Marrakech, or Marrakesh, is an interesting city in the former French colony of Morocco. It is the third-largest city in Morocco. Some other popular cities of this country include the ever-famous Casablanca and Rabat, among others. Here are some interesting things to do and places to visit in Marrakech:
1. Stay in a riad
This is one thing that should be done by every tourist who visits Marrakech. Now what is a riad? It is surely not a hotel or a holiday villa. A riad is, in fact, a traditional Moroccan palace that comprises a majestic space for living in the midst of a central courtyard. This gives the building the name ‘riad’, which is borrowed from the Arabic term for garden. This setup serves 2 purposes: it shields the people from the weather, keeping them cool during extremely hot days, and also gives adequate privacy to the residents. Each riad has a distinct design and style. So, if you want to experience how it is to live like a Moroccan, the most ideal thing to do would be to stay in a riad during your vacation.
2. Visit El Badi Palace
El Badi Palace is also known by the name “The Incomparable Palace”. It is a ruined palace located in the city of Marrakech. Today, the complex houses a museum with exhibits that have been restored. Some of them include a 12th-century “minbar” that once upon a time was seen in the Koutoubia Mosque. The palace is open from 8.30 am to noon and from 2.30 pm to 6 pm every day. The entrance fee costs about 10 MAD (Moroccan dirham), which comes to approximately 1 USD per person.
3. Admire Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace is a palace and a set of gardens in Marrakech. Built in the late 19th century, this palace was erected with the intention of being the greatest palace of that time. The name means “brilliance”. As with other palaces and constructions built during that era, this one too was based on the foundation of Moroccan and Islamic architectural elements. This palace is open for public viewing every day and costs 10 MAD (approximately 1 USD) per person.
4. Ride in a caleche in Marrakech
A caleche is a horse-drawn carriage and it is one of the activities you must do when you are in Marrakech. Caleches have been part of the Marrakech scene for more than 200 years. The charges for a ride can vary depending on the distance, the season (peak or off-peak tourist season), how long you want to go on the ride, and your ability to haggle, among other things. Try negotiating, but don’t haggle too much as it is the main livelihood for the “drivers”. It can be anywhere between 200 and 350 MAD (approximately 20 and 40 USD) for the ride. You can go anytime on this ride but the best time would be during sunset; nothing can beat the surreal feeling!
5. Menara Gardens
The Menara Gardens were formerly olive groves that are now being used as a garden for the general public to visit. You can see an artificial lake in the centre of these orchards and olive groves. The water in the basin provides irrigation for the olive groves.
The gardens are open from 8 am to 7 pm every day. There is no entry fee and this place can be reached by taxi or by walking. It takes about 45 minutes by walking from Djemaa el-Fna, the main square in the centre of Marrakech.
6. Enjoy street food and mint tea!
Want to savour some amazing treats like kebabs, snails, confectioner’s goods, or sheep’s head? Then you must try the local fare at Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech. You should also try the mint tea there. This place is a perfect blend of energy, colour and vibrance. You will find yourself following the smell of spices that drift in the air as you enter the treasure trove of amazing food. Mint tea is something that brings strangers closer to each other, it is something like a staple in Morocco. You must try it to understand the emotions behind it.
7. Gaze upon Koutoubia Mosque
This mosque is one of the major attractions of Marrakech and is the largest mosque in the city. The minaret in this mosque is, in fact, the most famous symbol for the city of Marrakech. The minaret, built in a traditional style, is visible from near and afar. It is about 77 metres (252 feet) tall. This mosque is still used by locals for their prayers. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque, but you can get a good view of the outside of the mosque.
8. Relax at a hammam
No trip to Morocco is complete if one doesn’t spend some time at a hammam. Wondering what a hammam is? A hammam is a Moroccan bath, rather like those found in Turkey. It is a variant of a Roman bath, similar to a steam room. You can find some amazing hammams in Marrakech at places like La Mamounia and Selman Hotel. For those who think the prices here are a bit steep, you can head to Les Bains de Marrakech in the kasbah where the ambience outweighs the cost you pay for the hammam experience and a relaxing massage. For an authentic experience you can go to Hammam el-Bacha in Dar el-Bacha.
Wondering what it might cost? A bath at a public hammam can cost around 5 to 10 MAD (about 0.50 to 1 USD); additional costs apply for soap and towels. A massage at the public hammam from the staff can cost you another 10 to 15 MAD (1 to 1.50 USD). You will need to leave a tip at the public bathhouse. Hotels that have in-house hammams can charge around 300 to 400 MAD (about 30 to 40 USD), and separate charge applies for a massage. Choose what suits your budget.
9. Step into the Saadian tombs
The Saadian Tombs are really ancient tombs that were sealed for centuries and rediscovered in the early 1900s. They were also restored and, thankfully, we are able to see them today. The tombs are the mausoleum that stores the last remains of 60 members of the Saadi dynasty. This is a very popular tourist spot and there can be quite a rush of visitors here. So be ready to anticipate a long queue! The tombs are open for public viewing every day from 8.30 am to 11.45 am and from 2.30 pm to 5.45 pm.
