Steeped in history and culture, Marrakech is a truly memorable city, a former Berber imperial capital that has something interesting to see at every step. Wander through the labyrinthine medina, look for the most difficult thing to find in its souks, stroll through its palaces and gardens, marvel at the magnificent architecture of its mosques. Look at our list of the top 10 things to do in Marrakech to discover the best places for your visit.
10. The Museum of Marrakech
If you are looking for something to do in Marrakech that can take you away from the crowds and the Moroccan heat for an hour or two, the Marrakech Museum is a wonderful place to visit. Located in the heart of the Medina, this museum is housed in the former Dar Menebhi Palace, built in the late 19th century. The palace is an attraction as well as the exhibitions within the museum, as it gives visitors a chance to see the typical Andalusian architecture of the city up close, including the relaxing covered atrium, originally an open courtyard. Here you will find a hanging chandelier that catches everyone’s attention!
The museum features exhibitions of Moroccan art, including historical pieces, as well as modern pieces and there are exhibits related to Berber and Arab cultures. The small café and store are nice to visit and you might be lucky enough to be there one day when an artist is there to calligraphy your name in Arabic with watercolors. In short, the Marrakech Museum is a welcome break in a lively city.
9. El Badi Palace
At first glance, you could say that El Badi Palace is nothing special compared to other palaces. After all, this once bustling palace is now largely in ruins and has become a meeting place for local storks and stray cats. Even so it is a popular attraction in Marrakech for tourists too, presenting a different perspective on what city life was like a few hundred years ago.
Even though the El Badi Palace is in ruins, it is still possible to imagine its grandeur. Meaning “The Incomparable Palace”, it was built between 1578 and 1593 with the most refined and expensive materials of the time, under the order of the Sadian Arab sultan, Ahmad al-Mansur.
8. The Sadian Tombs
The intrinsic beauty of the Sadian tombs must really be seen to be believed. Dating from the rule of Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603), this mausoleum houses about sixty members of the Sadian Dynasty, including Ahmad al-Mansur himself and his family. Restored after being discovered in 1917, the tombs are now a major attraction in Marrakesh, although they are difficult to find if you are missing a good map!
Like a number of other things to do in Marrakech, a visit to this attraction will take only 30 minutes of your time as it is a relatively small site, but one that is truly worth a visit. The building has three rooms, the most famous of which is the twelve columns; large parts of the tombs are carved in Italian Carrara marble, while the intricate details that make it such a beautiful place to visit are carved out of cedar and stone. There are very few explanations of what you will see, so if you want to hire a guide to show you around, you will learn a lot more about the tombs, otherwise you can do some research around the site before you go.
7. Bahia Palace
Hidden from view, the Palais Bahia is a surprising discovery for anyone visiting this attraction in Marrakech. A welcome break from the busy streets of the Medina, the Bahia Palace is a superb blend of Islamic art and Moroccan-style architecture, built in the 19th century for Si Moussa, the Grand Vizier to the Sultan. Decorated with refined mosaics outside and in the vast inner courtyard, the palace can be visited without a guide, strolling from room to room and admiring the painted ceilings and other decorative details. There are not many explanations, so if you have the opportunity to explore the Bahia Palace with a guide, do so and you will enjoy a better tour of the palace, its decorations and its uses.
Meaning “brilliance”, the Bahia Palace was certainly built to impress with its mosaics and details. The gardens in the inner courtyard are beautiful and offer some pleasant shady areas to sit and relax for a while, listening to the water running from the fountains. The gardens are beautiful especially in spring when the many fruit trees are in bloom. If you can, try to visit before 10am to avoid the arrival of tourist groups.
6. The Ben Youssef Madrasa
A “madrasah” is a word used in Arabic to designate a school or other educational institution, whether religious or not. There are hundreds of them scattered everywhere, especially in the Islamic world, but what makes these schools a tourist attraction? In the case of the Ben Youssef Madrasa, one of the main things to see in Marrakech is the architecture that really impresses anyone who visits it. Well preserved and maintained, the architecture of this old school is really very beautiful and an important example of the Umayyad style of architecture in the city. The madrassa has many beautiful mosaics and sculptures and harmoniously mixes a number of different building materials, including stone and wood.
This madrasaa was an Islamic school, named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf, and was founded in the 14th century. It remains the largest madrasah in Morocco and has more than 130 bedrooms, grouped around the beautiful central courtyard. The rooms, rather cells because they are of modest dimensions, can be visited to get a real perception of what life was like when the school housed around 900 students. After closing in 1960, the Madrassa Ben Youssef was restored and opened to the public in 1982.
