11 Jan 15 Best Things to do in Marrakech
Marrakech is not only one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco but it also has a lot of activities to offer! Discover with me 15 Best Things to do in Marrakech with my secret tips.
I fell in love with this city at my first visit: the architecture is stunning, the ambiance is lively and the locals are welcoming! Therefore there are lots of best places to visit in Marrakech. And even if you are not so much into culture trips, you will find many activities in Marrakech around relaxing, nature and food.
Jemaa el-Fna is the iconic and main square and marketplace of Marrakech. You will find it in the heart of the Medina (the old town of Marrakech). Since the foundation of Marrakech in the 11th century, Jemaa el-Fna has always been an open market area and the site of public events. Because of this heritage, the square became a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2001. Then in 2008 it was added to the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Wandering around Jemaa el-Fna is one of the first and the best things to do in Marrakech because it will help you soak up the atmosphere in the city. The square is near the Koutoubia Mosque and the Souk. You will probably pass by here quite often during your stay in Marrakech.
Location: Jemaa el-Fna
My secret tip: you should come here at different times of the day as the ambiance is evolving from day to night. During the day you will find here mostly orange and other fruits juice stalls, traditional water sellers, people with chained Barbary apes playing tricks and snake charmers. Because of the heat, the square is less crowded at this time. And if you come at night, you will see different kind of entertainment: some dancers, fortune-tellers and palm-readers, storytellers and some food stalls. The square is very busy in the evening because the temperature is more bearable. but it can be overwhelming.
Gaze at the Koutoubia Mosque
The Koutoubia Mosque is the most important and largest mosque in Marrakech. It’s located in the southwest of the Medina of Marrakech, near Jemaa el-Fna. It was built in the 12th century.
You can see its 77 metres (253 ft) high minaret tower from afar all around the city. That’s why the Koutoubia Mosque is one the most significative landmarks of Marrakech and it has become a symbol of the city. You cannot enter the mosque if you are not a Muslim, so there is no possibility to visit it for tourists. But you can gaze at it as much as you want: one of the best things to do in Marrakech!
Location: Koutoubia Mosque
Admire the beauty of Ben Youssef Madrasa
One of my favorite places in Marrakech is Ben Youssef Madrasa. This Islamic college built in the 16th century used to be one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa. It opened to the public as an historical site in 1982 and was under renovations between 2018 and April 2022.
I was mesmerized at the architecture of Ben Youssef Madrasa! With its pretty tiles, wooden doors and ceiling carved with intricate details, it’s truly magnificent. That’s the reason why I placed its visit at the top of the Best Things to do in Marrakech. It’s so photogenic that you will also find it in my list of the Most Instagrammable Places in Marrakech.
You can visit the ablution hall and the building. The main courtyard features a large and shallow reflective pool, surrounded by beautiful galleries. When you are upstairs in the building, look at the courtyard from the windows: it’s impressive!
Location: Ben Youssef Madrasa
Entrance fee: 20 MAD (around 2€). You can buy the tickets directly at the entrance.
Opening hours: every day from 9am to 6pm
Count 1h30 for the visit, especially if you love to take photos!
My secret tip: Ben Youssef Madrasa gets crowded quickly. So, I it’s better to visit at the opening at 9am if you want to have it to yourself.
Stroll in the Majorelle Garden
The Majorelle Garden is an enchanting botanical garden created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle in 1923. The fashion designers Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought it and restored in the 1980’s.
With its 9,000 m² (2,5 acres), the Jardin Majorelle offers an interesting collection of cacti, exotic botanical specimens from all over the world, fountains and stunning sculptures. A stunning Cubist villa, created in the 1930s by the French architect Paul Sinoir, stands in the heart of the garden. The iconic Majorelle Blue color prevails in the garden and its buildings. This unique shade of bold cobalt blue was patented by Jacques Majorelle. The style of the architecture in the garden mixes a great combination of Art Deco with Moorish influences. The Jardin Majorelle is one of the most Instagrammable places and one of the best places to visit in Marrakech! Strolling in here was very pleasant and relaxing.
After visiting the garden, you can check the Berber Museum (Musée Pierre Bergé des Arts Berbères) and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in the same area.
Location: Jardin Majorelle
Entrance fee: 150 MAD (around 11€). It’s highly recommended to buy your ticket online at least 24 hours in advance. You can also buy it at the entrance, but you will have to wait in line longer.
Opening hours: every day from 8 am to 6 pm; last entrance at 5:30 pm.
