Medina of Marrakech: History, Culture, and Must-Do Activities

While Marrakech is a big city with many interesting neighborhoods, the Medina of Marrakesh is the historical part that many tourists imagine.

No trip to Marrakech is complete without visiting Medina, so don’t listen to the fearmongering tourists who tell you there are too many beggars or it’s too busy.

With my guide, you’ll be able to experience the best that Medina has to offer. And there will be no hiccups during your trip. 

Marrakech Medina 101

Medina of Marrakech

Let me give you a brief history lesson first. ‘Medina’ is the Arabic word for city or town. In this context, the Marrakech Medina is a 19 km area built 9 centuries ago by the Almoravids. Yes, it’s that old. 

Within the iconic pink walls of the Medina, there are a little under half a million people between the locals and tourists. The walls form narrow alleyways surrounding square riads (traditional courtyard mansions). There are also many shops and stalls divided into ‘districts’ or souks.

The heart of Medina is Djemaa el-Fna, and I guarantee that you’ll be enchanted by this bustling square at the heart of the hive that is our old city. 

Set Yourself Up For Success

Any place that’s as crowded as Medina is bound to be interesting, but there is also a higher potential for problems. My advice? Prepare for your trip well ahead of time. Here are two factors I believe will greatly influence your view of the old city:

Pick the Right Spot to Stay

Marrakech Medina Accommodation

Before you ever set foot on the Marrakech Medina streets, you’ll need to choose your accommodations first. There are different options available, depending on your preference.

Some people prefer to stay in riads within the old city, while I’ve heard that many foreigners feel that it’s too immersed in the hustle and bustle of Medina.

If you prefer the latter, try staying in quieter neighborhoods like Gueliz. For those who want to experience the everyday lives of Marrakesh, try Kasbah.

Also, consider your budget when choosing your stay. We’ve got budget-friendly options, mid-level stays, and luxurious riads or resorts. Your hotel isn’t just where you sleep; it will set the tone for your trip. 

Consider a Guide

If you’re nervous about traveling to a country so different from your own, a guide is a great idea. Many companies offer guides that will help you navigate the maze-like structure of Medina’s souks. They’ll also help with the language barrier and bargain on your behalf! 

Prepare for the Marrakech Medina

Marrakech Medina Street

Like I’ve said before, Medina is an experience like no other. Being prepared is a crucial step in creating the perfect trip. Below are my tips for getting ready for your visit:

Prepare Mentally

Because it’s such a busy area, Medina can be overwhelming mentally. This is especially true if you’re not a seasoned traveler or you’ve only been to places with upscale resorts.

You’ll need to mentally prepare yourself in several ways for the sensory overload, change of pace, and exhaustive bargaining. 

Practice the Contented Idiot

There are many beggars and extreme bargainers in Marrakech. And if you look like a foreigner, some of them see you as a dollar sign. My advice? Act the part of the contented idiot who has no idea what they want, and move on. The sooner you walk away, the sooner they’ll move on to their next ‘target’. 

Take a chill pill

We’re laid-back people despite things moving so quickly in Medina. Marrakech is a sensory overload, and it’s easy to get flustered. Remember to relax and enjoy the experience. If someone bumps into you, don’t take it personally. Just smile and keep moving.

Watch Out for Motorcycles

Because it’s so packed, motorcycles are the vehicle of choice for many people in Marrakech. They wizz through the narrow alleyways and get people to their destination much faster. They’re pretty noisy, so prepare yourself mentally for that. 

Be aware of your surroundings and stay out of the way. Note: They don’t always signal before turning. 

Ditch the Dictionary

There’s no reason to get anxious about the language barrier. You’ll be surprised that most Marrakechis speak basic English at least. You don’t need to learn French or Arabic. Even some of the older shopkeepers will negotiate in broken English.

Up in smoke

Practically everyone smokes in Marrakech. If you are sensitive to smoke, prepare yourself mentally for that. Medina smells like cigarettes mingled with spices, grilled meats, and exhaust fumes. If you are looking for a hookah, however, this is an experience you won’t get. They’re banned in Morocco. 

Prepare Physically

Now that you’re mentally ready for your visit, there’s the physical aspect you need to consider. While Medina isn’t a jungle or hiking adventure, these are some things I think you need to prepare physically.

Charge Your Pedometer

Most of your time exploring Marrakech Medina streets will be on foot. It’s a maze of winding alleyways and you’ll be walking for miles without realizing it. 

If you don’t lead an active lifestyle, I suggest getting more fit before your visit. 

Wear Something Reasonable

Forget fancy clothes and uncomfortable shoes. Opt for breathable fabrics that will keep you cool in the likely heat. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, with good arch support for all the uneven terrain. Also, make sure your wardrobe is modest—this is more important for females. 

