Marrakech truly epitomizes the exotic. A place where the ancient city meets the modern world and where French and Arabic are spoken evenly. There are many remarkable things to do in Marrakech that will set your vacation apart from any other. And here are some of the top things to do in Marrakech that will set that vacation part.
Top Things To Do In Marrakech
This fourth largest Moroccan city was founded in 1062 AD and still feels as if time has stood still. Visiting Marrakech city is like a dream. In the Medina old town, you’ll be dodging snake charmers while gazing in awe at blacksmiths at work. You will be dazzled by acrobats at the main square of Djemaa El Fnaa and Berber Dancers will entertain you as you fantasize about ancient caravans traveling to Timbuktu. So are you ready to explore Marrakech? Let’s go.
A great introduction to Marrakech is to book a private guided tour where you’ll begin in Djemaa El Fena to soak in the atmosphere of buskers and snake charmers before heading into the lively markets where you’ll search for spices, and traditional food and peak into the leather shops. You’ll also have a choice to visit the Bahia Palace or Badii Palace plust a stop at the Saadian Tombs and Menara Gardens before visiting the Koutoubia mosque which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. This tour has easy cancellation with a full refund if canceled within 24 hours of trip.
1. Get Lost In The Medina
Visiting The Medina is one of the most exciting things to do in Marrakech. A Medina is the old part of the city surrounded by stone walls and it is bustling with activity. This Medina at Night tour is a great way to get a sense of the energy of the city in a safe environment. Nighttime is the best time to visit Jemaa el Fna as the food stalls light up and locals come out to shop. Your guided tour will share insights into history, culture and traditions offering an excellent introduction to the city.
We couldn’t wait to explore the old city and get lost in the Medina. We stayed in a Riad in the heart of the Medina and had the privilege of spending a lot in this ancient walled part of Marrakech. In the Medina, you’ll discover a maze of alleyways and markets selling everything from carpets and lamps to mint tea and fresh dates. Forget the modern world and lose yourself inside.
Tips for visiting the Medina and shopping at the Markets
Don’t fret about taking a wrong turn, each one will take you on a great adventure. Part of the fun is getting lost in the Medina.
- Don’t buy the first trinket that you see. Get a feel for prices by bartering and walking away.
- This is a great way to find out if you are getting scammed or getting a deal. If people let you walk away, you have bargained too low.
- But if you don’t barter, you could end up paying a hefty fee for a piece of junk.
- See our Guide to Bartering like a pro
2. Watch the Sun Set over Djemaa El-Fnaa
If you ask a local what to do in Marrakech, chances are they will tell you to start off at the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. It’s a giant square filled with food stalls and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Grab a spot at one of the rooftop bars to watch the sun go down. There is a minimum cover charge for rooftops around the square but it is minimal and definitely worth it.
For the cost of a beer, you can enjoy the view and watch the chaos from a quiet spot above. Afterward, you must stroll through the stalls for dinner and tea. It is a delight for the senses and the Moroccan food is to die for.
Expert tip for Djemaa el Fna
- Go to the rooftop to watch the sunset.
- Watch for pickpockets they are everywhere.
- Don’t let someone force a snake or other exotic animal onto you. They may be interesting or cute, but they will demand money.
- You will have to pay the street performers for a photo.
This was one of our favorite places to visit in Marrakech, not only for the view but because you can really get a feel for the hustle and bustle of the city without being right in it.
3. Shop In The Souks
The Souks of Marrakech are simply another word for a marketplace. The Medina has many souks within its walls and they are located directly off the main square of Marrakech. It is here that you truly feel that you have stepped into traditional Morocco. This maze of covered markets weaving through narrow alleyways can be overwhelming. The labyrinth is filled with shops and stalls selling everything under the sun.
There are different types of souks that are connected and lead from the Square, Souk Place des Épices (Spice Souk) is dedicated to everything spice and Souk Semmarine is the largest of the Marrakech Souks.
Wandering a Souk with a Local Guide is an excellent way to explore the souks without getting lost and avoiding stress. Especially if it is your first visit to Marrakech. We often ask our guide what a good and fair price is to pay for the souvenir we are looking for.
Things to Remember when visiting the Souks of Marrakech
- Vendors can be aggressive and even follow you around. But they are very friendly.
- Negotiate hard. They expect it.
- Shop around. Some things are genuinely handmade and some are imported from China.
- If you are offered tea they are expecting you to buy. So only accept if you are serious about shopping there.
- If you don’t like to haggle check out the Ensemble Artisanal. Fixed-priced items at a little higher prices.
- You can watch artisans at work, dodge gypsies, and even grab a quick bite on the run.
- You have to keep your wits about you though as vendors are aggressive and are hard-pressed to take no for an answer.
4. Visit A Hammam
If you want to experience the truly exotic, a visit to a Hammam is a must. Hammams are a massage and steam bath. Prepare to leave all inhibitions at the door because you are in for the most intimate, painful, awkward massage of your life. But when you sit back, relax and let it happen, it’s also one of the coolest and relaxing experiences you’ll ever have and you’ll want to keep coming back for more!
You will be naked in a hammam. The treatment starts in a steam bath and then the masseuse will come and get you to start the program. You will start with a vigorous scrub with a rough soap and then the fun begins with a massage consisiting of contortions, twists, turns, and a beating.
5. Stay In A Riad
If you are a couple and want to stay somewhere romantic in Marrakech, we thought we’d start off by booking your trip to Marrakech. When planning your accommodation, a stay in a traditional Riad is a truly authentic experience. We recommend Riad el Cadi.
Chances are your Riyad will be located in the Medina and this is where you want to stay when visiting Marrakech. A modern city is the same almost anywhere, but staying in the ancient walled city is where you will feel the energy and history resonate deep inside.
What is a Riad?
A Riad is a tall house with a courtyard in the center of the building. Usually, it has a soaker or full pool in its center where you can escape from the heat and a rooftop terrace to take in the sunsets. All Riyads are not created equal so choose wisely.
- You can book through an apartment rental company and stay in your own private Riyad complete with a kitchen, swimming pool, and rooftop deck.
- Or you can book a boutique stay at a hotel type Riad where large palaces have been converted to luxury hotels. We experienced both kinds and love each one equally. If you have a few days, why not split it up and stay in both!
6. Take A Cooking Class
Moroccan food is up there as our favourite cuisine on earth. It can be overwhelming when visiting a new city and culture to figure out the menu and food, so a cooking class is a great way to get an introduction and one of the best things to do in Marrakech.
We took a cooking class at Riyad El Cadi with a local chef and it was so much fun. We had hands-on training in making Chicken Tagine and traditional Moroccan sauces. If you’ve ever wondered why Moroccan food is more expensive than other middle east and Asian countries, it’s because it takes so long to prepare. Everything is done by hand with fresh ingredients like plum tomatoes, olives, nuts and herbs, and spices.
Chef Hassan meticulously prepared 5 Moroccan Salads and two main hot dishes over the course of three hours. We then enjoyed a private candlelit dinner complete with wine and drinks by the fire. Warning! Do not eat before this tour!
Tips for eating in Marrakech
Meals take a long time to prepare so give yourself time to enjoy them. Wash your hands before eating your meal if a bucket or sink is provided. Always eat only with your right hand. Read more: Delicious Moroccan Food to Eat in Morocco or At Home
Most establishments will only accept cash so have it on hand, especially when eating at street vendors or food stalls, so always have small bills on hand.
Morocco is a dry country meaning that alcohol consumption is limited. Most places will not serve alcohol, but if you want it visitors can get it, it is just pricier than usual. Alcohol can only be purchased at licensed hotels, restaurants, and in major supermarkets in tourist areas. Read: Etiquette in the Middle East- Travel for Men and Women
Food Tours in Marrakech
Another popular food experience in Marrakech is at Souk Cuisine. Souk Cuisine immerses you in Marrakech culture begiing with shopping for fresh local ingredients in the souk before going back to a traditional riad for a cooking class. This full day experience has become one of the most popular things to do in Marrekech. They even offer full food experiences for up to five days.
7. Visit The Saadian Tombs
The Saadian Tombs are one of the most visited sights in the city (the lines ups are there to prove it) and thus one of the not to miss things to do in Marrakech. But Saadian tombs are worth visiting for their glorious splendor.
Built by Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dhabi, these tombs are grand, containing a 12-pillar mausoleum. After the death of Al-Mansour, the following Sultan walled up the magnificent mausoleum in the 1600s. It wasn’t re-discovered again until 1917. It can be quite busy but no matter how many people are there it always seems so peaceful. Marvel at the beautiful mosaics and marble work or have fun just watching the stray cats jumping around the mausoleum.
- Rue de La Kasbah, Marrakesh
- 8 AM – 4 PM Daily
- A tour of Saadian Tombs are often combined with a walking tour of Marrakech. Get your skip the line tickets in advance here.
8. Koutoubia Mosque
It’s hard to miss the Koutoubia Mosque with its tall minaret standing tall over the Medina. What is even more magnificent is that it is the oldest of the three great Almohad minarets remaining in the world! We couldn’t enter the mosque, as it is open only to Muslims, but we did walk around it and explore the walls.
This is a great place to photograph at night or at sunset as the sun actually sets behind the mosque.
9. Take a Tour of the Bahia Palace
We booked a tour with Get Your Guide to the Bahia Palace and had a pleasant day strolling the gardens of this 19th-century palace. It’s a quiet escape from the city as you explore the 160 rooms admiring the Morrocan architecture.
You will weave through the maze of rooms built as a riad that includes a mosque, Koranic school, harem, hammam, and stables. Finish off at the Gardens of the Bahia Palace.
10. Jardin Majorelle
One of the most popular things to do in Marrakech is to visit the enchanting gardens of Jardin Marjorelle. Thanks to the fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent Jardin Marjroelle was saved from destruction. The botanical gardens are a quiet escape filled with exotic plants and trees. The gardens were designed by French painter, Jaques Majorelle in 1922 who planted exotic plants from around the world. Today it spans 9000 square meters and houses Art Deco and Moorish designs, water ponds and fountains.
Combine two of the most popular things to do in Marrakech with this tour takes you to Majorelle Garden to explore its garden paths, cactus gardens and beautiful landscapes before continuing to Palmeraei to enjoy a camel ride through the palms.
11. Dar Si Said Museum
Also known as the Museum of Moroccan Arts, Dar Si Said Museum is the oldest museum in Marrakech that focuses on Moroccan carpets. The architecture is very similar to the Bahai Palace but on a smaller scale. Plus, you’ll see fewer crowds here too. Make sure to go visit the courtyard with a fountain surrounded by tiles, mosaics, and beautifully carved doors. It has recently been renovated and is definitely worth a visit.
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm; closed on Tuesdays
A full day tour is a great way to include this into your Marrakech itinerary. Learn of the Red City’s history beginning at Koutoubia Mosque. You’ll see traditional crafts and carpets as you wander the streets before heading to Bahia Palace. Stop at the Saadian Tombes and get lost in the souks. It includes a traditional Moroccan lunch and a visit to Dar Si Saïd Museum situated in the Alaouite-style palace of the 19th century
12. El Badi Palace
Another palace that you should visit in Marrakech is El Badi Palace. Built by the Sultan Ahmed el Mansour in the 16th century, the vast grounds offer a glimpse into what life was like at the height of the city’s glory. During its time, it was considered the 8th wonder of the world.
This Tour is an excellent way to see two of Marrakech’s best palaces. Follow your expert guide on a guided walking tour from the medina of Marrakech to the Bahia Palace. With the guide you’ll have skip-the-line tickets to skip right in front of the crowds. This tour includes entry to the Sultan Ahmed El Mansour’s 16th-century Grand al Badi Palace and the option of adding the Saadian Tombs.
13. Ben Youssef Madrassa
A madrassa is a former educational institution and the Ben Youssef Madrasa was the largest Islamic school in Morocco. Walking through the doors feels as if you have stepped back in time and you can picture the students walking its halls and sleeping in the dorms surrounding the courtyard.
14. Visit a Tannery
Tanneries have been around for a thousand years. Located in the Bab Debbagh quarter of the medina. I don’t know of any tours that take you to the Tanneries, but there is no shortage of guides offering to do so. Make sure you use an accredited guide with badges to take you. Be sure to ask to take photos and be prepared for the smell.
15. Visit the Jewish Quarter
The Mellah (or Jewish Quarter) dates back to Marrakech and has undergone major renovations since 2016. It has now become one of the main tourist attractions in the city housing Morocco’s largest synagogue Slat Al Azama and the largest Jewish Cemetery in Morroco.
A good way to explore the Jewish Quarter is to take a private city tour. This tour includes not only a visit through the Jewish Quarter, but Jardin Majorell, the botanical garden once owned by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, the Berber Museum to learn more of Moroccan culture, The New City that has become the hub of modern Marrakech, and other Marrakech tourist attractions.
16. Dar el-Bacha Palace
One of the Marrakech Medina’s finest examples of a traditional riad is the Dar El Bacha Palace. It was built for Pacha Thami El Glaoui who ruled Marrakech for 44 years until 1956. Today it has been turned into the Museum of Confluences and one of its most interesting displays is a 12th-century map and a well-preserved Hammam.
Arrive at the stunning Moulay El Yazid Mosque then see the Bab Agnaou, one of the 19 gates of Marrakech and the main entrance to the Royal Kasbah. Finally, wander through the fascinating labyrinths of the city’s most vibrant and colorful open-air marketplace. Wander through bazaars full of charm and character, stalls packed with mysterious potions, colorful piles of spices, exquisite rugs, and much more. The combination of sounds, sights, and smells are enough to leave even the most hardened of travelers feeling completely mesmerized.
17. Meet The Locals
A visit to any city must include a visit with the locals. Moroccans are very hospitable people and you may find yourself invited in for tea on more than one occasion.
When visiting a household be sure to bring a gift of figs, dates or pastries, remove your shoes, and when they bring around a basin filled with water, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap. And then enjoy sweet delicious tea!
Some useful phrases to help you interact with the locals.