Count around 1h for the visit of the garden itself, more if you want to visit the museums.
My secret tip: the Jardin Majorelle is very popular, therefore I recommend booking the first slot at the opening at 8am. I arrived before the opening, and I was the first to enter. It was ok between 8am and 9am, but when I left many people were arriving.
I was a bit disappointed by the size of the garden though: I expected it to be bigger. So, the visit was lovely but a bit frustrating!
Go shopping at the Souk
Shopping at the souk is a great experience in Marrakech! Not only the atmosphere is vibrant, but the items on display are more tempting the ones than the others! You will find this open-air market in the heart of the Medina not far from the iconic Jamaa el-Fna square. The souk will appeal to many of your senses: the smells, the colors, the ambiance… The souk is also quite picturesque. I took so many photos every time I went there that I can tell you it’s one of the best photo spots in Marrakech! The best way to discover this place is to get lost in the little alleys. You will for sure stumble on a few hidden gems that you will love!
For all these reasons, shopping at the souk is one of the best things to do in Marrakech! Spend some time browsing around and you will find the perfect gifts or buy something to treat yourself 🙂 .
Location: Souk of Marrakech
Opening hours: the shops owners are independent, so they open and close at different times. But if you come around 10am, most of them should be open. And they close around 8pm.
My secret tips: Keep in mind that haggling is part of the experience! Here below are my tips for how to bargain at the souk in Marrakech.
First of all, you should be aware that they have 4 different prices: one for Moroccan tourists (the cheapest), then one for Arab tourists, then one for French speaking tourists, and then the price for everyone else (the most expensive). So, if you can speak Arabic or French, go for it: it will help you get a better price!
Then I recommend looking for the item you like in different shops to compare the price. Never buy at the first place you see it! But save the location of the shop in case it was really the cheapest/ the best quality after comparing with others.
Once you find an item you want to buy, ask for the price, and divide this price by 2 or 3. And then find a middle ground with the vendor. Never show how much you are interested in an item if the price is too high. Instead, walk away and pretend you are not interested anymore. They will usually catch you before you leave and offer a better price. And if they don’t do it, it means it was the best price they wanted to give you. In that case you can always come back later. The vendors usually recognize you and remember the last price they gave you.
Try local food in one of the best restaurants in Marrakech
Moroccan cuisine is tasty and delicious! Eating local food must be on your list of best things to do in Marrakech!
Here are some of the Moroccan dishes you should try:
- Couscous: the most popular Moroccan dish. It’s typically served with meat or vegetable stew.
- Tagine: meat (beef, lamb, chicken) and/ or veggies slow cooked in a clay cooking pot with a conical lid. The name of the dish is also the name of the cooking pot.
- Harira: Moroccan lentil soup that you can have for starter.
- Pastilla: a sort of flaky pie combining meat with sweet spices. It was traditionally made with pigeon, but you’ll find it also with chicken.
- Tangia: chunks of beef or lamb slow cooked with spices in a clay pot in a shape of an amphora. Tangia and tagine are both cooking vessels involving slow cooking methods. But the tagine is best cooked over charcoal or a wood fire, whereas a tangia is ideally cooked in the ashes from a wood fire. And the tangia takes longer to cook: the meat must reach a confit texture while remaining intact.
- Briwat or briouat: sweet or savory puff pastry made with filo pastry.
- Some pastries to have for dessert or snacks: baklava (made with filo pastry), Kaab el Ghazal (or gazelle horns – crescent shape cookies made of almond paste), Chebakia (flower-shaped, fried sesame and honey cookies)
- Finally, don’t forget to drink mint tea: it’s such a great tradition in Morocco! It’s made very sweet with fresh mint leaves and served in cute little decorated glasses. And the locals have this amazing and unique way to pour it from a height. It cools the tea and creates little bubbles which gives an extra texture to the beverage.
If you are looking for the best places to eat, I listed for you some of the best restaurants in Marrakech.
My secret tip: better be safe than sorry, avoid eating street food in Marrakech and drinking fruit juice bought in the street (on Jemaa el-Fna for example). Also, I recommend bringing some medication for stomach ache or diarrhea just in case. And if you have a weak stomach, take some probiotics before your trip.
Visit the Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces and most famous historic monuments in Marrakech. It was built in in 1859 and covers around 2 hectares.
The Bahia palace presents several buildings with inner courtyards and riad gardens. The architecture and decoration are magnificent! The walls are delicately carved, the floors are paved with marble and tiles, and the cedar-wood ceilings are painted with colorful colors as well as the carved wooden door canopies. The details are fascinating!
