Things to do in Marrakech (and what to avoid)
Marrakech is one of the most evocative places in the world. Just the name conjures up images of a melting pot of red sandstone buildings, dusty streets, ancient medinas, vibrant souqs and exotic entertainment. All this set against a backdrop of the High Atlas Mountains and deep blue skies. There are so many things to do in Marrakech and you may well want to squeeze much of it into a short weekend break. It’s impossible to see it all in such a short time so to help you plan your visit to Marrakech, we’ve put together our view on what to hit and what to miss in Marrakech, The Red City.
Of all the things to do in Marrakech, most visitors want to experience the infamous market place. The souqs of Marrakech are vibrant and a whirlwind of colour and noise. Crowds of people weave through the alleys of the medina and its hundreds of stalls displaying brightly coloured wares. If this is your first visit to Morocco, you’ll no doubt want to experience the souqs at least once. They’re not for everyone, mind. The hustle and bustle can make it stressful you’ll receive plenty of attention from stallholders competing for your trade. If you’ve never been to a souq before it’s a must see.
Our verdict: Hit (once)
Jemaa El Fna
The main square of The Red City of Marrakech is a large open space during the day, dotted with a few snake charmers and fresh orange juice carts. But as dusk falls, the call to prayer from Koutoubia mosque echoes across the square and the place comes alive with exotic entertainers, authentic dining stalls, story tellers and musicians. The atmosphere is electric. Don’t miss this because there’s nowhere else in Morocco like it. Of all the things to do in Marrakech, this will be the most memorable, whether you love it or hate it.
Our verdict: Hit
Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi exuded extravagance and wealth during his life. So much so it’s evident in his death. It’s said these tombs lay undiscovered until 1917 and this mausoleum is the final resting place for the Sultan and 60 of his family. The tombs are housed inside rather grand mausoleums decorated in gold and marble. A visit doesn’t take long, the architecture is worth seeing if nothing else and it only costs 10 MAD to enter.
Our verdict: Hit
Ben Youssef Madrasa
Ben Youssef Madrasa is the largest Qur’anic teaching college in Morocco and an impressive sight indeed. The are 130 dormitory rooms seem more like cells, all located around a cool central courtyard complete with (waterless) fountain. It’s no longer a working college and is given over solely to tourists. If you’ve visited Medersa Bou Inania in Fes, you may think it very similar so perhaps not worth a visit. Even so, if you’re in the medina and need a quick escape from the mayhem, this will serve you well.
Our verdict: Hit (if you haven’t visited the one in Fes, otherwise, Miss)
La Bahia, “the beautiful”, was built by Morocco’s most noble artisans over 14 years. Although the palace has 150 rooms, only a fraction of it is open to the public. This is a shame as what you can see is extraordinary with stained-glass windows, painted ceilings and handwoven silk panels. In the midday heat, it provides a cool escape, especially in the interior courtyard garden. The entrance fee of 10 MAD won’t even put a dent in your small change.
Our verdict: Hit
The Jardin Majorelle is one of Morocco’s most visited tourist attractions. It was created by the French painter, Jacques Majorelle between 1886 to 1962. It took him forty years and utter passion and dedication to finish it. It’s yet another cool escape from the hectic life on Marrakech and ultra-cool place to laze away a couple of hours. There’s a 70 MAD entrance fee for the gardens and another 30 MAD fee for the onsite Berber museum.
Our verdict: Hit (and a big one too)
The Seven Saints
Marrakech has seven patron saints who were Sufi mystics and Islamic scholars. They are said to look after the city and each has a mausoleum where pilgrims and those wishing for help from the Saint or Sidi can pray at his tomb. You can visit each, spread all all over the city. In 2005, seven towers were built to honour the seven men, who are part of the history and culture of Marrakech. However, the area is dirty and unkempt and says little of the importance of the men it is supposed to honour.
Our verdict: Miss, unless you’re walking past
High Tech Souq
The high tech souq is the weirdest and most unusual place in Marrakech. It may not be on everyones list of things to do in Marrakech but it’s fascinating. An area of the souq is given over to the high tech market. The contrast of the high tech gadgets in the tiny stalls that have existed for over a thousand years is so unusual, we simply found it amusing. You should take the high tech name with a pinch of salt though. Many of the gadgets available may have been high tech in their day but they’ve definitely been superseded since. It’s more of an antique market to be honest.
Our verdict: Hit (if you can brave the rest of the medina getting there)
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