Believe your eyes—because Marrakech is a desert oasis that’s far from a mirage. This multi-sensory destination will awaken your taste buds with savory street food, tickle your nostrils with aromatic spices on every street corner, and fill your ears with the soundtrack of its city street life.
Marrakech, in and by itself makes for an unforgettable trip, but if you have more than a few days to spend in Morocco, then be sure to check out the country’s other tourist destinations, like Fes, Chefchaouen and Essaouira. While planning your trip, do note that travel between these cities can be tricky as they are not easily connected by public transport. You would need to fly between them and or rent a car.
This guide will be your handy resource if you are a first-time visitor to Marrakech—it will give you a glimpse into its culture, things to do, places to stay, and the best food your Moroccan Dirhams can buy!
Welcoming more than three million tourists every year, Marrakech is one of the most visited cities in Morocco. Its vibrance and charm have made it a social media sensation, everything from the market stalls to the local horse cart carriages make for an Instagram photo opportunity. Its main Marrakesh Menara Airport (RAK) makes it an easy bucket list destination for travelers with direct flights from Europe, the Middle East, and decent connections from the US as well.
Most nationalities get visas upon arrival, and you can easily purchase a sim card at the airport. While Arabic is the main language spoken in Marrakech, most locals including taxi drivers speak English. But be warned, as is usually the case in such touristy places, the taxi drivers are notorious for peddling shops selling “special Moroccan products.”
A fan fact about Marrakech is that New Year is celebrated on 12th January. So, you can plan your trip around this to partake of their famed festivities.
Do not be deceived by the sunny photos you see on Instagram. While Marrakech’s climate is indeed very hot! It is in the middle of a desert after all and can get quite chilly depending on the time of the year. Look up the weather beforehand and pack appropriately. The best time to visit Marrakech is from March-May or September-November to avoid the hottest time of the year but you still get to enjoy some sunshine. Remember to bring a sweater, as the evenings especially can get chilly.
Immediately you get out of the airport, you will be impressed by the sea of red ochre you see around you. Buildings in all Moroccan cities are painted the same color, (Marrakech is earthy red, Chefchouen is blue, Casablanca is white and so on and so forth). It makes a stroll across the city even more picturesque.
You can easily get around the touristy parts of the city walking or by taxi. If you want to make it more exciting, hop on the horse-drawn carriages which will cost you about 200 MAD for a brief tour around the main sites.
The good weather makes it hard to stay inside, so here are some fun things to make your Marrakech trip worthwhile.
Things to Do in Marrakech
Time is of the essence, and while it is not a very large city, there are plenty of things to do in Marrakech to fill up any travel itinerary. This charming city has a lot to offer all types of travelers with around the clock activities; from enjoying the great outdoors, to immersing yourself in the local culture and brushing the desert sand off the city’s rich history.
Create memories in Marrakech with some of these activities.
Outdoor activities close to Marrakech:
From the peaks of the Atlas Mountains to the flat desert landscape, you can participate in several exciting outdoor adventures. Navigate the peaks and passes of the Atlas Mountains on camel-back or on foot. These multi-day excursions include spending the night in traditional Bedouin Desert Camps featuring timeless local entertainment after sunset. Other treks take you to remote Berber villages to encounter regions unscathed by time. While the locals are always friendly, English is not as common on the city outskirts, where the native Arabic language remains dominant. I booked this excursion, Magical dinner and camel ride at sunset in Agafay desert, on AirBNB experiences for $40.
For serious climbers wanting to hike up the Atlas Mountains, it takes about two days for the climb and you would need to book with an experienced guide.
Visit the exquisite Jardin Majorelle
Jardin Majorelle is one of the most visited places in Marrakech and for good reason. Yves Saint Laurent, partly a resident of Marrakech, was attracted by the beauty of the Majorelle Gardens, he restored it and opened it to the public. The garden itself is a work of art with a well-manicured selection of over 100 exotic plants and endemic northern African bird species. The property also houses a museum of Yves Saint Laurent’s best work.
As well as a memorial constructed in his honour. But the highlight for visiting is the Berber Museum that includes a collection of artefacts (jewellery, clothes, carpets) that gives you a glimpse into the life and history of the Berbers. But it is not just a beautiful museum, the Majorelle foundation makes significant contributions to the Moroccan art and culture scene by promoting the work of local artists and projects.
Experiencing Moroccan Culture
Marrakech is one of the most visually attractive cities in the world! Its minarets, mosques and palaces are all stunning examples of fine Islamic architecture. Spare some time in your itinerary to tour its where you will encounter colorful, ornate tile decorations and elegant arches everywhere you look. Be respectful when you visit as these are still active places of worship.
The cultural epicenter of Marrakech lies in the UNESCO Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. By day, it is a busy market to pick up local goods and souvenirs to take home or partake of food by local street vendors. By night, the market becomes a hangout for locals and tourists alike with music, shopping, and mesmerizing snake charmers. Elevate your night with cocktails and rooftop views.
Pro Tip: Even though Marrakech is not strictly religious, alcohol is not available everywhere. For decadent cocktails you might want to go to Terraces des epices, La Mamounia hotel and Kabana Rooftop.
