Marrakech is a place steeped in history and architecture, the city with its souks, palaces and the labyrinth-like medina is best navigated leisurely with a guide or someone who truly knows it well particularly if you only have a few days. We spent a perfect week in Morocco last December and here are some highlights of the best things to do in Marrakech if you have at least 3 days in the city and 7 days in the area.
Most people planning a trip to Morocco manage to get to The Sahara desert, Fes, even to Chefchaouen, nicknamed the “blue pearl of Morocco,” on a 10 day trip. But we like to go slow and decided to save Fes, Chefchaouen and Casablanca for a future trip and spend most of our time in Marrakech.
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Our 6 night / 7 day Marrakech Itinerary
We spent 2 days at Kasbah Tamadot resort nestled high in the Atlas Mountains and hiked up for traditional lunch at Berber house in one of the villages. The other 5 days we spent in Marrakech exploring the Red city and doing some side trips. Here is how our 7 day Marrakech Itinerary looked:
2 days in the Atlas Mountains
1 day to Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast
3 days in Marrakech
1 day to the Agafay Desert
We flew directly from our desert adventure at Agafay to the airport to catch a flight to Porto, Portugal.
Must See and Best things to do in Marrakech
The heart of Marrakech lies in its historic city center – The Medina, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. For centuries, the medina acted as a political and economic hub. Royals resided here, international trade took place here and the influence radiated throughout the Middle East from here. Walking through the many narrow alleyways of this 11th-century maze, life still seems the same in Marrakech in many ways.
You will catch a whiff of the fresh bread baking in the morning when people bring their dough to be baked in the bakery, there are small shops selling everything from produce to rugs, shoes and mass-made trinkets. Kids hurry past little trolleys the transport the luggage of tourists since the cars can’t make it inside these narrow streets.
On day one in Marrakech, we visited Bahai Place, Saadian Tombs, walked around the Jemaa el Fna Square and had dinner at Nomad.
We met with our local guide arranged by the Riad and took a taxi to the Bahia Palace to start our tour. Within walking distance of must-see Marrakech sights like Jemaa El Fna, the Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs sits the intricate Bahia Palace. This 19th-century palace exemplifies the lavish lifestyle of the Moroccan upper class. Before it was open to the public, this property housed various Moroccan royals.
The palace features intricate entryways that lead to colorful mosaics and latticework, as well as elaborate walkways that lead you to courtyards and gardens. The palace was ransacked in the early 1900s but the members of the royal family continue to stay here occasionally. Today, Bahai Palace in one of the top places to visit in Marrakech. You will love the Moroccan zellij tiles, carved cedar wood doors and panels of intricately carved plaster.
Badi Palace was once a playground for Saadian royalty but today it is just some sandstone ruins. We skipped this Marrakech attraction and headed to the Saadian Tombs.
The cemetery, which sits just south of the medina has more than 160 tombs filled with the remains of prominent Saadians. The members of this Arab dynasty are considered descendants of the prophet Muhammad. First used in the early 14th century, the Saadian Tombs’ intricate decor of mosaics, cedar ceilings, colorful mosaics and Carrara marble headstones are a must see Marrakech attraction.
We followed our guide as he led us through the Jewish quarters and more alleys inside the medina. We would have surely lost our way if not for him. After several turns and a stop for some mint tea, we ended up in the southwest corner of the medina to see Marrakech’s most recognizable landmark, Koutoubia Mosque.
Featuring salmon-hued walls and tile works, expansive archways, the impressive 253-foot-tall minaret (or tower) of this 12th-century Moorish looms over the Square. The mosque is the inspiration for several other religious sites, including the Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco, and La Giralda in Seville, Spain.
You have to be a practicing Muslim to enter the Mosque, so we stopped to listen to the prayer call and headed to the Jemaa el Fna Square that was bustling with activity.
Jemaa el Fna Square
The sun was setting and it was the best time to enjoy the square observed our guide. You can spend hours if not days in the winding souks, tanneries, fresh-juice stalls, and labyrinthine streets of Jemaa el Fna square but the square comes alive at dusk. You will find snake charmers, street performers and people in groups playing different games.
Over the course of our private tour, our local guide pointed us to shops selling all kinds of things — handmade slippers, shiny lanterns, exotic spices, rose oil, and kaftans. We were not shopping for anything other than a few souvenirs. But visiting here is a must, it is one of the unique things to do in Marrakech.
We bid our guide goodbye and headed to Nomad for dinner and took a horse and carriage ride back to our hotel to rounds out the experience.
On day two in Marrakech, we visited the Jardins Majorelle and planned a Hammam for the evening.