The Grand Courtyard (Cour d’honneur) is especially remarkable with its beautiful Italian Carrara marble pavement, its fountains and its wooden gallery. And the Grand Riad features some stained-glass windows. The sunlight draws some colorful patchworks as it reflects on the stained glass: a beautiful show! Lastly, some trees in the gardens are from the 19th century. With all these explanations, you can easily understand why visiting the Bahia Palace is one of the best activities in Marrakech!
Location: Bahia Palace
Entrance fee: 70 MAD (around 6,50€). You can buy your ticket at the entrance.
Opening hours: every day from 9am to 5pm.
Count 1h30 for the visit : there are many rooms, courtyards and gardens to explore.
My secret tip: If you want to enjoy the Bahia palace with less crows, I recommend coming here at the opening or 1h before closing time. I visited at 4pm and the palace cleared out as we were getting closer to 5pm. At the end we had to palace to ourselves for a few minutes : the best if you want to take some photos!
Sleep in a riad
Riads are traditional Moroccan buildings with many rooms built around a central open-air courtyard or a garden. They used to be the house of wealthy families, like merchants or courtiers. Nowadays most of them have been transformed into luxury tourist accommodations and boutique hotels, providing a unique experience to travelers from all over the world. Staying in a riad is definitely one of the best things to do in Marrakech!
The central courtyard often features a garden and or a pool. It’s used as a lounge to welcome the guests, an eating place and/ or a relaxing space. It’s open air and bring some natural light in the building. Plus, it helps to keep the riad cool and fresh despite the hot temperatures outside. Additionally, riads usually have rooftops offering interesting views with terraces and sometimes restaurants.
Marrakech offers a great quantity of riads for any kind of budget. So, you should be able to find a great place to match your needs! Here are my recommendations for the best riads to stay in Marrakech.
Riad BE Marrakech
Riad Dar Essalam
Riad Dar Essalam: this riad is beautiful and comfortable. It’s ideally located in the heart of the Medina, not far from Jemaa El-Fna in the north and El Badi Palace in the south. I loved their breakfast, and the service was amazing. Additionally, Dar Essalam is also an historical restaurant in Marrakech that you must try.
Riad Dar Beija
Riad Dar Beija: this riad is ideally located between the Bahia Palace and El-Badi Palace in the south of the Medina. It’s charming and cozy. There is a little pool in the inner-courtyard and a beautiful rooftop terrace.
Riad Dar Picolina
Riad Dar Picolina: this riad offers a great value for money. It’s located on the east side of the Medina. It features a charming pool in the inner courtyard and a rooftop terrace. Some of their rooms are quite small so I would recommend these if you are staying just 1 or 2 nights, or if you are on a budget.
Watch the sunset from a rooftop terrace
Marrakech offers plenty of rooftop terraces and restaurants! They became quite trendy in the last years so many new places have opened. You will love them because they provide some stunning panoramic views over Marrakech! Additionally, the city is usually quite warm during the day. So, when the sun is setting, the temperature gets more bearable and it’s pleasant to have dinner al fresco! Therefore, watching the sunset from a rooftop restaurant (or terrace) is one of the best things to do in Marrakech!
If you are looking for great food and amazing views, read my dedicated guide about the Best Rooftop Bars and Restaurants in Marrakech.
And if you are staying in a riad or a hotel, you might also have the opportunity to enjoy a rooftop terrace there without going out 🙂 .
Visit El Badi Palace
El Badi Palace aka “the Incomparable Palace” used to be the most lavish reception palace of Marrakech at the end of the 16th century. It was commissioned by the Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansur of the Saadian dynasty to show the sultan’s opulence and power. That’s why it was designed by the best craftsmen with some of the most expensive material of the Saadian period.
Unfortunately, after the decline of the Saadian Dynasty it was abandoned and felt into ruins.
Despite that, the palace complex is still truly impressive nowadays. For this reason, it’s one of the best places to visit in Marrakech! Count around 1h30 to visit the several buildings and pavillions, the huge courtyard with a central pool and four large sunken gardens. Orange trees and even roses are growing here!
Location: El Badi Palace
Entrance fee: 70 MAD (around 6,50€). You can buy your ticket at the entrance.
Opening hours: every day from 9am to 5pm.
My secret tip: Come at the palace at the opening at 9am and to see it empty. Nevertheless, the palace complex is so big that you won’t feel overwhelmed by the crowd here.
