Wondering what unique things Marrakech has to offer? 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.
Honestly, it was so fun 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!
Basically, we loved our time here and loved experiencing all the unique things to do in Marrakech. Here are our top 16 favorites:
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1. 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, but the tombs themselves were incredible! There were intricate tiles on the floors and wall, intricate carved stucco arches, and carved cedarwood all around. Interestingly, graves in Morocco tend to be tile-based.
Instead of just a headstone, the entire gravesite is covered with a tile mosaic and many also have a long, short triangular prism serving as an additional marker.
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 – absolutely amazing. I appreciate the unusual nature of this Marrakech attraction – it’s not every day you see tombs so decked out!
In the middle of the site was a second tomb area, which actually pre-dates the first three. This earlier tomb was built to bury the founder of the Saadian dynasty. Again, you can look in, but can’t actually enter the tombs.
The area continues on into a lovely garden area and the landscaping in general was well done. As a bonus, there weren’t many people and we found the place very peaceful.
- Hours: 9am-4:30pm
- Cost: 70 dirhams ($7)
2. 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)
3. Musee 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 unique blends.
- Hours: 10am-6pm
- Cost: 60 dirham ($6)
4. Do a Photoshoot
We like to book a local photographer for a 1 hour shoot when we visit new countries and the backdrop of the Musee Dar El Bacha was perfect for our Morocco pictures! I love having beautiful pictures of us in countries around the world. This was our photographer – he was wonderful to work with!
The cost for one hour was $200.
I would highly recommend booking a photoshoot when traveling – our professional pictures from around the world are absolutely priceless!
5. Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace is 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)
6. Jemaa el-Fnaa square
This 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. There is a lot going on here!
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 extra pushy and touristy.
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.
However, as it’s a big spot in the city, you should at least walk through once as the feel and bustle is something you should experience.
Just keep an extra eye on your purse and wallet, don’t let any ladies put henna on your arm as a “gift” (it’s not), stay away from the guys with monkeys and snakes, and if you choose to eat, keep an eye on the food preparation techniques!
7. Take A Cooking Class
This cooking class was one of my favorite activities of our entire time in Morocco!
We met up with Najlae, a 30-year-old Moroccan woman at a local market near her house. There, we chose our menu (we decided on lamb tagine with apricots and prunes) and bought lamb, herbs, fruits, and vegetables that we would need for our meal. She talked us through what to buy and look for as we picked out different things.
Having got the goods, we went back to her home where we sat down, chatted, ate awesome cookies, and watched as Najlae walked us through the steps of preparing traditional mint tea.
Then we got cooking! Najlae had a table set up where we all worked together to prep the lamb tagine and four different Moroccan salads.
She struck a great balance between giving us plenty of opportunity to prepare the meal and talking through steps that she did herself.
We learned how to tell the difference between real and fake saffron, the different types of spices used in Moroccan cooking (including one spice not used in the US), how she pickles lemons in a jar that lasts for two years, and a lot of other fun tips and insider knowledge about Moroccan cuisine. It felt like such an intimate and authentic experience!
And finally, we feasted! This was hands-down, easily, the best meal we ate in Morocco. The lamb was insanely tender and flavorful and was drizzled with apricot and prune compote reduction.
The salads were so fresh-tasting and absolutely delicious. We loved talking with her and the other couple at the cooking class – we learned more about Moroccan culture, Najlae’s life and experiences, and just had the best time chatting.
At the end, Najlae offered to do a complimentary henna design on the ladies’ hands – an offer I couldn’t resist!
The evening absolutely flew by. I cannot recommend this cooking class enough!
- Cost: $37 per person, plus a 100 dirham ($10) tip
8. Medersa Ben Youssef
This is an Islamic school dating back to the 1500’s that is absolutely stunning — or so we’re told. It was still closed for renovation when we were there, sadly.
Originally, the construction was supposed to be completed in spring of 2020, but with covid, construction work was put on hold as well, and the work still continues.
Interestingly, there was a decent amount of construction in general around the city. From what one local man told us, it seems like there is quite the backlog due to covid.
