Anyone I've ever spoken with that has traveled to Morocco says something along the same lines of, "It's my favorite country I've ever visited," "It took me by surprise," "I never thought I would love Morocco so much," or "It's the best trip I've ever taken." I've truly never met a person who went to Morocco and wasn't completely enthralled by the experience.
From it's mouthwatering cuisine to its vibrant souks (marketplaces), monumental mosques, pristine palaces, and lush gardens, Marrakesh is a former imperial city situated in western Morocco, a major economic center filled with authentic Moroccan experiences.
There are endless reasons why people are flocking to Morocco. If you're looking for a reason to go, consider the opportunity to ride on camelback through the Sahara desert, bathe in a traditional Moroccan hammam, or chow down on some scrumptious pastilla.
If you're not convinced yet, the following 9 things to do in Marrakesh will surely change your mind!
If we had to choose a [favorite] previous trip... it would probably be our few weeks in Morocco last year. We just loved the colour and assault on the senses of the old Souks as well as getting away into the countryside. We stumbled upon a local horse festival called Fantasia which was a combination of horse riding and rifle firing with almost non-existent safety precautions, but was great!
-- Alan & Jo Gourlay, TraveGraphics
Marrakesh's main hub for activity, Jemaa el-Fnaa is the leading square and souk in the city's medina quarter. As one of the city's most-visited tourist attractions, Jemaa el-Fnaa has something to see and do every hour of the day.
Snake charmers and henna tattoo artists can be found throughout the market in the morning and afternoon, while dusk brings about street performers playing traditional Berber, Arabic folk, and Gnawa music. Hundreds of stalls offer delicious Moroccan street food, including grilled meats, kebabs, potato cakes, and fresh fried fish.
Shops sell a variety of Moroccan-based goods that can't be found elsewhere, such as Argan oil products, fabrics, Moroccan leather, lanterns, pottery, rugs and carpets, and djellabas.
Located in the old Jewish quarter of the medina, Mellah is another one of Marrakesh's sensational souks.
The Mellah region in Marrakesh was at its height in the 1500s, including everything from bakers, jewelers, tailors, sugar traders, artisans, crafters, outdoor markets, fountains, and synagogues.
While the Mellah has reduced in size since its peak in the 16th century, it is still home to many shopfronts and bustling bazaars. The Mellah souk is especially known for its wide selection of colorful fabrics and ornate accessories for clothes-making.
3. Bahia Palace
Translating to "palace of the beautiful, the brilliant," Bahia Palace was built in the 19th century, designed to be one of the greatest palaces of its time.
Bahia Palace's stunning aesthetic is epitomized by its decorated ceilings and columns, and its multi-color vitrages. It is considered one of the most important masterpieces of Moroccan architecture, aiming to capture the essence of Islamic and Moroccan styles.
Bahia Palace is one of the monuments that best exemplifies Morocco's cultural heritage, and one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions. The palace is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m. and costs around $1.15.
Another prominent palace with an interesting background story, El Badi Palace was built at the end of the 16th century, commissioned by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur of the Saadian Dynasty. It was constructed to celebrate the victory over the Portuguese army in 1578 after the Battle of the Three Kings.
Since 2011, El Badi Palace has been home to the Marrakesh Laughter Festival, also known as the Marrakesh International Comedy Festival. Normally held in late June, this is a time to consider a visit to the city.
El Badi Palace is also open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and admission costs approximately $2.30.
Deemed one of the most visited sites in all of Morocco, Majorelle Garden, or Jardin Majorelle, is a two-and-a-half acre botanical garden and artist's landscape that took almost 40 years to complete, starting in 1923. The garden was created by French Orientalist artist Jean Majorelle and features a Cubist villa designed by French architect Paul Sinoir.
This dreamlike oasis is filled with shady walkways, towered over by exotic trees and plants. Water lilies, lotus flowers, palm trees, bamboo, and cacti are just a few of hundreds of beautiful flora that can be seen throughout the garden.
Established in 2011, the garden's Berber Museum features more than 600 objects from North Africa's indigenous Berber tribe, including jewelry, weaponry, leather goods, basketwork, and woven textiles.
If you're looking for a way to escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh, head to Menara Gardens, or Jardin Menara.
The Menara Gardens' backdrop of the Atlas Mountains is a prevalent image on postcards from Marrakesh, a site travelers must see for themselves in person in order to grasp its true beauty.
Created in the mid-12th century, Jardin Menara was constructed during the reign of the Almohad dynasty, a garden that cities like Rabat, Ceuta, and Seville have tried to replicate.
Koutoubia is the largest mosque in Marrakesh, an architectural achievement that has inspired other renowned buildings such as La Giralda in Seville and the Hassan Tower of Rabat.
Koutoubia's history dates back to 1147 when Almohads captured the city and wished to reconstruct the area. The Koutoubia mosque underwent several modifications until the end of the 12th century.
Today, the mosque features curved windows, a band of ceramic inlay, pointed merlons, and decorative arches. Koutoubia has a large plaza with lush gardens and is floodlit at night; it can be seen from Jemaa el-Fnaa souk, so travelers may want to consider knocking out both attractions side-by-side.
8. Ben Youssef
Due to its size, Ben Youssef Mosque is pretty hard to miss and can be seen from many corners of Marrakesh.
While Koutoubia is the largest mosque in Marrakesh, Ben Youssef is the oldest and arguably most important mosque in the city, originally built in the 1070s.
Like some mosques throughout Morocco and other Muslim nations, non-Muslims are prohibited from entering Ben Youssef. Luckily, non-Muslims are still allowed to snap photos of the mosque's stunning exterior.
9. Embark on a camel ride in Marrakesh's deserts
There really isn't anything more Moroccan than riding around on camelback through the Sahara desert.
Marrakesh Desert Tours offers a variety of camelback desert trips, including their two-day budget tour from Marrakesh to Zagora, an ideal option for travelers short on time but who want a brief introduction to the vast Sahara.
On this trip, visitors are taken across the High Atlas Mountains and Tizi Ntichka pass, then to Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Travelers are then taken on a drive along Draa Valley, followed by a camel ride over the Zagora desert at sunset.
For more excursions and day trips from Marrakesh, click here.