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Marrakech in a day: quick guide to the city

Marrakech is the most outstanding visit of the route of the Imperial Cities of Morocco. Its medina, the souks and the magical Jamaa el Fna square make it an unrepeatable place.

Joaquín Montaño

Joaquín Montaño

9 min read

Marrakech in a day: quick guide to the city

Marrakech, Morocco | ©Paradigm Visuals

You only have one day to visit Marrakech and you want to make the most of your time. The good news is that, at least, you will be able to visit the most essential attractions of Marrakech. The bad news is that with that time it is not possible to know it in depth and, above all, it will be difficult to capture all the magic of the city.

To get the most out of those 24 hours I have prepared this itinerary that covers the most interesting visits, although at a faster pace than is desirable. In any case, I assure you that you will enjoy the experience as long as you have an open mind and are in the mood for adventure.

1. Early morning crossing Bab Agnaou

Bab Agnaou| ©Doyler79
Bab Agnaou| ©Doyler79

The day in Marrakech should start early to make the most of the time. Keep in mind when planning your route the time of sunset, as it varies greatly depending on whether you go to Marrakech in winter or if you go to Marrakech in summer, in addition to the heat of the latter season.

To start you have to go to the south to find two gates to the city that are almost glued: Bab Agnaou and Bab Er Robb (Bab means "door" in Arabic). The first of them only consists of four arches through which pedestrians and cars enter and exit and its interest is relative. However, Bab Agnaou is worthwhile.

This door, from the twelfth century and monochrome, communicates through a central arch with the royal kashbah, where the El Badi palace and the Saadid tombs are located. The Bab Agnaou was one of the 19 entrances that were in the wall surrounding the medina.

Guided tour or on your own?

This day tour of Marrakech can be done on your own or by hiring one of the various guided tours offered in the city. Both options have their pros and cons, so you will have to decide which one you prefer.
The main advantage of having a guide to take you around the city is that you will avoid the presence of false guides and that you will receive interesting information about what you are seeing.

On the other hand, you will not experience the magic of getting lost (literally) in its narrow streets, although with so little time you may not be able to visit some places. A good advice not to despair until you learn how to move around Marrakech.

Book your tour in Marrakech

2. Saadi Tombs

Saadid Tombs| ©Lviatour
Saadid Tombs| ©Lviatour

Guided by a green tiled minaret, a few meters from Bab Agnaou you reach the Mulay El Yazid mosque, of which the minaret is part.

The entrance to the temple is forbidden to non-Muslims (something you have to know when you prepare your visit to Marrakech) but next to it are the Saadid tombs.

These tombs come from the late sixteenth century. It was then that the ruling sultan, Al Mansur, ordered their construction, but a few decades later another sultan, Mulay Ismail, blocked the access to them. For some reason, the tombs fell into oblivion until 1917, when they were rediscovered.

Today these tombs can be visited, although access is paid. To enter you have to walk through a narrow corridor that leads to a small garden. It is there where the tombs of several warriors, chancellors and servants are located.

In addition, you can also see some buildings in which are buried characters of greater relevance. It stands out for its beauty the so-called room of the 12 columns, where lie the remains of Sultan Al Mansur himself.

3. Bahia Palace

Palace of the Bay| ©Jorge Láscar
Palace of the Bay| ©Jorge Láscar

To reach the next destination you have to stroll through the southern part of the Medina of Marrakech, the old city. The goal is the Bahia Palace, but along the way it is worth a short stop at the Place des Ferblantiers, as it retains a great charm and is full of stores specializing in metal products, especially tin.

Leaving this square behind you finally arrive at the Palais de la Baie. Its construction has been dated to the late nineteenth century, when they tried to raise the largest palace of all time.

The most interesting of its interior is the harem, which has a pond in a central courtyard that was surrounded by the rooms of the concubines. Spend some time strolling through its wonderful gardens.

Joaquín's Traveller Tip

if you don't go with your own guide, quite a few guides (fake or not) will start to appear in that area and try to get you to hire them. Although they can be a bit annoying, my advice is to avoid them.

4. Dar Si Said Museum

Touring the Dar Si Said Museum| ©Marrakech Riad
Touring the Dar Si Said Museum| ©Marrakech Riad

The city of Marrakech is not usually associated with museums, but with its streets or excursions to deserts such as Zagora. However, the Dar Si Said museum may be worth a short visit.

To get there you will have to walk through some narrow alleys trying not to get lost. Besides the fact that its collection is the most complete in the city, it is worth contemplating its courtyards and the decoration of its ceilings, doors and furniture made with cedar wood.

5. Jamaa el Fna Square

Djemaa el Fna Square| ©Boris Macek
Djemaa el Fna Square| ©Boris Macek

If there is an image that represents Marrakech that is the Jamaa el Fna square. It is there where you should go when you leave the museum, as it is an essential visit when in Morocco.

This will be the first time you visit the square, as you will return at sunset to see the great change that takes place.

On this first visit, the square will be full of vendors selling fresh juices, dried fruits, water carriers and traders of all kinds of products.

You will also find numerous street performers as typical as snake charmers or monkey tamers. Of course, you can not miss the henna tattoo stalls.

It is quite likely that you will want to photograph almost everything in the square, but you should never do so without first asking permission and negotiating a price.

6. Lunch and rest at Dar Cherifa

Visiting the Dar Cherifa| ©Robert Prazeres
Visiting the Dar Cherifa| ©Robert Prazeres

It is time to regain strength and taste the delicious Moroccan food. The best way to get to know this gastronomy is to hire a tour dedicated to it, but it may be complicated if you are only going to be one day in Marrakech.

