7 Best Things to Do in Marrakech, Morocco

|   Last Updated on February 24, 2021

Located in central Morocco near the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, Marrakech was founded in 1070. It became the first of Morocco’s four imperial cities. The red sandstone used to build its walls and ramparts has earned it has been nicknamed “The Red City.”

Today, Marrakech (French spelling) or Marrakesh (English spelling) comprises two distinct districts. Each offers travelers many ways to experience its rich Berber, Arabian, and European-influenced culture.

The medieval, walled quarter known as the medina is named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich Islamic history, ornate, monumental architecture, and ongoing use of its original marketplaces in daily life. The modern, French-era Gueliz district, which has sprawled outside the ancient walls, contrasts the medina with its wide streets and modern architecture. It also boasts sophisticated nightclubs, art galleries, and contemporary department stores.

Here are 7 things to do in the city of Marrakech.

1. Get Lost in the Souks of the Medina

The historic, walled quarter of Marrakech, known as the medina, is where you’ll find its ancient souks (marketplaces). While the maze of narrow, unmarked streets can be disorienting (and you’ll spend a fair amount of time dodging ubiquitous motorbikes), embrace the confusion, and immerse your senses in the explosion of color, commotion, and aromas.

Explore the fruit stands, bakeries, and restaurants. Browse craft stalls filled with vibrant fabrics, rugs, jewelry, traditional clothes, and multi-colored babouche (shoes.) You can always find a friendly local who can direct you back to the main square where you can have a cup of tea and reorient yourself.

Tip: Your “guide” may expect a small tip, so be sure to have a few dirhams (Moroccan currency) handy.

2. Haggle

Souk Shop
© Susan Brauer

Expect to bargain in the souks of Marrakech. Depending on what you’re looking for, it’s worthwhile to shop around a bit to get a feel for pricing from different merchants before you dive in and play the game.

After visiting several of the artisan stalls, my husband and I struck a deal with a vendor based on whether he could find several more yards of a material similar to a swath that we discovered in his shop. He made us mint tea and then ran through the medina, bringing bolt after bolt of fabric for our inspection and eventual purchase. That beautiful material is now hanging as gorgeous floor-to-ceiling draperies in our living room.

3. Visit the Jemaa El-Fna at Night

Jemma el-Fna at night
© Susan Brauer

Every evening as the sun sets in the medina, the Jemaa El-Fna square (pronounced “j’ maf na”) transforms into a wonderfully chaotic carnival. Snake charmers, storytellers, musicians, and monkey trainers―present but lethargic during the heat of the day―come alive as the sun goes down.

The cacophony created as each one vies for the crowd’s attention, made up of tourists, locals, and visiting Berber farmers, adds to the festive atmosphere. The din lowers for a few minutes as the evening call to prayer rings out from the many loudspeakers positioned on mosque towers and rooftops of other buildings around the city. Once over, the crowd noise roars back to life.

Fragrant smoke fills the air as dozens of pop-up food stands fire-up sizzling charcoal grills to cook mouthwatering Moroccan cuisine. Long tables and benches are set up for hungry customers to dine under the stars. You can join in and be a part of the exuberant pandemonium or watch the spectacle from a balcony at one of the many restaurants surrounding the square.

4. Stay in a Riad

Riad courtyard
© Christine Kneeland

You can stay at a hotel in Marrakech, but try a riad if you want a more traditional experience. A Riad, run like a Bed and Breakfast, generally has fewer than ten sleeping rooms. Each room is typically individually decorated, incorporating Moroccan architecture, textiles, and tilework. The kitchen and living rooms, located on the ground floor, are open-air and surround a central courtyard that often includes lush plants and a fountain or small “plunge” pool. The enclosed bedrooms with bathrooms, traditionally found on the upper floors, have balconies overlooking the inner courtyard.

There is also a rooftop terrace with shaded cabanas. Here you can enjoy the delicious breakfast provided every morning, make your plans, and fortify yourself for a day in the souks. You can also (for a fee) request dinner at many riads that will be specially prepared and served by talented cooks and staff. The rooftop also provides a restful afternoon escape from the heat of the day and the city’s frantic energy. Riads are found all over Marrakech; however, those located in the medina are the oldest and most historic.

5. Visit the Marrakech Museum

Marrakech Museum
© Susan Brauer

The Marrakech Museum, located in the medina, is found in the converted Dar Menebhi Palace. There are fascinating exhibits of modern and traditional Moroccan art, books, coins, and pottery from Berber, Islamic, and Jewish cultures. The classic Moorish architecture with its; ornate courtyards, built-in basins, intricate tile mosaics, wood and stone carvings dating back to the late 19th-century makes the museum a feast for the eyes and a special place to visit.

6. Wander the Gueliz Neighborhood and Majorelle Garden

Majorell Blue - Garden Wall
© Christine Kneeland

If you want to explore the more modern side of Marrakech, the Gueliz district is located just outside the medina. Here you can shop in up-to-date department stores, have lunch or dinner in stylish cafes, or go to an art gallery.

However, the crowning jewel of the neighborhood is the Majorelle Garden. This small but lush oasis provides a refreshing and peaceful respite from the sizzling sun and constant buzz of people and motorbikes. Sparkling fountains burble refreshingly, red, and purple bougainvillea spill over walls and trellises, and tall palm trees sway overhead in breezes that you would have sworn didn’t exist.

Colorful pottery filled with greenery and flowers line the winding paths. The vivid cobalt blue paint―known as Majorelle Blue―covers most of the larger structures and walls. The garden, created in the 1930s by artist Jacques Majorelle, is now owned by the Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent. Click here for more information on the Majorelle Garden.

7. Visit the Coastal Town of Essaouira

Essaouira rampart
© Susan Brauer

The small, blue, and white port village of Essaouira (pronounced “Swira”) is about 115-miles from Marrakech. A reasonably-priced bus that leaves Marrakech every morning takes approximately 3-hours and will get you into town in time for lunch. If you want to get there slightly faster, you can take a car or taxi.

Unlike the medina in Marrakech, where you are regularly dodging motorbikes, the medina in Essaouira does not allow any traffic and is not as noisy and chaotic. However, its souks, restaurants, spice shops, and artisan quarters are every bit as intriguing.

Outside the medina, the Atlantic Ocean beckons visitors to walk along its shores. Here local fishermen who have returned from a morning at sea display their catch and will grill and serve you the fish of your choice at nearby picnic tables.

The significant and constant winds make Essaouira a popular place for windsurfers. Cooler temperatures make the wide-open beaches a lovely place for a stroll. But don’t forget to wear sunscreen; the sun is intense, even though the wind keeps the temperature cool. While Essaouira can be done as a day trip from Marrakech, it’s worth an extended stay if you have an extra day or two.


Marrakech is a city that should be on your must-see list if you have a yearning for a unique experience. Whether you explore the maze of streets and alleys in the ancient medina or venture outside the walls to the Gueliz district or beyond, I promise Marrakech will not disappoint.


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Last Updated on February 24, 2021


  • Susan Brauer is a freelance travel writer and speaker living in Minneapolis, MN. Always excited to explore new places and cultures in the US and international locations, she loves discovering the surprises and stories that travel reveals. Her writing focuses on soft-adventure travel, finding "hidden gems"―even/especially in over-touristed locales― and providing hints and tips for budget-conscious travelers. Her favorite place to travel is wherever she's going next. Susan is a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA). You can follow her on Instagram @susanbr619