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Morocco: Top 10 Things to Do in Marrakech

Menara gardens. Marrakech, Morocco.

Morocco: Top 10 Things to Do in Marrakech

Marrakech, the Red City of Morocco, is one of this North African country’s top destination. In this article we’ll share with you the very best things to do and see to make the most of your time in this vibrant, exotic city. With this Top 10 Things to Do In Marrakech we’re hoping to fuel your travel dreams for both Morocco and the Red City, Marrakech. With a stunning (entirely red) medina, fascinatingly complex history, beautiful restored riads, ancient palaces, bustling souk, breakout culinary scenes, and strong Moroccan traditions – Marrakech is a city that has delighted travelers for centuries.

Below are ArchaeoAdventures’s top 10 recommendations of things to see and do in Marrakech:

10. Sunset over the Djemaa el-Fna

Djemaa el-Fna at sunset. Marrakech, Morocca.
Djemaa el-Fna at sunset. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

The heart of Marrakech’s old medina, Djemaa el-Fna is a bustling, high-energy square packed with street performers during the day and chefs with their food stalls at night at night.  All laneways and streets in the medina feed into this square. On one end is the famous Koutoubia mosque, designed in the almohad style. It rises prominently above the square. Shops and terraced restaurants ring the rest of Djemaa el-Fna. Musicians, storytellers, acrobats, magicians, dancers and artisans peddling their wares entertain tourists and locals alike during the day. As the sunset and the moon rises, the the lights of the buildings twinkle on, the distance rugged mountains glow red with the setting up, and the steaming food carts take over the square cooking the best street eats in town.

9. Explore the Bahia Palace

Built in the 19th century by Si Moussa, a former slave that rose in power to become grand vizier, its name means “brilliance.” The palace complex is an excellent example of how the rich and famous of Morocco lived during that time period. With extensive gardens, hammams, a harem, and beautiful courtyards, exploring Bahia is a walk back in time.

Bahia Palace. Morocco, Marrakech. ArchaeoAdventures Tours.
Inside the main living chambers at the Bahia Palace. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
Bahia Palace ceiling. Marrakech, Morocco. ArchaeoAdventures Tours.
Bahia Palace: Intricate details of the 19th century Moroccan architectural style. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

8. Stroll through the Menara Gardens

Join locals for a morning stroll through the beautiful Menara Gardens. A popular walking and jogging area, the Menara Gardens (located a short taxi ride from Marrakech’s medina), is a great location to visit to experience Marrakech like a local. Built in the 16th century by the Saadi dynasty, the gardens are comprised of orchards, small forests, and a large pool with pavilion. On a clear day, the Atlas Mountains make for a spectacular backdrop.

Menara gardens. Marrakech, Morocco.
Photo: Wikipedia. Acp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

7. Saadian tombs

Saadian tombs. Marrakech, Morocco. ArchaeoAdventures Tours.
Saadian tombs, Marrakech. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

As the Lonely Planet wrote in its Morocco guidebook., “Anyone who says you can’t take it with you hasn’t seen the Saadian Tombs…” This is a very true description of the opulent Saddian tombs. Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi spent lavishly to build his tomn. Gilded decorative plasterwork, Italian Carrara, handcarved tiles; this is a stunning building that exemplifies the quality of workmanship under the Saadians. The main focus of the tombs is Al-Mansour, who even in death honored is mother with highest honors. Her tomb dominates the complex and is intricately carved with blessings.

6. Ben Youssef Madrasa

Marrakech’s largest Islamic university, Ben Youssef Madrasa was named for Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf. This sultan who ruled in the 10th century expanded the city and made it one of the most powerful cities in Morocco.  While Fez may sport the oldest madrasa, Ben Youssef Madrasa is the most beautifully decorated as well as the largest; and definitely worth a visit. The madrasa was built in the 14th century. Hidden behind giant, intricately carved wooden doors, the size of the madrasa is deceptive since it’s built right in the heart of the medina. Spend time wandering through it’s twisting hallways and beautifully decorated rooms. The design work shows Islamic inscriptions  and geometric shapes.

