1001 Nights in the “Pearl of the South”. I’ll show you the top 12 things to do in Marrakech. Magnificent palaces, enchanting botanical gardens and an old town with winding streets hiding beautiful riads. It’s a real adventure!
Marrakech is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Morocco, along with Agadir.
Table of contents
Marrakech – what you need to know
Marrakech is located inland in the southwest of Morocco and is also called the “Red City” or “Ochre City” in addition to the “Pearl of the South”. In the Berber language, the city name Marrakech means “the land of God”.
Marrakech: best time to travel
Morocco has warm temperatures all year round, with some very hot summers, with temperatures around 40 degrees. The daytime temperature in winter is around 20 degrees, but at night temperatures sometimes drop to just below zero. One notices the proximity to the High Atlas, the mountain range at the foot of which Marrakech lies and which separates it from the Sahara. In winter, you can see the snow-covered peaks. The best times to travel to Marrakech are therefore spring from March to May and autumn from September to November. In autumn, you will have to reckon with less rainfall.
How long does it take to fly to Marrakech?
From the UK you can reach Marrakech airport by direct flight from London in about 3.5 hours. As a British citizen, you will need your passport to enter the country, which must be valid for at least the duration of your stay in Morocco.
How long should you spend in Marrakech?
In about two to three days you can already discover the most important things to see in Marrakech. For an extensive contrast programme, you can also take a relaxed week and get to know the city of mosques, palaces and gardens better. It’s also a great base for day trips in the surroundings, for example the Ouzoud Falls or camel rides in the Sahara.
Is Marrakech safe?
Marrakech is generally speaking a safe city. Pickpocketing does happen. However, with a little common sense during your trip, this should be preventable.
What to eat in Marrakech?
Along with Casablanca, Marrakech is one of Morocco’s gourmet centres. Don’t miss the typical Moroccan stew Tajine. In general, you will find a lot of meat dishes here, but vegetables also play a big role in many Moroccan specialities.
Can you drink alcohol in Marrakech?
Yes, you can buy and drink alcohol in Marrakech and Morocco.
Fun Fact – did you know that the name of the country Morocco came from the city name Marrakech? And that no building can be higher than a palm tree?
1. Visit Market at Jemaa El Fna Square
If you are in Marrakech, you can’t miss Jemaa El Fna, because it is one of the top things to do in Marrakech. Translated, Jemaa El Fnaa means “Square of the Beheaded” – in the past, criminals were executed there and their impaled heads were displayed, but that is long a thing of the past. Today, there is a lot going on, with colourful stalls, snake charmers dancing their snakes, storytellers, musicians and dancers, including (unfortunately) acrobatic monkeys – just like in the Arabian Nights. Here you can also have your body decorated – the henna tattoos in North African countries used to be painted only on kings and priests and traditionally show large-scale patterns and geometric figures. Today, they are considered a symbol of beauty and seduction.
The Jemaa El Fnaa was declared an Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001. From the roof terraces all around, you have a great view of the hustle and bustle. Don’t be afraid to try the freshly prepared Moroccan delicacies typical for the Souk cuisine; food preparation here is subject to strictly controlled hygiene regulations, so you can eat with confidence. But be careful when taking pictures and videos, the locals are happy to get payed for them.
By the way, the square is even more colourful and lively at night and you will meet more locals. Be sure to find a rooftop cafe overlooking the Djemaa El Fna and watch the hustle and bustle over a delicious mint tea, also a part of Moroccan culture.
2. Admire the Koutoubia Mosque
The “Mosque of the Book”, as the Koutoubia Mosque is translated, is also one of the top 12 things to do in Marrakech. It is the largest mosque in the city, is one of the most famous sights in Marrakech and is located right next to the Djemaa El Fna square. It was first built in 1147, but later demolished because it was not correctly oriented towards Mecca. The pink sandstone minaret was finally completed in 1199. Only Muslims are allowed to enter the mosque, but the Koutoubia Mosque is a real showpiece, even from the outside. Next to it, you must definitely take a look at the adjacent rose gardens, which are illuminated in the evening and offer a great atmosphere.
3. A visit to Bahia Palace is one of the best things to do in Marrakech
A visit to the Bahia Palace is one of the top things to do in Marrakech as it’s one of the most visited sights. With its beautiful mosaics and Italian marble, it is one of the most magnificent buildings in Marrakech. It was built in 1867 during the Alawid period and translates as “the radiant one”. In over 160 rooms, you can admire cedar wood carvings, colourful mosaic ceilings, ornaments and stucco. You should definitely take several hours to visit this dream of the Arabian Nights, and if you get lost quickly, you can join a guided tour to learn more about the building’s turbulent history.
4. Wander around in the Jardin Majorelle
If you’re looking for some respite from the sightseeing and hustle and bustle of the city, be sure to make a stop at the Jardin Majorelle. The botanical garden is considered one of the most beautiful gardens in the world and therefore definitely belongs on my list of the best things to do in Marrakech. This oasis of calm awaits you in the middle of the city with blue buildings and lots of greenery in the international gardens, where plants from every continent are represented. In addition to a fountain in the middle of the garden, you will also find a memorial stone to Yves Saint Laurent at the back – the French fashion designer has even been given his own museum in Marrakech, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent. The Jardin Majorelle was created by the painter Jacques Majorelle – hence the name. If you are interested in gardens, you should also visit the Jardin Secret north of the Kasbah.
5. Visit the Saadian Tombs
On my list of the best things to do in Marrakech I continue with the Saadian Tombs, very close to the famous city gate Bab Agnaou. Originally intended as the garden of the Kasbah mosque, today you’ll find mausoleums with magnificent cedar and marble decorations and beautiful mosaic work. Be sure to also take a look at the “Hall of the Twelve Pillars” of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This magnificent hall houses are the final resting place of the conqueror of Timbuktu, Ahmed el-Mansour ed-Dehbi, you can also see stalactite arches and terracotta-coloured zellij tiles, typical of Moroccan architecture.
6. Find out more about Moroccan culture in Dar Si Said Museum
Arts and crafts and Islamic architecture come together in my next tip of the best things to do in Marrakech, the Dar Si Said Museum. It is housed in a renovated beautiful riad. A riad is a traditional building with a shaded courtyard. Jewellery, textiles, carpets, musical instruments, ceramics and weapons from several centuries of Moroccan history await you in Marrakech’s oldest museum. Highlights also include a 1000-year-old Andalusian fountain basin and, of course, mosaics, carved wooden ceilings and stucco work.
7. Have a picnic at Menara Garden
The Menara Garden, originally established in the 19th century as an orchard and olive plantation, is a public city park and also part of my list of top 12 things to do in Marrakech for its great views over the city. Located about three kilometres outside the city, the Menara Garden is also a popular destination for locals at weekends. The garden is laid out around a central water basin, which magically reflects the great landscape and also the sun. Grab a blanket and picnic under one of the olive trees with a great view.
8. Visit El Badi Palace
“The Incomparable”, as the El Badi Palace is translated, is said to have been, appropriately enough for its name, the largest and one of the most magnificent palaces in the Maghreb. Today, the fairytale palace in Moorish-Andalusian style can only be guessed at from the ruins. In the inner courtyard, however, you can still see a fountain and the dungeon in a dark vault below the palace. The outer remains of the mud walls are now used as a breeding ground for storks.
If you happen to be in Marrakech in June, be sure to visit this top Marrakech attraction – every year, a famous folklore festival takes place in the courtyard, attracting dancers, singers and music groups from all over the country, and the courtyard is lit with torches for a special mystical atmosphere.
9. See the old Marrakesh in the Maison de la Photographie
A traditional riad turned into a gallery with vintage Moroccan photography – the photography museum is a must see in Marrakech if you’d like to know, how the Red city used to look. It also has one of the highest rooftop bars of Marrakech with great views on the Medina.
10. Maison Tiskiwin
Maison Tiskiwin is the collection of the Dutch eccentric Bert Flint, who was in love with the Andalusian and Berber influences in Marocco. Definitely one of the things to do in Marrakech you shouldn’t miss out on!
11. Visit to the Souks
The souks of Marrakech are definitely part of the must-see list of the top 10 things to do in Marrakech – if you haven’t seen the souks, you haven’t seen Marrakech, because they are the beating heart of the city. Known as the bazaar in Persian Indian and Turkish, the souk in the medina of Marrakech is a once-a-week market that represents the city better than any other of the sights in Marrakech, it is also considered the largest in all of Morocco. In the narrow alleys there are stalls selling everything from wooden artwork to mosaic lamps, Arabic carpets, spices, leather goods and colourful fabrics. Watch the artisans at work. There is definitely a risk of getting lost here, so it’s best to orientate yourself at Jemaa El Fnaa or ask your way through until you find your way back there. Especially the visit to the traditional spice souk is a sensory experience. Or just sip a mint tea and watch the hustle and bustle.
12. Indulge yourself in the hammam
What would a trip to Marrakech in Morocco be without a visit to the hammam? If you want luxury, head to the Farnatchi Spa. This stylish spa is located in the heart of Marrakech. For a more traditional and antique experience, head to the Dar el-Bacha hamam, which is popular with tourists and locals alike. Otherwise, you’ll find smaller baths throughout the city – the further out of the city centre, the more authentic the baths and the more locals you’ll meet. Have a good time and recharge your batteries, but don’t miss this must-see programme of the best things to do in Marrakech!
Does Marrakech have a beach?
No, Marrakech is about 200 km from the sea. If you want to swim, book accommodation with a pool.
If you feel like exploring the most beautiful things to do in Marrakech, the best way to do this is by bike. Old Dutch bicycles are regularly imported to Marrakech, which are then repaired and made available to tourists. Locals are trained as bicycle mechanics and also offer guided bike tours. This way you can see some sights away from the typical tourist attractions and support sustainable tourism at the same time during your trip.