5. The Koutoubia Mosque
In a city full of wonderful mosques and architecture, it’s easy to get jaded when you come across several sites that look alike, but the Koutoubia Mosque stands out from the rest for several reasons and is definitely an attraction to include in your list of things to visit in Marrakech. For starters, the Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in the city and was completed towards the end of the 12th century, so it is not only large, but also ancient. The mosque is still used today by the local Sunni population and can accommodate several thousand worshippers at the same time. Technically, the mosque is not open to non-Muslims, so don’t expect to see many tourists, but if you visit it on a day other than a Friday, you might be lucky enough to be invited inside to look and climb the minaret.
The minaret is a favorite local monument, standing 77 meters (253 feet) high and visible from a distance of almost 29 kilometers (18 miles). The magnificent Almohad architectural style includes a band of ceramic tiles and Moorish-style vaults. If you can’t get inside the mosque or minaret, spend some time relaxing in the attractive gardens surrounding them.
4. Jemaa el-Fna
To truly enjoy a visit to Jemaa el-Fna, you just have to follow the crowd! This crowded and sometimes chaotic place is right in the heart of the Medina of Marrakech and must absolutely be part of your itinerary of what you will do in Marrakech. If you visit during the day or at night, Jemaa el-Fna will saturate your senses with the incredible flavors that permeate the square, coming from the many food vendors; then there are the people – locals and tourists – enjoying the atmosphere and the locals.
As Marrakech’s main square has always been an important gathering place, Jemaa el-Fna retains its importance to this day as a place where people come to share events, entertain the crowd with magic tricks or music, dancing and even snake charmers, so be sure to go into the hustle and bustle of this square and spend some time immersed to see and enjoy everything that goes on here. The evenings are the busiest times when most of the food stands are open, but you will discover an incredible place at every moment of the day. There are hotels nearby if you want to stay in the middle of the Medina, as well as cafes, restaurants and of course souks. Also, Jamaa El Fna is where many travel agencies offer tours around Morocco.
3. The Souk of Marrakech
After seeing “The Souk of Marrakech”, we can no longer really talk about a single place because the city has eighteen souks employing about 40,000 people in total. Within the narrow and labyrinthine streets of the Medina, one souk blends into another, creating a lively and noisy, yet stimulating and seductive atmosphere in which it is all too easy to get lost, metaphorically and literally! There are countless stores selling objects, as well as a multitude of itinerant merchants, strolling with their wares or sitting in their small work spaces where they make beautiful handicrafts, work metal in furnaces or weave. A visit to this attraction in Marrakech is like going back in time, when supermarkets didn’t exist and everyone shopped like this. The most interesting thing is that many locals still buy everything in the souks even today, haggling for a good price being part of the fun, while a firm “no” could make any other vendor leave. Despite being a chaotic way to shop, which might not please everyone, the Souk should be on your list of things to visit in Marrakech.
2. The Majorelle Garden
If you are looking for a place to relax after a long morning in the souks or just like to visit the beautiful gardens, the Jardin Majorelle must necessarily be one of the main things to visit in Marrakech. The Jardin Majorelle covers more than twelve acres and although it is obviously a botanical garden, it is actually much more than that. The impeccably maintained gardens are complemented by the buildings and their incredible shade of cobalt blue. The color Majorelle Blue was named after the creator of the garden, an expatriate French artist, Jacques Majorelle, who designed the gardens, landscapes and buildings in the 20’s and 30’s. When you look at the different species of plants, including the many cacti unfolding with this Majorelle Blue background, it is truly a superb view and passionate photographers will get some great pictures here.
Visit this Marrakech attraction as early as possible to avoid the crowds and take the best pictures. The gardens become crowded around 10am. If you’re interested in art too, be sure to stop by the Museum of Islamic Art in Marrakech, located within the gardens and including works by Majorelle, as well as textiles from Yves Saint-Laurent’s personal collection.
1. The Medina of Marrakech
The Medina of Marrakech is unquestionably one of the most important tourist attractions and a part of the city that no visitor should miss. Meaning “the old city”, medinas are found in many cities in North Africa and date back hundreds of years. The Medina of Marrakech is a magical place to discover and although a good map can help you find your way, it is sometimes fun to get lost in its labyrinthine alleys. You never know what you might stumble upon at the next crossroads!
A mix of sounds, flavors, colors and views, this main attraction of Marrakech will whet your appetite for more, as just a few hours to explore this maze of alleys will not be enough. To rush into the medina is to go back in time because the streets have hardly changed since their construction. You’ll discover countless souks for miles around, so make sure you wear good shoes and beware of crazy mopeds, which run around like arrows! In the heart of the Medina, you will find the large Jamaa el-Fna square and it is a good landmark to orient yourself if you get lost.