Ben Youssef Madrasa. Marrakech, Morocco. ArchaeoAdventures Tours.
Ben Youssef Madrasa. Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
Upper rooms of the Ben Youssef Madrasa. Marrakech, Morocco. ArchaeoAdventures: Tours
Exploring the upper rooms of the Ben Youssef Madrasa. Marrakech. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

5. Relax in a Traditional hammam

Hammams are traditional Moroccan spas. Back in the old days, and even in many cities in Morocco today, the hammam was the public bath house. Like the Romans, Moroccans shared their hot water resources into these public baths since most people could not afford their own hot water piping and private baths. Bath culture arose and today Morocco’s still enjoy sharing communal baths at their neighborhood hammam. More upscale hammams are also present in Marrakech offering a more luxurious private spa experience often set in beautiful old buildings. A spa treatment at a hammam is a wonderful way to relax after a day of sightseeing.

4.  Partake in the time honored Moroccan tradition of afternoon mint tea

Morocco Mint tea. Marrakech, Morocco. ArchaeoAdventures.
Moroccan mint tea. Photo from Hometown Pasadena.

Moroccans are legendary for their hospitality. At the center of the traditions of welcoming guests, gathering family together, meeting with friends, and conducting business is the enjoyment of mint tea. Often a mixture of mint and green tea (with extra helpings of sugar), no trip to Marrakech is complete without relaxing in one of the many teahouses and cafes, sipping on this national drink.

3. Explore off-the-beaten path in the backstreets of Marrakech’s medina

Marrakech’s medina is a colorful maze of exotic goods, beautifully handmade textiles, high quality artisan crafts, hand-beaten silver lamps, towering pyramids of spices, and other goods from across Africa and the Middle East. The main medina streets are the Djemaa el-Fna are jam-packed with kitsch touristy low-quality goods from china. Walk a few streets away to find the artisans handmaking local goods. Then travel a little further afield and you’ll find souks designed by what is being make. One souk is for the making of shoes. Another souk is where all the silver and brass lamps are made. Another souk houses all the smiths crafting everything from door knobs and kitchenware. This is where you’ll get away from the tourist hassle and find local Moroccans bargaining for goods. 

Marrakech medina. Morocco. ArchaeoAdventures Tours.
Exploring the sdie streets of Marrakech’s medina. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

2. Stay in a historic riad

Historic Riad. Morocco. ArchaeoAdventures Tours.
Staying at a historic riad in Morocco. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

In Morocco, riad’s is a traditional home with an inner open-air courtyard. The name comes from the Arabic world for garden “ryad.” In Islamic tradition, homes are very private places, so riad usually don’t have large outward facing windows. Rather instead windows and doors open onto this inner courtyard. In Marrakech, and throughout Morocco, many old wealthy riads (often dating back centuries) have been converted into guests houses. You can stay in former palaces and homes of nobility. They make for an truly memorable experience and range in budgets from budget-travel riads to luxury rates.

1. Join the locals for an evening of the best street eats in town at Djemaa el-Fna

No visit to Marrakech is complete without an evening dining on the best street eats in town sitting elbow to elbow with locals. Moroccans and travelers alike pack the stalls every night at the Djemaa el-Fna as over 100 chefs whip up tasty traditional local dishes. Dine on kebabs, Moroccan salads, homemade hummus, fresh out of the kiln bread, piping hot lab tajines and much more. Look for the stalls packed with locals, smile at the host and they find you spot at the packed tables. Before long you’ll be smiling and laughing with your new friends on either side, an honorary local for the evening. Dining at these open air stalls makes for some of the best experiences and memories in Marrakech.

Djemaa el-Fna. Chefs. Marrakech. ArchaeoAdventures Tours.
Marrakech’s chefs whipping up a taste meal every night in the Djemaa el-Fna. Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

Travel to Morocco

Interested in exploring these top 10 things to do in Marrakech, and the other very best experiences Morocco has to offer? We’re excited at the prospect of showing you more of this exotic, majestic and welcoming country – learn more about our small group tours to Morocco here.

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