Things to Do in Marrakech - A Traveler's Guide
There are not many cities which have the exotic splendor of Marrakech. It is the perfect destination for those seeking adventure, fun, and relaxation, with some fantastic retail therapy thrown in. While most people only stay in the city for a few days, the amount of things to do in Marrakech means that you could technically stay here for weeks and still find something interesting to fill your time. To help you plan that perfect trip to this wonderful city, here is a guide to things to do in Marrakech.
Possibly the main reason why people head to Morocco, and certainly one of the most fun things to do in Marrakech, a visit to the souks is an absolute must. Souk is the local word for a market in Morocco, and the ones in Marrakech definitely will satisfy the retail desires of even the most hardened of shoppers. The souks in Marrakech are located adjacent to Djemaa El-Fna and it is possible to buy pretty much everything you can think of. Whether you are looking to purchase some new clothes, grab some spices for cooking when you get back home, or if you are wanting to buy the perfect souvenirs for friends and family, it is absolutely guaranteed you will find it here. However, if you are not a fan of shopping, it is still worth visiting the souks just to experience the vibrant atmosphere.
Bargaining is the done thing in Morocco, so you will be expected to haggle the price whenever you want to buy something at the souks. It is safe to say that you will be charged a higher price for whatever you buy due to the fact that you are a tourist, but you should still bargain anyway. If you run out of money, there are plenty of moneylenders – and even shop owners – in the souks who will happily exchange Euros and dollars, albeit at a slightly inflated exchange rate.
The medina is the oldest part of the city and one of the main things to do in Marrakech. Within its ancient walls are a myriad of historical and religious sites, sellers hawking their wares, and fantastic eateries serving all kinds of traditional Moroccan fare. It is also where you can see lots of examples of traditional residential buildings. While the area is busy whatever the time of day, it is at night-time when the medina really comes alive.
To navigate the medina, it is highly recommended to get yourself a guide, at least for the first time you visit. The medina is a rabbit warren of alleyways so it can be very easy to get lost. If you prefer to make your own way around, make sure you have a good map with you.
Situated at the heart of the medina, Djemaa El-Fna is the main square of the city and is teeming with life and spirit. There are plenty of stalls here if you want to do some shopping, but what really attracts travelers to Djemaa El-Fna is the abundance of snake charmers, fortune tellers, dancers, musicians and henna tattooists that fill the square.
Although it might seem a bit overwhelming, to begin with, the best way of enjoying Djemaa El-Fna is to fully throw yourself in and soak up the exotic and magical atmosphere.
The largest mosque in Marrakech, Koutoubia Mosque is instantly recognizable by its famous minaret which forms part of the Marrakech skyline. Seen from miles around, the 12th-century minaret is covered in ceramic tiles, spires, orbs, and curved arches; it is considered by many to be the Eiffel Tower of Marrakech. Surrounding the mosque and minaret are exquisite gardens filled with palm trees (which are dwarfed by the 77-meter high minaret), orange trees and roses, and it is a great place to get some relief from the midday sun.
Night-time is a great time to go and see the mosque when it is beautifully lit up. Like all the mosques in the country, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Koutoubia, but it is still one of the best things to do in Marrakech.
Since their discovery at the beginning of the 20th century, the Saadian tombs have become the most popular of things to do in Marrakech. The reason why they are so popular is that the tombs are one of the few remaining physical pieces of evidence that the Saadian dynasty ever existed. The Saadian dynasty had the power along the 16th and the next 17th centuries. However, in the early 18th century, the then Sultan decided to destroy everything connected with the Saadian dynasty, including the magnificent El Badi Palace which was considered to be the ultimate in Saadian craftsmanship. The tombs were the only things which were left untouched, presumably due to superstitions surrounding the desecration of tombs.
