The 10 Best Things to do in Marrakech, Morocco & A Two Day Marrakech Itinerary
Updated August 2023, The 10 Best Things to do in Marrakech, Morocco & A Two Day Marrakech Itinerary was originally published in May 2022
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably remember that I was less than amused with Marrakech but don’t let that stop you from visiting the frenetic Moroccan city. No one’s quite sure the meaning of the city’s name as in Berber, Marra-kech means the land of god but in Arabic Marra-kech translates to pass by quickly (I think the Arabic phrase rang more true in my experience, as in ‘get the hell out of here asap’).
All jokes (and whining on my part aside), Marrakech is an attractive city and boasts a lot of things to do, just fair warning, I can’t guarantee what level of cat-calling, street harassment, or scams you’ll encounter (Marrakech is famous for all of the above and no we weren’t running around with much flesh showing).
One thing that Marrakech undeniably is is sensory overload, for better or for worse. I think every sense will be stimulated from the scents of the souk (and the stink of the tanneries), the vibrant colors, mouthwatering flavors, bustling sounds (and yelling- mostly at you sexy lady), to the sites of beautiful architecture.
So, continue on to read up on the best things to do in Marrakech, Morocco.
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Things to do in Marrakech
Two Day Marrakech Itinerary: Day 1
You can’t come to Marrakech expecting to properly see the city and not visit the Medina (old city), it’s an absolute must (fair warning, you may hate it too). But losing yourself in the Marrakech Medina is a must (trust me, you’ll be lost most of the time).
The Medina is a labyrinth of narrow winding streets meandering past stalls wafting the scent of spices, where local traders converge and pass by with the beaconing echo of the call to prayer ringing. With that said, you may as well toss your map and put your phone back in your pocket because you will probably find yourself lost in these walls even with them (plus it helps you not stand out as a lost tourist to the tours that will be lurking everywhere).
I would recommend heading up to one of the rooftop cafes in the Medina to watch the hustle and bustle from above.
Medina Tips: Anyone who approaches you offering to help you if you are lost is going to demand money (even if they say ‘no money’ a common hustle is to then hand you off to a ‘friend’ because they suddenly realized they had to be somewhere who will then bring you somewhere that usually wasn’t your intended destination and demand a ridiculous amount of money).
Also, anyone who rocks up to you saying ‘this way is closed’ is lying, just ignore them and keep walking.
Another thing I noticed (and this is why I said to put your phone away earlier) is that even using offline GPS maps like Maps.me wasn’t the most useful, especially in areas with narrow mudbrick walls as the GPS couldn’t accurately ping where you’re at (kind of similar to being in a narrow canyon).
Djama el Fnna
At the heart of the Medina is Djama el Fnna, Marrakech’s main square, and is best enjoyed at sunset and in the evening. Here you can find stalls selling just about anything, juices, and fast food. You’ll also be among countless a snake charmer and other rambling salesmen.
Djama el Fnna Tips: Look out for the guys with monkeys (or other small animals) who will essentially lob these poor critters at and onto you and then snap a few photos with your phone, and the young women who will grab your hand without even saying hi and begin drawing a henna tattoo on you before you’ve even realized what that wet goo is on your skin.
These people will all demand insane amounts of money. The henna trick happened to my friend Geena who said screw it and went along with it and when I asked how much the woman demanded $60 USD! I also watched Geena (who generally is scared of most animals) get chased around Djama el Fnna by one of the monkey guys who kept trying to throw the monkey at her.
Also, beware of pickpockets, they do frequent this area.
Marrakech Medina Souks
The Marrakech Medina is a maze of souks at its core. Here are some of the best ones to have a wander around.
Located just off of Djama el Fnna, Souk Semmarine is an amalgamation of everything that is Marrakech. Enjoy traipsing past the glimmering lamp shops, bright textiles on display, and the scent of perfume stalls and spices for sale.
Souk Place des Epices
Just a little further into the Medina from Souk Semmarine, you will eventually arrive in shops and stalls with mountainous tables piled high with fragrant herbs and spices in Souk Place des Epices.
Souk des Teinturiers
One of the most colorful corners of the Medina souks is Souk des Teinturiers. Here you’ll find brightly colored strands of dyed wools hanging just about everywhere and pots and bowls of colored dye that run the gamut of every tint under the sun.
Tips for the souks: Haggling and bargaining are not just normal but expected when shopping in souks in Marrakech and Morocco in general. It’s also not uncommon for shopkeepers to approach you and try to hustle you into buying something, so if you don’t want it, give it a firm no. Also, be careful looking at an item for too long as you pass by- me and my friend Geena did this walking past a lamp shop and the shopkeeper picked up Geena and put her into the shop, like weird flex but ok dude.
Though it can be a fetid experience, visiting a tannery in Marrakech is a great way to see an interesting Moroccan handicraft tradition. The techniques used to make leather in these tanneries remain unchanged from their beginnings during medieval times.
The tanneries are best viewed from above, giving you a glimpse of the countless vats used for dipping the leather. The vats are filled with lemon mixed with bird and dog poo- the cause of the unpleasant stench emanating from the tannery.
