Marrakech, an old imperial city, is one of the busiest cities in Africa. Its plays a vital part in Morocco’s economy and tourism industry and hosts over 2 million tourists every year. The city is becoming popular day by day for its rich culture, beautiful historic and modern sites and unique
crafts. It also known as the “Red City” as the walls and most of structures in the medina are painted in salmon pink colour. In this article, we will mainly discuss the many places to visit in Marrakech.
It is also good to know that Marrakech is a year round tourist destination. Besides Casablanca , it forms a major destination for people going on a Morocco tour . The peak tourist season is during May and October but it's commonly advised to visit Marrakech from March to April, late September and November to avoid the harsh heat, the crowd and the high hotel rates. Even though November is the wettest month in Marrakech, it is still a good time to visit the city. The city also sees a huge influx of tourists during Christmas. One should mainly avoid visiting Marrakech in June & July as it's extremely hot during these two months. Apart from the tourist seasons in Morocco and the weather, one should also be mindful of the religious holidays like Ramadan while planning their trip as it affects the operating hours of different attractions and the transportation.
Marrakech attracts tourist for its old medinas, souks, palaces, gardens, riads and even the modern day neighborhood. Some of the most popular and worth seeing places are listed below to help you plan your itinerary and enjoy Marrakech.
The Old Medina Souks in Marrakech. Photo by Dan
The Old Medina of Marrakech hosts a number of souks where you can get your hands on the local treasures. It's bright colorful narrow and maze like lanes have an unique ambience which makes it a must visit place. It’s a shopper’s paradise with over 3000 stalls selling locally made lamps, glassware, ceramics, carpets, shoes, clothes, bags, jewellery, perfumes and species. You name it and it’s there. There are different souks for different kinds of products sold like the Semmarine Souk for pottery, textile and fabrics, the Smata Souk for shoes and clothes, the Sebbaghine Souk for Dyers’, Souk des Bijoutiers for jewellery, El-Attarine Souk for perfumes and spices, Kimakhine Souk for traditional musical instruments and the Cherratine Souk and El Kebir for leather. The place is so mesmerizing that it is very easy to get carried away and lose track of time as well as your way around. But that too is part of the fun. The old Medina also hosts the tanneries where you can see animal skin being dyed in the old fashioned way.
The Jamaa el Fna square in Marrakech, Morocco Photo by Julia
Jemaa el-Fna square, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the true heart of the city and the best place for you to experience the culture and the exotic delicacies of Morocco. It’s more like a flea market which is open 24 hours, with a number of stalls selling local crafts and delicacies. It's located at the entrance of the Medina. You can also find snake charmers, fortune tellers, henna tattoo artists, musicians and dancers amidst the stalls. During the day the square offers you a different experience whereas as the day progresses the variety of entertainment offered changes. The food stalls are setup after the sun sets. Don’t forget to try out the fresh orange juice which will leave you refreshed and energetic for the rest of the day. Incase you do not like being in such crowded places, you can still enjoy the chaos and get a feel of this vibrant place through the roof-top restaurants and cafes around the square despite not actually being a part of the hustle bustle.
View through the entrance of Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Cornelli
The Koutoubia Mosque is the biggest mosque in Marrakech is situated in the southwest of old medina near Jemaa el-Fna square. The mosque is surrounded by rose gardens on the west and south. The mosque has a minaret 253 feet in height which can be seen from a distance of about 29 Kms. The mosque not only has religious significance but also for its architecture. There were two other structures made in Spain and Rabat based on the pattern of the mosque. Non-muslims are not allowed inside the mosque. The minaret is lit with floodlights at night, making it look even more exotic.
Jardin Mojorelle is a 12-acre garden full of rare flowers, cacti, palms and ferns. It was created by a french painter called Jacques Majorelle who took 40 years to create this one of a kind garden. After Jacques’ death the garden was bought by the famous french designer Yves St Laurent and following his death, his ashes were scattered in the rose garden. The garden which blends Moorish and art deco features also adorns Jacques Majorelle’s villa which adds more life to the garden. The villa is painted bright blue and now houses the Berber Museum. This is one of the most visited sites in Morocco. Jardin Mojorelle is open all through the year from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm and in summers till 6:00 pm. During Ramadan month the garden closes at 5:00 pm.