The best possible place to relax and have a bite to eat is Dar Cherifa, one of the oldest riads in the city.

The most popular dishes (deservedly so) served at Dar Cherifa are tajines and couscous. Whichever you choose, I assure you that you will get it right.

Book your gastronomic tour in Marrakech

7. The Souk

Visiting a souk in the Medina| ©Omar Bárcena
Visiting a souk in the Medina| ©Omar Bárcena

The word souk comes from the Arabic "suq", which means market. Thus, it is clear that the following hours of the tour will be devoted to get lost in the many narrow streets of Marrakech dedicated to the sale of all kinds of products.

The streets that make up the souk are usually completely crowded with people competing with the various stalls to find a space. My advice for traveling to Marrakech is that, above all, take it easy and avoid those vendors who try to make you buy in a more aggressive manner.

The traditional thing to do when touring the souk is to wander aimlessly looking at all the merchandise that is exposed: slippers, djellabas, spices, metal lanterns, tea sets, etc..

If you like something remember that it is customary to bargain with the seller to reach, or not, an agreement.

On your walk you will realize that, in reality, there are several souks that coexist in this street, divided according to what they sell. In one area you can find colored wool dried in the sun, while in others you will find cosmetics, carpets or silk garments, respectively.

A very interesting area is Rahba Kedima square, just outside the souk. Here you will find spices of all kinds, medicinal herbs and basketry.

Book a tour of the souks of Marrakech

8. Medersa Ben Youssef

In the Medersa Ben Youssef| ©Lundeux
In the Medersa Ben Youssef| ©Lundeux

After the adventure of touring the souk it is time to approach the Medersa Ben Youssef. This was the largest Muslim school in the whole country in the sixteenth century and later.

It highlights its inner courtyard, which is decorated with an iron chandelier, arches and tiled walls and marble and wood panels.

Very close to this place is the Museum of Marrakech. Unless you are very interested in entering, I advise you to just peek into its inner courtyard, as it is worth seeing.

Next to the museum you can see the Almoravid Qoubba (a dynasty that also ruled Essaouira and other Moroccan territories), the only example of that artistic style that remains in the city.

There I recommend you peek into the Souk Foudouq Quarzazi, a souk located inside a foundouk, a word that designated the lodgings dedicated to members of the ancient caravans that traveled the desert to reach the city.

9. Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque illuminated at sunset| ©Chronis Yan
Koutoubia Mosque illuminated at sunset| ©Chronis Yan

Strolling back to the center you reach the Koutoubia Mosque, the most important mosque in Marrakech. Although you can not visit inside, its minaret of 66 meters high (some sources say it is 77) is really impressive.

This mosque was built in 1158 and, at the time, was one of the largest in the Muslim world. The aforementioned minaret closely resembles the Giralda in Seville and remains the highest point in the city.

10. Enjoy the sunset on the terrace of the Glacier Café

Terrace Café Glacier| ©Guillermo Peris.
Terrace Café Glacier| ©Guillermo Peris.

As I am sure that I must be quite tired by now and, moreover, the schedule suggests it, this is the time to go to Café Glacier for a delicious mint tea on its terrace.

From it you can watch the sunset and how the sunset makes the neighboring Jamaa el Fna square is transformed.

Back to Jamaa el Fna square

With the arrival of the night, the vendors who previously occupied the square disappear from the square. Their place is taken by a multitude of food stalls competing to attract visitors.

This is the perfect place to have a drink before returning to the hotel. Before choosing where you are going to sit, it is best to take a walk around to see what each of the sites has to offer.

Joaquín's Traveller Tip

The competition between the different food stalls is fierce and, on occasion, some vendors can be a little heavy. Always keep your cool and don't hesitate to sit in the place you like the most despite the calls of the rest.

Where to stay in Marrakech

A Moroccan riads| ©Catherine Pioh
A Moroccan riads| ©Catherine Pioh

Some of the accommodations you will find in Marrakech can be counted among the tourist attractions of the city. These are, in particular, the riads, old traditional houses renovated to become hotels and / or restaurants.

The accommodations located in the riads usually have few rooms and are very quiet. They usually have a central courtyard and a terrace overlooking the rooftops of the city.

Beware of fake guides

Touring Morocco| ©Louis Hansel
Touring Morocco| ©Louis Hansel

If you've already been researching security in Marrakech, you've probably read about the false guide.

As in the rest of the Moroccan cities, it is quite common to find in the streets unaccredited guides who try to convince you to hire them. Unlike the accredited ones, these are not subject to an official rate and, in addition, they can be very insistent.

If you have not hired your own guided tour, my advice is not to be persuaded by these fake guides. Usually, what is promised is not going to be completely fulfilled and, in addition, it is quite likely that you will end up in the store of a merchant who takes a commission.

Book a guided tour of Marrakech

Is it worth approaching the desert of Marrakech for a day trip?

Visiting the Desert| ©Ruben Bagues
Visiting the Desert| ©Ruben Bagues

There are several organized tours that take you to the desert near Marrakech or to the Palmeral of Marrakech to ride camels. Both activities are very worthwhile, but if you are only going to be in the city for one day you should know that they will prevent you from enjoying the city.

The decision depends a lot on your interests, but it would be best to try to extend your stay or, if it is impossible, plan to return in the near future to complete your visit to Marrakech and enjoy all kinds of excursions that you can do from there.

Book a tour of the souks of Marrakech