The Saadian tombs are a fantastic example of Moroccan decoration. Inside you will find many Moroccan tiles, known as Zelij, columns, mosaics, and carvings. The most intricate and divine of these tombs is the Hall of Twelve Columns, which houses the tomb of the Ahmed El Mansour’s son, with its marble monuments, wonderfully carved cedar wood and stucco artwork. To get the most of out of your visit, you should consider hiring a guide to take you through the tombs. The guide will be able to give you interesting information about the tombs and the people who are buried there.
El Badi Palace
As was mentioned previously, El Badi Palace was destroyed during the 18th century. All that remains now are the ruins of this once magnificent structure. Despite its ruined state, it is still one of the highlights of things to do in Marrakech. As you walk around the site you will be able to get a sense of the palace’s old grandness, which in its heyday would have included more than 350 rooms decorated to the height of opulence, an immense courtyard and gardens, and even a swimming pool. Other palace features which it is highly recommended you see include the dungeons, stables and summer pavilions. Like with the Saadian tombs, you should definitely get a guide so you can learn more about the history of El Badi and get to visit all the nooks and crannies you might miss out on if you were touring the site on your own.
There is also a museum at El Badi Palace which displays a vast array of artifacts from across the centuries. Its highlight is a fully restored minbar – an Islamic pulpit – from the 12th century, which would have been a part of the Koutoubia Mosque.
In huge contrast to El Badi Palace, Bahia Palace is one of the best-preserved palaces in Marrakech as well as being one of the most interesting. It is no wonder that Bahia Palace is such an exquisite site; the sole intention when the structure was being built was that it would be the most splendid of all palaces in the world. The name ‘Bahia’ even translates as ‘brilliant’ or ‘beautiful’.
The 19th-century palace covers an astonishing eight hectares and contains over 150 rooms which would once have been filled with all kinds of treasures. Unfortunately, when the Grand Vizier Ba Ahmed ben Moussa, the man who ordered the construction of the palace, died, the remaining residents took away the furniture and art to decorate their own residences. However, it is still possible to enter the palace and view the beautiful stucco decoration and sculpted ceilings.
If you need some respite from the busy streets of Marrakech, head to the Majorelle Gardens, one of the most peaceful things to do in Marrakech. While the Menara Gardens might be more well-known, the Majorelle Gardens are by far the prettier of the two. Designed and built over the course of 40 years from the 1920s by French painter Jacques Majorelle, here you can take a pleasant stroll around gardens and admire the many species there, including many varieties of cacti, palm trees, and garden plants.
There are also a collection of buildings and villas in the grounds which hold various museums. The most popular of these is the Berber Museum, which contains over 600 artifacts from important archaeological sites such as the Rif Valley and the Sahara. You will also find the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech located in Majorelle’s old studio, which houses ceramics and jewelry as well as North African textiles from the collection of Yves Saint Laurent, who co-owned the gardens from 1980 until his death in 2008.
There is also a cafe and shop for you to check out once you have finished your visit to the gardens.
Museum of Marrakech
Marrakech, of course, has plenty of fantastic museums to visit. If you only had to pick one though, you should choose the Museum of Marrakech. The building itself is worthy of a visit alone. Housed in a 19th-century palace, it is a classic example of Andalusian architecture with immense columns, detailed tiling and carvings, stained glass windows, chandeliers, lots of traditional seating areas and a courtyard with beautiful fountains. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful things to do in Marrakech.
Within the museum, itself are a number of interesting objects covering the fields of ethnology, history, archaeology and art, such as pottery, coins, paintings, historical documents, and clothing. There is also a hammam located in the same palace building if you would like to relax after your visit.
One of the most unique things to do in Marrakech, a visit to the tanneries can be an incredibly interesting experience. Tanneries have been an important part of life in the Marrakech medina for many centuries. Here you will be able to see the tanning process in action, from the separating of the skins to the coloring and drying. As well as seeing the men at work, there are also some shops where you can buy the products they make.
