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Best Things to Do in the Medina of Marrakech

Marrakech is an effervescent city buzzing with activity; from its riads, hammams, souks, traditional houses and museums, get lost in the wonders that the medina has to offer!

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

9 min read

Best Things to Do in the Medina of Marrakech

Medina, Marrakech | ©Nathan Guy

The medina is the name by which the old city of Marrakech is known. Seen from the sky it resembles a giant honeycomb and inside the activities you can carry out are almost endless. From the most luxurious accommodations in the world, the traditional Moroccan baths or Hammams, visits to palaces, markets and mosques there is so much to see and do in the medina of Marrakech!

Surrounded by approximately 19 kilometers of walls built in 1122, the Medina of Marrakech, considered a World Heritage Site, is the name by which the entire historic center of the city is known; it is the oldest part of the city, also called the Old City. Until a little more than 100 years ago, the entire city of Marrakech and its commercial activity were located within these walls, before of course starting its process of economic expansion.

1 - Lose yourself in the souks of the Medina

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

For shoppers exploring Marrakech, the souks are the best place to visit in Morocco; getting lost in them is also inevitable and part of the fun when visiting this effervescent city. What I like most is that the souks of Marrakech offer in one place a complete overview of all the craftsmanship of Morocco, combining in their creations millenary talent, culture and tradition.

Marrakech' s maze of narrow streets are lined with colorful textiles, clothing, pottery, ceramics and jewelry. If you stop at the stalls long enough you will have the opportunity to watch the workers create their beautiful designs. It is common practice to find in the workshops young apprentices with their masters repeatedly listening to the Koran as they work on their creations.

In addition to Moroccan handicrafts, in the souks of Marrakech you will find a variety of meats, fruits and vegetables, so don't hesitate too long if you are tempted to try some seasonal fruit.

From the architecture to the smells, colors and sounds you will feel how the place invades each of your senses, an experience you won't want to miss!

Book a guided tour of the souks of Marrakech

2 - Enjoy Djema El Fna after the sunset

Djemaa el Fna square| ©Boris Macek
Djemaa el Fna square| ©Boris Macek

The main square of Marrakech is called Djemaa El Fna located in the heart of the medina, the best time to visit it is after sunset. The time when the city is dressed in a unique festive atmosphere.

On your visit to Djemaa El Fna be prepared for an avalanche of interesting experiences with women designing henna tattoos on the body, snake charmers, trained monkeys (super smart and friendly) and even acrobats and dancers in the style of Cirque Du Soleil.

Locals living in the medina take advantage of the spectacular nights to sell just about anything from carpets to clothing, Moroccan food, spices and herbs of all kinds. Tourists are left to learn their way around the city, making their way through the many street stalls, soakingup the local culture and immersing themselves as much as possible in the frenetic and charged atmosphere of the place.

3- Be sure to visit the Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque| ©Daniel Csörföly
Koutoubia Mosque| ©Daniel Csörföly

No visit to Marrakech would be complete without a mandatory stop at the Koutoubia Mosque. Considered the symbol of the city, it is particularly famous for its imposing 70-meter minaret that can be easily appreciated from miles away. Built in 1162, it is considered one of the masterpieces of Almohad architecture.

Keep in mind that, like the rest of the mosques in the city, entry is forbidden to non-Muslims. So you will have to be content admiring the outside view made up of beautiful gardens of roses, orange trees and palm trees. A guided tour of Marrakech will include among its stops a visit to this historic monument, a jewel of local architecture.

Book a guided tour of Marrakech

4- Stroll through the Majorelle gardens

Majorelle Garden| ©Kamal Hammadi
Majorelle Garden| ©Kamal Hammadi

Jacques Majorelle was a French-born painter who was so enchanted by the beauty of Morocco that he decided to move permanently to this city and invest his time and money in the creation of a beautiful Art Deco-style villa.

Although Majorelle's paintings, mainly focused on portraying local Moroccan life, made him famous in Europe. His most famous work is undoubtedly the fabulous tropical garden full of cacti, palms and ferns. After the death of its owner in 1962LeJardin Majorelle fell into neglect, the property was recovered and reconditioned for its opening to the public after being acquired by Yves Saint Laurenthimself.

5- Visit the Medersa Ben Youssef

At the Medersa Ben Youssef| ©Lundeux
At the Medersa Ben Youssef| ©Lundeux

The Ben Youssef Medersa is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and one of the greatest examples of Saadian-era art in Morocco. Located just opposite the Ali Ben Yousse Mosque, this building was built as a theological school, in its heyday it housed up to 900 students, being the largest Koranic study center in the country. A mandatory stop among the many places to see in Marrakech.

The many burrow-like rooms where students once slept are grouped around small internal courtyards, following the typical pattern of architectural layout in Islamic culture. Among the small courtyards is a main internal courtyard thatserves as a general common area.

When you visit the Medersa of Ben Youssef, take some time to admire the zellige tiles (a type of handmade tile characteristic of Morocco), the stalactite ceilings, the cedar wood details and the kufic inscriptions used as decoration inside the courtyards.

6- Enter the Bahia Palace

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

Although from the outside it may appear to be a modest building, the architectural richness of the interiors of the Bahia Palace makes it worth a visit on any tour of the medina of Marrakech. The two main attractions are the main marble courtyard and the luxurious salons located in the haram area.

The palace was built at the end of the 19th century as the residence of the Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed, who was then in the service of Sultan Moulay al-Hasan I. Behind its doors you will find rooms with mosaic ceilings and ornate stone carvings, with an exquisite level of detail and taste. The overall interior decoration results in an exhibition of Moroccan craftsmanship at its best.

During the high temperature months the interiors of the Bay Palace serve as a refuge from the scorching Moroccan heat. The lush interior courtyard of the grand riad is composed mainly of banana-leaf plants and citrus trees, providing a tranquil respite in contrast to the Medina's exterior.

Book a guided tour of Marrakech

7- Explore the ramparts

Bab Agnaou| ©Doyler79
Bab Agnaou| ©Doyler79

Since the domains of Marrakech have extended beyond the walls, a walk along the wall is a good way to appreciate and distinguish the contrast between the old and the new part of the city. The wall covers an area of approximately 18 km where you will find more than 20 impressive gates, of which Bab Agnaou is considered the most beautiful.

The walls surrounding the medina of Marrakech were built in the 12th century as a protective wall to guard against external attacks on the people who lived there. Today most of the hotels, riads and traditional restaurants are located within its walls forming what we know as the old city.

The Moroccans have decided to preserve the wall as an icon of the city and an impressive architectural work in itself. The walls are lined with hedges, gardens and benches that are a good place to rest during your walk.

8- Luxury accommodations and Hammans

Entrance of La Mamounia Hotel| ©Pi3.124
Entrance of La Mamounia Hotel| ©Pi3.124

Two of the most prestigious hotels in the world, the La Mamounia Hotel and the Royal Mansour Hotel, are located within the confines of the medina of Marrakech. The most interesting part is that they are completely open to visitors so you can include these stops in your tour.

You can plan a walk to explore the gardens of La Mamounia, take a moment and stop at the cafe or browse the expensive luxury stores inside its premises. For its part, the Royal Mansour hotel dazzles the viewer with its impressive architecture.

As for the hammams or communal baths, they are scattered throughout the medina; the most modern and luxurious ones offer their clients additional complements such as beauty treatments typical of modern spas and, of course, massage sessions. Plan a spa morning in one of these luxurious hammams if you visit Marrakech for two days in Marrakech or three days in Marrakech.

9- Explore the Saadian tombs

Saadi Tombs| ©Lviatour
Saadi Tombs| ©Lviatour

The Saadies Tombs is the place where more than 100 princes and Sultan Ahmed el Mansour are currently buried. The entire mausoleum is lined with marble stones forming a dazzling interior space. In the tombs, covered with shiny tiles, one can find extremely elaborate inscriptions. The funerary spaces are of exquisite taste with magnificent vaulted chambers bathed in the subtle light of natural lanterns that create a solemn, calm and serene atmosphere inside.

If you visit the Saadian tombs I recommend arriving early; before 10 am, to avoid possible crowds. The entrance fee is about 1 €.

10- Explore the Museum of Marrakech

Touring the Marrakech Museum| ©Donar Reiskoffer
Touring the Marrakech Museum| ©Donar Reiskoffer

Exploring the museum of Marrakech is much more than art and history. The city's main museum is housed in a 19th century palace of exquisite architecture and design. It has a fascinating art collection composed of traditional objects from different Moroccan regions or villages. However, I personally consider the museum's architecture itself to be an immersive work of art that tourists and locals alike will enjoy.

On your visit through the medina of Marrakech take a moment to embrace the tranquility and peace of this space. As you stroll among arches and columns millimetrically decorated with colorful mosaics, appreciate Moroccan art up close and don't forget to sip a tasty mint tea in the cafe.

Get ready for your adventure in the Medina of Marrakech

Through the streets of the Medina| ©Carlos Felipe Pardo
Through the streets of the Medina| ©Carlos Felipe Pardo

Before visiting the Medina of Marrakech you should be properly prepared, so I share my most useful tips for traveling to Marrakech. Remember that, although Marrakech is a beautiful and exciting city, it is considered one of the main cultural centers not only of Morocco but of all Africa. Located in the list of the most visited destinations in the world, its streets buzz with activity all day, every day. Prepare your energies and enjoy!

Useful tips when visiting the Medina.

  • Wear appropriate clothing: Don't forget that 70% of Moroccans are of Arab origin whose culture is very conservative.
  • Carry cashBeforeentering the markets make sure you have a few dirhams with you. In most cases you will not be able to use your credit cards for street shopping in the Medina.
  • Have a map of the place at hand: or Google Maps for reference.

Consider a guided tour

Medina| ©cattan2011
Medina| ©cattan2011

If it is your first time visiting Morocco, if you have no experience traveling to foreign developing countries, if you are traveling alone and/or if you are not fluent in English or French, one way to feel more confident in Marrakech is to hire a guided tour during your first days in Marrakech.

A good guide will make your life easier by taking you through the most interesting places in the Medina and giving you the tips you need to follow the tour on your own. The guide will be especially helpful when you visit the souks of Marrakech where it is really easy to get lost even for the locals themselves. Additionally, you will be able to express all the doubts you have and learn ways to communicate.

Book your guided tour of Marrakech