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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 24 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Mandy Sinclair

Morocco’s former capital blends buzzing street life with atmospheric architecture and vibrant Arab culture, suffused with a liberal sprinkling of French influence – which adds up to an exotic,  intoxicating and entirely unique holiday destination.

Known as the Red Rose city, thanks to the dusky pink hue of its buildings, Marrakech is best known for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Medina (Old City), which is packed with souks and completely encircled by five-metre thick walls, built a thousand years ago.

Visitors can expect beautiful boutique hotels set in old riads, a flourishing food scene and a vibrant shopping experience.

Orientation

Marrakech’s main square, Jemaa El Fna is the city’s beating heart and sits inside the Medina (old town) with its bewildering labyrinth of alleyways and souks.

West of the Medina is the Ville Nouvelle, laid out in the early 20th century during the French Protectorate. To the north-east of the city is the sprawling Palmerie suburb, home to luxurious hotels.

On a broader scale, the city sits between the Atlas Mountains to the south and the Jbilet Hills to the north, surrounded by desert.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Yves Saint Laurent Museum

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

One of the two international museums dedicated to the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house, displaying iconic pieces by the famed designer in an architecturally-interesting building.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10

Jemaa El Fna

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

UNESCO World Heritage-listed central square that hums with snake charmers, musicians, magicians and other exotics.

Best for ages: 6+ | Free

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Safaris in the Sahara Desert

Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

Safari into vast seas of unending sands, camel trek across vast, silent and unearthly landscapes, and admire unrivalled sunsets and sunrises, and star-studded skies.

Best for ages: 13+ | £100

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Souks of the Medina

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

The world’s quintessential Arabic bazaar, the Medina’s maze-like souks are a shopper’s paradise.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Interior of concept store selling jewellery, clothing, shoes
Experience

33 Rue Majorelle

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Marrakech’s first concept store, just down the road from the YSL Museum, rotates an impressive selection of designs by contemporary Moroccan creators.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Stone entrance to old city of Marrakech
Experience

Bab al Khemis

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

A bustling Thursday flea market that’s the go-to for authentic homewares and furnishings. Held in this imposing gate in the Medina walls.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Moroccan bread for sale in a shop in Marrakech
Experience

Bab Doukkala Market

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Bustling with fishmongers and butchers, street vendors selling in-season fruit and veg, bread fresh from the local oven, and more. In between, small kitchens serve street food specialties through the morning and afternoon.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Fez-wearing cafe worker in front of wall covered in tin jars
Experience

Bacha Cafe

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Nestled inside the Dar el Bacha palace, Bacha Cafe is elegance at its finest. Coffee recommendations are suggested based on time of day, and are best accompanied by a treat from the cake counter.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

 Marrakech Medina Walking Tour With official Local Guide

Marrakech Medina Walking Tour With official Local Guide

Marrakech

In Marrakech, you can explore authentic Moroccan history with a personalized door-to-door city tour. You can get to know the real Morocco wi...

$27 | Rating 4.71 / 5 [28 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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A Magical Evening in Marrakech: Private City Tour

A Magical Evening in Marrakech: Private City Tour

Marrakech

As the sun starts to set, Marrakech lights up, showing its true beautiful colors. Enjoy a night to remember in Marrakech by exploring the ...

€47 | Rating 4.82 / 5 [52 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Guided Walking Tour of Marrakech

Guided Walking Tour of Marrakech

Marrakech

On a 3-hour trip with an expert guide, see the highlights of Marrakech. Your schedule can be tailored to ensure that you see the sights that...

$45 | Rating 4.55 / 5 [29 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Hidden Sites of Marrakech

Hidden Sites of Marrakech

Marrakech

This is an unrushed walking tour to discover safely and smoothly the hidden sights of the Medina and its souks with a savvy licensed tour-gu...

$39 | Rating 4.90 / 5 [161 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Hotel du Tresor

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Idiosyncratically decorated in vintage mid-century furniture, this little treasure is Marrakech’s best budget riad.

Official star rating:

Riad Antara

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

A chic, minimalist riad in the heart of the medina, complete with an on-site hammam, roof-top bar and heated courtyard pool.

Official star rating:

Riad Yasmine

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Trendy riad in the Bab Taghzout quarter of the medina with a stylish rooftop terrace and picture-perfect plunge pool.

Official star rating:

Riad El Fenn

Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Trendy boutique hotel in Marrakech’s old city, an easy walk to the medina’s palaces and souks, with the lively Jemaa el Fna just five minutes away.

Official star rating:

When to go

The best time to visit is during autumn and spring. Temperatures in summer can become oppressively hot – over 40°C – and those locals who can, leave town for the mountains and coast. Christmas and New Year is another popular time for tourists, although temperatures can be cool at night and snow regularly falls in the mountains.

The city is more subdued during Ramadan, which occurs at a different time each year, according to the lunar calendar.

Getting there and away

The quickest way to get from Marrakech’s Menara airport is by taxi – there is a rank just outside the terminal building, but agree your fare before you set off. The city centre is just 6km away. There is also an hourly bus service that departs from arrivals and drops passengers at the main tourist spots in both the Old and New towns.

Getting around

Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. There are two types: petit taxis and grand taxis (usually ageing Mercedes). The former have meters but in practice these are rarely – if ever – used. In both cases it’s best to agree a price with the driver in advance and don’t be afraid to bargain. Cycling is not recommended.

The Medina is best tackled on foot, while trips to the New Town usually involve a short taxi ride.

Few things are certain in life, but getting lost in the Medina is one. So when young local boys approach you to help you find a way out, their help will be welcome. Be sure to pay them a small tip.

Where to stay

First-time visitors to Marrakech should stay in one of the Medina’s delightful riads. These charismatic converted townhouses, usually arranged around a central courtyard, are decorated in varying degrees of simplicity and opulence.  

Just outside the Medina is the Hivernage, a more modern area of town, home to more conventional and resort-style hotels. If you want something more relaxing, with more space and away from the hustle and bustle, The Palmerie offers a number of lavish, tranquil retreats with spas and swimming pools.  

You could also opt for a stay at one of several stunning kasbahs (former local citadels/castles) in the nearby Atlas Mountains, that have been converted into luxury hotels. Great to escape to for a few days after a few days sightseeing in the city.  

Where to eat or drink

The medina is where you’ll find the upscale, palace restaurants. Many medina riads have atmospheric rooftop restaurants, open to non-residents with advanced booking, for something more intimate.

The ultimate Marrakech foodie experience is to eat in the Jemaa el Fna, at one of the twenty or so food stalls that pop up at dusk. Hygiene standards vary wildly, so check out a local blog or website to see which are recommended (each stall is numbered). There are lots of cafes overlooking the Jemaa el Fna, but these are places to go for a mint tea, rather than a meal.

The Ville Nouvelle is home to the more contemporary, European-style restaurants, ranging from classic French brasseries to upscale Morocco and Italian restaurants, cafes and nightclubs.

Where to shop

Among Marrakech’s most celebrated attractions are its Medina souks, a bewildering tangle of lanes lined with stalls selling everything from traditional slippers and spices to perfumes and metalwork. The Medina also has several noteworthy boutiques, offering locally-made fashion, homewares and textiles.  

Gueliz is home to more Western-style shops and chain stores, and some chic Moroccan and French boutiques. 

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination