18 Things To Do in Marrakech for An Authentic Experience

The towering Atlas Mountains are within easy striking distance of Marrakech
The towering Atlas Mountains are within easy striking distance of Marrakech | © Jacek Sopotnicki / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of James Tennent
18 February 2021

Many people associate the thousand-year-old city of Marrakech with labyrinthine alleyways and snake charmers, which is quite right – but it is equal parts ancient and modern. There are many hip, as well as historic, things to discover in ‘the Red City’ for a truly authentic experience. Think drinking spice-infused cocktails at an underground bar, tucking into slow-cooked lamb and watching artisans at work. Culture Trip curates 18 things to add to your Marrakech itinerary.

Take in great views and culture at the Heritage Museum

Museum
Map View
© Reciprocity Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Spend a couple of hours exploring this eclectic spot, a five-minute walk from Jemaa el-Fna square, if you’re not a fan of massive museums. The Heritage Museum, housed inside a 17th-century riad in the heart of the city, features a charming spread of Moroccan antique artefacts from the Alouani Bibi family. Work your way through the display rooms, where you’ll find everything from ancient pottery to tribal jewellery on show. The tranquil rooftop cafe is worth a visit too, with views over the bustling souq below.

Snap Instagrammable pictures at Jardin Majorelle

Museum, Botanical Garden
Map View
© John Bracegirdle / Alamy Stock Photo
Find zen at one of Marrakech’s most famous botanical gardens, Jardin Majorelle, which covers more than 2.5 acres (1ha). The artistic gardens, centred around an electric blue building, were created over the course of 40 years by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and was co-owned by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his business partner Pierre Bergé for many years and who saved it from destruction. Bamboos, palms and cacti make for an Instagrammable mix, while the garden also features a museum showcasing Yves Saint Laurent’s connection with Marrakech. If you’re travelling by bus, it’s just a short walk from the Boukar Majorelle stop.

Go back in time at Le Jardin Secret

Museum
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© Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo
Le Jardin Secret, a secluded riad (a traditional Moroccan house) in the heart of the Medina on Rue Mouassine, features two gardens, a museum, boutique and two cafes. The palace dates back more than 400 years but it was rebuilt in the mid-19th century – and, over the years, it’s hosted some of Morocco’s most important political figures. Head up to its tower, one of the highest in the Medina, for views stretching to the Atlas Mountains, and enjoy strolling around its picturesque gardens. Visit in the morning while it’s quieter and join a guided tour to learn more about its history.

Brush up on your history at Bahia Palace

Historical Landmark
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Courtyard of the Bahia Palace in Marrakech, Morocco.
© Eric Nathan / Alamy Stock Photo
This 19th-century palace, set across two acres in the middle of the Medina, is one of the best-preserved historical sites in Marrakech. It was built by Grand Vizier Si Musa in the 1860s and later expanded by his son, Si Ba Ahmed, for his four wives and 24 concubines. It comprises 150 rooms with Andalusian and Moorish influences and intricate marquetry – but the pièce de résistance is the Court of Honour, with a 1,500sqm floor made of Italian marble.

Sip a Moroccan spice-infused cocktail at Baromètre

Bar, Restaurant, Cocktails, $$$
Map View
Barometre
Courtesy of Baromètre

Cocktail lover? Head down to the experimental Baromètre – Marrakech’s top nightspot, bar and restaurant. Along with a menu of classic drinks, this underground bar brings in a bit of the Medina with local spice-infused spirits. Try the Marrakech Market, which blends whisky with cinnamon, orange and saffron.

Watch the sunset over dinner at Nomad

Restaurant, Moroccan, $$$
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Sunset from Nomad rooftop
Courtesy of Nomad
You have a few options when it comes to rooftop old-city restaurants with sunset views of the Atlas Mountains – but Nomad is in a class of its own. This restaurant is loved for its fresh, local ingredients like braised lamb with orange zest, ginger and star anise, and spiced chicken leg with apricots, dates and ginger. Being one of the best rooftop restaurant bars, it’s as popular as you would expect so book early to secure your table.

Sip mint tea on the terraces of Cafe de France

Cafe, Moroccan
Map View
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Morocco is known for its mint tea – and Cafe de France brews a mean pot. Enjoy this sweet drink (or something stronger on the menu) from the cafe’s terrace, which overlooks the bustling Jemaa el-Fnaa market in the Medina quarter. Here, you can expect to watch a roster of local street performers.

