Exploring Marrakech: Top Things to Do in the Jewel of Morocco

There’s a lot to see and do in Morocco, even for a local. Although I’m from the Southern part of Morocco, the energy in Marrakech is palpable.

After visiting the bustling heart of Morocco as a tourist several times, I think I’m qualified to guide you through the best things to do in Marrakech.

17 Things To Do in Marrakech

The moment I arrived in Marrakech, I understood the allure of this imperial city. It’s a place exploding with color, sound, and even smells.

The air is full of energy—a stark contrast to the arid Sahara desert you picture when you think of Morocco. So here are a few things you might want to consider adding to your itinerary.

Explore Jemaa El Fnaa Palace

Jemaa El Fnaa Palace 

While this is a public square rather than a palace, there’s a monumental palace in the vicinity. Yet, I can say I barely noticed it when I first visited. The square pulsated from dawn to dusk—like a symphony of senses that left me enchanted. 

There are snake charmers, acrobats, food stalls, and orange juice practically everywhere. While it may seem chaotic, there’s a welcoming energy. Of course, it helps that I speak the language. 

Maybe it was the warm, fragrant cinnamon and saffron, but I know I had a lot of fun here. You can’t go wrong with a cup of mint tea, and be sure to haggle if anything catches your eye! There are handwoven rugs, spices, and many more souvenirs you’ll find.

Visit El Badi Palace

El Badi Palace 

I always say that the best way to connect with a city’s rich history is to visit historical landmarks. El Badi Palace stands like a magnificent skeleton, a haunting reminder of Marrakech’s opulent past.

Erosion has exposed the red clay brick beneath its former grandeur, yet there’s a strange beauty in its decay.

I enjoyed exploring the ruins where there were once beautifully extravagant courtyards. While the extravagant decorations are gone, the panoramic views from the ramparts remain. Gazing out at the bustling medina and the distant Atlas Mountains is a sight I’ll never forget. 

Visit the Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque

This is a spiritual anchor in the heart of Marrakech, towering over the city and calling Muslims to pray five times a day. The majestic silhouette of the minaret is stunning against the sunset sky.

Although I was able to enter the mosque, I must warn you that non-Muslims aren’t allowed inside (unlike many other mosques in Morocco and elsewhere). 

Still, the architectural beauty of the mosque is well appreciated from the outside. The Koutoubia Mosque may not be open to all, but its beauty and spiritual significance are undeniable.

Go to Menara Gardens

Menara Gardens

Of all the things to see in Marrakech, this is one place that amazes me. The rest of the city can feel like a vibrant assault on the senses, so I understand the concept behind these tranquil gardens. It’s a haven that I find no words can accurately describe.

Emerald olive groves line a still reflecting pool, the distant melody of birdsong the only disruption. On my first visit, I wandered through the serene landscape, the cool shade a welcome respite from the midday sun.

Locals picnicked under the trees, families strolled hand-in-hand, and the air carried the delicate scent of orange blossoms. I’ve always heard the legend that it was once a royal retreat, a place for reflection and rejuvenation.

Whether that’s true or not, the Menara Gardens offer a breath of fresh air. It’s a chance to reconnect with nature amidst the urban jungle of Marrakech.

Explore Majorelle Garden

Majorelle Garden

Marrakech is a city steeped in tradition, but it also embraces artistic expression. French artist Jacques Majorelle created these gardens. Imagine my delight when I first wandered through its cobalt-blue walls! 

The gardens are full of color and botanical wonder. Cacti of all shapes and sizes reach for the sky, their prickly silhouettes contrasting with the delicate fronds of ferns. The air hums with the buzz of bees flitting between vibrant blooms, and a sense of serenity wash over you. 

But the story doesn’t end with Majorelle. Fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé fell in love with the garden, rescuing it from neglect. Their influence is felt in the Berber art collection housed on-site, a nod to Morocco’s rich cultural heritage. 

Visit Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Nice souks, bustling squares, and majestic gardens aside, there’s a lot more to Marrakech’s history to explore. It’s a city that brought together great minds during the Islamic Golden Age. 

I loved exploring the restored student dormitory rooms, with exhibits depicting student life during that time. You’ll see inkwells, calligraphy tools, and even worn prayer beads. There’s a lot to see, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of respect for the scholars of long ago. 

Stay in a Traditional Riad

Traditional Riad

For the majority of my visit, I stayed in lavish hotels. If you want to get the full Marrakech experience, you’ve got to stay in a traditional Moroccan house (a riad). Luckily, I visited a friend who was generous enough to ask me to stay the night. 

Riads typically have a central courtyard, and I have no doubt you’ll love spending cool nights relaxing in that sanctuary. Sunlight filtered through the intricate latticework overhead, illuminating the vibrant mosaic tiles beneath my feet.

But the riad’s charm wasn’t just about the aesthetics. The warmth of Moroccan hospitality truly shines through.

I was greeted like a family: with mint tea and local pastries upon arrival. Most of my foreign friends enjoy spending time with riad owners and listening to stories about Marrakech’s rich history.

Dine on a Rooftop

The magic of Marrakech unfolds not just on its bustling streets, but also above them. Dining on a rooftop terrace is an experience that combines the city’s vibrant energy with breathtaking panoramic views.

There are many rooftop restaurants to choose from, but my favorite view was from Dardar Marrakech. They serve traditional Moroccan cuisine, and I thoroughly enjoyed my tagine with the city lights twinkling below. 

Shop at the Souks

Haggling is an experience that I consider a must-do in Marrakech. Marrakech’s winding souks are a feast for the senses and a test for your bargaining skills. It might feel overwhelming at first, but I promise the vibrant souk will be an exhilarating experience. 

