Located on the foot of the Atlas Mountains and nicknamed the Red City for the red walls surrounding the medina, Marrakech, Morocco is one of the most beguiling destinations. There are many reasons why you should add Marrakech to your bucket list.
A visit to Marrakech is an all-consuming experience as you stay at intricately decorated riads, visit vibrant markets, immerse yourself in the rich culture and try incredible food. And it will be one you will remember for many years to come. The city thrives on tourism and handmade crafts, so expect to be very well looked after and maybe return with extra luggage in tow full of souvenirs. Moroccans sure are persuasive! But despite a surge in popularity, the old Marrakech remains preserved.
Our stay was nothing short of impressive, and here are the reasons why Marrakech, Morocco stole our liver.
…yes, that’s not a typo. In Morocco, the liver is the symbol of love instead of the heart.
6 Reasons to Visit Marrakech, Morocco
1. Experience a Sensory Feast in a Traditional Marrakech Medina
The medina is the heart of Marrakech, and its pink walls represent the old city. When you pass through old gates, Bab Agnaou being the most impressive of all, you step back in time and enter a vortex of scooters, donkeys, and cars zooming past vendors behind carts and street stalls calling out left and right.
Among the narrow alleyways, you’ll stumble upon souks – traditional open-air markets that sell spices, leather goods, textiles, rugs, lamps, tagines, cosmetics, jewelry and so much more. The souks date back centuries to when Marrakech was an important stop along the trading routes, made accessible by the many entry points (gates) to the medina.
Some souks are mixed, but some are still categorized as they were back in the day. Souk Cherratin focuses on leather goods, for example, Souk Haddadine is the blacksmith market, Souk Zrabia is a sea of rugs, Souk Smata specializes in colorful pointy shoes, and Souk El Attarine offers spices and perfume. Most workers’ lives revolve around their craft. Observing them create right there in their shops is a hypnotizing experience.
Join a guided tour or venture out independently, hunting for treasures, arousing your senses, and practicing your bargaining skills. Should you decide to do a self-guided tour, make sure to download an offline map so you don’t get lost in the labyrinth of stalls. If you lose your way, use a minaret to orientate yourself.
2. Let Yourself Be Entertained at Jemaa El-Fnaa Square
Looking like a medieval amusement park, there is more going on in Jemaa El-Fnaa main square than first meets the eye. Only after a bit of standing around, the vibrant and chaotic blur starts to take shape into snake charmers, fortune tellers, street vendors, juice makers, and performers in colorful djellabas.
The Jemaa El-Fnaa Square is the mecca of Moroccan street food. Make your way down there at dinner time, when the square really comes to life, and explore the individual food stalls. Pick one that tickles your fancy (or one with the most persuasive touters) and enjoy the local delicacies at the communal outdoor seating area. Afterward, stay to observe the locals gather in tight circles to watch performers put on a show and tell stories and anecdotes. If you tire, head to one of the terrace restaurants overlooking the square and enjoy a mint tea while watching the commotion below.
3. Explore Impressive Historic Sites
Marrakech is full of impressive sites that will please just about anyone, including history buffs, architecture, and art lovers. The Saadian Tombs is the place to admire the best of Islamic architecture. It houses 66 royal tombs of Morocco’s former rules of the 16th and 17th centuries in intricately decorated halls with high ceilings and tall arches. Another popular attraction is Bahia Palace, the beauty of which will leave you speechless. Featuring elaborate tiling, courtyards, and gardens, the palace was the object of envy for rulers then, as it is now for the amazed visitors. The Grand Courtyard is the favorite part of the palace, but it becomes hard to decide when every room is infinitely impressive.
Seen from almost anywhere and therefore serving as the perfect landmark, the Koutoubia Mosque and its 70-meter-tall minaret sit just outside Jemaa el Fnaa square. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that each side of the minaret has a different pattern featuring common decorative motifs. You can also marvel at ancient decorations covering the 16th-century El Badi Palace. Once a majestic palace, most of El Badi stands in ruins today, adorned by enormous stork nests, save for preserved courtyards, walls, dungeons, and gardens.