Tannery Tips: Buy a sprig (or three!) of Moroccan mint before entering the tannery area and keep the wad of mint leaves pressed against your nose to avoid the stink wafting through the air.
Anyone offering to take you to the tannery or claiming that it’s a special event that is only happening today is going to ask for money to take you there.
Ben Youssef Madrasa
14th century Ben Youssef Madrasa was once the largest Islamic learning center in all of North Africa, though the madrasa didn’t get its glamorous overhaul that it’s known for today until the 16th century under the Saadian era. You’ll probably want at least an hour to hear to truly take in the madrasa in all its glory and appreciate its ornate architecture.
Ben Youssef Madrasa Info: Entry to Ben Youssef Madrasa is 20 MAD per person, but note that the madrasa has been closed since 2018 for extensive renovations with no reopening date set quite yet.
Two Day Marrakech Itinerary: Day 2
Designed by Jacques Majorelle, the creator of the color Marjorelle blue, this blue house in his signature color is surrounded by a beautiful garden. The property was later purchased by famous designer Yves Saint Laurent who restored the then disheveled house back to its original form.
Full disclosure- I didn’t visit the Jardin Majorelle (at least the inside anyway). There was an insanely long line when I arrived around 10 am and decided that I didn’t want to waste that much of my day waiting to get in.
Jardin Majorelle Tips: The entry fee for Jardin Marjorelle is 70 MAD. The Yves Saint Laurent Museum that is also onsite is an additional 30 MAD. I would recommend turning up when the garden opens at 8 am to avoid a long line.
Jardin Marjorelle is located in ‘New Marrakech’ to the northwest of the Medina. If you plan to visit first thing in the morning as recommended and want to continue onto Bahia Palace afterward you may want to grab a taxi (or use Uber-like apps such as Heech or Roby) as they are quite far from one another.
Bahia Palace dates back to the late 19th century with construction beginning under Si Musa, the grand vizier to the sultan of Morocco with a hope of being the grandest palace ever built.
The courtyards of Bahia Palace feel like an oasis, some strewn with orange trees, and decorated with colorful tiles and intricate wood carvings. Bahia Palace boasts 150 different rooms spread over 8 hectares but only a portion is open to the public.
Bahia Palace is located about a 20 minute walk south of Djama el Fnna Square, so a little ways away but not too far.
Bahia Palace entry fee: 70 MAD
Other things to check out on the south side of Marrakech: Take a stroll from Bahia Palace after you’re finished admiring its beautiful architecture across Rue Bahia Bab Mellah to explore the Mellah Jewish Quarter, and from there, a short jaunt to the west will bring you to the ruined Badi Palace.
The popular (and delicious) restaurant Un Déjeuner à Marrakech is located close to Bahia Palace as well.
The Saadian Tombs are a royal necropolis located just outside the walls of the Marrakech Medina to the southeast (basically in between Bahia Palace and Koutoubia Mosque). The tombs are considered to be one of the greatest architectural pieces from the Saadia era.
Saadian Tomb entry fee: 70 MAD.
Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakech and is located right off of Djama el Fnna Square. The famous square-shaped minaret is impossible to miss with its intricated details and beautiful tiling.
Koutoubia Mosque Tip: Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter Koutoubia Mosque so it can only be appreciated from the outside. This goes the same for almost all mosques in Morocco as well.
Bonus Marrakech Itinerary: Day 3
Have more time to devote to visiting Marrakech? There are many day trips (and overnight trips) that can be done from Marrakech. Here are some of the best ones to consider tacking onto your two day Marrakech itinerary.
- Ourika Valley: Located less than an hour from Marrakech, Ourika Valley is the perfect city break that allows for getting out into nature and much more lush landscapes.
- Oukaimeden: Did you know that you can go skiing in Morocco less than two hours from Marrakech? Welcome to Oukaimeden, which is home to a small ski resort that’s typically open from January to April.
- Imlil: If you’re looking for a sweet escape from Marrakech, little Imlil, nestled in the Atlas Mountain’s Toubkal National Park makes a perfect day or overnight trip from the city. At only 90 minutes by car from Marrakech, it’s one of the few escapes that doesn’t require a long driving day.
- Ouirgane Valley: Looking for somewhere slower-paced? The Ouirgane Valley is the perfect place to visit to get a taste of Berber Atlas Mountain life and at only 90 minutes from Marrakech, it’s a perfect day trip.
- Ouzoud Waterfalls: A great day trip option, albeit somewhat a long time spent in the car there and back. Ouzoud Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Africa.
- Agafay Desert: While not nearly as impressive as the desert ergs further afield, the Agafay Desert can be reached from Marrakech in under an hour making it the best option for travelers wanting to visit a desert landscape as a day trip from Marrakech
- Ait Ben Haddou: An ancient kasbah sat on the edge of the Sahara that served as a main stop along the caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech, Ait Ben Haddou has UNESCO World Heritage status, though it’s most famous for serving as a movie set for well-known films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. Note that it is located about four hours drive from Marrakech so is quite far. It is typically an included stop on most of the 2-3 day Merzouga tours.
- Zagora Desert: For those with enough time to eek an overnight trip in from Marrakech, the Zagora Desert can be a good option, though don’t expect the desert to be nearly as pretty as Merzouga so just your expectations accordingly.
- Merzouga (Sahara Desert): While it is possible to visit Merzouga as an overnight trip from Marrakech, I only would recommend it for those that have 2 nights and 3 days to spare as it is located 8 hours from Marrakech. The 2 night/3 day tours include stops at several cool places and a desert camp in Merzouga (the night skies out here are phenomenal!).
- Essaouira: If a beach break is what you desire, a day or overnight trip to the whitewashed coastal city of Essaouira is in order. If visiting as a day trip get an early start as Essaouira is about 2.5 hours from Marrakech by road.
- Agadir: At 3 hours from Marrakech, Agadir is the perfect spot to head as a day trip or overnight for those that want to get in a little sunbathing or even surfing.
- Casablanca: A three hours drive to the north will bring you to the world-famous coastal city of Casablanca, though there is a lot to see so at least overnight or more would be best, though with an early start and an aggressive plan you can pack in a lot in Casablanca in one day.
What to Eat (and Drink) in Marrakech
Mint Tea: It would be impossible to step food in Marrakech (or the whole of Morocco that matter) and not have a glass of mint tea. Many Moroccans will jokingly call it ‘Moroccan whiskey’. I’ve had many a glass of mint tea in countries around the Middle East and North Africa and can attest that the Moroccans do it the best.
Tagine: Another Moroccan staple that would be criminal to not try while visiting the country. The dish is a slow-cooked stew of meat (chicken, beef, or fish are common), vegetables, and spices (saffron, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon are popular), named after the conical-shaped earthenware vessel it’s cooked and served in.
Couscous: You have more than likely heard of couscous as it’s well known all over the world. It’s made of semolina and is commonly served with veggies and/or meat on Fridays (we found couscous difficult to find any other day of the week).
Harira: A tomato-based soup with lamb and lentils, spiced with turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. A common iftar dish during Ramadan.
Zalouk: A delicious spiced ‘salad’ of eggplant and tomato, though it’s typically served as a dip alongside flatbread.
Bessara: A common breakfast dish, bessara can be served as a soup or as a dip and is a mixture of fave beans, garlic, cumin, paprika, and olive oil.
B’stilla: A Moroccan meat pie made with a thin pastry similar to phyllo.
Halwa Chebakia: A cookie made of dough from ground sesame and saffron, cinnamon, and anise that is coated in honey.
Take a Moroccan Cooking Class
Morocco is a cuisine powerhouse with a delicious cooking style of its own that has had influences from France and Spain melded into it over the centuries. For those that have the time to spare, I would recommend taking a Moroccan cooking course on your trip so that you can take some of your favorite Moroccan dishes home with you.
A Few Good Restaurants to Try in Marrakech
- Un Déjeuner à Marrakech
- Dar Moha
- Cafe Snack Larousse
- Henna Art Cafe
Where to Stay in Marrakech
Traditional riads are the way to go in Marrakech and offer one of the best accommodation experiences you can have. The three I stayed at that we absolutely loved were Riad Les Jardin LaaRouss (also called Bougainvillea Riad), Riad Chams, and Riad La Famille. These are all more on the budget-midrange price for riads in Marrakech.
For those wanting to go all-out, Riad Yasmine and La Mamounia are clear favorites as they are the two most famous accommodations in Marrakech.
Travel hack: If you want to take the insta-famous shot at the La Mamounia indoor pool and can’t afford a night at the hotel you can supposedly get a day pass to visit the pool and spa for 1,600 MAD (about $170 USD), though there isn’t anything that officially mentions it on their website. To me that can’t be possibly worth spending 1,600 MAD but maybe to some of you reading it is.
How to Get to and Around in Marrakech
Thankfully, Marrakech is well connected with an international airport linking the city to other cities around the world, as well as trains and roads that connect Marrakech with cities around Morocco.
Getting around in Marrakech is a cinch as you can easily reach all the locations in the Medina on foot.
Want to rent a car and road trip Morocco? It’s a lot easier than you may think! Check out rental car deals in Morocco on RentalCars.com and read my South Morocco Road Trip Itinerary to help you plan your very own Moroccan road trip adventure.
The Best Time to Visit Marrakech
The best months of the year to visit Marrakech are the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) as temperatures are comfortable for strolling around the city. Winter (December to February) isn’t a bad time to visit Marrakech either, especially if you want to get in some time skiing in the nearby Atlas Mountains. Finally, summer (June-August) is best avoided due to extreme heat.
Safety in Marrakech
With the usual precautions, you’ll likely have a perfectly safe time in Marrakech, just be prepared for the incessant scam attempts and touts which aren’t really dangers just annoyances. Do be aware of your surroundings at all times as pickpocketing isn’t uncommon, especially in areas frequented by tourists. Women will more than likely face cat-calling.
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