Marrakech is a vibrant and bustling city located in the heart of Morocco. I’ve been there twice and would even go back a third time. That’s because it has deep layers to it – visiting Marrakech again and again is like playing pass the parcel – you take a different wrapper off each time! Marrakech is well-known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and colourful markets. From exploring the winding streets of the medina to sipping mint tea in a rooftop cafe, this exciting North African city has something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in cultural experiences or simply looking to relax in a beautiful setting, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Marrakech. Today’s blog will give you the run down on the best highlights to consider during your visit. But first, a few Marrakech travel tips for you….
Marrakech Travel Tips
Here are a few travel tips for first time visitors to Marrakech…
- Your French will help you if you don’t speak Arabic.
- Avoid speaking to strange boys or men in the Medina – they just want to make money out of you!
- Only stick to pre-arranged tours that you have pre-booked online or through your hotel.
- Spend at least 3 days in Marrakech to enjoy the main sites, possibly more!
- The currency is the Moroccan Dirham – it is a closed currency which means that you can only change it once you arrive in the country.
- If you want an authentic experience, stay in a Riad – a traditional Moroccan guest house with a square courtyard.
- Expect to get lost and haggle in the souks – it’s all part of the fun of Marrakech!
- Grab the Lonely Planet Pocket Marrakech Guide – It has some excellent maps and invaluable information along with a historical background to Marrakech.
- Dress conservatively and ladies should pack a headscarf – it’s not compulsory for women to wear headscarves in Marrakech but it will help to minimise unwanted attention especially in the Medina.
- Marrakech can get hot so always carry a water bottle.
- Set out early in the morning for site seeing as you want to be finished before the main heat of the day!
The best Things to do in Marrakech
Some of the best things to do in Marrakech include the Marjorelle Garden, Bahia Palace, Ben Yousef Madrasa and of course shopping in there souks. There is so much to see and do in Marrakech, but these are the places that you shouldn’t miss.
1. Koutoubia Mosque
Koutoubia Mosque is the largest Mosque and most famous landmark in Marrakesh. It towers above the city, with a Minaret 65ft tall. The mosque was built in the 12th century under the Almohad dynasty and is a fine example of Moroccan-Andalusian architecture.
Cost – Free if you walk! Otherwise, the cost of a taxi from within the Medina should not be more than around 20/30Dh.
Travel Tip – If you are a non-Muslim, you will not be able to enter, but it is worth getting pictures from the outside.
2. Marrakech Museum
The Marrakech Museum interior is the most impressive aspect of the museum – more so than the exhibits! It is built in the Mnebhi Palace which has a central courtyard beautifully decorated with geometric patterned tiles and intricately carved wooden doors. If you are interested in artefacts and art, there is a wing for pottery and jewellery (with some exquisite examples of traditional Berber jewellery) and a second wing for contemporary art.
Cost – The cost at the time of writing this blog was 50Dh. You can walk there if you are staying at Riad Dar Zaman or any Riad in the Medina.
Travel Tip – Avoid speaking to boys on the street near here – they will try to take you to the tanneries or pretend to help you find your way but take you a very long way round then demand money.
3. Ben Yousef Medersa (Madrasa) – Old Qur’anic School
Do not miss this hidden gem tucked deep inside the heart of the old town! In my opinion, the Ben Yousef Madrasa was the most impressive things to do in Marrakech. A visit to this 14th Century Old Qur’anic school it can be combined with a visit to the Marrakech museum as they are within walking distance of each other. There were up to 900 students once registered to study at this Madrasa. You will be astounded by the beauty of the ornately tiled walls, Arabic arches and artistic calligraphy. Tourists can view the stunning courtyard and even go into some of the 130 student dorm rooms that still stand today.
The Qur’anic verses in calligraphy beautifully complements the tiled floors and Arabic-Andalusian architecture, which appears to be mathematically precise. Don’t miss this – it’s one of the best things to do in Marrakech!
Travel Tip – It cost 60Dh at the time of writing for a combined ticket – the combined ticket will allow you to see the Marrakech Museum, Ben Yousef Madrasa and the Almoravid koubba all in one day.