If the Medersa is open when you go, you absolutely have to make a stop – the pictures I’ve seen look stunning, people in Marrakech said it was beautiful, and, having seen the gorgeous medersas in Fes, I can confidently say it’s a top unique thing to do in Marrakech.
9. Jardin Majorelle
The Jardin Majorelle area is unique compared to 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.
After strolling through the gardens for a while, we stopped at the on-site café. Normally I avoid museum cafes because they are so expensive, but the drinks themselves were sooooo worth it.
I got the avocado, date, almond, and milk smoothie, which was smooth and thick and delicious, but Matthew’s date, orange blossom, and milk drink was to die for! I could bathe in that drink.
This was one of the busiest places we visited, and the cost was 120 dirhams/pp – higher than most other attractions. This 120 dirhams was only for the garden, if you want to visit the museum, that’s extra. We just did the gardens and were happy with that choice!
- Hours: 9am-6pm
- Cost: 120 dirham ($12)
10. Koutoubia Mosque
This 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 giving you a great vantage to watch the people and hear the call to prayer at sunset while lounging and eating your tagine dinner.
11. Desert Day Trip
One of the top unique things to do in Morocco is to make the trek out to the border of Morocco and Algeria, where the Sahara starts, and spend a couple nights in a Sahara desert camp.
HOWEVER! If you just don’t have the time to get out to Merzouga and the Sahara, you absolutely should go to the Agafay desert. It’s just outside of Marrakech, so it’s an easy day trip, and you can do all sorts of fun things – ride camels, drive ATV’s, or even spend the night in the desert.
A desert experience is an absolute must in Morocco!
12. Get Henna
One perk of the cooking class with Najlae was she offered to do a complimentary henna design on our hands at the end.
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 – the black stays for about four weeks, the brown stays for 1-2 weeks, and the green tea kind stays for 4-5 days.
We got the green tea version from Najlae – she did a really beautiful hand design. For the green tea version, the henna goes on dark but after you wash your hands later just the green design remains. You can see on my hand how the dark part is starting to rub off, showing the “green” design underneath!
If you want a larger design, or you want the black or brown versions that last longer, 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). Otherwise, I’ve heard great things about Henna Cafe!
13. Stay in a Riad
A riad is a traditional Moroccan guesthouse, with a courtyard or garden on the inside surrounded by guest rooms/apartments. They are usually pretty small, with only 5-8 guest rooms, and almost always offer complimentary breakfast.
If you are coming to Morocco, one thing you simply must do is stay in a riad! You can find riads that are both budget-friendly and incredibly luxurious, but even the budget-friendly riads are stunning, exotic, and really feel like a cultural experience in their own right!
These are our picks for best riads in Marrakech at a few price points:
Budget: Riad dar Palmyra. This charming riad has delightfully cozy rooms, a peaceful garden courtyard, the smell of jasmine in the air, a large breakfast spread, and was well-situated near several major attractions in Marrakech, all for a very inexpensive price.
Mid-Range: Riad Tahyra: This riad almost seems part garden, with plants and greenery abounding in the courtyard. The rooms (especially the doors) are lovely, and the carved stucco that decorates the area is beautiful. The location is perfect – squarely in the heart of the medina – and the staff go out of their way to be helpful and welcoming.
Luxury: Riyad Al Moussika: This riad exudes luxury at every turn – with the heavily tiled mosaics in the beautiful and peaceful courtyard, the lovely and relaxing rooftop terrace, and the plunge pool to cool off in on a hot day.
14. Jardin Secret
In contrast to the Jardin Majorelle, the Jardin Secret, as its name implies, is much calmer, quieter, and less busy.
I absolutely loved wandering through the luscious date palms, flowers, cacti, olive trees, and water features.
And the gazebo was spectacular. 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.
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, and olive trees are. Both are lovely, but the Moroccan area is where it’s at! This garden is still very much in traditional Moroccan style: with water features and a lot of symmetry!
For an extra cost, you can go up in the towers around the Jardin to get a view down in (we did not do this). 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)
15. Explore the Souks
Souks are a general term for “market” and the souks of Morocco are so enticing!
