Although Marrakech isn’t the capital of Morocco, the allure of this bustling city never fails to attract many visitors from around the world. Marrakech is a must-visit destination for travellers seeking out a quintessential Moroccan experience with a whole lot of surprises.
Travel to: Morocco
If you’re yet to find out what the hype about Marrakech is after seeing endless images on your social feeds, heard stories from a friend-of-a-friend who visited or are simply out of the loop on just how magical Marrakech is, you’ll quickly find reasons to love it too. Here are 9 reasons why everyone loves Marrakech (so prepare to be seduced).
1. The a-maze-ing medina
Marrakech’s enchanting medina, encloses a maze of streets within its high walls. The word “lively” just doesn’t do justice as to how happening and magical the medina is. The medina is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the largest medina in North Africa. Inside, winding streets are brimming with not only local life, but chatty merchants, grand doorways complete with decadent Moorish design and notable monuments.
Exploring the medina by foot is one of Marrakech’s best thrills as you try to get oriented in the web of narrow streets. It can be seriously hectic, but it’s that much more rewarding when you locate historical gems like the 19th century Bahia Palace and sniff out Rue de Bab Debbagh for the leather tanneries.
Of course, you’ll eventually find yourself in Jemaa el-Fnaa square, otherwise known as the star of the media. Within the open-air theatre, there’s constant action, especially at night when storytellers, henna artists, dancers and other entertainers fill up the square.
Marrakech is one of those places that blow your mind. Roaming the streets, I was fascinated by the chaotic pace that rules in the city. It was so exciting to sink and disappear into the crowd and go explore the pure life. Interacting with local people and fulfilling my curiosity about their culture over a cup of tea and sweets, was what I enjoyed the most. Moroccans are incredibly helpful and hospitable.
Try everything. Moroccan cuisine is very well presented in Marrakech. Instead of sitting in one of the trendy international restaurants, I advise you to dive into Medina in order to find a good local food and skyrocket your gastronomic experience. Have a cup of Moroccan tea in some of the cafe terraces surrounding Jemaa el-Fnaa square and observe the bustling life from above, especially at night. – Evelina, Little Big Traveler
2. Palatial riads
The riads of Marrakech aren’t just a place to lay your head at night, they are seriously impressive works of art. Riads adored for a number of characteristics such as the multicolour-tile mosaics, ornately carved archways, grand pillars, spa-like dipping pools, bold colour accents, plush cushions, and the list goes on!
Riads were predominantly traditionally built for privacy, with their balconies and windows facing inwards to the courtyard. This means that you have an intimate oasis to wind down. It’s also the best opportunity to get to know your local hosts, perhaps over a private cooking class or a few cups of Berber whiskey (this is what Moroccans call their traditional sweetened mint tea). And the best part? The views! Since buildings in the medina are no higher than a palm tree, you can benefit from unobstructed views of Marrakech’s fiery red sunsets.
Marrakech is a great city with mix of European, Middle Eastern and African culture. The architecture of buildings like the Ben Youssef Medersa or Bahia Palace makes our photographers heart go wild. And we didn’t even talk about the riads yet.Book a riad (boutique hotel) way in ahead. These places are even more beautiful than you know them from the photos and are super popular as a place to stay. We highly recommend you to stay in one. – Hannah and Nick, Salt in Our Hair
3. The eclectic souk
The main souk of Marrakech is the epitome of eclectic. The souk (or market) is full of goods organised by their respective section. You can browse handmade bags, nibble on fresh olives, gawk over the artisan-crafted jewellery and even find locally-sourced saffron to take back home with you (just make sure you check for any customs or immigration restrictions before you transport goods back home). Shopping in the never-ending souk is the perfect way to start chatting with locals and master your negotiation skills.
If you’re interested in more off-the-beaten areas of the souk, set your sights on Bab El Khemis for the flea market on Thursdays. The area is dedicated solely to thrifty, second-hand finds like hand-carved trunks and old sets of riad keys.
4. Mosaics galore
Marrakech masters the art of ornate tile work. Whether it’s a fountain tucked around an inconspicuous corner or the mosaics at the Saadian tombs, that have been hidden for nearly 200 years, there any many decadent patterns in an array of colours. Painted, cut and all placed by hand, no tile masterpiece is the same and each makes its environs that much more unique and beautiful.
You can spot from a distance the blue tile on the tower of Koutoubia mosque and wander through Ben Youssef Madrasa, a stunning old Islamic college. These kaleidoscopic pieces of artwork have the ability to really draw you in with their attention to detail.
See Also: The Traveller’s Guide to Ramadan
I love the ambiance of the city, and the openness of the locals. When you try to speak some Darija to them they become even more friendly. Paradoxically, my favourite place is the city is the noisy medina. I have been there around 25 times so I know it more or less. Love the sound of adan, the noise of motorbikes and the smell of cooking and baking in the houses around.