Watch artisans make leather at the tanneries

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Men working at the Tanneries in the Medina district, Marrakech.
© Adam Goodwin / Alamy Stock Photo

Head to the Bab Debbagh quarter, in the northern end of the Medina, to learn all about one of Marrakech’s oldest crafts. Leather tanning is a time-honoured practice and it’s fascinating watching artisans at work. Jump in a taxi to Place Moukef or Bab Debbagh to get there and visit first thing in the morning to see the tradesmen in action.

Day-trip to the mountains of Imlil

Natural Feature
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Walkers in the High Atlas mountains, Morocco.
© Keith Beeson / Alamy Stock Photo

Take cues from Marrakech locals and head up to the mountains for respite. The (yellow) shared cabs, parked just down from Jemaa el-Fnaa, can whizz you up to the Atlas Mountains in an hour and a half. Trek up to Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, or walk around Berber villages.

Watch street performers at Jemaa el-Fnaa

Market
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Jemaa el-Fnaa, Food stalls, Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech
© Andrew Smith / Alamy Stock Photo
Wind your way through the crowds of late-night Jemaa el-Fnaa to watch performers show off their talents and ply their wares. Jokesters and storytellers rule the roost in this ancient square, while gamers and even acrobats sometimes find a way in. Avoid anyone in Jemaa el-Fnaa who’s got a snake or a monkey – apart from obvious animal-cruelty issues, the owners will put the animal on your shoulder, let you take a picture and then demand cash in return.

Haggle over trinkets and treasures in the Medina

Market, Moroccan
Map View
Marrakesh Medina
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
The old Medina is good for whatever you’re after – whether it’s fresh vegetables, handmade tables and chairs or light fittings. Wherever you go and whatever you buy, just make sure to haggle – it’s part of the experience and mostly expected. Keep a light disposition but stay firm and you’ll soon earn the respect of old-town shopkeepers.

Try a slow-cooked lamb recipe that’s been handed down for generations at Mechoui Alley

Market, Moroccan
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Mechoui lamb in the market in Marrakesh Morocco.
© dbimages / Alamy Stock Photo

For hundreds of years and several generations, the families of Mechoui Alley have woken up early in the morning, stuck a whole lamb on a stick and put it in a large underground oven to slowly roast for four-to-six hours. The result is a deliciously succulent and tender plate of meat that practically falls off the bone. Sprinkle on some cumin and salt for an extra layer of flavour.

Get scrubbed down at Hammam Dar el-Bacha

Spa
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There are few things as quintessentially Moroccan as a trip to the hammam – the Middle East’s answer to a thermal spa. Head on down to the largest public one, Hammam Dar el-Bacha, with your bathing essentials and enjoy being scrubbed across every inch of your body. Be sure to check the timings for men and women before you go.

Indulge in French fine dining at the Grand Cafe de la Poste

Restaurant, French, $$$
Map View
Interior of Grand Cafe de la Poste
Courtesy of Grand Café de la Poste
Visit Grand Cafe de la Poste, in the Gueliz neighbourhood, for its food and architecture. The restaurant has Moorish and European elements throughout, complete with Berber carpets by the fireplace, while the menu includes French- and Moroccan-inspired food. The confit de canard (duck) comes highly recommended.

Learn about local weaving techniques at Dar Si Saïd

Building, Museum, Natural Feature
Map View
Interior of Dar Si Said Museum
© Dimitar Chobanov / Alamy Stock Photo

Dar Si Said, otherwise known as the Museum of Moroccan Arts, is Marrakech’s oldest museum and it’s where you’ll learn about different Moroccan rug styles. Each region and city in Morocco has its own flair. You’ll see some magnificent examples of traditionally made rugs here, all while also learning about the weaving techniques it takes to create them.

Discover old Marrakech at the Maison de la Photographie

Museum
Map View
Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech, Morocco.
Courtesy of Maison de la Photographie
Get your culture and history fix at Maison de la Photographie – a gallery dedicated to some 8,000 photographs of Marrakech between 1870 and 1950. The work of these early photographers shines a light on the former Moroccan way of life and looks at how it has changed over the past century.

Buy a pair of leather slippers at Atika

Shop
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Having visited the tanneries, you’ll no doubt feel inspired to leave with some leather goods. Head to Atika for some of the best handmade leather loafers in the city. And don’t be surprised if you leave with more than one pair – there are endless leather colourways, while the store stocks many suede styles too.

Cosy up with a novel at the Cafe du Livre

Bookstore, Shop
Map View

If you’re looking for English-language books to pass the time on your bus journey down south, then Marrakech isn’t much help as most bookshops only stock French novels. But fortunately the Cafe du Livre keeps a good selection of second-hand English books. It also has the only weekly pub quiz in town.

Sadie Whitelocks contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on February 18, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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