Wondering what unique things to do in Marrakech? Read on for our favorites!
Marrakech – our first real stop in our tour of Morocco. We spent the most time here of any of our stops in Morocco and just jumped into experiencing Moroccan life and culture.
Interestingly, we really felt like our time in Marrakech was filled with contrasts.
There were peaceful gardens and riads… and hectic, noisy streets.
There was wonderful hospitality and many kind people… and aggressive vendors and frequent attempts to scam you.
There were stunningly intricate mosaics and architecture… and trash everywhere on the streets.
People were dressed in very, very traditional outfits… and also in t-shirts and shorts.
It was so delightful seeing how these seemingly discordant pieces came together to give us an experience unlike any we’ve ever had! Even the things that may seem less pleasant were still just part of the whole experience – and an incredibly unique, exotic experience at that!
21 Unique Things to Do in Marrakech
I absolutely adored our time in Marrakech, and the unusual things there are to do and experiences to have in and around the city. These are 21 of the most interesting activities and attractions, and lesser known experiences you can’t miss in Marrakech.
1. Go On a Hot Air Balloon Ride
One of the most special and exciting adventures you can have in Marrakech is going on a hot air balloon ride. For this experience, you’ll head out of the city to the nearby desert, where you’ll sip mint tea while watching the balloon get filled, then board the basket, and finally lift off into the early morning sunrise.
Sail smoothly over the Moroccan desert landscape with a small group in the basket, listening to commentary by your expert and friendly pilot. When you land after your one hour flight, enjoy a large and delicious Berber breakfast spread at the base camp.
A hot air balloon ride is an incredible bucket list item you can check off in Morocco!
2. Experience a Traditional Hamman
While there are more luxury, upscale spas throughout Marrakech, experiencing a traditional hamman bath is one of the more unique things you can do in the city. Traditional hammans are communal places for women and men (the genders are, of course, separated) to have a deep cleaning bath.
What’s very cool about hammans in Morocco is that its a very traditional and longstanding activity, dating back hundreds and hundreds of years, that is still commonly practiced today.
Be prepared to be in a state of mostly undressed for this. If you’re coming from the United States, being naked with strangers may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it’s truly no big deal – everyone is just minding their own business, doing the same things.
A traditional hamman involves being scrubbed down with black soap and an exfoliating glove, rubbed with oil, getting a red clay mask, and then having your hair shampooed at the end. By the time you leave, your skin will feel brand new, and you’ll have had an incredibly authentic experience in Marrakech.
3. Visit the Musée Dar El Bacha
This museum is fairly small and is much less popular than other Marrakech attractions, which means there aren’t a ton of people around!
The building itself used to be a private palace for Thami El Glaoui, who was a powerful governor in Marrakech during the early 1900’s. A lot of notable European guests, like Winston Churchill, were entertained here!
In 2017, this residence opened as a museum, and Glaoui’s loss is most definitely our gain! The place is gorgeous. The main courtyard has trees and a fountain, and several little rooms to wander into. The tilework is impressive, and the columns just add an air of opulence.
Rooms off the main courtyard hold temporary exhibits (when we were there, the exhibits centered mainly around Jewish and Berber artifacts). There is also a coffee shop on the premises with special blends.
- Hours: 10am-6pm
- Cost: 60 dirham ($6)
4. Ride Camels & Have Dinner in the Agafay Desert
If you don’t have time to go all the way out to the Sahara desert, then taking going out to the Agafay Desert is really a must-do while you’re in Marrakech.
The Agafay Desert is only about 45 minutes from Marrakech and has a combination of sand dunes and rocky patches, and incredible views.
This small group tour starts in the late afternoon, giving you plenty of time for sightseeing during the daytime hours before heading out to the desert.
You’ll be picked up from your riad in Marrakech, and taken out to the desert, where you’ll ride camels into the dunes while the sun sets. Then back at the berber camp, tuck into a delicious Moroccan meal, with live music that will entertain you while you eat. Overall, an incredible way to end a day in Marrakech.
5. Drive ATVs through the Marrakech Palmerie
In this excursion, you’ll be taken to the Marrakech Palm Grove (aka the Palmerie), which is only 15 minutes from the city. The Palmerie is an oasis over 50 square miles large (140 square km), and has thousands of palm trees, plus olive trees and fruit trees. It’s a beautiful spot!
In the Palm Grove, you’ll meet up with your guide, who will teach you how to safely operate a quad ATV bike, and then away you go! You’ll ride through a variety of terrains (sandy dunes, hills, open sand, gravel, etc), as you whizz through the gorgeous palm groves.
Riding the ATVs lasts about 2 hours, and you’ll also have a break midway for mint tea and a bit of relaxation. The drivers and guides are all very helpful, kind, and fun to be with.
6. Marvel at the Saadian Tombs
The Saadian tombs were constructed by the Saadian sultan Ahmad Al Mansour in the early 1600’s to bury his and some of his descendants’ bodies.
The site is not huge, and there are usually just a few visitors, but the tombs themselves were incredible! There were intricate tiles on the floors and wall, and carved stucco arches and cedarwood all around.
The first and main burial area is a series of three rooms: The Mirhab room, the Room of 12 Columns, and the Room of 3 Niches. You can look into each room via a door opening, but you can’t walk around inside. Which makes sense — these are graves after all!
Easily the grandest of these rooms is the Room of 12 Columns, the burial site for Ahmad Al Mansour himself, his son, and his immediate successors. The walls are covered with “glazed earthenware crowned with Koranic freizes” (I’ll admit to not knowing what a Koranic frieze is, but I LOVE looking at it).
The ceiling is spectacular with both carved stucco and cedarwood. I appreciate the unusual nature of this Marrakech attraction – it’s not every day you see tombs so decked out!
- Hours: 9am-4:30pm
- Cost: 70 dirhams ($7)
7. Explore the Souks With a Local Shopping Guide
Souks are a general term for “market” and the souks of Morocco are a dazzling display of colors and textures, with the smell of fresh herbs and spices wafting through the air. It’s an enticing feast for all the senses – there are so many beautiful goods for sale, with so many options for interesting and unique souvenirs from Morocco to bring home with you.
Souk Semmarine is a popular and colorful souk near Jemaa el-Fnaa, but you will encounter plenty of souks and shops as you walk around Marrakech.
Shopping in Morocco is very different from shopping is most other places in the world. Practically every shop owner will call out to you as you walk down the street, inviting you to come browse their wares.
Additionally, there are no prices on anything, you have to ask the shopowner for the price, and then haggle down the price until you reach an acceptable number. (The first number that they quote you will be massively inflated – 35-50% of the original price is generally a good ending point).
While it can be fun to engage in the good-natured “game” of haggling, if finding your way through the winding souks and trying to haggle with the locals sounds intimidating and stressful to you (but you still want to do some shopping!), then consider going out with a local shopping guide on this Private Guided Shopping Tour of the Marrakech souks.
Your friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable guide will take you through the medina, where you’ll visit quality and interesting artisan shops, show you where to find specific items you may want to purchase, and help you with negotiating to get you the best price. There is absolutely no pressure from your local guide to buy anything – it’s more like shopping with a Moroccan friend.
You can choose a small group or private tour, and a morning or afternoon time slot.
8. Delight in the Jardin Secret
The Jardin Secret, is a calm, quiet, and serene garden in the heart of Marrakech. It sees far fewer visitors than the much busier Jardin Majorelle, and has some distinctive features and gorgeous gardens filled with luscious date palms, flowers, cacti, and olive trees.
On your visit, you first enter into the exotic garden, which has cactus and other exotic plants. Then you can make your way over to the Moroccan garden, where the pathways, gazebo, fountains, columns, and olive trees are. Both spots are lovely, but the Moroccan garden is definitely the most picturesque, designed with lots of symmetry, and the most spectacular gazebo.
It had such intricate details and absolutely commanded your attention, even in a very large courtyard. This feature was a very unique thing to see in Marrakech.
For an extra cost, you can go up in the towers around the Jardin to get a view down into the gardens. There is also a cafe on site if you want to linger longer in the peace and tranquility.
- Hours: 9:30am-6:30pm (but the hours fluctuate through the year, so double check the website)
- Cost: 80 dirham ($8)
9. Eat Delicious Moroccan Food on a Food Tour
This Moroccan Food Tour is an incredible opportunity to sample a large variety of traditional Moroccan dishes with the guidance and company of a local. In this small group tour, you’ll visit 10 different street food stalls to try various local specialties. Your guide, Yaya, is fun and engaging, telling stories and sharing anecdotes and history about the food you’re eating and about Marrakech in general.
After you’ve wandered through the markets trying street food, you’ll all tuck into a 3 course dinner at a local restaurant, trying more excellent quality Moroccan cuisine.
This food tour is bound to be a highlight of your time in Marrakech, and feels more like hanging out with a friend than going on a tour. Come VERY hungry because there is a LOT to eat!
10. Explore the El Badii Palace
Want to feel like you’ve entered an archaeological site while admiring a vast palatial complex? Head to the El Badii Palace!
This complex contains the ruins of an old 1500’s palace of the Saadian sultans, and is really fascinating to visit.
There are vast courtyards to wander, but there are also many rooms, tunnels, and displays you can explore. You can peek into the throne room, and even descend into the dungeons. Not going to lie, the dungeons were cool… but also fairly depressing as they didn’t just hold prisoners, but were also holding cells for slaves.