Cash Up

While some shops accept credit cards, many vendors in the souks prefer cash. Bring Moroccan Dirham (MAD) and be prepared to haggle for the best prices. ATMs are available, but it’s always wise to have some cash on hand just in case.

Prepare Digitally

That last step of your preparation is digital. Here are my two tips for staying connected and using your devices to improve your Marrakech Medina experience. 

Get a SIM

Having a Moroccan SIM card will give you easy access to data and calls. This allows you to use maps and translation apps on the go, stay connected with loved ones back home, and make emergency calls if needed. And of course, post on social media. 

Download Digital Maps

The Medina’s labyrinthine layout can be overwhelming. Downloading offline maps before your trip will be a lifesaver. This way, you can navigate without relying on Wi-Fi, which I’ve always found to be spotty in some areas.

Experience the Marrakech Medina

So you’re ready to hop on a plane and finally arrive in Medina. It’s time to finally enjoy your stay because it’s a unique experience. 

Our Favorite Things to Do

The following are my favorite things to do in Medina, which I think are a basic requirement for any itinerary. These are the best things to do in the old city:

Have a Hammam Experience

You may have had massages and spa days, but a traditional Moroccan hammam is a whole other experience.

Get into a steam room, where you’ll have a black soap scrub and an invigorating massage. It’s a cultural experience and a great way to relax after a day of exploration.

Jemaa el-Fnaa

Jemaa el-Fnaa

This is the beating heart of Medina. This bustling square is a feast for the senses, filled with snake charmers, acrobats, street food stalls, and vibrant displays of local crafts. I love the sunset here, as the energy truly comes alive. 

House of Photography

If you’re into history, this is a unique way to catch a glimpse into the city’s past. I love the vintage photographs that capture the essence of old Marrakech and its people. It’s a fascinating way to understand the city’s rich history.

Lap of Luxury

Regardless of where you intend to stay for the duration of your trip, try to budget for a lap of luxury. Splurge on a stay at a luxurious Riad.

These traditional Moroccan mansions boast stunning courtyards, intricate tilework, and opulent décor.  I’d personally opt for the riads with rooftop terraces and breathtaking views of the Medina.  

Beyond the Wall

Marrakech isn’t all history. Venture beyond the ancient walls of the Medina to discover Marrakech’s modern side. This isn’t exactly the Medina experience, but I feel it must be included.

Explore the Gueliz district, a vibrant hub with trendy cafes, upscale boutiques showcasing contemporary Moroccan design, and bustling art galleries. Here, you’ll find a different side of Marrakech, where tradition meets contemporary flair.

Majorelle Gardens

Majorelle Gardens

Craving a moment of tranquility? Escape the Medina’s hustle and bustle at the enchanting Majorelle Gardens.

I love to wander through vibrant walkways lined with exotic plants. The cobalt blue central building never ceases to amaze me, and I always find a quiet spot to relax by the reflecting pool.

Other Gardens

Marrakech boasts several beautiful gardens beyond the Majorelle. Seek serenity at the peaceful Menara Gardens or explore the historic Agdal Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Souk-venir shop

Get lost in the labyrinthine souks, the vibrant heart of Marrakech’s commerce. I always love to browse the endless overflowing stalls.

Here, you’ll find everything that you could take home as a souvenir: spices, leather goods, carpets, and handcrafted treasures. Remember to haggle for the best price and embrace the lively atmosphere.

The Palaces

Step back in time and explore Marrakech’s opulent palaces. Be amazed by the intricate tilework, intricate carvings, and vast courtyards of Bahia Palace, or wander the sprawling grounds of the El Badi Palace, once a symbol of Saadian power.

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa

If you want to see more Islamic architecture, this former Quranic school is a great place to visit.

Among the intricate stuccowork and cedarwood carvings, you’ll be immersed in this historical landmark. It’s a great way to explore Marrakech’s rich educational heritage. Did I mention that the Madrasa has the world’s largest courtyard pool? 

Food and Drink

Like I always say, one of the best ways to truly understand any culture is through their food. And we Moroccans are exceptionally great cooks.

Most people who walk the streets of Medina will tell you that the smells and aromas of delicious food are enough to fill you up. Getting lost in the labyrinthine streets of the Medina can be magical in itself, but following the scent of spices will lead you to an even more magical experience.

My suggestion is to follow your nose and wind down to the street food that looks most appealing to you. Here’s a guide on how to experience Moroccan cuisine and other culinary adventures in Medina.  