The main leather tanneries can be found in the district of Bab Debbagh which is situated to the north of the medina. While it is not necessary to take a tour, you may find that some local people offer to be your tour guide. They are more than likely not official guides, but will still demand some form of payment if you choose to use them.
You cannot get more of a traditional Moroccan experience than visiting one of the many hammams in the city. Almost like Turkish baths, in Morocco, public hammams are steam rooms traditionally attended by locals to wash and relax. It is a social ritual just as much as a hygienic one, with men, women, and children all participating, although hammams are separated by gender. When you enter the hammam, you will be given a bucket, a mat to sit or lie on, some black soap and exfoliating gloves which you then use to clean yourself. In the hotel hammam spas, someone would clean and exfoliate you rather than you doing it yourself.
There are a wide variety of hammams to choose from in Marrakech, from the basic to the super luxurious. If you are looking for a typical experience, you should opt for the more basic hammams. Not only will they give you an insight into Moroccan culture, but they are also much cheaper. However, if you really want to pamper yourself, head to one of the many luxury spas where you can also treat yourself to a massage and a range of other skin and body treatments.
Moroccan food is a cuisine rich in flavor and color. What better way to fully discover the amazing dishes on offer than to learn how to make them yourself? There are many cookery classes on offer in the city where your guide will let you in on all the secrets of Moroccan cuisine before teaching you how to make some of the most authentic dishes to come from the country, such as tagine and couscous. On some cookery courses, you may even get to make your very own Moroccan dessert. To end the experience, you will then get to taste what you have made.
The Atlas Mountains are one of the most popular things to do in Marrakech. The great thing about the mountains is that they are easy to reach from Marrakech. Many local companies offer their tours at TripsPoint so you can enjoy everything the Atlas Mountains have to offer. These trips usually include many stops at traditional mountain villages where you can meet the locals and learn about their culture. These visits are combined with a hike within the Atlas Mountains, and some tours even include a camel ride, perfect for those who prefer to travel on four legs rather than two.
There are a wide variety of Atlas Mountains trips to choose from. Here at TripsPoint, there are one-day, two-day and three-day tours available, all provided by local operators.
Ourika Valley Day Trip
Found within the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, a day trip to the Ourika Valley is perfect for those who do not want to do much hiking but wish to have a chance to explore the beautiful nature of the region and also get acquainted with Berber culture. The Ourika Valley day trip that is available through TripsPoint.com offers a fun and interesting day visiting lots of places which will introduce you to the traditional culture of the country.
You will explore some bio-aromatic gardens which the Berber use for medicinal plants, visit a Berber family in their home and, if your visit coincides with a market day, get to wander through the local Berber market. Your guide will then lead you to the stunning Setti Fatma waterfalls, a beautiful spot for hiking and enjoying the wonderful panoramic views. You will also get to have lunch in the village of Setti Fatma before heading to a women’s cooperative who produce argan oil.
Essaouira Day Trip
Marrakech is a delightful city, but as it is such a bustling center some people may feel the need to escape somewhere more chilled out for the day. If this is you, you should consider a day trip to the sleepy seaside town of Essaouira. On the drive down to Essaouira – which should take around two-and-a-half hours – you will pass through local villages and have the chance to enjoy the natural beauty of the Moroccan countryside.
Once you are in Essaouira, you will stroll through the ancient medina – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – have a seafood and fish lunch in a local restaurant, and spend some time walking along the pristine beach and taking in the sea view. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you can even visit the Portuguese fortifications where part of the series was shot.
Although there are many day trips on offer from Marrakech to Essaouira, we highly recommend the exclusive private day tour to Essaouira from Marrakech which you can easily book through TripsPoint.com.
Visitors Have So Many Things to Do in Marrakech
Marrakech is a fun mix of cultural, historical, adventurous and relaxing activities, making the city the perfect choice for a vacation. With so many things to do in Marrakech, you will be spoiled for choice as to how to fill your holiday time.
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