Planning Your Trip to Marrakech
For those planning a vacation to Morocco, Marrakech is an important touchpoint. Some choose to stay for a few days and explore it as a city break, while others prefer to combine it with a wider city tour of Rabat, Fes, and Casablanca. A third option is using Marrakech as a base to explore the surrounding Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert.
When packing for your trip, you'll want to bring conservative clothing to respect the local culture: long pants and long-sleeved shirts are a good idea. The country’s medinas (historic city centers) can be crowded and chaotic to navigate, so sneakers or comfortable sandals will be helpful as well. In addition, Morocco offers the opportunity to do plenty of outdoor activities, like hiking; outdoor gear will definitely come in handy.
Marrakech in 1 Day
If you’re visiting Marrakech as part of a larger itinerary, like this one, you may only have a day or so to spend in the city. Even with limited time, you’ll be able to get a good sense of place by planning your day strategically.
Start off in the medina, where the center of the action is Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. This bustling space is home to small shops and hawkers in the morning, but really comes to life with food sellers and street performers during the evening; it can be interesting to visit more than once over the course of the day. Have a look around, before heading southwest to the Koutoubia Mosque—the largest mosque in Marrakech, and an iconic building. Non-Muslims cannot enter the mosque, but can still have a look at its imposing 250-foot minaret tower and visit its rose garden.
North of Jemaa el-Fnaa are several souks (open-air markets). Those looking for carpets, spices, argan oil, colorful fabrics, or all manner of goods may enjoy doing a bit of
shopping; haggling is both accepted and expected. If you’re not much of a shopper, skip the souks and instead head south to the area around the kasbah (citadel), where you’ll find a number of attractions to explore. These include the 19th-century Bahia Palace, the ruins of the 16th-century El Badii Palace, and the Saadian Tombs (be aware that there is often a long line to enter the tombs).
Once you’ve seen your fill, finish off your day with dinner. If you haven’t yet, be sure to taste the Moroccan classics: couscous, lamb, and tagine. From street stalls and cafés to high-end restaurants, the medina is sure to offer something to suit your tastes.
Marrakech in 2-3 Days
With an additional day or two to spare, you’ll be able to explore the medina at a more relaxed pace, or venture beyond it and devote some time to the new city.
Besides the souks and palaces, the medina is also home to a number of interesting museums. Those looking to learn more about Moroccan history and art can head to spots like the Musée de Marrakech, Musée de Mouassine, or the Heritage Museum, among others. Many museums are housed in colorfully-tiled former palaces or riads (traditional stately homes), making them a feast for the senses.
Alternatively, use your second or third day for a visit to the new city (Ville Nouvelle) and Majorelle Garden. Created by French artist Jacques Majorelle over several decades at the turn of the 20th century, the garden is known for its collection of exotic plants, arranged around photogenic tiled fountains and deep-blue buildings. It’s located to the north of the old city, adjacent to the Yves Saint Laurent Museum.
Marrakech in 4-5 Days
A 4-5 day trip to Marrakech will allow you to spread out your sightseeing, spending longer at each attraction with ample time for breaks. One must-do is stopping at a café or street vendor for a Moroccan specialty—heavily-sweetened mint tea. It’s traditional to share this tea with guests, so you may also be offered a complimentary glass at your accommodation or when shopping in the souk.
Another interesting activity to do in Marrakech is visiting a hammam (traditional bathhouse). You’ll be bathed and given exfoliating treatments with black soap (savon noir) by an attendant. Some upscale hammams also offer massages. Note that hammams are gender-segregated; some have separate entrances, while others have specific visiting times for men and women.
If you’re keen to see more of the country, a longer trip will also leave you with enough time for a day tour. A commonplace to combine with Marrakech is the seaside town of Essaouira, about a three-hour drive away. This historic beach spot is known for its seafood. Those eager to see Marrakech, Essaouira, and the Atlas Mountains may enjoy this five-day itinerary featuring all three.
Marrakech in 6 or More Days
With six or more days, you’ll be able to thoroughly explore Marrakech’s center and the surrounding region, do multiple activities of your choice, and get off the beaten path in the city.
Beyond the historic district, there’s also plenty to see in Marrakech’s newer areas. The hip neighborhood of Guéliz offers everything from broad Parisian-style boulevards to modern museums, pleasant cafés, and high-end restaurants. Guéliz is dotted with contemporary art galleries and small museums, making it a good place to spend a day or half-day to clear your head after the hustle and bustle of the medina. Another good half-day trip is the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), located a 20-minute drive southeast of downtown.
If you’d like to leave the city center and get outdoors, you can check out these Four Great Hiking Regions Near Marrakech. From gentle walks around the village of Amizmiz to the challenging ascent of Antar Summit, the area surrounding Marrakech offers hikes suitable for all preferences and skill levels.