Crazy and chaotic Marrakesh is the full to the brim of things to do and is the perfect destination for a long weekend. The eclectic mix of a distinctly Middle Eastern culture, a close proximity to Europe and a touch of Africa in everything it does makes the vibrant Marrakesh an amazing city break option with an abundance of must see sights and things to do. We adored wandering through the Marrakesh Medina, sampling its top sights and embracing the lively energy of the city before taking some amazing day trips to the incredible Atlas Mountains and the beautiful seaside town of Essaouira! Here’s our tips for sightseeing and our guide to the best things to do in Marrakesh, perfect for a long weekend or more in Marrakesh. Enjoy!
Marrakech is a city best explored on foot and the best way to do this is to stay in the Medina (the historic centre of Marrakech) in a traditional Morroccan hotel known as a riad. This will allow you access to all of the medina at any time of the day, especially in the quieter evening and morning times. The best riads we reccommend in Marrakech are:
- Riad Joya: Where we stayed while in Marrakech. Riad Joya is a truely beautiful, luxury riad with all rooms facing onto the interal courtyard. We enjoyed breakfast on the roof in the mornings and Jemaa EL Fna is a 5 mintue walk from the hotel door and the staff couldn’t have done more for us. Our rate also included a free transfer to/from the airport which was really useful as finding your riad in Marrakech really hard when you arrive – Check prices now
- Riad Enchanté: another intimate riad located close to Riad Joya and also a short 5 minute walk to Jemaa El Fna – Check prices now
- Riad Les Nuits de Marrakech:Literally one minute walk from Jemaa El-Fnaa this beautiful traditional Moroccan Riad is perfect for couples and although it’s in the centre of the medina it’s very peaceful. This riad also has a beautiful terrace and swimming pool – Check prices now
1 | Jemaa el-Fnaa
The iconic and chaotic Jemaa el-Fnaa is the hub of the Marrakesh Medina. By day the busy market place is filled with spice traders, orange juice stalls, snake charmers, medicine men and performing monkeys. By night the square undergoes a complete transformation with the night food stalls selling, among other things, the Moroccan stable tagine and groups of locals host sing songs and tell stories while crowds gather around.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: Jemaa el-Fnaa is a total assault on the senses and can be a shock to the system. Embrace it! We drank the orange juice, joined the locals eating tagine at the food stalls and broke our hearts for the monkeys and snakes who were part of the show. Jemaa el-Fnaa is an integral part of Marrakesh and is not to be missed!
2 | Majorelle Garden (Jardin Majorelle)
A visit to Marrakesh must include a trip to the stunning Majorelle Gardens. French painter Jacques Majorelle dedicated over 40 years to designing and building this wonderful garden and when the designer Yves Saint Lauren heard that the gardens were going to be removed to make way for a new hospital he purchased the gardens and lived in them. His ashes were scattered in Majorelle when he died.
3 | The 7 Saints (Place de 7 Saints)
The seven saints of Marrakesh are 7 Awlya men who Allah designated with a special rank among Muslims. Moroccans visit the tombs of the seven saints throughout the city to pray to Allah and this unique memorial is dedicated to the 7 men.
4 | Bahia Palace
Get lost in this amazing palace which literally translates to ‘Beautiful Palace’. Originally a collection of houses, the Bahia Palace and gardens are the result of 6 years of work by slave turned high ranking government offical Bou Ahmed at the turn of the 20th century and captures the unique Islam and Morocco style. The highlight is the opulent harem which once housed Bou Ahmed’s four wives and 24 mistresses.
5 | Marrakech Medina Gates
19 gates mark the entry points to the city of Marrakesh and the 12th Century royal entrance of Bab Agnaou is our favourite. The gate was the entry point to the royal Medina and is the site of the El Mansouria mosque, El Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs
6 | Koutoubia Mosque
Located just off Jemaa el-Fnaa, the tower of the Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakesh and is visible throughout the entire Medina.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: only practicing Muslims may enter the Koutoubia Mosque.
7 | El Badi Palace
The El Badi Palace took 25 years to build and was a lavish building of 360 rooms constructed and decorated using the finest materials of the 16th Century. The Palace is in ruins today but enough remains to imagine the former glorious history of the site.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: keep an eye out for the storks on the palace walls!
8 | Saadian Tombs
Sealed up for centuries, a passageway to the Saadian Tombs was discovered in 1917 and revealed a burial ground with opulent Mosaics, marble and gold. The tombs date back to the 16th Century and over 200 members of the Saadian Dynasty are buried at the site.
9 | Medersa Ben Youssef
At the Islamic college of Ben Youssef visitors of all religious beliefs can experience the stunning art and architecture of the college. The Islamic school was once the largest in North Africa and housed 900 students. The dormitories and the prayer hall are interesting to explore but the highlight is the majestic courtyard with its ablution pool.
10 | Medina Souks
As compelling as they are unnerving the souks of Marrakesh’s old city must feature on every Marrakesh itinerary. The maze of shops sell everything from souvenirs to leather to electronic goods and the atmosphere is electric as the stalls come alive. The Dirham is king so make sure to have your haggling hat firmly in place to secure a bargain!
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: the stallholders can be quite aggressive but a firm ‘No thanks‘ will do the trick.
11 | Musee de Marrakech
in the heart of the Marrakesh Medina the Musee De Marrakesh is housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace and has an impressive collection of jewellery, costumes, weapons, pottery and ceramics. The building itself is stunning and the huge chandelier in the courtyard is an impressive addition.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: the captions are in French so, if you don’t speak the language, a visit to Musee Marrakesh is a visual experience rather than a learning one.
12 | La Maison de la Photographie
La Maison de la Photographie is photography museum housing a small private collection of photos, post cards, journals and maps documenting the history and diversity of Morocco.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: A photography museum is a fitting place to capture one of the best rooftop views of Marrakesh. The relaxed rooftop terrace at the Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech looks over the Marrakesh rooftops towards the Atlas mountains and shows off the Marrakesh skyline at its finest! Check out our other rooftop favourites here!
13 | Marrakesh Leather
From the tanneries to the souk stalls leather is a hot commodity in Marrakesh. We stuck to purchasing the leather goods but some tourists opt to take an underground visit to one of the many tanneries which offer a glimpse into the ancient tanning process.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: the quality of the leather varies widely in the souks as the bags can be treated in different ways in the tannery. A strong smell of urine can be common but the smell does fade with time so persevere!
Day Trips from Marrakesh
14 | Essaouria
Essaouria is a quaint coastal fishing town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (our obsession is well documented!) and home to a stunning Game of Thrones filming location. It’s far removed from the chaotic Marrakesh and the sea air, fortified walls and beautiful coast are a welcome break from city life. Read about our day trip to Essaouria here!
15 | Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains dominate the Marrakesh backdrop as they separate the coast from the Sahara desert and are only 40 minutes outside Marrakesh. A trip to the Atlas Mountain is a Marrakesh must do and is rewarded with stunning views and, on occasion, the opportunity to meet members of the North African traditional Berber population.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: check the weather prior to any visit to the Atlas Mountains as conditions can vary wildly from Marrakesh. We left the city on a relatively standard day and ended up caught in flash flooding as we drove through the mountains. It was a frightening experience as we watched parts of the road crumble away in front of our eyes and saw towns trapped by the thunderous rivers created by the rainfall. Lesson learned.