Some parts of the palace are fairly well excavated and preserved, while others are more in ruins – there’s a lot of fun variety. In fact, there was one section where workers were actively working to excavate and restore more!
This is a fairly unique thing to do in Marrakech because it is a ruin site – most attractions in Marrakech are still in the height of splendor! Still, even in ruins, the El-Badii palace exudes grandiosity!
- Hours: 9am-5pm
- Cost: 70 dirhams ($7)
11. Take A Moroccan Cooking Class
A Moroccan cooking class is one of the most authentic things to do in Marrakech. Bonus – it will also 100% for sure be the most delicious meal you eat in Morocco.
In this cooking class, you’ll meet Chef Najlae, a 30-year-old Moroccan woman, at the shops near her house to pick out vegetables, meat, and herbs for the meal. Then you’ll go back to her house, where you’ll learn how to brew mint tea, eat homemade Moroccan cookies, and decide on your menu for the day.
Then, you’ll start preparing the meal, cutting vegetables, preparing salads, seasoning the meat, and getting to be hands-on for all of it, while the chef teaches you about the ingredients and shows you the best techniques for preparation, and shares lots of insider knowledge about Moroccan cooking and cuisine.
At the end of class, you also have the option to make your own argan oil, a Moroccan specialty.
This is one of the best experiences in Marrakech for just casually hanging out with a Moroccan woman, and getting to hear about her life and experiences, while also eating an insanely delicious meal. (Seriously, the lamb tagine with prunes and apricots is life changing).
12. Get Henna
Getting henna is a great unique thing to do in Marrakech – only very specific regions of the world do henna!
There are three different types of henna you can get in Morocco – black henna stays for about four weeks, brown henna stays for 1-2 weeks, and green tea henna stays for 4-5 days.
I opted to get the green tea henna – the henna went on dark and black, but then rubbed off to show the design in a lighter color on my skin.
No matter what kind of henna design you want, you can find lots of places to get henna done in Marrakech There are many women in Jemaa el-Fnaa doing henna (just don’t let them put henna on your hand “for free” – it’s not, and make sure you agree on a price beforehand). Otherwise, I’ve heard great things about Henna Cafe!
13. Walking Tour of the Medina
One of the best ways to orient yourself to a new destination is to go on a walking tour around the city. With a small group (or the option to make it a private tour), and your local guide, you’ll walk around Marrakech, learning about the city, its history and culture.
You’ll visit some of the main attractions in the city, and walk by many more points of interest and hidden gems that you may have missed otherwise, and get insider tips from a local.
14. Go on a Sahara Desert Tour
This Marrakech to Fes 3 Day Sahara Tour is an incredible tour taking you to one of the most bucket list experiences you will have in your life. Yes, those are big words, but I stand by them!
On this small group tour, you’ll leave Marrakech in an air-conditioned van, and drive through the Atlas Mountains to visit the fortified hill village of Ait Ben Haddou, stopping to walk around the city and enjoy the sites. You’ll spend the night in the beautiful Dades Valley, which is filled with red rock mountains, a green river bed, and is in the middle of the Moroccan countryside.
In the morning on the second day, you’ll explore the Todra Gorge, a slot canyon that has a river running through it, and you can walk along the river. You’ll then finish driving out to Merzouga, the town that is the entrance point to the Sahara desert dunes.
When you reach town, you’ll meet your desert guides, climb aboard your camels, and take off into the dunes, watching the sunset as you arrive in camp.
Your desert camp is beautiful and well-designed, with large, free-standing tents, heavy carpets, leading throughout camp, and comfortable beds and sleeping arrangements. After a delicious dinner, you’ll listen to rhythmic Berber music around the campfire, and get a chance to take part in the singing and dancing as the stars shine overhead. Pure magic.
The 3rd day, you’ll have breakfast in camp, then head back to Merzouga on camels, where you’ll join your transportation and head out to Fes. It’s a lot of driving, to be sure, but the opportunity to experience a Sahara desert tour makes the effort absolutely worth it.
In this tour, you have the option to book a comfortable camp or the luxury camp. I’d highly recommend the luxury camp, where you’ll have a private bathroom with running water in your tent.
Want to go to the Sahara, but need to come back to Marrakech instead of continuing to Fes? This 3 day Sahara tour starts and ends in Marrakech, and will be perfect for you!
15. Delight in Madrasa Ben Youssef
The Madrasa Ben Youssef is an Islamic school dating back to the 1300’s that is absolutely stunning, full of intricate tilework, open courtyards, intricate geometric patterns, and carved stucco. During it’s height, it was actually the largest school in North Africa.
