Marrakech is an energetic and eclectic city in the southwest of Morocco. Though it is not the capital, it is considered the cultural hub and home to a walled medieval city and marketplace from the Berber Empire. The vivid architecture and colourful textiles found in Marrakech draw in a hip, bohemian crowd to this already lively city.
This guide will show you all of the top things to do in Marrakech, Morocco, including what to see and where to stay.
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How to get to Marrakech
The city’s Menara Airport is served by over 30 international airlines. Layovers in Casablanca are common, but there are many direct flights from Europe and a few Arab countries. The airport is six kilometres from the centre of Marrakech, so you will have to catch a shuttle bus, taxi or private transfer. The transport company ASLA runs reliable buses every 30 minutes between the medina, the new town and the airport. When taking a taxi, the fare is typically 150 dirhams.
If you’re travelling to Marrakech from elsewhere in Morocco, the railway system links most of the major cities. Trains to Marrakech from Casablanca and Rabat take about four hours. You can also look into the comfortable and air-conditioned CTM and Supratours buses.
What to expect in Marrakech
Darija (aka Moroccan Arabic) and Berber are the official languages of Morocco. However, French is commonly spoken and is even considered an unofficial language. Signs in Marrakech, for example, are typically written in both Arabic and French. As Marrakech is a huge tourist destination, you will find that most hotel and restaurant staff will be able to communicate with you in English. At the very least, English menus will be available.
Moroccan dirham is the local currency, and can only be acquired once you arrive in the country. It can be hard to exchange lesser-used currencies, so it’s best to travel with euros, U.S. dollars, or even British pounds. You can easily convert these currencies at Moroccan airports, banks, or even hotels. If you’re making an expensive purchase, euros and USD may be accepted, but it’s best to use dirham day to day. For reference, one euro currently equals about 10 dirhams. If you have any cash left over at the end of your trip, remember to exchange it back before you leave.
When it comes to tipping, there is no set rule. If you’re at an upscale restaurant, a service charge might be added to your total. If tipping is something you’re concerned about, round up the final bill to at least the nearest 10 dirhams. It is generous to leave 15 to 20 dirhams to taxi drivers and hotel porters, while 100 may be appropriate to leave a maid after a week-long stay.
How to get around Marrakech
The most convenient way to wander Marrakech is on foot. Many of the streets and alleyways are winding and narrow, making some areas difficult for cars to pass through. Fortunately, most of the must-see attractions are within walking distance.
If your accommodation is a little far out from the medina, you can catch a shuttle provided by your hotel or take a taxi. Apps like Uber and Lyft aren’t available here, but you can find plenty of taxis with running meters.
The best time to visit Marrakech
Spring and Autumn are the ideal times to visit Marrakech and Morocco in general. From March to May and October to November, the weather is mild and perfect for exploring. You’ll also avoid heavy crowds that are common during the summer holidays.
Speaking of which, summers in Marrakech are known to be extremely hot, so avoid visiting during June to September. Ramadan also occurs at the beginning of summer, since the majority of the population are Muslim. Specific dates vary year to year, but it generally begins in May and ends in June. However, if you want to partake in this religious holiday and think you can handle the heat, you will certainly have a memorable trip. In fact, you may have a more authentic experience and become more familiar with the culture by visiting during Ramadan.
Things to do in Marrakech
Many tourists flock to Marrakech for the incredible textiles, ceramics and handmade crafts. Simply put, it’s a fantastic and unique shopping destination if you know how to haggle. Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square, engages all your senses and is unlike any market you’ve ever been to. It’s considered the centre of the city, and you must experience this lively place for yourself. Just beware of the snake charmers, monkey handlers, and even the occasional wandering tortoise!
You will find souks upon souks filled with elegant lanterns, colourful plates, eclectic rugs and glittering jewellery. It can be intimidating at first, so take your time looking around and come back the next day to make your purchases. Even if shopping isn’t your priority, a visit to the square is still a must. People-watching while enjoying some fresh orange juice or mint tea can be one of the most enjoyable Marrakech activities.
Since Morocco is an Islamic country, you may be wondering about things to do in Marrakech at night. Venturing into the square is all it takes to have an exciting evening. Late at night, the live music and drumming go crazy in the best possible way. If you prefer to observe the chaos rather than be amongst it, grab a drink at Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier. The balcony has an amazing view of Jemaa el-Fnaa that you won’t find anywhere else.
Places to visit in Marrakech
When wondering what to see in Marrakech, you won’t want to miss Jardin Majorelle. This bold botanical garden is one of the most frequented spots in all of Morocco. When you’re done exploring the outside, take a look at the Berber Museum and Islamic Art Museum. The complex is also home to the newly-built Yves Saint Laurent Museum, dedicated to the French fashion designer who made Marrakech a second home.
The fascinating, intricate architecture makes the mosques and palaces the best places to visit in Marrakech. Bahia Palace was built in the 19th century with the intention of becoming the greatest palace of all time. It is considered to be a masterpiece, with colourfully stained glass windows and engraved columns. El Badi Palace, on the other hand, is a former royal residence in ruins. The 16th-century palace once contained over 350 rooms made from gold, onyx, marble and cedar wood. The enormous complex fell into decay following a civil war in the late 17th century.
To keep the history lesson going, you must explore the Saadian Tombs. Conveniently, they are only a few hundred metres from El Badi. Though only discovered in 1917, the tombs date back to the Saadian Dynasty of the 16th and 17th centuries.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Marrakech after spending all your money at the souks, head to Koutoubia Mosque. It’s the largest mosque in Marrakech, and you will immediately spot its 77-metre high minaret tower. It is illuminated in the evenings, so be sure to visit during sunset.