A Walk-Through History
The Marrakech Old City or simply “le Medina” is the heart of the city. Its pastel pink walls surround the maze of cobblestone streets winding through buildings dating back to the 11th Century. The Medina is as vibrant and dynamic during the day as it is at night. Known for its quaint coffee shops, roof top restaurants, endless stalls where you can buy anything from spices, to clothes, to local crockery as well as the lamps and light fixtures that Morocco is oh so famous for. Worry not if you do not have enough space in your luggage, as they will ship it home for you.
To truly appreciate the vastness of the Medina, spend some time in one of its open air roof top restaurants for the best views of the old city. I recommend “le Marrakech” restaurant for the best view of the iconic Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. They also happen to have the best lamb shank tagine with prunes and almonds in town.
Surprisingly enough, even though the Medina looks chaotic, you still find your way around easily with google maps or with a little help from locals.
For even more sensory stimulation, visit the nearby souks—Souk Semmarine, Souk El-K, and Souk Nejjarine—to experience the open-air markets as old as the Old Town itself.
Enjoy a Gorgeous Moroccan Hammam Experience:
Hammams or public baths are an ancient ritual in many Islamic countries and are the closest you can get to a traditional spa experience. No where do you find a decadent collection of hammams than in Marrakech. You will be spoilt for choice on the wide variety of treatments on offer. From the more traditional bath house types to the more modern ones that also offer relaxing spa treatments. Your hotel will definitely have one and or you are bound to find one not far from your Riad. Personally, I recommend La Maison Arabe, which is ‘a temple of rejuvenation in a spectacular Moorish setting,’ as described on their website.
Pro Tip: You might want to book your appointment in advance as they tend to fill up especially during peak season.
Where to Stay in Marrakech
Accommodation in Marrakech is always a standout part of anyone’s trip. Whether staying at its most luxurious resorts, traditional riads, and even backpacker-friendly hostels, Marrakech knows how to bring a unique experience to each. Stay in Marrakech to see the warmness of Moroccan hospitality firsthand and check out stylish options that make you feel like Moroccan royalty.
These are some of the best places to stay in Marrakech:
Luxury high end places to stay in Marrakech
- Royal Mansour – Luxury hotel with private riads and upscale amenities built under the commission of the King of Morocco. The spa at the hotel is luxury at a steal even if you do not stay at the hotel. I recommend the spa and restaurants. Prices range from $2,000+ per night
- Hotel Selman Marrakesh – A 5-Star hotel with spa and mountain views. Prices from $674 per night
- La Mamounia – If the name sounds familiar it is because it is featured in the Netflix show “Inventing Anna.” A 5-Star hotel near Marrakech Old Town established in a 12th-century royal estate considered one of the best hotels in the world, with a stunning garden and world class spa. Prices from $700+ per night
Mid-range places to stay in Marrakech
- Riad Touda – A cosy family owned establishment which feels more like home. The staff are incredibly friendly and hospitable and a complimentary local breakfast that is to die for. It is conveniently located at the heart of the Medina. Prices range from $95 per night
- La Maison Arabe – A unique boutique hotel with a famous restaurant, courtyards, and spa. Prices from $120 per night
- Riad Secret Jardin – Traditional hotel preserving Marrakech history with a bed & breakfast experience. Prices from $120 per night
- Riad Botanica – A boutique hotel with local artisan features and promotes a wellness lifestyle. Prices range from $130 per night
- Riad Dar Zaman – Boutique guesthouse with a great location in the Medina. Prices from $89 per night
- Dar Cherifa is not just one of the oldest Riads in Marrakech, it’s also known for its delicious meals
Best Places to Eat in Marrakech
Marrakech is a haven for food lovers—take my word for it! It’s a place where eating a meal at a local street cart is just as enjoyable as one of the city’s fine dining establishments. Of course, you will find cuisine from all over the world, but the local cuisine is something you do not want to miss. Whether you are simply dining in a restaurant or taking a cooking class with a local family, you are bound to be wowed.
The busy streets of Marrakech are never short on street food favourites. Some must-try local Moroccan food includes:
- Sheep’s Head
- Snail Soup
- Mint Tea
Try one or all of them when strolling around Jemaa El-Fnaa Square! You will thank me later.
If you are impressed by the local street food, wait till you check out its myriad of restaurants spotlighting local cuisine and beyond. Treat your mouth to the diverse flavors of Marrakech at these popular restaurants:
- Azar Marrakech – restaurant and lounge with Moroccan dishes, shisha, and live entertainment.
- Kabana Rooftop – Rooftop Mediterranean restaurant with signature cocktails.
- Terrace des epices – Rooftop restaurant over the Cherifia Souk with traditional Moroccan dishes.
- Le Marrakech – Traditionally inspired Moroccan restaurant with vintage tapestry decor and belly dancer shows.
Nightlife: Marrakech is not as sleepy as you would imagine. The nightlife will surprise you with hype clubs showcasing classic renditions like Chicago.
Marrakech has something for everyone—and we have barely touched the surface! If you are thinking about visiting Marrakech, let me know in the comments what you are most excited about!