10. Wander the medina of Marrakech
The city of Marrakech is divided into two important and distinct parts: the medina, which is the historical city, and the fairly new European-like modern district called Ville Nouvelle, or Gueliz. Ville Nouvelle literally translates to New City. The medina consists of intertwining narrow gullies or passageways and has lots of local shops that can be full of character. The medina, being the old city, has important monuments such as Koutoubia Mosque, monumental doors, gardens, and the Kasbah Mosque.
11. Go handicraft shopping
Arts and crafts in Morocco have a lot to do with the country’s roots. Every generation of artists passes their creativity to further generations. This is one “industry” that is alive and kicking, and is rich and innovative, adapting as per modern times. Handicrafts are part and parcel of the life of a typical Moroccan. So where can we go to make some of these our own? Rue Majorelle is one of the best places to go. There are, however, excellent shopping opportunities right across the city. If you want a less congested place, you can try Bab Es Salam, a market in the Jewish Quarter where you can find spices and soaps. Rahal Herbes, located in the spice market, is a great place for authentic spices.
12. Get lost in Marrakech’s souks
Souks, or marketplaces, are part and parcel of the culture of the Arabian world. Some of the best souks are found in Marrakech and you must visit them to make your trip complete when in Morocco. There is the Carpet Souk where you can shop for carpets, then we have the Slipper Souk, which has some of the prettiest slippers you can find, traditional Moroccan leather slippers called babouches. Then we have the Spice Souk, which has the best spices in town. There is even a souk for olives, unsurprisingly called the Olive Souk, and you’ll find colourful ceramics at the Potters’ Souk. Take a wallet full of cash so you can spend! Also, keep in mind you will need to bargain. Good luck!
13. Get "tattooed" with henna
Henna tattoos are a common affair in India, Pakistan, Middle East, and some parts of Africa, and Morocco is no exception. Get “inked” with henna (a paste that gives a temporary tattoo) as a reminder of your trip to Morocco / Marrakech. Henna Café Marrakech is one place that is recommended by many people for good quality henna tattoos that are well-priced. You could also perhaps get your tattoo from the riad you are staying at, as there will possibly be someone in-house. You can get the tattoo anywhere on your body; hands, feet, back, torso body … as you please! Avoid the black dyes as they can cause allergic reactions; always insist on the red ones.
14. Marvel at Kasbah Mosque
Kasbah Mosque is one of the biggest mosques in Marrakech and also one of the oldest too. Behind this mosque is the entrance to the Saadian Tombs. As with other mosques in Marrakech, this one too is non-accessible to tourists (non-Muslims). The architecture is stunning and you will love what you see at Kasbah Mosque. Be wary of the scammers and beggars outside the mosque though.
15. Feel peaceful in Majorelle Garden
Majorelle Garden is an artist’s landscape garden, pioneered by French artist Jacques Majorelle, after whom the garden is named. There is also an archaeological museum and an Islamic Arts Museum. It is open from 8 am to 5.30 pm every day. Admission into the garden costs 70 MAD per person (approximately 7 USD), while entry to the museum costs another 10 MAD (approximately 1 USD) per person.
It is an ideal place to enjoy the trees, the plants, and the shade. You can probably say this is an oasis in the chaos of Marrakech!
16. Learn more at Marrakech Museum
There are quite a few museums in Marrakech, and they are all worth visiting. But the Marrakech Museum is among the best in the city. This museum is located in Dar Menebhi Palace, which was restored and converted to a museum in the late 1990s. The exhibits include traditional and modern Moroccan art along with some displays of coins, pottery, and historical books. The museum is open from 9 am to 6.30 pm every day and charges 50 MAD per entry (approximately 5 USD).
17. Admire Marrakech Railway Station / Gare de Marrakech
Located on the southern end of the Moroccan railway, this station was opened in 2008. From here you can travel northwards to Casablanca, Fez, Rabat, and Tangier. It is another example of the city’s fine architecture, well-worth a visit even if you don’t plan to travel by rail.
18. Go souvenir shopping
Arts and crafts are synonymous with Morocco, and you surely need to take home a lot of souvenirs. So what are the things you must buy from Marrakech?
a) Moroccan embroidered clothes and linen. If in the medina, you can buy from Al Kawtar, where the work is done by physically-challenged and disadvantaged women. You could also buy some at Souk Cherifia.
b) Lanterns and hanging pendants that you see in almost every riad. It is quite expensive, but if you think it is worth it and you can afford it, head to Yahya Creation in Gueliz. For a value-buy, head to Sidi El Yamani in the medina.
c) Argan Oil can be bought at Sidi Ghanem, just after Gueliz.
d) Spices are abundantly available, although a good place to start is Marrakech’s old Spice Square (Place des Epices).
e) Ceramics are another popular buy in Marrakech. If you wish to recreate some of the tasty Moroccan dishes, the tagine is surely a must-buy. To buy this, you can go to the Industrial District (Quartier Industriel) in Sidi Ghanem on the way to Safi. Or, just look around in the souks!