- Greetings = Salaam Alaikum means ‘peace be with you’
- Thank you = Choukran
- You’re welcome = aafwan
- Yes = naäam
- No = laa (example No Thank you = choukran la)
- Please = min faDlik
- Excuse me = alaaffw
18. Gueliz – Modern Marrakech
Not every tourist experience needs to take place in the Old Town, there is plenty of modern life in Marrakech as well. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Medina, make your way to Gueliz to enjoy air conditioned shopping malls, bars, cafes and some of the best restaurants in the city.
While the historic part of the city is always the top tourist draw, we enjoy going into the new city to get a feel for real life in Marrakech.
19. Best Rooftop Bars in Marrakech
One of our favourite things in any city is to sit on a terrace to take in the sunset and the energy of the city. Marrakech has many rooftop bars that offer just that. There are several rooftop patios situated around the main square where you can watch the chaos below as you enjoy a beer from the terrace. Most are free to enter as long as you order food and drink.
Some of the best rooftop bars include L’Amazigh Rooftop a quieter option from the Medina, Nomad located in the Rahba Kedima Spice Square, M Rooftop located at the top of Medina Heritage, Cafe des Espice and Kabana, both in the heart of the Medina.
Day Trips from Marrakech
20. See The Dunes
The Sahara Desert is just a short drive from the city center and a visit to Marrakech would not be complete without exploring the dunes. We chose to see it by dune buggy and it was a blast. Bounce your way through palm groves and rock gardens and Berber villages and see a quiet way of living where people tend their sheep and farms.
The landscape is beautiful and it’s a nice change of pace to leave the frenzy of the city for the day. Book your Quad Experience here!
Address: 5 Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
Opening Hours: 8AM – 6PM Daily, Closed Friday
21. The Atlas Mountains and Agafay Desert
One of the best day trips from Marrakech is to visit the Atlas Mountains. This tour lets you explore the Atlas Mountains and the Agafay Desert in one trip. This guided tour starts with a drive to the Atlas Mountains where you’ll stop at a traditional village for a camel ride and to meet the local Berber people.
Enjoy mint tea and learn how argan oil is made by pressing the argan nut. Continue on to see the terraced fields of Tamatert and then enjoy a traditional Moroccan Meal. IT is then on to the Atlas Mountains where you’ll pass through the stone desert, an oasis, the brown Plateaus and admire the surrounding Agafay Desert.
22. Mountain Biking
If you want a bit more adventure, this Mountain biking tour in the Atlas Mountains is a day trip from Marrakech to remember. Take a mountain biking tour through Berber villages while admiring the countryside from dirt roads and bike trails. All gear is provided for your ride to ride to Tizi n’ Tamatert pass that includes lunch, mint tea, and the largest Berber Village in the Imlil valley, Aremd village.
Where to stay in Marrakech
If it is your first time in Marrakech, we highly recommend staying in a Riad. Riads are traditional houses that have interior courtyards creating a quiet oasis within the city. They usually have a plunge pool or fountain in the entrance and rooftop terraces for extraordinary views.
Riad El Cadi is a beautiful riad spread over 6 houses with gardens, courtyards, traditional Berber art, and a rooftop terrace. This luxury property has a pool, restaurant, free WiFi, and spa.
This Luxury Riad is recently renovated and located near the city center in the Dar El Bacha district. It combines modern luxury with traditional char. Rooms overlook a central courtyard with a fountain.
Movenpick Hotel Mansour Eddahbi – is located in the city center just outside the Medina and close to the international airport. We love Movenpick hotels and this one in Marrakech has a well-being center offering yoga, swimming, three restaurants, and a bar. It is surrounded by gardens creating a quiet setting.
Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa and Hotel – Located just outside the city center of the Medina, this luxury hotel is surrounded by a garden and fountains creating a tranquil setting. There are three pools, three restaurants, nearby bars, and a Turkish Bath.
Aqua Fun Club 475 Water Parks – Families will love this all-inclusive accommodation 15 minutes from the city center. There seems to be many water parks popping up outside Marrakech and this one is located on 10 acres of land surrounded by shady olive trees overlooking the Atlas Mountains. Check it out on TripAdvisor
Marrakech Travel Tips
I can guarantee that we missed a lot on this list of things to do in Marrakech. After all, we were only there a little over a week but we did manage to fit as much as we could in.
Tips for visiting Marrakech
- Morocco is a Muslim country and it is important to respect the local cultures and customs. See our etiquette travel tips for the Middle East.
- Women should wear light breathable fabrics, long pants, and long sleeves. Trust me, this is more comfortable than shorts and a T-shirt in the Moroccan Heat.
- Try the Mint Tea, it is delicious!
- Avoid the Medina at night – like any big city, dark alleyways are best avoided in the dark.
Whenever you visit a city or destination, it takes weeks, even months to truly explore. Do you have any more suggestions on things that you must do when visiting Marrakech?