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

10 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 essential places of the city. 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 it transmits.

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

Start your day by 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 summer, as temperatures in recent summer seasons are being very high.

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 worth a visit.

This door, from the 12th century and single-colored, communicates through a central arch with the royal kashbah, where the El Badi palace and the Saadid tombs are located. Bab Agnaou was one of the 19 entrances in the wall surrounding the medina.

Guided tour or on your own?

This day tour of Marrakech can be done on your own or you can also hire one of the various guided tours offered by 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 fake guides and 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 tip is not to despair until you learn how to move around Marrakech.

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Saadi Tombs

Saadi Tombs| ©Lviatour
Saadi 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, walled off 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.

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Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace| ©Jorge Láscar
Bahia Palace| ©Jorge Láscar

To reach the next destination you have to wander through the southern part of the Medina of Marrakech, for which, you can also book a tour to know it more thoroughly. And, although the goal is to reach the Bahia Palace, 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 build the largest palace of all time.

The most interesting thing inside is the harem, which has a pond in a central courtyard that was surrounded by the rooms of the concubines. We advise you to dedicate a little of your time to stroll through its wonderful gardens, and keep in mind that if you do not go with your own guide, in that area will begin to appear quite a few guides (fake or not) who will try to hire them, they can even be a little annoying, my advice is to avoid them.

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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 like Zagora even, booking a sweet evening with dinner if you wish. 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.

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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 leaving the museum, as it is a must visit when you are 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 many typical street performers such as snake charmers and monkey tamers. Of course, you will find the typical henna tattoo stalls, a must on your visit!

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

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Lunch and rest at Dar Cherifa

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

It's 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 you may find it a bit complicated if you are only going to be in Marrakech for one day.

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.

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 narrow streets dedicated to the sale of all kinds of products.

The streets that form the souk are usually completely crowded with people and visitors and passersby compete to find a space to see the stalls and to walk calmly. 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 way.

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 an agreement, or not.

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 colorful sun-dried wool, 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

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.

Highlights its inner courtyard, which is decorated with an iron chandelier, arches and walls with tiles and marble and wood panels.

Nearby is the Museum of Marrakech. Unless you are very interested in going inside, 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 this 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.

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.

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Enjoy the sunset on the terrace of the Glacier Café

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

As I'm sure you must be tired enough and the schedule suggests it, this is the time to go to Café Glacier for a delicious mint tea on its terrace.

From the terrace you can watch the sunset and how the sunset transforms the neighboring Jamaa el Fna square.

Back to the Jamaa el Fna square

With the arrival of the evening, the vendors who once 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 you choose where you are going to sit, it is best to take a walk around to see what each place has to offer.

Joaquín's Traveller Tip

competition between the different food stalls is fierce and sometimes a vendor can be a bit of a nuisance. Always keep your cool and don't hesitate to sit in the place you like best despite the calls of others.

Where to stay in Marrakech

A Moroccan riad| ©Catherine Pioh
A Moroccan riad| ©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 false guides

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

As mentioned above, and if you have been doing some research on safety in Marrakech, you will surely have read about the figure of the fake guide.

As in the rest of the Moroccan cities, it is quite common to find unaccredited guides on the streets trying 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.

Therefore I advise you to hire your guided tour of the city in advance, and do not let yourself be convinced by these false guides. Normally, 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.

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

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

There are several organized tours you can take, for example, an excursion to the Atlas Mountains and the Agafay Desert from Marrakech or to the Marrakech Palm Grove for camel riding. Both activities are very worthwhile, but if you are only going to spend one day in the city you should know that they will prevent you from enjoying it.

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 the visit to Marrakech and enjoy the excursions of all kinds that you can do from there.

Book your excursion to the Ouzoud Waterfalls from Marrakech