19. Take a day trip to Essaouira
Essaouira is located about 176 kilometres (109 miles) from the city of Marrakech. The golden beach here is quite popular for windsurfing and the place is famous for fresh seafood. You can find stunning French-built ramparts from the 18th century here. The city is divided into various districts designed in grid form. There is also a fishing port and fortresses. Essaouira is famous for handicrafts, silver jewelry, items such as ebony made out of wood, silver thread, and others. And do enjoy delectable Moroccan fare here. There are lots of operators in Marrakech who conduct tours to Essaouira, do get in touch with them and plan your day trip!
20. Take a walk through Djemaa el-Fna
Djemaa el-Fna is a huge marketplace located in the medina (old city). It is popular among locals and tourists alike. You will find all things possible here, including snake charmers, tooth pullers, and medicine men. The crowd starts increasing by evening and goes full throttle by night. The place gets very lively by evening and there are all kinds of people, even fortune-tellers and henna artists. You need to be careful about pickpockets and scammers, so please exercise caution!
21. Enjoy the Douiria Museum
The Douiria Museum is located in the Mouassine area of the medina in Marrakech, close to Mouassine Mosque. You will be stunned to see the exemplary 16th-century architecture of the Saadian dynasty. The museum features a douiria, or a reception apartment and a house. It is closed on Fridays. The admission fee comes to about 30 MAD (approximately 3 USD) per person.
22. Be impressed at Maison de la Photographie
The Maison de la Photographie / Photography Museum is another must-visit place in Marrakech. The museum showcases a number of stunning Moroccan vintage photographs. The collection is the result of a hobby of a French man and a local Marrakshi. Between them, they owned 4,500 photographs and images. The museum is located on Souq el Fassi, and is open from 9.30 am to 7 pm every day. An admission fee of 40 MAD is charged per head (approximately 4 USD). Kids enter for free.
23. Visit the Tannery District
In order to get a real feel of the medieval Marrakech, you need to visit the most pungent area of the city: the Tannery District. It is said that the tanners have been part of the city ever since it was founded. That their work remains a long drawn-out process can be seen by the way they cure animal hide. Morocco is famous for its leather products and this is a very evident fact when you explore the tanneries.
24. Shop at Ensemble Artisanal
Ensemble Artisanal, Marrakech, is a shopping complex that has lots of artwork, home décor, kitchen ware, fabrics, and clothing. The complex is sponsored by the government and promotes local artists. They conduct workshops and you can sign up if you are interested. It is located on Boulevard Mohamed V, just a few minutes away from Djemaa el-Fna and Koutoubia Mosque. The choices available may be fewer when compared to a souk but the quality that you get is impressive.
25. Eat at Al Fassia
Moroccan food is often made at home by locals, but still people throng to this high-end restaurant called Al Fassia. They offer exotic food, something that cannot be made at home. Also, this restaurant is totally run by women, and even the head chef of another big restaurant admitted that women cook better than men! If you want to savour some of their delicacies, make it a must on your itinerary. The delicacies include pigeon b'stilla, and mechoui, which is roast leg of lamb. Do try the almond flavoured b'stilla of milk. The restaurant is located at 55, Boulevard Zerktouni, Gueliz. It is open daily for lunch and dinner except Tuesdays. Dinner for two can cost up to approximately 500 MAD (50 USD), without wine.
26. For non-hagglers, head to Souk Cherifia
If you are looking for more contemporary designs, be it clothes or home décor, but with a Moroccan touch, then you should head to Souk Cherifia. This is a little mall, located right in the centre of the medina. Another nearby landmark is the Terrasse des Epices, or Spice Market. You will find pottery, souvenirs, and modern Moroccan-designed brands. You can get a feel of what today’s designers are working on, and what inspires them. Also, if you think you cannot haggle at the souks, you must come here. At this mall, you will find products that are traditional but with a modern twist to them. The prices are fixed so you do not have to bother looking it up or asking around or bargaining. It is worth a visit! It is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm.
27. Visit Galerie 127 for modern art
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Are you interested in modern art, or looking for something you can enjoy in Marrakech? Then you must visit Galerie 127 at Avenue Mohammed V. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 3 pm to 7 pm. This art gallery houses the work of Mediterranean artists, and collections include various themes from travel photography to other interpretative works.
28. Belly dance!
Visiting Morocco and miss out on belly dancing? No way! Although belly dance is not native to Morocco, you will find it being performed in quite a few places in the city of Marrakech. You can catch a performance at Jad Mahal, which has good food, good prices, and great performances. You can also try Comptoir Darna, Azar, Bo-zin, or The Lotus Club. All have good food, live DJs, and great performances as well!
29. Take a day trip to Ourika Valley
Looking for some peace and calm away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech? Take a day trip to the beautiful Ourika Valley! With waterfalls, babbling streams, rivers, mountains, lovely views, and plenty of cute restaurants and cafes, it’s a great way to rest and unwind away from the city. Numerous operators run trips to Ourika Valley, or you could charter a private vehicle with driver for a reasonable price.
Pack, set, and go!
So, with this list, plan out your itinerary soon and get ready to have an amazing time in Marrakech! Enjoy your stay and the colourful chaos, soak up the atmosphere, and have a ball!
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