Walking through a souk is really a feast for the eyes! There are so many beautiful goods for sale in Morocco. Souk Semmarine is a popular and colorful souk near Jemaa el-Fnaa, and I would spend more time here than in the big square.
However, you will encounter plenty of souks and shops as you walk around Marrakech, you really don’t *have* to hit up Souk Semmarine to find goods to buy, there are plenty of shopping streets all over the city. In fact, prices will probably be better elsewhere.
If you don’t look Moroccan, prepare to get called out to by just about every shop owner you walk past. Honestly, I would just ignore most people or say “no thank you” as you keep walking – it seems like engaging with people just encourages them to try harder to get you to come in, which can be exhausting when it’s happening at every shop!
Read all about the best and souvenirs from Morocco to bring home with you (plus our best tips for haggling) here.
16. Eat Delicious Moroccan Food
Moroccan fare is pretty straightforward: Breakfast is very carb heavy (not complaining though!) and for lunch and dinner, your main options include tagine, couscous, skewers, pastilla, briouats, and fresh juices.
A tagine is the name for the type of dish the meal is cooked in. Meats and/or vegetables are slow-cooked and steamed in this pot. It’s a very unique dish to Marrakech and Morocco in general, and you will mostly certainly have many opportunities to eat it!
Pastilla is a pastry filled with meat and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Briouats are flaky, crispy triangle pastries filled with meat, cream cheese (or something very similar), and grated carrots. Usually an order comes with 6 briouats, 2 of each kind.
A Few Travel Essentials for Marrakech
These are some of the things we wore, used, and loved on our trip to Morocco:
Sandals: This is THE perfect pair of travel sandals – they have great arch support, are nice and cushy, and feel amazing straight out of the box.
Skirts: I wore long, flowy, skirts all over Morocco and truly loved them so much. They looked great in photos, and with the locals often wearing long dresses or skirts, I didn’t feel out of place at all. This is the nude pink one and this is the red one.
Sneakers: These are my favorite faux leather white sneakers. While you should break them in before your trip (ask me how I know that…), once broken in, they are a great walking shoe for long travel days – shop here.
Red Dress: A beautiful, breezy, striking red dress, which I loved wearing around Morocco. Heads up though – this one does get wrinkly in your suitcase.
Flowery Dress: I have this dress in a couple different patterns and it is a great summery option – it flows and breaths well. Highly recommend.
Athletic Shirts: A great price on a set of heathered, wicking athletic shirts – perfect for a day of hiking or playing in the Sahara.
Biker Shorts: I finally jumped on the biker short bandwagon and this pair is not too short, not too long, and stays up really well.
Sunscreen: I have very sensitive, acne-prone skin, and so I use this facial sunscreen designed to not cause breakouts. I love this one so much that I actually use it every day, whether I’m in the sun or not! It’s lightweight and rubs into my skin smoothly.
Travel Adaptors: Morocco uses type C and E electric plugs, so you’ll need travel adapters to charge your devices. This set is inexpensive and comes in a set of three.
Packing cubes: I held out on buying these packing cubes for so long, which was silly because they have been so. dang. useful. These help keep your clothes and personal items grouped, sorted, and organized. I can actually find things without digging through my entire suitcase now!
Power Bank: We love this portable power bank to charge our phones as we spend a long day sightseeing (and using up all our battery on pictures!). This bank can charge our phones at least four times, is affordable, and has a digital display of how much charge is left.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Securing some travel insurance is an important part of prepping for any international trip – you never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry. (If covid has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what could happen!)
I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.
Final Thoughts on Unique Things to Do in Marrakech
Marrakech is an absolute must-do on any Morocco itinerary, and it’s full of interesting and unique 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!
Check out my other Morocco articles:
- How Much Does a Trip to Morocco Cost? Our Morocco Travel Budget
- 12 Great Things to Do in Fes, Morocco
- Moroccan Scams: How to Spot Them and What to Avoid
- Driving in Morocco: How to Navigate Your Morocco Road Trip
- 24 Traditional Moroccan Foods and Drinks to Try in Morocco
- 13 Souvenirs from Morocco to Bring Home with You
- An Epic 10 Day Morocco Itinerary
- How to Hike the Monkey Fingers in the Dades Valley of Morocco