There are many remarkable things to do in Marrakech that will set your vacation apart from any other. Marrakech truly epitomizes the exotic. A place where the ancient city meets the modern world and where French and Arabic are spoken evenly.
Things to Do in Marrakech
This fourth largest Moroccan city was founded in 1062 AD and still feels as if time has stood still. Visiting the city is like a dream.
A quick overview of what you'll find in this Marrakech Travel guide:
- Stay in a Riad – what is a riad and how do you choose?
- Get Lost in the Medina – The main attraction of visiting a Moroccan City.
- Shop in the Souks – the covered shopping bazaars are the heartbeat of Morocco, go ahead and barter with the local vendors.
- Jemaa El Fna Square – tips and what to see and do
- Hammam – a one of a kind massage treatment and spa
- Saadian Tombs – a must visit 12 pillar mausoleum built in the 15th century.
- Koutoubia Mosque – you can't miss this minaret towering over the Medina
- Cooking Class – learn about Morrocan food at Riad El Cadi cooking class
- Dune Buggy Tour – You cannot visit Marrakech without seeing the Sahara Desert
- Meet the locals – Locals will probably invite you in for tea, be sure to say yes and fill up on mint tea! It's a staple in Marrakech
- Tour Bahia Palace – Grand 160 room palace built in the 15th century.
- Witness the Tanneries – Tanneries are an ancient process of dying animal skins in the Medina.
Marrakech is a city where you'll be dodging snake charmers while gazing in awe at blacksmiths at work. You will be awed by acrobats at Jemaa El Fnaa and Berber dancers will entertain as you fantasize of ancient caravans travelling through to Timbuktu.
We couldn't wait to explore the old city and get lost in the back alleyways. If you want a vacation that will feel like an adventure, a visit to Marrakech is a must.
And here are some of the top things to do in Marrakech that must not be missed!
1. Stay in a Riad
If you are a couple and want to stay somewhere romantic in Marrakech, we thought we'd start off by booking your trip to Marrakech.
When planning your accommodation, a stay in a traditional Riyad is a truly authentic experience.
What is a Riad?
A Riad is a tall house with a courtyard in the center of the building.
Usually, it has a soaker or full pool in its centre where you can escape from the heat and a rooftop terrace to take in the sunsets.
All Riyads are not created equal so choose wisely.
You can book through an apartment rental company and stay in your own private Riyad complete with kitchen, swimming pool, and rooftop deck.
Or you can book a boutique stay at a hotel type Riad where large palaces have been converted to luxury hotels.
We experienced both kinds and love each one equally. If you have a few days, why not split it up and stay in both!
- Luxury: Riad Dar Anika: a Beautiful rooftop terrace with a courtyard pool and attached spa.
- Mid Range: Riad Asna: It has a pool, breakfast included and has free WIFI.
- Budget: Riad Sapphire: Located in the medina, with breakfast included, a large pool, and a beautiful rooftop terrace.
2. Get lost in the Medina
Chances are your Riyad will be located in the Medina and this is where you want to stay when visiting Marrakech.
A modern city is the same almost anywhere, but staying in the ancient walled city is where you will feel the energy and history resonate deep inside.
Here you'll discover a maze of alleyways and markets selling everything from carpets and lamps, to mint tea and fresh dates. Forget the modern world and lose yourself inside.
Visiting the Medina is one of the most exciting things to do in Marrakech. Don't fret about taking a wrong turn, each one will take you on a great adventure.
Tips for visiting the Medina
- Don't buy the first trinket that you see. Get a feel for prices by bartering and walking away.
- This is a great way to find out if you are getting scammed or getting a deal. If people let you walk away, you have bargained too low.
- But if you don't barter, you could end up paying a hefty fee for a piece of junk.
- See our Guide to Bartering like a pro
3. Jemaa El-Fnaa
If you ask a local what to do in Marrakech, chances are they will tell you to start off at the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa.
It's a giant square filled with thousands of stalls. Grab a spot on a rooftop patio to watch the sun go down. There is a minimum cover charge for rooftops around the square but it is minimal and definitely worth it.
For the cost of a beer, you can enjoy the view and watch the chaos from a quiet spot above. Afterward, you must stroll through the stalls for dinner and tea. It is a delight for the senses and the Moroccan food is to die for.
This was one of our favourite places to visit in Marrakech, not only for the view but because you can really get a feel for the hustle and bustle of the city without being right in it.
Expert tip in the Medina
- Go to the rooftop to watch the sunset.
- Watch for pickpockets they are everywhere.
- Don't let someone force a snake or other exotic animal onto you. They may be interesting or cute, but they will demand money.
- You will have to pay the street performers for a photo.
Check out our Locals Guide to Marrakech
4. Shop in the Souks
The Souks are located directly off the main square of Jemaa el-Fnaa and it is in here that you truly feel that you have stepped into traditional Morocco.
This maze of narrow alleys and covered markets can be overwhelming. The labyrinth is filled with shops and stalls selling everything under the sun.
You can watch artisans at work, dodge gypsies and even grab a quick bite on the run.
You have to keep your wits about you though as vendors are aggressive and are hard-pressed to take no for an answer.
Things to Remember when visiting the Souks of Marrakech
- Vendors can be aggressive and even follow you around. But they are very friendly.
- Negotiate hard. They expect it.
- Shop around. Some things are genuinely handmade and some are imported from China.
- If you are offered tea they are expecting you to buy. So only accept if you are serious about shopping there.
- If you don't like to haggle check out the Ensemble Artisanal. Fixed priced items at a little higher prices.
5. Visit a Hammam
If you want to experience the truly exotic, a visit to a Hammam is a must. Prepare to leave all inhibitions at the door because you are in for the most intimate, painful, awkward massage of your life.
