A 14th century Islamic college that will cement your love for Moroccan architecture and design, the Ben Youssef Madrasa is eye-candy in the heart of Marrakech. Intricately carved cedar and marble meet Morocco’s signature mosaic tiles, covering a courtyard complete with a washing pool and student living quarters once fit for over 100 Islamic scholars. Picturesque archways and wooden balconies will leave you wishing you went to school in this city some 700 years ago.
Get lost in the Medina
With more silver jewellery and leather goods than the most imaginative shopaholic could dream of, the medina in Marrakech will have you captivated for hours. Taking a wrong turn in this maze of mayhem will rarely lead you astray. You may happen upon the overpowering tanneries or find yourself sitting in the vegetarian farm-to-table oasis of Earth Cafe. If you can resist taking home a woven rug or hand-painted tagine, your self-control is impeccable.
Take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise
To see the city from a completely new angle and tick an awe-inspiring activity off the bucket-list, a sunrise hot air balloon ride is a must-do activity when you visit Marrakech. With some companies offering their balloon rides teamed with a camel trip and breakfast in a rug-filled tent, the experience will be something you remember for a lifetime. With the sun peaking up and touching the far-off glimpses of the Sahara, the views are nothing short of remarkable.
Have a hammam
After long tiring days of Marrakech sightseeing, a traditional hammam will be just what the body is yearning for. A traditional, royal body treatment involving a vigorous scrub often teamed with a steaming and massage, it is said to eliminate toxins and leave the body feeling young and soft. Offered in opulent, tranquil spas in Marrakech complete with nourishing products like oils of argan, eucalyptus, and rose, you are sure to leave feeling renewed and relaxed from the inside out.
Breath in Marrakech’s pungent tanneries
Arm yourself with a sprig of mint and prepare to be overwhelmed, the leather tanneries of Marrakech are a jolting reminder of what our bags and shoes are really made of. The animal skins sit fermenting in pigeon poo and baking in the sun before being soaked in vats of barks and vegetables to achieve an array of bright coloured leather. Though not many visitors stay more than 15 minutes due to the smell, it’s still declared the best of Marrakech sightseeing. Best timed after your shopping or you may be turned off making purchases.
Things to do in Marrakech
Fia Wtcc Race Of Marrakech
Speed demons will get their kicks at the FIA WTCC Race of Marrakech, a leg of the official World Touring Car Championship. The only WTCC event held on the continent of Africa, it’s been drawing in an international crowd for almost a decade.
Marrakech International Film Festival
Chaired by Moroccan royalty and drawing in the country’s elite, the Marrakech International Film Festival, known locally as MIFF, shines a light on the country’s contemporary side. Showing short and feature films with a keen focus on Moroccan cinema, it’s an event worth stepping out in the winter chill for.
Drawing in an inspiring curation of African and international artists, the Marrakech Biennale positions Morocco as a progressive hub of world culture. Every two years the Biennale offers contemporary visual art, film and literature showcased at various locations across the city.
Marrakech Popular Arts Festival
Snake charmers, fortune tellers, dancers and entertainers come together to tell the unique and fabled sides of Morocco. The Marrakech Popular Arts Festivalis held annually over the month of July, and brings the city’s streets alive in an unprecedented fashion.
Top 4 Festivals in Marrakech
You’ll rarely be left wondering what to do in Marrakech, but the added excitement of a festival is the key to understanding how this city is progressing. Uncover the contemporary African art scene and rub shoulders with elite in honour of film. Marrakech goes from incredible to spectacular when a festival is on.
Presenting the very best of Moroccan architecture and culture, Marrakech Museum in Dar Menebhi Palace features fountains, a hammam, delicate mosaic tile-work and an extravagant ceiling. Stroll through every corner of the museum to find the true artistic treasures, with brightly coloured paintings, ancient relics and stained-glass lighting.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum
The Yves Saint Laurent Museum is a tribute to the namesake designer’s love affair with Marrakech, having designed most of his haute couture collections in the city. A deliciously modern building sprawling over 4,000m2, it is home to clothing, sketches, photography and a research library.
El Badi Palace
Arabic for ‘the incomparable palace,’ El Badi is a 360 room masterpiece crafted from materials like onyx, gold and marble. Though construction completed in 1593 and it now stands stripped of its former decadence and glory, its architectural design and lush gardens are as relevant as ever.
Le Jardin Secret
With historic roots to the Saadian Dynasty, Le Jardin Secret is a hidden oasis of soothing beauty and tranquillity. Enjoy a walk through its book store and souvenir shop boasting traditional Moroccan artworks, stopping at the restaurant where you can take a break from sightseeing for mint tea, homemade cakes and pizza.
Telling the stories and history of Morocco through the country’s famous rugs, Musee Boucharouite is an intimate and eclectic space filled with life and colour. Finish your visit basking on the Musee’s sunny clay terrace, before taking a 5-minute stroll to the nearby House of Photography.
Top 5 Museums & Galleries in Marrakech
Stumbling through the museums of Marrakech brings about wide eyes and a weakness for Moroccan exoticism. Admire collections of artistic rugs, a palace of onyx, and secret gardens filled with romance. You’ll soon discover why this city inspired big creative names like Yves Saint Laurent.
The Moroccan tajine (a funnel shaped earthenware pot) is famed around the world, and gave its name to the succulent stews for which the country is best known. Beef, lamb and chicken are the usual suspects, served with couscous, a Moroccan staple.
Best eaten at Souk Kafé, 11 Derb Souk Jedid
This thick and hearty soup contains tomatoes, onions, lentils, chickpeas and a fragrant blend of herbs and spices, with a bit of lamb or beef thrown in for good measure. Settle into the medina’s Dar Rif Kebdani restaurant and consume Harira in their ornate wooden setting.
Best eaten at Dar Rif Kebdani Restaurant, Rue Dar Baroud, Medina
Moroccans love a good salad, and few are prized as highly as zaalouk. This delicious cold starter consists of smoky cooked aubergine with raw tomato, seasoned with a little garlic, cumin, paprika and chili.
Best eaten at Bazaar Cafe, Rue Sidi El Yamani 24, Derb Rokni 14
These little deep-fried potato balls are a classic Moroccan street food item. Eat them on their own or as part of a sandwich, but don't forget the harissa (garlicky chili sauce)!
Best eaten at Souk Kafé, 11 Derb Souk Jedid, Marrakech
This traditional Moroccan pie combines sweet and savoury flavours within a crispy multi-layered filo pastry shell. The filling? Deliciously succulent slow-cooked and shredded pigeon, though nowadays chicken is a more likely candidate.
Best eaten at Restaurant Le Foundouk, 55 Souk Hal Fassi Kaat Bennahïd, Médina
Food in Marrakech
An epicentre of spices and home of the world-famous tajine, Moroccan food is a full-flavour taste excursion. Both in and out of Marrakech’s medina you’ll find dishes to ‘mmm’ over. Just prepare for the occasionally jarring sight of Marrakech food... the open-air butcheries are not for the faint of heart.