4. Marrakech City Gates and Walls
The walls and gates to the Medina (old town) are not to be missed. My favorite way to see these was on the back of a moped with my Moroccan friend Hassan! There are 10 gates into Marrakech – ‘Bab’ is the Arabic for gate. The most beautiful gate on the ramparts is Agnaou Gate – a 900 year old Arabic arch.
Cost – Free or the taxi fare
Tip – Walking is a great way to see the city and all of the old towns Medina is walkable. Try to avoid walking in Morocco in the heat of the day and don’t ask for directions on the street, go into a shop.
5. Place de Fna (Marrakesh main square)
The main square is full of hassle and bustle. You will see snake charmers, monkey handlers, fire eaters and horse-drawn carriages. There’s a fantastic night market and locals will advise you on which stalls to eat at. If you feel intimated or have strange men follow you, just shout ‘La Chokran!’ and walk on – they are unlikely to harm you, and are just trying to make money!
Cost – Free, just bring some money for food and tipping people if you want photos.
Travel Tips – If someone genuinely shows you the way or has a photo taken with you, 10Dh is usually enough. If you are concerned about animal rights, don’t photograph or give money to the monkey handlers or snake charmers, as these animals are usually kept in poor condition and it is not advisable to fund this.
6. Marrakech Souks
If you want to hit the souks and go shopping, be sure to read about souk survival first! The souks in Marrakech are one big maze and it is divided into different sections dependant upon what is sold there. For example, there is the jewellery souk, the fabric souk and the spice souk. Two things to note about going into the souks – the first is that you will probably get lost in there and the second is that you will have to haggle if you want to buy something!
Travel Tip – The Marrakech souk is not for the feint hearted – if you are on a limited time schedule or could just do with some moral support then book yourself a guided tour of the Marrakech souks.
7. Marjorelle Garden
One of the most Instagrammable spots in Marrakech is the Marjorelle Garden – a beautiful botanical garden that was once home to French artist Jacques Majorelle. People love to take pictures of the bright green plants in front of the backdrop of vivid turquoise buildings.
Cost: Admission for tourists is 70 Dirhams and children under 12 go free!
8. Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace is an ornate 19th century palace built by Si Moussa, a wealthy and influential vizier, as a residence for himself and his family. The palace is named after his favourite wife, Bahia, who played a significant role in its construction and design. It contains a beautiful mosaic tiled courtyard with central fountain. The architecture also contains impressive examples of marquetry (wood carving and joining) zouak ceilings (traditional Moroccan wood painting).
Cost: Admission is 70 Dirhams per person
Travel Tip – Bahia opens from 8am so get there early to avoid the crowds.
9. Saadian Tombs
The Saadian are the burial site of members of the Saadi dynasty, which ruled Morocco from the 16th to the 17th centuries. The tombs were discovered in 1917 and have been beautifully restored. The intricate carvings, tiles and marble make them one of the most beautiful places to visit in Marrakech.
Cost – 70 Dirhams at the last time of checking.
10. Eat at La Jardin
My last recommendation is for you to eat in my favourite restaurant in Marrakech – Le Jardin. This oasis of calm in the middle of the busy Medina is beautifully decorated with emerald green tiles. The food is stunning – I recommend the Moroccan chicken tagine, and for desert go for the melt in your mouth Orange Blossom Creme Brûlée! You can view the menu here.
Cost – Expect to pay 120-150 Dirhams per main and 60-90 Dirhams for dessert.
What to Pack for Morocco
A scarf that can cover up your shoulders and double up as a head scarf is a good idea for Morocco, especially for visiting religious places and preventing too much male attention!
As for clothes, light trousers, linen tops and maxi-dresses work well. You don’t need to pack more than one pair of jeans. Also avoid anything that shows too much skin – maybe not too many short skirts or spaghetti straps!
You might also like to read…
- What to pack for Morocco
- What is a good itinerary for 10 days in Morocco?
- Eating at Le Jardin, Marrakech