Marrakesh or Marrakech is a city that sums up all of Morocco’s exotic North African charm. The city’s name provided the root for the name of the country itself, spelling out this town’s importance through the ages. Within the hustle of the medina, you’ll find the city’s main points of interest in a dizzying meld of ancient and new. For shoppers, this city is famous as a frenzied hub for bargain hunting. For history loving tourists, the many museums and monuments are some of the country’s sightseeing must-dos. And for those who just want to dive into local culture, the medina offers Moroccan life in all its hectic glory.
Best Time to Visit
The best times to visit Marrakech are from March to April and from October to November. These shoulder seasons offer desirable weather.
Top Places to Visit in Marrakesh
1. Medina Souks
For many visitors, Marrakesh’s labyrinthine medina (old city) district is the town’s star attraction. The narrow alleyways are a kaleidoscope of colors, scents, and sounds, and bound to be the sightseeing highlight of your trip. As well as simply wandering (and getting lost) amid the bustling maze, there are myriad shopping opportunities, where you can put your haggling hat on and barter to your heart’s content. Shoppers shouldn’t miss the Babouche (shoe) Souk, Chouari (carpenter’s) Souk, El-Attarine (perfume and spice) Souk, and the Cherratine (leather) Souk.
2. Djemaa El Fna
This large square at the entry to the medina is the center of Marrakesh life. The Djemaa El Fna (assembly place of the nobodies) is a vibrant hub of bric-a-brac stalls, musicians, storytellers, fortune-tellers, and snake charmers that never seems to rest. Here, the entire spectrum of Moroccan life enfolds before you. If being down among the thrum becomes too much, it’s also easy to escape to one of the many surrounding rooftop cafés and restaurants where you can survey the crazy scene from above.
3. Koutoubia Mosque
The Koutoubia Mosque is Marrakesh’s most famous landmark with its striking, 70-meter-tall minaret visible for miles in every direction. Local Marrakesh legend tells that when first built, the muezzin (man who calls the faithful to pray) for this mosque had to be blind as the minaret was so tall that it overlooked the ruler’s harem. The mosque was built in 1162 and is one of the great achievements of Almohad architecture. Non-Muslims are not allowed into the mosque itself.
4. Bahia Palace
This magnificent peacock of a palace was built in the late 19th century as the residence of the Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed, who served Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I. The interior decoration is a dazzling display of zellige tiles, painted ceilings, and ornate wrought-iron features showcasing the opulent lives of those high up in the sultan’s favor at that time. The massive marble grand courtyard and opulent salons of the haram area are the two main attractions, while the lush internal courtyard of the grand riad, with its banana-leaf plants and citrus trees, is a tranquil respite from the city.
5. Menara Gardens
This huge garden, once a royal retreat, is a bubble of serenity hidden right in the heart of Marrakesh. It’s a favorite spot for locals, who want to escape the hustle and enjoy some peace and quiet. The majority of the area is taken up with olive groves, but for visitors, the main attraction and reason to come here is the large reflective pool with its fine pavilion. Built in the late 19th century, the pool and pavilion are a favored spot for many local Marrakesh families, who come here to picnic and stroll. There are excellent photo opportunities here of the pool with the Atlas Mountain Range reflected in its water, on a clear day.
6. Toubkal National Park
This national park is the country’s most popular, mostly due to being home to Morocco’s (and North Africa’s) highest mountain, Djebel Toubkal, as well as a number of fantastic walking opportunities that range from multi-day trekking adventures to afternoon hikes. If you don’t fancy bagging Toubkal’s 4,167-meter peak then you can opt for the lovely, scenic village-to-village Aremd circuit, which has all the sumptuous views without the sweaty effort required for mountain climbing. The time to come is summer, when all the trails are open; even during spring, snow can mean walking activities are curtailed.
7. Marrakesh Museum
The Marrakesh Museum has an eclectic collection ranging from contemporary art to Qur’anic inscriptions, with local ceramic work, textiles, and coins thrown in for good measure. For most visitors, the real highlight of a visit here is the building in which the museum is housed. The Dar Me’nebhi was built in the early 20th century and was once home to a minister in Morocco’s government. The architecture is a harmonious blend of local North African form with Portuguese elements, and features an extremely impressive central courtyard area complete with lavish chandelier.