Today, it’s one of the most stunning buildings in Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and an incredible place definitely worth your time in Marrakech to visit.
- Hours: 9am-6pm, daily
- Cost: 40 dirham
16. Take a Day Trip to Ouzoud Falls
Ouzoud Waterfall is the biggest falls in Morocco and a popular thing to do outside of Marrakech. a Marrakech, as it makes a refreshing and beautiful day trip that’s just under 3 hours from the city.
Multiple streams cascade over the red rocks of the 300 foot tall Ouzoud Waterfall, creating a stunning visual display. Note that there is a bit of a walk from the parking lot at the top to the waterfall, and then a hike down to the bottom. There are spots in the stream where you can swim, several cafes near the falls where you can get some lunch, and boat tours in the stream below.
17. Stroll through the Jardin Majorelle
The Jardin Majorelle area is different than most other places you’ll visit in Marrakech – there are less tiles and mosaics, more pathways, a larger open area, and, strikingly, the walls are painted a rich blue, with yellow accents throughout.
The garden was designed and developed by the artist Jacques Majorelle in the first half of the 1900’s, and then bought by the designer Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge. They revitalized the gardens and turned the villa into a museum, which today houses the Berber Museum and the Yves Saint-Laurent museum.
There’s also a cafe on site – its expensive, but incredibly delicious (get the date, orange blossom, and milk smoothie!)
- Hours: 9am-6pm
- Cost: 120 dirham ($12)
18. Walk by the Koutoubia Mosque
Koutubia is the main mosque in Marrakech, and is not too far from the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. There are some lovely grounds around the mosque and the minaret is the most prominent and grand in the medina.
The area all around the mosque is bustling with people going about their day and also hawking their wares. It’s right in the heart of the city and is always hopping. You can’t visit inside the mosque, but the grounds are worth walking through.
One night, we ate at a nearby restaurant – Cafe Kif Kif – and it was a nice way to experience the area, too. The terrace at this cafe overlooks the mosque, and you can distinctly hear the call to prayer at sunset while relaxing and eating your dinner.
19. Do a Professional Photoshoot
I LOVE booking a local, professional photographer for a 1-2 hour shoot when we visit new countries. In Marrakech, we chose the gorgeous Musée Dar El Bacha for our photoshoot location, which was an absolutely perfect location for a romantic photo session.
I would highly recommend booking a photoshoot when traveling – our professional pictures from around the world are truly priceless to me, and it’s a very unique souvenir to bring home) when you’re visiting a new city.
This was our photographer – he was wonderful to work with!
20. Stand in Awe of the Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace is one of the most popular attraction in the entire country, and as such, it can be pretty busy. I would try to be there right at opening (9am) for the fewest crowds.
Bahia was built between the 1850’s and 1900 by a father and son grand vizier to the kings of Morocco.
This palace was very expansive, and, in contrast to the El Badii Palace ruins, is still in the height of its splendor. There are over 160 rooms (you only tour through a selection of these) and the palace was added onto piece by piece over the years, making the layout less geometrically symmetrical than many other buildings in Morocco.
You do still get to explore many rooms, including many smaller private rooms, as well as the small and grand courtyards and the small and grand riads (series of apartments surrounding beautiful gardens).
In fact, the grand courtyard at Bahia was definitely the biggest courtyard we saw, and is one of the most iconic spots in Marrakech.
There were some unique features in the palace, such as fireplaces (didn’t see many of those in Marrakesh) and stained glass windows. The effect of the sun shining through the stained glass and hitting the colorful tiled floors was very beautiful!
- Hours: 9am-4:45pm
- Cost: 70 dirham ($7)
21. Wander Through Jemaa el-Fnaa Square
Jemaa el-Fna is the biggest market square in the city and it is hopping. There are all sorts of vendors set up: produce, juices, meats, food tents, henna, souvenirs, and so many other goods.
Personally, Jemaa el-Fnaa was not our favorite spot and we walked through it deliberately once, but didn’t feel the need to linger or come back multiple times. It felt pushy and touristy, with lots of opportunities to get scammed.
We had also read that food safety protocols are dubious at many of the food stalls (and met someone on the train down that said they got food poisoning from one of the food vendors), so we just overall felt wary.
While it wasn’t our favorite spot in Marrakech, I’m still including it in this list because it *is* a major spot in the city, and the hustle and bustle is something you should experience at least once. (But it’s at the very end of the list because it really wasn’t our favorite spot, ha!)
Unusual Things to Do in Marrakech – The Wrap Up
Marrakech is an absolute must-do on any Morocco itinerary, and it’s full of interesting and exciting things to do. We absolutely loved the variety of experiences and attractions that Marrakech had to offer, whether it be wandering the streets or touring a gorgeous, mosaic-filled palace!