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25 Best things to see & do in Marrakech

  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Mandy Sinclair
  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

View at dusk just as the sun is setting

Bucket List Experience

Jemaa El Fna

Marrakech’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed central square epitomises the exotic allure of the city. From dawn until well after dusk it hums with activity, like an open-air theatre.

The scene here has changed little down the centuries; snake charmers, Gnaoua musicians, magicians and myriad other performers congregate here, mainly for local audiences – though at peak times it’s very touristy.

By early evening part of the square becomes a giant open-air kitchen and is given over to countless food stalls serving local specialities. The Medina’s famous souks start on its fringes.

Good for age: 8+

  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Interior walkway of covered souk in Marrakech

Bucket List Experience

Souks of the Medina

With more than 2,500 stalls and shops crammed into a labyrinth of narrow streets, which in turn are also rammed with people, donkeys and mopeds, it’s easy to feel intimidated in the souks. Don’t be. Virtually every type of trade and craft is being practiced here; there are blacksmiths, carpenters, weavers, carpet sellers, purveyors of magic potions and natural cosmetics, fruit and vegetable traders and many more.

To visit the souks is to experience the real heart of this ancient city. There are other souks in Morocco but this is one of Morocco’s liveliest and most special.

Good for age: 13+

  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Interior of ornate riad with fountain, plants and tile-work

Bucket List Experience

Stay in a traditional riad

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in Moroccan life than staying in a riad; the traditionally-designed townhouses that line the twisting alleyways of the medina. Rooms are set around an internal courtyard – traditionally divided into four quarters, with a small fountain at the centre and filled with plants and greenery.

Traditionally, Islam forbids any external show of wealth when it comes to property, so all riads – even the most upscale and ornate – are hidden behind plain walls. This adds to the tantalising sense of stepping into a hidden oasis; riads are designed to be cool and quiet – a cocoon from the frenetic streets outside.

Riads vary hugely in style; many have swapped the traditional mosaic tiling and tadelakt plasterwork for a more contemporary, minimalist feel, but what almost all have in common is a rooftop terrace. These are the places to experience Moroccan a sunset, when the Atlas Mountains shimmer in the distance and the call to prayer echoes up from the mosques; Marrakech at its bewitching, enigmatic best.

Adult price: £20

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1+ nights

  • Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

Sand dune in the Sahara desert

Bucket List Experience

Safaris in the Sahara Desert

Over 9.2 million sq km (larger than either the US or China) of nothing but vast, shifting sand dunes, the world’s largest hot desert covers most of Northern Africa. Average daily temperatures can reach 47°C – only Death Valley can rival it.

Mute and empty, beneath flawless blue skies, the Sahara Desert is like nowhere else in Morocco (or indeed the world).

But don’t let that put you off. Joining a safari into the desert is an evocative, unearthly and sometimes surreal experience, and the chance to sleep and wake in one of the world’s most extreme and beautiful landscapes.

At 450 kilometres from Marrakech, reaching the edge of the Sahara Desert takes at least 10 hours by car, and is an adventure in itself. Once in the desert, the journey continues by camel to a comfortable camp (some camps offer 4×4 transfers if preferred).

Sunset camel treks are a must-do, with the sky flaming pink and purple before fading into inky darkness. Piping hot tajines appear at mealtimes, with many camps offering fireside musical entertainment before guests retreat to a luxury tent, complete with en suite bathrooms and proper beds.

Adult price: £100

Good for age: 13+

  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

For fans of hot-air ballooning, floating over the dramatic, arid landscapes and traditional Berber villages surrounding Marrakech just might become the most memorable experience of your stay: the views stretch mile upon mile, with the High Atlas Mountains strung out on the horizon.

Morning hot-air balloon rides are often followed by a traditional meal in a Berber village.