Jardins Majorelle designed by famed painter Jacques Majorelle and later rescued from a potential hotel project by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé deserve at least a whole afternoon. Strolling around the lush grounds with its colorful pots and art is a welcome breather from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is also home to the Berber Museum which was formerly Jacques Majorelle’s studio and Yves Saint Laurent Museum. The well-preservated rooms have a curated collection that tells the story of the indigenous North African people.
If you love fashion, you can’t miss a visit to Yves the Saint Laurent Museum. Seems like it is a popular place in Marrakech and be prepared for long lines, crowds, and selfie stick toting fashionistas.
Get scrubbed in a traditional Hammam
Experiencing a traditional Hammam is one of the top things to do in Marrakech. The exfoliating glove and the Moroccan black soap are used for this traditional ritual. The plant pulp contains black olives rich in vitamin E and gets the skin ready to scrub. A rough exfoliating glove (kessa in Arabic) is used by the attendant usually a woman to remove the dead skin. The benefits of a traditional hammam in Marrakech include removing toxins, increases blood flow and lymphatic improvement. It offers deep cleaning and purification of the skin and physical and spiritual relaxation.
A hammam in Marrakech offers a time of relaxation and wellness where the skin can return to its natural brightness. Be prepared stripped naked and to see layers of old dead skin being peeled away! There are many Spas and Hammams in Marrakech that offer this and we opted for the experience at 72 Riad Living where we spent a night. It was private and intimate and one that still brings giggles in our family.
On day three in Marrakech, we rode Quad bikes on the Agafay Desert
Ride Quad bikes on the Agafay Desert
If you are short on time but looking for some desert adventures, a fun experience is to cruise the desert landscape on quad bikes. Arrive at the rendezvous point to meet your guide, who will have all appropriate gear and plan a route that has you riding on rolling hills of the Kik Plateau and down into the Agafay Desert with its oases and dry river beds. You can see the Atlas mountains in the distance.
We spent two nights on the outskirts of Marrakech, at the foothills of the Atlas Moutain.
A trip to the Atlas Mountain
If you want a glimpse of rural Moroccan life, plan a trip into the valleys and adobe villages of the Atlas Mountains. We spend 2 days at a kasbah in the foothills of the Atlas Mountain. It was one of the best resorts we have ever been too. I know I say that all the time, but this was pretty special!
Imlil, a village at the foot of the country’s highest peak, Jebel Toubkal, is worth a trip as well. From Imlil, hiked for a few hours to get to a restaurant to enjoy a traditional tagine prepared by Berbers. One of the best meals of the trip! Tajines cooked with fresh figs and vegetables!! The food was excellent and the views amazing – we could not have asked for a better afternoon!
The choices for day trips from Marrakech are endless, you can even go to Casablanca or Ben-Haddou – we opted for a day on the coast.
A day to the Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast
Essaouira lies roughly 3 hours to the west of Marrakech. It’s an ancient coastal town dating back to at least the 5th century BC. With a picturesque port, a not so intimidating souk, and wonderful shoreline, it is worth the drive. On the way stop at the Argan Oil Coop to pick up some fresh argan oil(they have a long shelf life) and handmade saffron soaps. Albeit touristy you might want to stop to check out the goats climbing on the Argan trees. Have some change for the goatherd, goats don’t amble up on trees for free!
Places to eat in Marrakech
La Table Du Riad at Riad 72 Living is an elegant and intimate culinary experience that serves seasonal and traditional Moroccan dishes but in a reinvented modern presentation.
Nomad is a must eat multi-level restaurant for many reasons. Go during sunset and eat at one of their two gorgeous terraces. The food is a modern interpretation of traditional Moroccan dishes. Don’t miss the orange cake.
Yacout is home to one of the most picturesque riads in the city, Yacout is a tried-and-true standby for both locals and visitors.
Other Things to do in Marrakech
If you have a few more days in Marrakech you can in a hot air balloon ride with Champagne toast and Moroccan breakfast, included), a guided shopping trip to the souks at Jamaa el Fna Square.
Maybe plan a day trip to Ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed group of clay dwellings that once served as a trading post. The trip will take you through the Ourika Valley, the Atlas Mountains and you can make a stop at the Ouzoud Falls.
Of course, if you are willing to endure the 9-hour drive, a trip to the Sahara desert to spend a night or two in the Berber tents, ride camels, sandboard and catch a sunset on the dunes is one of the top things to do in Morocco.
The Medersa Ben Youssef, an extraordinarily well preserved 16th century Qur’anic school in the medina is another attraction in Marrakech you should add to your itinerary. Sultan who refurbished the Medersa in the 16th century had artisans from Andalusia to carve the intricate stucco. It is open for non-muslims to visit but sadly it was closed for renovation when we were there.
Hope you find this guide of things to do and 7 day Marrakech Itinerary helpful when planning your trip.
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