Lisa Lansing

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10 things to do in Marrakesh

For our first trip to Africa, we spent one week in Marrakesh. We had a great time! The weather in Morocco is perfectly sunny in the winter. Everyone is friendly, there are cute cats everywhere, and the food is great. Good vibes all around!

In this post, I share 10 must-see attractions in Morocco’s most visited city.

1. the Medina

Walk through Marrakesh’s old town, otherwise known as the Medina. The city centre is a maze-like collection of alleys, all packed with little shops and sprawling markets (called souks in Arabic). The alleys aren’t limited to pedestrians so pay attention as you walk around. A scooter might run you over! 😉

In Arabic, -medina- means -city- but in Marrakesh, it refers to the old town specifically. Thanks to Kuba for this photo.

2. Cafe des Épices

If you’re in need of a break after wandering through the narrow crowded streets of the medina, head to Café des Épices for some mint tea or espresso.

This was the first cafe we visited and it quickly became our favourite cafe in Marrakesh. Their espresso and mint tea tasted the best out of all the cafes we tried. Also, it’s centrally located with plenty of seating, drinks are affordable (literally half the price of drinks in other cafes) and their food is pretty tasty too.

This was my favourite place to rest and refuel before venturing out into the city for more sightseeing.

Café des Épices overlooks Rahba Qedima (the old square). The surrounding souks seemed to always be busy but this square was never that crowded. Thanks to Kuba for this photo.

This cafe isn’t 100% vegan but they do have several vegetarian options on their menu. We tried their vegetable sandwich (without the butter) for a quick bite to eat along with our tea and espresso. It was pretty good for a snack.

They also have wi-fi. Yay!

3. Jemaa al-Fnaa

All of the alleys in the Medina lead to the main square in the city. Jemaa al-Fnaa is the largest square in Africa and at night, it transforms into the busiest marketplace on the continent. Snake charmers, musicians, and women offering henna line the square. Lots of vendors walk around selling t-shirts, sunglasses, watches…even iPhones. Everyone’s vying for your attention.

It’s definitely worth seeing but be warned it’s crazy busy at night! The music was always cool, though. Just FYI, don’t photograph any performers in the square unless you’re prepared to pay it. 😉

4. Koutoubia Mosque

Across the street from Jemaa al-Fnaa, you’ll find the largest mosque in Marrakesh.

Koutoubia Mosque’s minaret is 77 metres tall.

Active mosques in Morocco are not open to non-Muslim visitors but we were happy to marvel at the mosque from the outside. If you need a break from the bustling Jemma al-Fnaa, relax in the adjoining park and soak up the rays!

5. Badii Palace

We visited two palaces during our week in Marrakesh. I recommend you see both of them because they complement each other nicely.

Only ruins remain but the vast palace complex is still maintained.

Badii Palace was built in the late 1500s. It took 15 years to build and represented the best craftsmanship at that time. The palace contained over 300 lavishly decorated rooms in addition to the courtyards and pool. Only ruins remain but it’s still an impressive site worth visiting. Tickets cost 70 dirhams, around $7.30 USD each.

The views from the tower are pretty cool, too! Thanks to Kuba for this photo.

Check out my first Marrakesh episode for a little tour of Badii Palace:

PRO TIP: After touring the palace, head to Kasbah Cafe just around the corner and watch the storks from the rooftop terrace. (Thanks to Lonely Planet for the recommendation!)

You’ll see lots of storks nesting at Badii Palace, as well. Storks are awesome! Thanks to Kuba for this photo.

6. Bahia Palace

This palace was built in the late 19th century, around 300 years after Badii Palace. At the time, it was the largest and most luxurious palace in Morocco.

In Arabic, -bahia- means -brilliant-. Aptly named, this palace is known for its floor to ceiling decorations.
Cool fact: this palace is decorated with first stained glass windows of Morocco.

This palace was a little tricky to find—we ended up walking all around it before we found the entrance. I recommend visiting in the morning because it seems to be more popular than the other palace. Tickets cost 70 dirhams, around $7.30 USD each.

7. Cafe Clock

Don’t leave Marrakesh without trying some vegan Moroccan food! We ate out several times but Cafe Clock was our favourite by far. It isn’t 100% vegan but they offer many vegan options—not just salad! We ate there twice and even came back a third time for our morning espressos.

The food was amazing! Everything was fresh, well-seasoned and not too oily. Finding tasty food at a restaurant that isn’t too oily is hard to do so we were so impressed with Cafe Clock’s offerings.

Go to Cafe Clock, thank me later. You won’t regret it! 🙂

8. Cyber Park

For the majority of our time in Marrakesh, we slept in a hostel right in the city centre. It was convenient being right in the middle of everything but the downside was that we rarely had a quiet moment to ourselves. The medina never sleeps it seems!

If you’re in need of a calm space to rest and reflect, head to Cyber Park. We’d hang out here to escape the noise of the old town or we’d simply enjoy our lunch in the sun, admiring the trees and cute cats roaming around.

Check out my second Marrakesh episode to see Cyber Park (in addition to Bahia Palace and Jemaa al-Fnaa):

9. The Secret Garden

We were pleasantly surprised to find this peaceful oasis right in the heart of the busy Medina. The Secret Garden takes the shape of a traditional manor house (a riad in Arabic) which always has a garden in its centre.

The first inhabitants of Marrakesh devised a system of underground channels to bring water from the Atlas Mountains all the way to the city. To this day, the garden is irrigated with this thousand-year-old method.
Two gardens are contained in this complex. The first contains exotic plants from five continents. The second is designed in an Islamic style following strict geometric rules. Thanks to Kuba for this photo.

This garden complex is over 400 years old. The original buildings were destroyed and rebuilt through the years but after 1934, maintenance ceased and it fell into a state of disrepair. A few years ago, it was renovated into the lush gardens we see today. Now it showcases Islamic art and architecture in the most tranquil of settings.

Viewing the garden from the cafe’s terrace is free. You have to pay extra to enter the tower, however. Thanks to Kuba for this photo.

This was one of my favourite sites not only for its beauty but because of its history. Learning about the garden’s history through its educational displays, photographs and videos definitely made me appreciate it more. Tickets cost 50 dirhams, around $5.23 each. Don’t miss it!

10. The Women’s Museum

Musée de la Femme, a space dedicated to the history and culture of the Moroccan woman, her daily life and her creativity, is the first of its kind in Morocco and another highlight of our trip.

Currently, the exhibits showcase handmade carpets, jewellery, and clothing made by indigenous Berber women. The contributions of women tend to be overlooked and under-appreciated in many societies so it’s important for everyone to learn about women’s history.

Tickets cost 30 dirhams, around $3.14 each. It’s only been open a few months so swing by and show your support if you can!

Our trip to Marrakesh was brief but now I’m inspired to revisit Morocco and venture to other African countries in the future. Someday we’ll return with our van. Thanks to Kuba for this photo in Bahia Palace.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my next post: 12 travel tips for Marrakesh!

Have you visited Marrakesh before? What were your favourite sites?

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