Marrakesh is an incredible city to visit. Perched, just shy of the iconic Atlas Mountains in Morocco, it’s a city that’s steeped in history dating back almost a thousand years. This all means there are heaps of the best things to do in Marrakesh dotted all across its historic centre.
Now, one thing I would say is that Marrakesh can seem to be a little overwhelming at times. Even if you’ve been to other beautiful places in Morocco, the souks can feel chaotic and I’ll almost guarantee you’ll get lost too many times to count.
Though, don’t let that put you off – Marrakesh is well worth visiting.
So, to help you navigate the bustling city streets, I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Marrakesh when you visit.
Just don’t forget to take some comfy shoes for all the walking! Your feet will thank me later.
1.) Ben Youssef Madrasa
First up has to be Ben Youssef Madrasa. It’s incredible – just look at it!
The historic Islamic college has been around for centuries, with a Madrasa (college) being on the site for much longer.
Reopened to visitors, after extensive restoration works, visiting is one of the best things to do in Marrakesh if you love northern African architecture.
It’s just stunning.
Inside, you’ll get to wander around the iconic courtyard, see the beautiful Zellij mosaics and spot the Saadian-era carved marble panels.
You don’t need to book tickets in advance, and you can buy tickets at the door. If you want to miss the majority of other visitors, arrive earlier in the morning or just before closing.
2.) Badi Palace
Badi Palace is another one of the best things to do in Marrakesh that’s right in the heart of the historic centre.
Built way back in the 1500s, Badi Palace is a relatively large complex of ruined halls, open-air pavilions and residential quarters that you just can’t miss.
The grounds are huge and it’s well worth giving yourself 90 minutes to stroll through the complex itself.
Oh, and if you’re visiting in Summer, make sure to take some water with you – there are lots of open areas with very little shade.
Again, just like Ben Youssef Madrasa, you don’t need to buy a ticket in advance.
Oh, and don’t forget to book this yummy Marakesh food tour with a guide. You’ll meander through the souks, learning all about how méchoui maker prepare their dishes and eat until you are stuffed. You’ll love it.
3.) Stay in a Riad
Now, the best way to describe a Riad is to think of it as a small, typically family-run, lodging. Usually consisting of a small number of rooms, they can be a little oasis in the city and well worth booking one for your visit.
We stayed at the Tarabel and loved it. It has three courtyards (one with a pool), and a spa and serves a delicious tagline, too.
We stayed for a few nights and loved how charming, friendly and gorgeous the rooms were.
Plus, it’s right next to the Dar El Bacha Musée Des Confluences – making it a good spot to wander historic Marrakesh.
If you’re fancying a bigger hotel, outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, book into the Oberoi (which we loved).
We stayed here for the latter part of our trip to the city and it was such a welcome respite from the busy city streets.
4.) Bahia Palace
Bahia Palace is probably one the most visited palace in Marrakesh, which is not too far from Badi Palace. Built in the 1800s, visiting is one of the best things to do in Marrakesh if you want to take in the ornate buildings of the city.
Just like most other palaces in the city, there’s no need to book your tickets in advance and you can easily get these once you arrive at Bahia Palace itself.
One thing to remember (which you might just experience) is to be cautious about any unsolicited advice that friendly locals give you on the street about closing times, wrong directions etc. Often, it’s a relatively unharmful ploy to get you into a shop, market or tannery but it can be annoying if you’re short on time and want to cram everything in.
What I would say is that no one was impolite or unfriendly, but always take unsolicited information with caution when navigating the streets of Marrakesh. After all, you don’t want to waste time in the city.
5.) Marakesh Souks
Probably one of the city’s most iconic parts, the souks of Marrakesh have to be explored. Filled with miles of tiny alleys, streets and market squares, you’ll find vendors selling everything from gems, herbs, carpets and so much more.
Now, a word of advice, download an offline map to help you navigate the small streets. We downloaded offline Google Maps of the historic centre and it worked a treat. Though, I’m almost guaranteeing you’ll still get lost.
Anyway, getting lost aside, make sure to take a look all around the souks and remember to haggle.
Typically, prices will be heavily inflated for visitors, so start low around 25-30% of their asking price and find a number that you feel comfortable with. It’s a skill that’s got to be learned.
Though, if you’re unsure just walk away and go back later.
The same goes for taxis, too. Taxi drivers hate putting on their meters for visitors. Agree on a price before entering the taxi and be sure to haggle down.
Typically, we took around 60-70% off their original price. Which is still significantly more than if they’d put their meters on.
6.) Jardin Majorelle and Yves Saint Laurent Museum
This iconic botanical garden is probably one of Marrakesh’s most famous parks to visit. Envisioned and created by Jacques Majorelle, it’s one of the best things to do in Marrakesh and is so colourful.
Not only that, you can also head to the nearby Yves Saint Laurent Museum that’s mere minutes up the road. If you love YSL or are interested in the history of its fashion, then take a look inside. If not, stick to the gardens.
Now, there’s typically a queue to enter Jardin Majorelle but you can skip this if you buy this combination ticket (online or at the YSL Museum) for the museum and the garden together.
We bought this at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum and were able to head straight into the gardens after.
However, I still wish we’d bought this ticket before; it would have meant much less waiting around. Which, is honestly such a relief on a hot Moroccan day.
7.) The Atlas Mountains
Taking a day trip to the Atlas Mountains is something that we found so special. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Marrakesh if you’re fancying a break from walking the city centre.
Now, the easiest way to explore the Atlas Mountains is by tour. We headed on this epic private Atlas Mountain tour and loved it. That being said, if you want to keep costs down, you can join a shared tour that’ll take you to this beautiful area of Morocco.
As you meander the mountain roads, you’ll get to see the vistas across the High Atlas Mountains and stop off at some local villages, like that of Imlil. Some tours even include a stop at Tamatert and seeing some local markets (Asni).
Whatever the case, be sure to book this Atlas Mountains guided tour before arriving in Marrakesh.
8.) Dar El Bacha Museum
This was right next to Tarabel Riad (where we stayed) and well worth popping in to see the gorgeous palace that’s hidden from the streets outside.
Take a wander around the historic residence of f Thami El Glaoui and see the rooms where the likes of Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin visited. The Carved stuccos are just so ornate and well worth seeing.
Oh, and don’t forget to pop into the Bacha Coffee Room that’s within the palace itself. It’s gorgeous and the pastries and coffee are some of the best in Marrakesh.
Now, you sometimes need to wait around 30-60 minutes for a table, so be sure to pop straight to the coffee room as soon as you get into the palace.
You’ll have a great time.
9.) Jemaa el-Fnaa
You’ll either love or hate Jemaa el-Fnaa when visiting Marrakesh. It’s a bustling market square that’s filled with hundreds of vendors and enough people to fill a stadium – which, can be a lot on a hot day!
Thankfully, even though it all seems so overwhelming, Jemaa el-Fnaa is pretty easy to wander around (all without getting lost). Even in the early evening, it’s a great spot to visit with loads of foodie vendors dotted all across the square.
10.) Le Jardin Secret
Harking back to the Saadian Dynasty, visiting Le Jardin Secret is one of the best things to do in Marrakesh that’s mere minutes from Dar El Bacha Museum.
As you stroll around the intimate garden, you’ll get to learn more about its craftsmanship and the ornate details that make Le Jardin Secret so special.
It’ll take you around 30 minutes to explore and really easy to pop into if you’ve got spare time in Marrakesh.
Getting peckish? For a tasty bite to eat, stroll over to Nomad (where you’ll need to book a table in advance). Head to their rooftop for a sunset dinner that’s totally yummy.