A former imperial city, Marrakesh is one of the most popular destinations in Morocco. Located near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, much of the city is built with striking red sandstone. Known as the “Red City,” it is brimming with mosques, palaces, souks, and gardens. While there are plenty of things to do in Marrakesh, here are 11 attractions you absolutely cannot miss.
1Marrakesh Medina and the Bab Agnaou Gate
The labyrinthine streets of the Marrakesh Medina are full of hundreds of typical Moroccan shops. Much like the Egyptian tourist spots, it is also full of touts and con men waiting to scam you, but the atmospheric and imposing walls of the old citadel, the gateway of Bab Agnaou (pictured), and the traditional restaurants make it worth the visit.
The peaceful Majorelle Gardens are one of the city’s most popular destinations. It has plants from all over the world, as well as tranquil streams and bubbling fountains. Jardin Majorelle even has a monument in honor of Yves St Laurent and the Berber Museum.
Marrakesh is full of such enchanting museums. From the fantastic tile work and objects of the Dar si Said (pictured) to the Andalusian-style Dar Menebhi Palace that houses Marrakesh Museum filled with artwork, and the Maison de la Photographie that displays snapshots Moroccan life, there is something for everyone.
4The Saadian Tombs
Built as a royal burial complex for the Saadi dynasty, these magnificently decorated tombs were sealed and forgotten for centuries. They were rediscovered in 1917 and the bright tiles and intricate calligraphy carefully restored.
One of the landmarks of Marrakesh, the Koutoubia inspired Moorish buildings through Spain and Rabat. Visiting the exquisite 12th-century minaret and leafy gardens are one of the most iconic things to do in Marrakesh. It is still a working mosque and the call to prayer is issued from the top of the minaret five times a day.
Like any other Moroccan city, Marrakesh is full of fascinating souks. Colorful, loud, and aromatic, the souks of Marrakesh are truly a feast for the senses. Whether it’s handicrafts, books, spices, trinkets, or food, you’re sure to find whatever you want in one of the countless streets and alleyways.
Famous for its 16th-century pavilion, the stunning Menara Gardens are the perfect place to view the Atlas Mountains. Its artificial lake provides irrigation for the surrounding orchards and olive groves.
8Ben Youssef Madrasa
The 14th century Ben Youssef Madrasa was once one of the largest Islamic schools in North Africa. Walking through the tiny, windowless student rooms, and the richly decorated prayer halls give you an idea of the education of the past.
Visiting a traditional hammam is one of the best things to do in Marrakesh. Involving a visit to the sauna followed by a relaxing massage and a dip in an ice-cold pool, it is sure to be an unforgettable experience. There are many excellent bathhouses throughout Marrakesh, including the Hammam Dar el-Bacha, the La Mamounia, the Kennaria Hammam, and the Royal Mansour.
In the heart of Marrakesh’s medina lies the carnivalesque Jemaa el-Fnaa market. During the day it is filled with henna artists, snake charmers, and acrobats. A night countless food stalls open their door, selling everything from lamb dishes to fresh orange juice, and music fills the air.
Meaning “brilliant,” or “beautiful” in Arabic, the Bahia Palace is one of the best preserved in Morocco. Built in the 1860s by Si Moussa, this elegant palace housed the Resident General during the French Protectorate era.