Enjoy a Dinner Show with live music
How about enjoying a dinner with live music and show during your stay in Marrakech? If a festive dinner is something you might like, check out Dar Essalam restaurant! It offers a delicious Moroccan dinner with a traditional live show. Dar Essalam was created in 1952 and is one of the oldest restaurants in Marrakech. Its architecture is amazing: the wooden ceilings date from the 17th century. If you are into old movies, you will be happy to know that a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The man who knew too much” was shot in this restaurant in 1956! Other famous people from all over the world like Winston Churchill or Charles Trenet have eaten here.
Dar Essalam will surprise you with different live shows from the beginning to the end of the evening: orchestras with famous singers, tray dancer, oriental belly dancers, a Gnaouas show and more! A dinner show at Dar Essalam is really one of the best things to do in Marrakech.
They have a dinner menu at 275 MAD (25€) including 1 Starter + 1 Main + 1 Dessert + Tea or coffee with pastries, and another menu at 350 MAD (32€) including 1 Starter + 2 Mains + 1 Dessert + Tea or coffee with pastries.
Location: Dar Essalam Restaurant
My secret tip: you can also stay at Dar Essalam as they offer a few rooms as a riad. I really enjoyed staying here so I highly recommend it!
Walk in the streets of the Medina at sunrise
Marrakech was created in the 11th century by the Almoravids. The Old City of Marrakech is called the Medina. It used to be a political, economic, and cultural center of the western Muslim world.
Ramparts and gates built in pinkish clay are surrounding the Medina of Marrakech. That’s why Marrakech is called “the Pink City” (or “the Red City”).
With its pink color, the stunning Islamic architecture, the beautiful mosques, and other landmarks around, the Medina of Marrakech is unique. But its streets are quite busy during the day, which can be overwhelming. Therefore, I advise you wake up early and explore them at sunrise. It will make your experience different!
Location: Medina of Marrakech
Enjoy the pool of the picturesque BE Marrakech
With its typical blue and green tiles, BE Marrakech is a beautiful riad in Marrakech. It became very popular, especially amongst influencers. Therefore, it has become one of the most Instagrammable places in Marrakech!
BE Marrakech is a complex of 2 riads: the “Oasis” and the “Essence”. The most famous one, the “Oasis”, features a charming pool with the blue and green tiles. You can obviously enjoy it if you stay at BE Marrakech. But you might not know that you can also visit the riad for lunch and get access to the “insta-famous” riad pool this way! DM them on Instagram to get more info about it and prices.
Spending some time in or around the water is always a great way of relaxing. And the temperatures are often quite warm in Marrakech, so you will also appreciate this opportunity to cool down. Therefore, you will cherish love this suggestion of chilling by a picturesque pool as one of the best things to do in Marrakech! Of course, you can relax in a beautiful pool in any other nice riad or hotel! The most important is to unwind!
Location: BE Marrakech
My secret tips: BE Marrakech is quite popular so it might seem difficult to get a room here. But if you follow them on Instagram, you will see that they share every week the rooms they have available. So, you can send them a DM to book one of these with them directly. Also check out their rooftop: it’s lovely up there too !
Have tea-time at La Mamounia
La Mamounia is an iconic 5-star hotel in Marrakech. This palace located near the Koutoubia Mosque has hosted many famous people, like politicians and stars from all over the world. With its luxurious and elegant style, La Mamounia is one of the best Instagram spots in Marrakech!
Even if you are not staying at the hotel, you can visit it as a guest. I recommend coming to La Mamounia for tea-time. They serve some delicious desserts of the famous French pastry chef Pierre Hermé (the prices are similar to the ones in Paris). Tea-time is served in a beautiful and fresh riad courtyard. You can enjoy here a relaxing and gourmet moment at the same time: one of the best things to do in Marrakech!
Location: La Mamounia
My secret tip: You can also treat yourself with a spa, come here for dinner or drinks. And take the time to walk around their beautiful garden!
Now you have a better understanding of the best activities to do in Marrakech! Admiring the architecture, enjoying local gastronomy, relaxing in beautiful places, strolling in beautiful gardens, shopping… You can do it all in Marrakech!
And of course there are many more that I didn’t experience yet. That’s why I cannot wait to go back to Morocco myself!
Which one of these did you place at the top of your list of the things to do in Marrakech? Which one have you done and would recommend?
Do not hesitate to leave a message or a question in the comment section, I will do my best to answer it!