Lastly, you can’t forget one of the most gorgeous Marrakech sites, the Ben Youssef Madrasa. 500 years ago, it was the largest Islamic school in northern Africa. It has since become a museum and is open to the public daily. You’ll be in awe over the incredible attention to detail here, with stunning mosaics, marvellous carvings and beautiful marble patios.
What to eat in Marrakech
Moroccan cuisine is a fascinating mix of Arabic, Mediterranean, Berber and Andalusian foods. Couscous is the country’s main dish, and beef, chicken and lamb are commonly consumed. Middle Eastern flatbread known as khubz is also a favourite. Dishes are limited if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, but you will always find some delicious and authentic vegetable tagine. There’s also zaalouk, a popular cold salad made from tomato and eggplant.
The best food in Marrakech is often where you’d least expect, and typically out of the main tourist hot spots. However, if you’re in a main area like Jemaa el-Fnaa and want to grab a bite, only eat at stalls the locals are also eating at.
The atmosphere at Atay Cafe will make you want to indulge in a three-hour lunch. You’ll taste some of the most delicious tagines in Marrakech here, whether lamb or vegetarian. Relax with a cup of mint tea and watch the sunset from the inviting rooftop terrace.
Plats Haj Boujemaa is the ultimate restaurant for meat lovers. Though they serve a range of both international and Moroccan foods, grilled meats are their speciality. This local spot boasts affordable prices and is open until one in the morning, ideal for when hunger hits late in the evening!
Where to stay in Marrakech
The most intriguing place to stay in Marrakech is at a traditional Moroccan home known as a riad. You can identify a riad by the interior courtyard (often featuring a swimming pool) and the colourful tiles. Here are a few of the most memorable places for you to stay at while in Marrakech.
Although Riad Idra is located right within the medina, it’s an idyllic oasis inside. Escape the hustle and bustle in the luscious courtyard or on the romantic rooftop terrace. There are only seven rooms and suites available, making your stay even more private and intimate. Each space is adorned with Moroccan and Islamic-inspired furnishings. The riad is a few hundred metres from the Museum of Women and Le Jardin Secret, and a 10-minute walk from the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa.
Riad Al Jazira is elegant and modern while still maintaining Moroccan charm. This boutique accommodation brings together three separate riads and patios, including a rooftop terrace and a swimming pool. The earthy tones of the rooms and suites give a warm and cosy feel, with stunning lanterns and Berber rugs everywhere you look. Take a pottery workshop or Arabic calligraphy class, then end the day at the relaxing spa.
Kasbah Le Mirage diverges from the traditional riad, but still captures the essence of Morocco. It’s ideal for a quiet retreat, as it sits along the Tensift River 15 kilometres from the city centre. A free shuttle is offered twice daily, so this slight distance won’t be an issue. You’ll see classic Moroccan architectural elements throughout the rooms, such as bejmat tiles and tadelakt walls. Choose from a range of pampering treatments during your stay, or get outdoors and partake in the numerous activities offered.
Tours to do in Marrakech
Want to tick something off your bucket list? A hot air balloon ride over the Atlas Mountains is an experience you will never forget. Marrakech By Air and Ciel d’Afrique Hot Air Ballooning both run sunrise flights with a complimentary Berber breakfast. While group tours are the cheapest, you can book a private flight for a more romantic occasion. It is absolutely one of the top things for couples to do in Marrakech!
Another enjoyable tour is a sunset camel ride. Palmeraie is an oasis of palm trees right outside of the city, waiting for you to explore via camel. At the end of the ride, M and A Tours can take you to a local Berber house to drink mint tea and learn about the culture and people living in the area. This experience is truly one of the most unique things to do in Marrakech and guarantees you an authentic Moroccan experience.
If you want to know how to eat like a local, take a four-hour food tour with AXS. By bike, you will stop by bakeries, spice shops, and other spots to sample delicious Moroccan foods.
Day trips from Marrakech
One of the ultimate day trips to take from Marrakech is an adventure to the Atlas Mountains. On this full-day trip run by Trekking with Morocco, you’ll be driven through the Moulay Brahim Gorges and to the picturesque Imlil Valley. Your guide will take you on a one to three-hour trek to the Berber village of Ait Souka, followed a visit to the waterfalls at Arouz.
If you want a bit of a sea change, you can take a day trip to the coastal city of Essaouira. You can make the three-hour-long journey, stopping along the way at an Argan oil co-op, and explore the laid-back town at your own pace.
This guide has hopefully answered your questions regarding what to do in Marrakech. You will absolutely fall in love with everything this bustling and vibrant city has to offer!
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Recommend budget tours in Marrakech
- Atlas Mountains Hot Air Balloon Ride from Marrakech with Berber Breakfast and Desert Camel Experience
- Atlas Mountains and 4 Valleys Guided Day Tour from Marrakech including Lunch in Berber House
- Camel and Quad Biking Tour from Marrakech
- 3 Day Trek in the Atlas Mountains and Berber Villages from Marrakech
- Marrakech Hot Air Balloon Morning Flight with Berber Breakfast
- Overnight Sahara Tour from Marrakech
- Marrakech City Tour: Private Half-Day Guided Tour
- Full-Day Trip from Marrakech to Atlas Mountains and The Ancient Ait Ben Haddou
- Sunset Camel Ride in the Palm Grove of Marrakech
- Ouzoud Falls Day Trip from Marrakech
- Experience Morocco: Visit a Souk and Cook Moroccan Food in Marrakech
- Day-Trip to Imlil Valley including Camel Ride from Marrakech
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