But when you sit back, relax and let it happen, it's also one of the coolest and relaxing experiences you'll ever have and you'll want to keep coming back for more!
Hammams are a massage and steam bath.
You will be naked in a hammam. The treatment starts in a steam bath and then the masseuse will come and get you to start the program.
You will start with a vigorous scrub with a rough soap and then the fun begins with a massage consisiting of contortions, twists, turns and a beating.
It's rough and weird, but a must do and you will feel amazing!
Want to know more about it check out our post, How to Survive Your First Hammam.
6. Visit the Saadian Tombs
The Saddian Tombs are one of the most visited sights in Marrakech (the lines ups are there to prove it) and thus one of the things you must do.
But Saadian tombs are worth visiting for their glorious splendor.
Built by Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dhabi, these tombs are grand, containing a 12 pillar mausoleum. After the death of Al-Mansour, the following Sultan walled up the magnificent mausoleum in the 1600s. It wasn't discovered again until 1917.
It can be quite busy but no matter how many people are there it always seems so peaceful. Marvel at the beautiful mosaics and marble work or have fun just watching the stray cats jumping around the mausoleum.
Love Morocco Photos: See 15 Stunning Pictures of Morocco
- Rue de La Kasbah, Marrakesh, Morocco
- 8 AM – 4 PM Daily
7. Koutoubia Mosque
It's hard to miss the Koutoubia Mosque with its tall minaret standing tall over the Medina.
What is even more magnificent is that it is the oldest of the three great Almohad minarets remaining in the world! We couldn't enter the mosque, as it is open only to Muslims, but we did walk around it and explore the walls.
This is a great place to photograph at night or at sunset as the sun actually sets behind the mosque.
Tips for visiting Marrakech
- Morocco is a Muslim country and it is important to respect the local cultures and customs. See our etiquette travel tips for the Middle East.
- Women should wear light breathable fabrics, long pants, and long sleeves. Trust me, this is more comfortable than shorts and a T-shirt in the Moroccan Heat.
- Try the Mint Tea, it is delicious!
- Avoid the Medina at night – like any big city, dark alleyways are best avoided in the dark.
8. Take a cooking class
Moroccan food is up there as our favourite cuisine on earth. It can be overwhelming when visiting a new city and culture to figure out the menu and food, so a cooking class is a great way to get an introduction and one of the best things to do in Marrakech.
We took a cooking class at Riyad El Cadi booked through Get your guide and it was so much fun. We had hands-on training in making Chicken Tagine and traditional Moroccan sauces.
If you've ever wondered why Moroccan food is more expensive than other middle east and Asian countries, it's because it takes so long to prepare.
Everything is done by hand with fresh ingredients like plum tomatoes, olives, nuts and herbs, and spices.
Chef Hassan meticulously prepared 5 Moroccan Salads and two main hot dishes over the course of three hours. We then enjoyed a private candlelit dinner complete with wine and drinks by the fire.
Warning! Do not eat before this tour!
Food Tours in Marrakech
Tips for eating in Marrakech
- Meals take a long time to prepare so give yourself time to enjoy.
- Wash your hands before eating your meal if bucket or sink is provided.
- Eat only with your right hand
- Morocco is a dry country, most places will not serve alcohol, but if you want it visitors can get it, it is just pricier than usual.
- Most places will only accept cash so have it on hand.
9. See the Dunes
The Sahara Desert is just a short drive from the city centre and a visit to Marrakech would not be complete without exploring the dunes.
We chose to see it by dune buggy and it was a blast. Bounce your way through palm groves and rock gardens and Berber villages and see a quiet way of living where people tend their sheep and farms.
The landscape is beautiful and it's a nice change of pace to leave the frenzy of the city for the day.
10. Meet the Locals
A visit to any city must include a visit with the locals. Moroccans are very hospitable people and you may find yourself invited in for tea on more than one occasion.
When visiting a household be sure to bring a gift of figs, dates or pastries, remove your shoes, and when they bring around a basin filled with water, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap. And then enjoy sweet delicious tea!
Some useful phrases to help you interact with the locals.
- Greetings = Salaam Alaikum means ‘peace be with you’
- Thank you = Choukran
- You're welcome = aafwan
- Yes = naäam
- No = laa (example No Thank you = choukran la)
- Please = min faDlik
- Excuse me = alaaffw
- Watch our Video of what to do in Marrakech!
Things to do in Marrakech – Practical Travel Tips
Book Marrakech city tours and day trips with Get your Guide
11. Take a Tour of the Bahia Palace
We booked a tour with Get Your Guide to the Bahia Palace and had a pleasant day strolling the gardens of this 19th-century palace.
It's a quiet escape from the city as you explore the 160 rooms admiring the Morrocan architecture.
You will weave through the maze of rooms built as a riad that includes a mosque, Koranic school, harem, hammam, and stables.
Finish off at the Gardens of the Bahia Palace
Address: 5 Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
Opening Hours: 8AM – 6PM Daily, Closed Friday
12. Visit a Tannery
Tanneries have been around for a thousand years. Located in the Bab Debbagh quarter of the medina.
I don't know of any tours that take you to the Tanneries, but there is no shortage of guides offering to do so. Make sure you use an accredited guide with badges to take you.
Be sure to ask to take photos and be prepared for the smell.
Photo by Bernard Gagnon
I can guarantee that we missed a lot on this list of things to do in Marrakech. After all, we were only there a week but we did manage to fit as much as we could in.
Whenever you visit a city or destination, it takes weeks, even months to truly explore.
Do you have any more suggestions on things that you must do when visiting Marrakech?