mountains Day Trip: The Four Valleys Day Trip from Marrakech with Optional Visit to Takerkoust Lake and Kik Plateau is the perfect complement to a hectic city stay. This full-day tour gives you a great overview of the Atlas mountains, with a visit to three lush valleys, traditional Berber villages, Ourika Valley waterfalls, an optional lunch in a Berber home, and an optional upgrade to include the Takerkoust Lake and Kik Plateau. This is a small-group tour with more personalized service and a maximum of seven people.
- Toubkal National Park Day Trip: The Atlas Mountain Three Valleys Day Trip is a private full-day tour of the beautiful scenery in and around Toubkal National Park, with an included lunch and visit to a traditional Berber home. As well as all transport being included, with pickup and drop-off from Marrakech hotels, the tour itinerary includes a short hike (or mule ride) from Imlil to the tiny mountain village of Ait Souka, a visit to an argan oil cooperative, and a camel ride.
- Hot Air Balloon Ride: The Atlas Mountains Hot Air Balloon Ride offers a different perspective on the desert and Atlas Mountain foothill scenery surrounding Marrakesh. On this morning adventure, you take a hot air balloon ride for bird’s-eye views. Afterwards, descend to ground level for a delicious Berber breakfast and a camel ride in Marrakesh’s Palmeraie. Also included is a flight certificate, as well as pickup and drop-off from select hotels.
- Camel Ride: The Sunset Camel Ride is a great way to explore the sandy trails of Marrakesh’s Palmeraie area, shaded by date palms as you ride. The ride takes around one hour and ends at a traditional Berber house with included mint tea and snacks. Pickup and drop-off from Marrakcsh hotels is included.
History of Marrakesh
The Almoravides made Marrakech the capital of an empire that covered most of the Maghreb (Northwest Africa) and extended well into Europe.
With the Almoravide conquest of southern Spain, Marrakech Morocco was invested with the cosmopolitan culture of Andalusia and became a bastion of Islamic civilization and an intellectual center where the most famous scholars and philosophers of the age converged.
Lavish buildings were constructed and splendid gardens designed. The ancient ramparts and gates of the city are monuments to its medieval preeminence.
Almohade armies stormed the gates of Marrakech on March 23, 1147, conquering the Almoravide capital.
The Almohades under Abdal Mou’min continued their conquest of North Africa, extending their empire through Algeria and Tunisia and moving across the Mediterranean to capture Seville, Cordoba, and Granada. Under Abdal Mou’min, Marrakesh became an even greater Islamic capital.
Marrakesh went into a period of decline under the Merenids, who captured the city in 1269. The Merenid capital was already centered in Fes, and Marrakesh fell into neglect for two and a half centuries.
The fortunes of Marrakesh revived under the Saadian dynasty. The Saadians were tribesmen from the Souss region, who conquered the whole of southern Morocco in a war against the Portuguese colonialists in Agadir.
When the Saadians gained control of the whole of Morocco, their leader, Mohammed Al Mahdi, made Marrakesh his capital in 1551 and began to restore the city.
Although the new city district of Marrakesh was constructed in 1913 during the French occupation and reflects this European influence, the majority of the city (like Fes) is a genuinely Islamic city in both its genesis and traditions