Bahia Palace in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Neil
The Bahia Palace was build in the late 19th century and portrays a blend of Moroccan and Islamic architectural styles. The palace is situated in the medina. It mainly a set of houses and gardens spread across 8 acres of land. The whole palace was designed in two stages and took about 14 years to get constructed. There are 160 rooms overlooking the gardens, several courtyards and reception areas all decorated lavishly with marble flooring, zellij tiles, wooden carvings, beautifully painted ceiling and stained glass lamps. Even though not all the areas are accessible by the public now, you can still get to appreciate the lavish interiors and the exotic exteriors of this palace. It is one of the most impressive palaces of its time. The palace is open everyday from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except on Fridays when it's open from 8 am to 5 pm.
Another palace worth visiting is the El Badi Palace even though it is in ruins now. El Badi means “the incomparable” in Arabic. The palace was said to be true to its name. The palace was fully constructed in the 16th century and it took about 25 years for the same. It had over 350 rooms decorated with gold and precious stones, one large courtyard with four sunken gardens and pools separating the gardens along with several pavilions on each side of the courtyard. The largest pavilion is the Koubba el Khamsiniya which means “the fifty”. The palace premises also houses the restored Koutoubia Minbar that was originally part of the Koutoubia Mosque. The minbar was made by the Cordoban artisans in the 12th century and was considered one of the best works of that time. Right of the minbar are the ruins of stables and further ahead are the dungeons. You can also enjoy an uninterrupted view of the city from the top of the walls of the palace. In June the Marrakesh Folklore Festival is hosted in the El Badi Palace.
The palace is open everyday from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except on fridays when is open from 3 pm to 5:45 pm.
Ali Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Liu
The Ali Ben Youssef Medersa is the largest Medersa in Morocco. This Islamic college was constructed in the 14th century near the Ben Youssef mosque. It was rebuild in 1565 for expansion. It is believed the medersa could accommodate up to 900 students in their 130 dormitory cells. The cells overlook the central courtyard with no view of the outside world in the lowers floors. The upper floors are bright due to the natural light that fills the cells through the windows. The central courtyard is the main attraction of the medersa because of the elaborate carvings of inscriptions and colourfully decorated walls reflecting the rich islamic art form. Adding to it’s beauty is a large rectangular pool with two fountains. The medersa is no longer used for its original purpose of teaching but is a great historical site. It is open daily from 9 am to 6:00 pm and during summers till 7:00 pm.
Saadian tombs is a burial ground with two lavish mausoleums consisting of the graves of 66 members of the Saadian dynasty, built in the 16th century. The tombs are divided into two sections, the mausoleums and the gardens. The mausoleums are decorated fine carvings, marble and zellij tiled. The gardens consist of several graves, covered with colorful tiles, of the members and servants of the royal house. The tombs can be accessed through the Kasbah Mosque. The tombs were sealed by tall walls by Sultan Moulay Ismail after he defeated the Saadian dynasty in early 18th century. They were lost for almost 200 years are were discovered in 1917 by the Department of Fine Arts and Historical Monuments. The preserved beauty of this place gives you a true flavour of the Saadian architecture as all the other monuments were destroyed by their successor. It is open everyday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
The Marrakech Museum in Morocco. Photo by Liu
The Marrakech Museum is situated inside the Dar Menebhi Palace constructed in the 19th century. It is a great example of the classical Andalusian architecture. The highlight of the palace is the inner courtyard with colourful tiles, carved cedar wood, painted doors, stained glass windows and a magnificent chandelier in the center. The courtyard is surrounded with rooms that host the artifacts, books, coins and clothing from both past and modern moroccan culture. You can also the visit the palace’s hammam and the kitchen which are quite subtly decorated as compared to the rest of the palace. It is open from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm everyday.
Hammans are public bathhouses and an important part of the Moroccan culture. It is a weekly ritual for the locals. There are many local hammams in Marrakech where you can get a scrub and massage. Usually the hammam starts with a hot steam bath to open the pores, post that the tebbaya (bath attendant) would scrub you with black soap made with olives to remove the dead skin and then apply a mud pack all over you. It ends with a cold water bath. The local hammams have huge steam rooms and pools made of marble or stones. Hammam Dar el-Bacha is the largest public hammam in Marrakech. Due to the demand a lot of privately owned hammams have opened too. A must visit for the experience as well as to feel rejuvenated.
As most of these sites are very situated in the medina and are close to each other you can plan and visit a few places on the same day. The newer areas of Marrakech, Gueliz and Hivernage are worth visiting too. Most of the hotels are situated in this area. Marrakech also hosts various events like the International Film Festival, the Festival of Contemporary Dance and the Sun festival spread across the year. In addition, there are a lot of places to see around Marrakech like the High Atlas valley of Ourika, the Agafay Desert and the Toubkal National Park. To experience the city in its true sense make sure you visit these gems. Happy Travelling! Check out some of our other blog posts on Adventurous travels .