Street Food

Marrakech medina street food

Needless to say, the real magic of Marrakech lies in its street food. Wandering the Medina, your senses will be bombarded with delicious aromas – smoky grilled meats, fragrant spices, and freshly baked treats.

Each bite is an adventure, a chance to savor authentic Moroccan flavors at a fraction of the price.  So ditch the map, follow your nose, and embark on a culinary journey through the heart of the city! 

Khalid’s Omelet

This is one of my favorite places to have breakfast. It’s a flavor explosion and very budget-friendly at 10 DIrhams. It’s like a breakfast sandwich with fluffy eggs and tender potatoes seasoned well and topped with olives and cheese.

Everything is held together with pillowy bread, and I feel it represents what most of us Moroccans would do in Medina when on the go. 

Rahba Kedima Bessara Soup

This is another breakfast option you’ve got to try. It’s hearty and budget-friendly but full of flavor. For only 5 dirhams, you get a fava bean soup drizzled with aromatic olive oil and traditional bread. This is a vegetarian option, but it’s a pretty common breakfast we have here. 

Magic Bread

This street food masterpiece starts with warm, pillowy khobz bread. Inside, a symphony of flavors awaits sizzling, spiced meats, melted cheese, and a perfectly fried egg.

Each bite is an explosion of textures – crispy meat, gooey cheese, and fluffy bread – all tied together with a symphony of warming spices.  For just 12 dirhams, it’s a delicious and satisfying lunch that will leave you wondering where the magic comes from!

Coffee, Juice, and Snacks

Moroccan cuisine is not just about food, we’ve got a lot of beverages and snacks that are delicious. 

Mint Tea

In the heart of the bustling Medina, a steaming glass of Moroccan mint tea is a moment of pure refreshment.  The first sip hits you with a wave of cool mint and a touch of sweetness, a perfect pick-me-up as you explore the labyrinthine alleyways. 

Watch the locals pour the tea from a height, creating a frothy layer, and enjoy the sweet, minty aroma that fills the air. It’s a simple pleasure that captures the essence of our hospitality.

Fun Fact Story

Legend has it that we Moroccans (and other Berbers) pour our tea from so high because we started the tradition in the desert.

Supposedly, the thick foam layer that forms is useful in filtering out the sand and other dust particles. You can simply scrape off the foam and enjoy your tea sans sand. These days, we take it as a sign of respect. 

Avocado smoothies

You’d expect that most of the beverages served in Marrakech’s old town have a rich history behind them. But we also have a few modern tricks up our sleeve. Milk and avocados come together to be sweetened by dates and create a refreshing concoction. I love this drink, especially with nuts on top. 

Bacha Coffee

Housed within the ornate Dar El Bacha Palace, this historic cafe boasts an extravagant atmosphere. Indulge in single-origin brews from around the globe, or even try the infamous civet poop coffee – all at a price that reflects the luxurious experience.

Ice Cream at the Mamounia

Escape the Marrakech heat with a scoop of exquisite ice cream at the Mamounia Hotel. This prestigious establishment offers a cool oasis amidst the bustling city. 

Indulge in unique flavors and a rich, creamy texture – a decadent way to end a day of exploration, all for a surprisingly reasonable price.


Last but not least, these are a few restaurants I felt are worth mentioning. While they aren’t the typical touristy places, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy the food. 

Snack Grand Atlas

Forget fancy restaurants!  At Snack Grand Atlas, the friendly staff from Essaouira feel like family. Their fresh seafood dishes are always a delight, bursting with flavor and light on your wallet. Just south of Jemaa El Fnaa, it’s my go-to spot for a quick and delicious midday refuel.

Café Clock

Café Clock

The Kasbah is a maze of hidden gems, but Café Clock is my happy place. Sunsets from their rooftop terrace are magical, and their avocado juice is the ultimate refresher. I love their camel burger – surprisingly delicious and perfect for sharing with a travel buddy (or not, I won’t judge!).

Amal Women’s Training Center

Looking for a heartwarming experience outside Medina?  The Amal Women’s Training Center is a must. The food is delicious and prepared with love by students in a supportive program. You’re not just getting a home-cooked meal; you’re supporting a great cause!


Naranj isn’t your average restaurant—it’s a culinary adventure! The menu changes daily, but their Fatet Batinjan—a layered masterpiece of ground beef, tomato, creamy yogurt, and crispy pita—is legendary. It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s perfect for a special occasion or if you’re feeling like a true foodie!


Marrakech is a sensory explosion. With a little planning and this guide, you’ll be bargaining for treasures in the souks, getting pampered in a hammam, and savoring the most incredible street food you’ve ever tasted.

This is a city that will stay with you long after you leave, a place where memories are made around every corner.