Visiting Marrakesh is a unique experience and the city is like nowhere else in the world. It’s chaotic, fun, frantic and totally addictive and 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 a city with something for everyone. Whether it’s the sensory overload of the Medina, the stunning architecture and art, the compelling history or the delicious food and drinks, Marrakesh is a city to be explored and experienced. Here’s our 15 ultimate Marrakesh experiences you shouldn’t miss when you visit Morocco’s Red City!
1 | Stay in a Riad
Our top experience in Marrakech was our stay in a riad, a traditional large Moroccan house centered around a courtyard which now serve as hotels in the city. We opted for a traditional riad, the stunning Riad Joya, just off Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh’s Medina and had an amazing experience. Staying in a riad is an incredible way to experience the city from within its old city with everything on your door step. Perfect for exploring both day and night.
The Best Riads in Marrakech
- 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
2 | Drink the freshest orange juice in the world!
A trip to Marrakech is not complete without ordering a freshly squeezed orange juice from a stall in Jemaa el-Fnaa. During the day the chaotic square is full to the brim with bright and colourful orange juice stalls, street performers, snake charmers and henna tattooists. The Moroccan oranges are in a league of their own and a glass of cool and refreshing orange juice is the perfect pick me up during a day strolling around the city.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: watching the oranges being squeezed is the best way to ensure the freshness of your purchase! If you have a sensitive stomach request that water and ice are not added to the orange juice.
3 | Splash out on leather!
From the tanneries to the stalls leather is a hot commodity in Marrakesh and beautiful leather products adorn almost every souk in the city. If bags are you weakness prepare to return with a lighter wallet: the selection is the best we’ve seen on our travels and it’s hard to resist temptation! Counteract the first price with an offer between one third and one half and haggle your way to a final price from there!
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!
4 | Sample the Marrakesh cuisine: tagine and cous cous
There is one dish almost guaranteed to appear on any Marrakesh menu: tagine, a mix of stewed meat, vegetables, fruits and spices. Clay pots filled with the flavourful tagine bubble away in every restaurant and stall and the dish is a staple of every Morrocan diet. Together with tagine, cous cous is also a Marrakesh favourite and I’m almost certain we had both at least once a day during our time in the country!
5 |Savour the Moroccan mint tea
From the moment you arrive in Marrakesh mint tea will be bestowed on you at every opportunity and the mix of fresh mint and sugar is a delight to the taste buds. A cup is served on arrival at accommodation, at mealtimes and at frequent intervals during the day and is a huge part of Moroccan culture and hospitality.
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: alcohol is not widely available in Marrakesh and mint tea is an excellent replacement!
6 | Follow in the footsteps of Sex and the City
Although the second Sex and the City movie is set in Abu Dhabi most of the scenes were actually filmed in Morocco and it is possible to follow in the SATC ladies footsteps through Marrakesh. The Amanjena Hotel is the resort which features in the movie and the market scene, where Carrie meets up with Aidan, was filmed in the Marrakesh Medina.
7 | Get lost in the maze of souks
As compelling as they are unnerving the souks of Marrakesh’s old city are an experience to behold. 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 and prepare for an assault on the senses!
Marrakesh Sightseeing Tip: Don’t be afraid to haggle with the souk shopkeepers! It’s all part of the game and they expect people to drive a hard bargain. They can seem confrontational however they’re just doing their best to sell their wares and a friendly smile and no thank you is usually enough to end negotiations if you’re not interested.
8 | Have your heart broken by the street cats
Every tourist sight, Medina alley and Marrakesh park have one thing in common: innocent little cats struggling for survival on the city streets. Cats are sacred in Islam, mostly due to the love shown for them by the Prophet Muhammad, but they seemed to be more just tolerated than revered in Marrakesh. The restaurant owners do not like customers to feed cats at the restaurant tables, understandably so, but it was encouraging to see some well fed felines lingering at the butchers and the fish shops and we watched with hope as the locals fed the strays. There are so many cats in need of help in Marrakesh, if only we could adopt them all.
9 | Embrace the craziness of Jemaa el Fna
Stepping into Jemaa el Fna for the first time is a total assault to the senses and can be a shock to the system! The iconic and chaotic square 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 it undergoes a complete transformation with the night food stalls selling, among other things, the Moroccan stable tagine while groups of locals host sing songs and tell stories while crowds gather around. 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!
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: Don’t photograph people or stalls in Jemaa el Fnaa unless you’re prepared to pay for it and the same goes for Marrakesh in general! Whether it’s a stall owner, a snake charmer or the traditional singers expect an angry local to come running after you if you snap a pic without contributing. Be warned, they can be quite persistent so if you do want to take some photos have some change ready!
10 | Experience a traditional Hammam
For the uninitiated a Moroccan hammam is a traditional middle eastern bathing and cleansing ritual going from hot to cold: it can vary across Hammams but typically involves a hot steam room, a scrub and finally cold water immersion with massages optional. For the locals, visiting the Hammam is a social experience and, in case your shy, be aware that nudity is common in the local hammams! The Hammam de la Rose in the medina is often considered a nice introduction for tourists to the Morocan hammam experience.
11 | Sip a drink from the rooftops above the city
Rooftop drinks with a view is an experience not to be missed in chaotic Marrakesh where there is nothing quite like finding a quiet roof top bar with panoramic views to sit back and relax in the bustling city. The Photography Museum has one of the best views of Marrakesh and its stunning Atlas Mountain backdrop and we indulged in many cups of mint tea on its rooftop. For more rooftop ideas check out our post on the 9 best bars and cafes with a view in Marrakesh!
12 | Dine al-fresco in Jemaa el Fna
As darkness falls on Jemaa el Fna the square transforms to an open air dining market and the aroma of local foods entice customers to dine. Follow the locals for the tastiest dishes and, when you find a stall you want to dine at, grab a seat on the benches and get ready to eat!
Marrakesh sightseeing tip: check the price of the dishes before you order to avoid any confusion!
13 | Catch a glimpse of Old Marrakesh
From the Medina to the museums, the history of Marrakesh stretches back nearly one thousand years. Our favourite historical spots were the Musee de Marrakesh, La Maison de la Photographie, the palaces of Bahia and El Badi, the Saadian Tombs and wandering through the UNESCO World Heritage designated Medina. One thing is certain, we were spoiled for choice!
14 | Learn about Islam in Marrakesh
Morocco is a devoutly Muslim country and both the old Islamic college of Ben Youssef and the Koutoubia Mosque are unmissable sights in Marrakesh. While the Koutoubia Mosque, visible from all over the city, is accessible only to Muslims visitors of all religious beliefs can experience the stunning art and architecture of the old Ben Youssef Islamic 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.
15 | Escape the hustle and bustle of the city
Marrakesh is a chaotic city and it can be overwhelming especially after a day in Jemaa el Fna and the souks of the Old City! Luckily there are lots of options to escape and regroup: Jardin Majorelle is an oasis of calm to retreat from the crowded Medina streets or, if you are after something a little further afield, there are some excellent day trip options to the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert and the beautiful Essaouria (read more about our day trip here).