City Adventures: Discover and Explore the City of Marrakech, Morocco

Written by Sam Whitehead

Need a city adventure in between your mountain treks? Marrakech is home to beautiful mosques, palaces, gardens, and the world famous souks. There are plenty of things that you can do and see here, both in the medieval and modern parts of the town.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite places in Marrakech:

Stay in a riad

Riads, or traditional Arabic houses, are often tucked away in the narrow streets of the old part of town. If you have plans to visit Marrakech, be sure to spend at least one night in a spectacular riad in one of the holiday rentals in Marrakech. It will transport you to a place of relaxation and tranquility that is a far cry from the busy and noisy streets of Marrakech. Rooms in riads have windows that face the inner courtyard garden so expect a quiet nights rest.

The souks

The souks are the heart of the city and your visit to this magical place wouldn’t be complete without them. They are famed for being one of the most interesting places to shop with countless treasures among the crowded stalls. Along with handcrafted goods, you’ll also find architecture and aromatic food along one of the winding alleyways. Be sure to save some money to buy a few locally made crafts and souvenirs.

The tanneries

The tanneries are northeast of the Medina (old city) and should not be missed (though come prepared for the smell). Here you will be able to see the process of transforming animal hide into leather. The tanneries are naturally the place to find some of the highest quality leather goods from bags to dresses which, Morocco has become famous for.

Jemaa E-Fnaa

Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main square in the city and also plays an important role as part of the Medina. This is the place where the modern world meets traditional history. The square is lively during the day and even more so at night! It’s the place to see snake charmers, entertainers, and henna tattoo artists. Many stalls here also offer amazing culinary delights. My favorites have to be the slow cooked lamb dishes that melt in your mouth. Tourists flock here all year round and it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t. This is also one of the most interesting places to simply observe people.

Visit a Hammam

A visit to the traditional bathhouse also known as Hamman revitalizes weary skin and muscles. The easiest way to describe Hamman is that it is the opposite of the sauna since it uses steam to clean and detoxify one’s skin. Here you can even get fully scrubbed and bathed by a complete stranger! Hammans play a vital role in the Moroccan life and culture which is why you’ll find many bathhouses throughout Marrakech. The price ranges from 50 to 100 dirhams.

Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque is known as the largest mosque in Marrakech. You’ll find it in the district of the south-west Medina of Marrakech. Architecture fans will notice that along with its minarets and orbs, the mosque is decorated with curved windows, ceramic inlays, pointed merlons and even ornamental arches. It contains a huge square garden with fountains and is beautiful to visit at night when it is lit up. This mosque was completed under the reign of the Berber Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansour in the 12th century and remains an inspiring example of Islamic architecture.

Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa, established in the 14th century served for centuries as a home to students in search of knowledge, excelling in the education of sciences and theology. It was once the largest institution in North Africa dedicated to the teaching of Islamic law and its 132 rooms could accommodate 900 students. Unfortunately,  the school closed in 1960 but you can still visit to explore the school as a historical representation of the education of the past. Leave some time to marvel at the architecture including the courtyard, stunning prayer halls and the marble carvings.

The Saadian Tombs

This is the final resting place for the many rulers and members of the Saadi dynasty of the 16th and 17th centuries. The tombs are decorated with bright tiles, intricate carvings and calligraphy. These tombs were rediscovered in 1917 after being hidden for almost 200 years and are a short distance from the hustle and bustle of the city. They are a rich architectural gem and are home to two extravagant mausoleums and around 60 tombs. The garden also has around 100 more tombs you can meander past.

Jardin Majorelle

This botanical garden is one of the most popular places to visit in Morocco. It was painstakingly created over 40 long years by French painter, Jacques Majorelle. He poured his passion and creativity into this place and transformed it into the lush gardens with a stunning blue villa that you can visit today. This place is perfect for those who need an escape or break from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech It also features enchanting little lanes, a tranquil stream, over 300 species of rare plants and the Islamic Art Museum. It has since been taken over by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and is now a museum to Yves Saint Laurent.