4. Enjoy some of the Most Beautiful Gardens in the World
Marrakech is known as the ‘garden city’, and they make for the perfect place to get away from the business around town. It’s hard to believe the tranquility these sanctuaries provide among the bustle outside. Walk through the olive trees in Menara Gardens that are popular with locals. Visit the world-famous Jardin Majorelle, popular with tourists for the combination of spellbinding colors, and highly sought-after thanks to Instagram. Or explore the botanical assortment in Le Jardin Secret, dating back almost 400 years!
5. Pamper Yourself with a Traditional Hammam
A hammam is a place where locals go to bathe, relax and socialize while undergoing spa procedures in luxurious steam rooms. Visiting one of these bathhouses is the best thing to do if you want to experience an ancient cleansing ritual and unwind at the same time. Check the rules of the hammam you pick for what to bring, and note that people of each gender take a separate course when entering treatment rooms. Set aside two to three hours for the entire experience, consisting of dry and steamy heat treatments, hammam scrubbing, and mint tea sipping relaxation. The most revitalizing way to end a day of exploring!
6. Indulge in Moroccan Cuisine
Indulging in delicious Moroccan cuisine is one of the best things you can do while in Marrakech. Just like your experience in the markets, Moroccan dishes are a sensory delight. Representing a fusion of Berber and Arab traditions and a combination of fragrant spices. Here are some dishes you should try during your stay in Marrakech.
You’ve probably already heard about Tajine and couscous – a meat and vegetable stew slow-cooked in a cone-shaped pot sharing the same name as the dish. And couscous – a fluffy grain topped with vegetables and meat. In Marrakech, Tajine has a local sister Tanjia – both a dish and a vessel, Tanjia utilizes even slower cooking methods that result in extremely tender meat. Traditionally, a Tanjia is cooked overnight in communal ovens located in hammams.
Another popular delicacy is a pastilla, a sweet and savory pie filled with spiced meat and almonds, enveloped in layers of phyllo pastry. The dish is usually prepared for celebrations and is a big-time local favorite.
And while on the topic of sweets, you can’t miss chebakia – deep-fried dough dunked in honey and sprinkled with sesame. And the obvious: mint tea and all-you-can-eat dates.
In Italy, we learned how to make pasta from scratch, and in Morocco, we took a tagine-making cooking class, which we highly recommend if you have the time. The cooking class in Marrakech was one of the highlights of our visit. If not, do take a food tour to learn about the incredible local ingredients. Our family is in for a culinary adventure when we get back home! We’ll be treating them to a new cuisine every night of the week after experiencing a cooking class in Marrakech.
While many of the dishes are traditionally meat-based, there are many plant-based restaurants and vegetarian-adapted menu options. Vegetarians and vegans can exhale in relief! And many restaurants have rooftops offering stunning views. In fact, the restaurant scene in Marrakech is SO vibrant that the biggest challenge of your stay will be choosing where to eat. So, the first thing you do is take a food tour or cooking class in Marrakech. We recommend joining the highly acclaimed Traditional Moroccan Cooking Class & Market Visit. We had a great time with Khmisa and Kawtar and the entire class!
With so many things to do and try in Marrakech, Morocco you’ll likely find yourself needing a vacation after this vacation. It’s an all-immersive adventure, indeed! But that is the main reason to visit Marrakech – a completely unique and cultural experience that has you picking up your jaw at every turn. Though overwhelming at first, the longer you spend in Marrakech, Morocco, the more you start to see what seemed like an assault on the senses turn into organized chaos. And you grow grateful for the opportunity to try on local traditions and rituals that leave an impression for a lifetime.
Before visiting Marrakech, we spent time on the amazing Tenerife, Canary Islands. It is just a short flight and offers an entirely new landscape to discover. You can find out more in our Tenerife blog here.