Adult price: £150

Good for age: 10+

Duration: 5+ hours

  • Agafay Desert, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

The Agafay Desert, with its gentle rolling hills, the odd palm tree dotting the landscape, and the Atlas Mountains hovering in the background (snow-capped during winter months), is a complete contrast to bustling Marrakech just 45 minutes away. Trekking across the lunar-like landscapes, before dinner beneath the star-scattered desert sky is a memorable and unique experience.

Your evening begins with a 45-minute guided camel trek, transporting guests from the desert outskirts to a luxury camp, where dinner – a selection of Moroccan salads followed by tajine or grilled meats – is served with a view. Dinner is served under the starry sky or inside a traditional Bedouin tent, depending on the season. Evenings often include local musicians who play traditional songs with infectious, vibrant rhythms.

Several luxury camps provide glamping options for travellers looking for an overnight option.

Adult price: £180

Good for age: 10+

Duration: 4 hours

  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Interior of Medersa, showing a central square with small pool

Bucket List Experience

Medersa Ben Youssef

This splendid former medersa (a Koranic school where students memorise the Koran) was founded by the Merenid Sultan Abou el Hassan in the 14th century. However, it was under the Saadian rulers in the 1560s that the school was renovated to the extraordinary level that visitors can marvel at today.  

The Andalusian architectural details, such as the stucco plasterwork featuring Arabic inscriptions and the colourful mosaics, are wonderfully preserved and worth taking time to appreciate. 

Adult price: £4

Good for age: 18+

  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Intricately tiled interior of bath house

Bucket List Experience

Hammams in Marrakech

The hammam (steam bathhouse) has been an integral part of Islamic, notably Arabic, culture for centuries. Inspired by the Roman thermae, a bathhouse would include a cold room, a warm room and a hot room; in the latter, heat is produced by furnaces to supply hot water and steam.

The signature Marrakech hammam experience starts with a stint in the steam room, but then progresses to a special detoxication treatment; first, a scrub with locally-made black soap (containing olive oil) to prepare the skin for a gommage (exfoliation) with a kessa glove. After, locally-sourced rhassoul clay is applied, followed by a massage with local Argan oil.

For locals, a visit to the bathhouse is more than just a spa treatment. It serves three key purposes: one for hygiene, second for cleansing for before religious ablution before prayer, and third as a meeting place for the local community.

Adult price: £20

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 2+ hours

  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Two Moroccan tajines full of meat and vegetables

Bucket List Experience

Marrakech’s best food & drink

Moroccan cuisine is best known for its slow-cooked tajines – richly flavoured stews, cooked on traditional platters with conical lids – and heaped platters of couscous topped with seven vegetables.

More traditional meals usually start with a tray of meze – fresh salads that might include honeyed carrot salad, humous, roasted aubergine and yoghurt with mint and garlic. Lamb is the most popular meat, while seafood, such as sardines, are plucked straight from the Atlantic in Essaouira.

Mint tea is another obligatory Moroccan ritual drunk at any time of the day, often taken with a plate of sugar-topped biscuits, or syrup-drenched pastries. Moroccans have an extremely sweet tooth, and there are excellent patisseries dotted around the Ville Nouvelle – a legacy of the French Colonial era.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: Variable

  • Marrakech, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

Fashion lovers queue up to step inside this architectural jewel box, which pays homage to the famed designer. Yves Saint Laurent always credited Marrakech as a source of inspiration, and returned to the city frequently, residing in the nearby Villa Oasis inside the Majorelle Gardens.

The interior of the museum resembles a catwalk, complete with energetic music and audio interviews with YSL. The permanent collection features enviable evening gowns, capes and pantsuits divided by collection, while an impressive curiosity cabinet is filled with accessories to complete the looks. In the theatre, footage from previous fashion shows and interviews is shown on a loop.

Alongside the permanent collection, there is also a programme of temporary exhibitions, highlighting artists who made their home in the city, including Jacques Majorelles and works by Christo. Temporary exhibitions change twice a year, while the permanent collection featuring YSL garments changes annually.

The windowless exterior, designed by KO Studios, is intricately designed to capture the city’s famous light throughout the day, using the same techniques as a traditional medina house.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 13+