Marrakech is the third largest city in Morocco. Sometimes referred to as the Red City because of the red hues on the old city wall, Marrakech is one of the four imperial cities filled with history and has so many fascinating places to visit. (Rabat, Fez, and Meknes are the rest of the imperial cities.)
Whether it’s the backstreets of the Medina, mint tea in cozy cafes or a romantic stay at a riad, there’s something magical about Marrakech that draws visitors year after year. It also serves as the gateway to the Sahara Desert and the Atlas Mountains. Here are 5 unmissable things to do in Marrakech:
1. Discover Jama El f’na Square and the backstreets of the Medina
Jama El f’na Square, located at the entrance of the Medina, has been the symbol of Marrakech since the 11th century. Recognized by UNESCO in the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008 and protected by the Moroccan government as an artistic heritage since 1922, this square has it all.
From snake charmers, storytellers, acrobats, Berber musicians, fortune-telling to traditional medicine, dental care, henna tattooing, and preaching, this square is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s a popular place for tourists and also a meeting place for the locals. We recommend going with a local guide, who can help you weave through the crowd and not to get overwhelmed. You’ll find restaurants and public buildings surround this humongous triangular square.
Try local fruits, and traditional foods in the square and grilled meats are a must if you aren’t a vegetarian. After visiting the square, walk to the backstreets of the Medina to check out the leather goods, silverware, bags of spices, and one of a kind mementos that are only available in Morocco.
The best time to visit is in the evening.
2. Relax at Jardine Majorelle
French painter Jacques Majorelle took 40 years to create this outstanding garden in Marrakech, which opened to the public in 1947. The garden was abandoned in the 60s and purchased by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in 1980. It was quickly transformed into a beautiful place for the new owners. Today, Jardine Majorelle is one of the most visited attractions in Marrakech.
At Jardine Majorelle, you can see all types of cacti and exotic plants and visit the Berber Museum and YSL Museum.
3. Stay at a riad
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house, usually renovated and outfitted with a courtyard garden, rooftop bar, hammam (bath and spa), and or a plunge pool. A stay in one of the riads in the Medina will give you the best Moroccan travel experience compared to a modern hotel.
There are hundreds of riads in Marrakech, but check out three of these:
- Riad Adore
- Riad de Tarabel
- Riad Kniza
4. Join a cooking class and go on an evening food tour
Visit a souk and cook Moroccan food with a local chef in the morning and join a walking food tour in the evening. The four-hour food shopping and cooking class tour includes shopping for ingredients in a souk and using whatever was purchased at the souk to create delicious Moroccan food like tagine and couscous.
In the evening, join a 3.5 hour walking food tour with Marrakech Food Tours. The tour starts at 6 pm, and you’ll join a local guide for a full meal – stopping for an appetizer, entree, nibbles, mint tea and dessert.
5. Day trip to the Atlas Mountains
Marrakech’s proximity to the mountains and desert allows visitors to easily take day trips without having to stay overnight outside the city. One of the most popular day trips is the Atlas, Berber village, Agafay, and Camel ride.
Visitors get to see the countryside, valleys, mountains, and deserts of Morocco, all during one day trip. This fun-filled day trip will take you to a traditional Berber souk, ancient irrigated fields, gorgeous viewpoints of the Atlas Mountains and surrounding areas, Bedouin villages and more. Guests all get to meet a Berber family to enjoy a traditional Moroccan lunch at a traditional Berber home, join a short hike, take a camel ride, and drink mint tea with locals.
Those who like hot air ballooning may want to join Ciel d’Afrique Hot Air Ballooning’s one sunrise hot air balloon ride that also includes a champagne toast and a post-flight breakfast in a Berber tent. The entire trip takes about four hours.