Marrakech is, also spelled as Marrakesh, is the fourth largest city in Morocco. It is also the capital of the mid-southwestern Marrakesh-Safi region. Flanked by the snow-capped peaks of Atlas Mountains on the north, Marrakech is located on the crossroads of Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, and Agadir.
Inhabited by the Berber tribes of Morocco since the Neolithic times, Marrakech is probably the most popular of all four Imperial Cities. Tourism is always booming here, which means the hotels, cozy restaurants, and tourist attractions are abound in the city.
Nicknamed as “Ochre City” or “Red City”, Marrakech is famous for its various buildings and the walls that were built in red sandstone during the reign of Ali ibn Yusuf in 1122–1123.
With the busiest square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) in Africa, Marrakech has long been the cultural, religious, and trading center of Maghreb and Sub-Africa. Like many other Moroccan cities, Marrakech also has an old fortified city inside known as the Medina. It is also the home to the largest market in the kingdom.
Wild life is yet another main attraction in the city that draws tourist from all over the world to come here and feed the Barbary macaques. Snakes can also be seen in several parts of the city. Crafts employ a significant percentage of the population, who primarily sell their products to tourists. You are sure going to find yourself a lot of souvenirs!
The city can be overwhelming and vast to cover in a few days, therefore, in this article we have listed only the best tourist attractions around the city. At the end of the article, will be a complete list to explore and create your personalized itinerary.
Marrakech Old Medina
If you are in one of the Moroccan cities with an old fortified city in its heart, you just can’t afford to miss it. Reflecting the long history of Marrakech is its medina with several archaic architectural masterpieces, including the pinkish ramparts and gates, the 77-meter high Koutoubia mosque, Africa’s busiest square of Djemaa El-Fna, and once the largest Islamic college of Ben Youssef Madrasa.
Due to its historical significance, the medina has the status of UNESCO World Heritage.
There are many other reasons to visit the medina. The lined-up African spice shops offer an aromatic experience. Mounts and mounts of spices can be seen – some in orange, some in red, and others in white or yellow. The labyrinthine medina echoes in the sounds of prayer and Moroccan instruments. You can see donkey carts being pulled through the narrow lanes, the locals bargaining over spices, and vendors attracting tourists to buy their tourist trinkets or carpets. Fragrant gardens and courtyards offer a relaxing place to sit down and absorb the Moroccan life.
There are multiple tearooms and rooftop terraces that offer delicious food and a vantage point to have a panoramic view of the medina, the Atlas Mountains, and the Koutoubia Mosque.
Repeating colorful patterns change from street to street, creating an artistic view to savor and admire. Palais de la Bahia is a must visit in the medina.
Museum Yves Saint Laurent
If you are a fashion fanatic, then Marrakech has a surprise for you. Located in Ville Nouvelle, this captivating museum holds the 40-year history of the fashion house. It exhibits woven fabrics in an aesthetically warped building designed by Studio KO. The building holds a 150-seat auditorium, a research library, a bookstore, and a terrace café.
You are a culture or fashion buff, you are likely to spend more than an afternoon here. The museum opens at 10 am and closes at 6 pm. It is opens 6 days a week bar Wednesdays. The ticket will cost you Dh100 per head.
Museum of Marrakech
Nestled in the central souks of the city, this museum showcases the art and craft forms of Morocco. Once the decadent salons of Mnebhi Palace, the museum in itself is a grand place worth a visit. The classic zellige tilework and their colorful pattern carry the lineage of typical Moroccan architecture. Cedar archways, tinted-glass windows, intricately painted door panels, and Fes ceramics together create an exquisite view.
Though the kitchen and hammam areas have simpler interiors, they are still quite stunning.
Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa
In the periphery of the museum in the central souks, this opulent Quranic learning center is found. Its festooned gateway is inscribed with “You who enter my door, may your highest hopes be exceeded.” Though six centuries old, the madrasa continues to be one of the most exquisite sites in the city. Many tourists and locals flock to the place to see its magical blessings work.
The Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa is currently closed for renovation.
Maison de la Photographie
An exhibition of 4500 photographs, 2000 glass negatives, and 80 documents dating from 1870 to 1950, the Maison de la Photographie is a fascinating place for photography and history enthusiasts. All the photographs on display were clicked by Parisian Patrick Menac’h and Marrakshi Hamid Mergani, who repatriated the material together and decided to put it on display. The collection is so vast, it fills three floors. The Maison also showcases a rare, colored documentary shot in 1957 Morocco.
Most works are editioned prints of the original and are put on sale.
The Cactus Sea
On the outskirts of Marrakech, you will find a 17-acre farm with one of the world’s largest cacti standing tall and green. The field is one of the many hidden gems of the city. The experience of walking past cacti taller than you and sometimes even double your height, is not only surreal but also hard to find elsewhere. This little-known site is also Africa’s largest cactus farm. A sublime view of Atlas Mountains gives the farms a wonderful backdrop.
While these top our list, there are many more sites to explore in and around Marrakech.
- El Badi Palace
- Royal Palace
- Koutoubia Mosque
- Kasbah Mosque
- Mouassine Mosque
- Saadian Tombs
- Tombs of the Seven Saints
- Dar Si Said Museum
- Museum of Islamic Art
- Menara gardens
- Agdal Gardens