The city is quite touristy, yet there are some hidden and untapped places to see. If you don’t like crowd, visit the nearby villages – there are lots of beautiful spots to enjoy around Marrakech. – Monika, Bewildered in Morocco
5. A slice of modernity
Of course, Marrakech’s ancient charm is spectacular, but so is its modern European side. One of the aforementioned areas is Gueliz, also known as the New City and is just a short bus ride from Jemaa el-Fnaa. This area is known to be quite affluent within the arts and fashion industries.
Some of the works of the revolutionary French painter, Matisse, have found their place in an art gallery here. Yves Saint Laurent also opened one of two museums (the other in Paris) with a photo gallery, couture exhibit and French-style café.
6. The medley of flavours
Marrakech’s cuisine is more than its classic offerings such as the tajine (a delish slow-cooked stew) and couscous. Taking culinary cues from France, the Middle East and Andalusia to name a few, Marrakech’s cuisine is incredibly diverse. One of the best foodie experiences is at night in Jemaa el-Fnaa, when the square fills up with rows of vendors under the open air. It’s loud, lively and downright delicious.
See Also: Eating Your Way Through Morocco
You can consume chicken kebabs, fresh seafood and sweet pastries or try the exotic snail soup. The area is frequented by travellers and locals alike all sharing the bench-style seating for a meal. The main square is also full of juice stands, complete with what seems like every fruit under the sun all for a reasonable price. Vegetarians will also be ecstatic over the many food options in Marrakech such as Earth Café, who serve veggie alternatives to Moroccan classics like briouats and bisteeya.
Marrakech is just the perfect city to get lost and nurture all your senses. The sounds, the smells, the sights, and even feeling its vibes.. it’s a feast! I was slightly overwhelmed by everything that happens there, but in a good way. There is just so much to do, so much to see, and the food… that’s something special as well.
Whether it’s your first time or the third, definitely stay in one of the riads in the medina. They range from 20 euros per night to 200 euros per night and are stunning among all price ranges. I loved waking up early, having breakfast on the rooftop of my riad and then step out for a full day of exploring. The moment you return to your riad, all the hustle and bustle of the medina just seem to disappear in a second. When you go exploring don’t miss out on the Ben Youssef Madrasa (get here as early as possible) and Le Jardin Majorelle. – Marthe, Mokum Surf Club
7. The Mellah (Jewish Quarter)
Though the Jewish population in Marrakech is dwindling, the Mellah helps tell the story of Marrakech’s Jewish history. The distinctive design of the Jewish homes favour balconies looking out onto the roads instead of private courtyards like traditional Moroccan homes.
The Mellah features the Lazama Synagogue that has been recently revived and mud-brick buildings that look like life-size sand castles. The market in the Mellah is less hurried than others and is frequented by locals who come to get their freshly butchered meats and seasonal vegetable selection.
8. The hammams
Hammam bathhouses in Marrakech are a staple experience not only for tourists, but for locals as well. Whether you’re in an upscale spa or local bathhouse, you will get one of the best exfoliation-experiences of your life.
The centuries-old bathing rituals take place in a humid room where your hosts give you a deep scrub with locally sourced black soap and a khmiss scrubbing glove. While it’s common to experience a hamman nude, others slip on their bathing suits. No matter your attire, it’s a time to feel cleansed and socialize among the same-sex.
9. Lush gardens and parks
Marrakech has sunshine nearly year round, so naturally, there are plenty of remarkable parks and gardens to enjoy it in. They’re the perfect respite from the busy inner city. Majorelle Garden is probably the most iconic among them. French artist Jacque Majorelle created the garden, but it’s Yves Saint Laurent who is commonly associated with it, for his part in restoring the botanical garden into a colourful oasis.
Arsat Moulay Abdeslam, also known as Cyber Park, is a favourite for its ample places to kick back and use the free Wi-Fi available on its grounds. But, if you prefer to disconnect, then there’s the Palmeraie oasis on the outskirts of the city, where there’s probably more palm trees than people.
Marrakech is a vibrant and exciting destination. Although one of my highlights was away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city, exploring Jardin Majorelle. The garden is a short distance from the main medina but it’s a tranquil and beautiful place to relax and walk around.
For first time visitors to Marrakech, I would say be prepared to get lost in the souks, they are a maze of windy passageways with colourful shops and stalls. But this is all part of the experience, you’ll eventually find your way out and you can treat yourself to a fresh orange juice from the stalls in the medina. – Becky, Becky the Traveller
We love Marrakech (of course). Share your favourite hot spots in Marrakech or Morocco in the comments below.