I spent hours getting lost (and occasionally found) as I wandered through the specialized sections – the clatter of metal in the blacksmith’s souk, the intoxicating scent of leather in the tanneries, and the dazzling array of slippers in the babouche souk.

Sure, I might have ended up with a few trinkets I don’t necessarily need, but that’s part of the charm of the souks. These souvenirs are more than just mementos; they’re tangible reminders of the vibrant culture, the warmth of the people, and the exhilarating experience I had. 

Get Lost in the Medina


Until you set foot in the labyrinth that is Marrakech’s medina, you won’t fully understand how easy it is to get lost in the alleyways.

But while there are plenty of guides on how to navigate the medina, I think that wandering around until you’re lost is the best way to experience this part of the city. 

Getting lost in Medina was an exercise in embracing the unexpected. There’s a hidden magic in this chaotic action, which allowed me to discover a lot more than I would have with an organized map.

I found a hole-in-the-wall eatery serving steaming bowls of harira soup, a hidden courtyard bathed in dappled sunlight, and much more. These unexpected discoveries wouldn’t have happened if I’d stuck to a rigid map.

Tour the Maison de la Photographie

Maison de la Photographie

I wanted to explore more of the city’s history, and the Maison de la Photographie was the perfect discovery. It’s like a time capsule for the city’s past.

You could spend hours enthralled by the black and white photographs on this museum’s walls. I loved the bustling market scenes from the early 20th century, capturing the traditional dress and daily life of Moroccans.

Starkly beautiful landscapes showcased the dramatic peaks of the Atlas Mountains and the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert. The museum also offered a glimpse into Berber culture and the people’s unique way of life,  which is documented through captivating portraits.

Explore Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace

Stepping through the ornate entrance gate of this historical landmark, I was transported to a world of intricate details and lavish design.

The palace is a sprawling complex of riads. Imagine courtyards adorned with colorful zellige tiles, their geometric patterns reflecting the midday sun.

Cedarwood ceilings, intricately carved with swirling arabesques, whispered stories of skilled artisans.

The central courtyard, the heart of the palace, is a vision of opulence. A shimmering pool mirrors the cloudless sky, while fragrant orange trees fill the air with a delightful citrus scent.

Camp in the Agafay Desert

Agafay Desert

If you’re looking for outdoor activities in Marrakech, a short journey away lies a contrasting landscape – the stark beauty of the Agafay Desert.

This was nothing like the sandy dunes of the Sahara that I am used to. The Agafay boasts a rocky plateau with a unique ecosystem of resilient plants and cacti. Trust me, you won’t regret trading the bustle of the medina with a night of stargazing.

I highly recommend going on a camel ride because gentle swaying is a traditional method of exploring the rugged terrain. My experience was unforgettable, to say the least.

The Berber guides, their faces weathered by the desert sun, shared stories and legends passed down through generations, weaving a tapestry of myth and astronomy.

As I sat around a crackling campfire, sipping fragrant mint tea and listening to the haunting melody of desert music, I felt a deep connection to nature and the vastness of the universe. 

Go to the Atlas Mountains

Atlas Mountains

For a short day trip, I chose to go hiking in Atlas mountains, after seeing it so often from the city day in and day out. Luckily, I visited during the spring, and the weather was nice. My guide told me that the winter can bring extreme weather at higher altitudes. 

If you aren’t sure of your fitness level, there are plenty of beginner-level day trips. No matter how you choose to experience the Atlas Mountains, you’re sure to be captivated by their beauty, culture, and fresh mountain air.

Explore Saadian Tombs

Saadian Tombs

Marrakech boasts a wealth of historical landmarks, but for an experience that’s both intriguing and beautiful, a visit to the Saadian Tombs is a must. Hidden for centuries and only rediscovered in the 1920s, these mausoleums offer a glimpse into the Saadian dynasty’s opulent past.

The most opulent tomb belongs to Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour, the flamboyant ruler of the Saadian dynasty. His mausoleum, a masterpiece of Moroccan craftsmanship, features intricate tilework and a beautifully carved cedarwood sarcophagus.

Admire Le Jardin Secret

Le Jardin Secret

This haven isn’t a palace or a grand monument but a peaceful riad-turned-garden offering a welcome respite from the city’s energy.

Fragrant orange blossom trees perfume the air, while aromatic herbs like mint and rosemary add a touch of freshness. The gentle murmur of water and the chirping of birds create a symphony of nature, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle just outside the walls. I loved to relax and sip on a steaming cup of mint tea at the on-site cafe.

Relax at a Hammam

Of all the Marrakech attractions, I can say that relaxing at a hammam was an experience I won’t forget. I left this for the last day so that I could truly unwind and rejuvenate. 

After a good sweat, it’s time for the hammam’s star treatment – the black soap scrub. A skilled attendant, known as a “naffa”, will use a special mitt to remove dead skin cells, leaving your skin feeling incredibly smooth and refreshed.

Things Not To Do in Marrakech

Now that you know what to do in Marrakech, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind to avoid running into problems there. 

Not Being Patient

Marrakech isn’t a city built for hurried sightseeing. Haggling in the souks, sipping mint tea with a friendly vendor, and getting lost in the labyrinthine medina all take time. Embrace the slower pace, savor the moment, and you’ll discover the city’s hidden magic.

Staying up Late at Night

Marrakech does come alive at night, with bustling squares and lively restaurants. However, compared to some Western cities, nightlife tends to start and end earlier. For safety, it’s better not to stay up. 


This city pulsates with a life of its own. Haggle for treasures, get lost in the labyrinth, and unwind under a sky dusted with stars. Marrakech isn’t just a place to visit; it’s a kaleidoscope of experiences waiting to be embraced: