With its warm days, busy nights, and abundant fragrances, Marrakech is a fascinating city for even the most discerning traveler. Though a booming tourism industry can stifle some of its charms, there are still ways to get a touch of magic in ‘The Red City’. Get around with our guide to the best 6 things to do in Marrakech.
Visit a traditional hammam
Hammam is the traditional Moroccan public bath house, and it is found in every neighborhood in Marrakech. It’s where Moroccans go for their weekly, relaxing gommage (scrub), but also to reconnect with themselves and with friends and family.
Hammams are segregated by gender. In public neighborhood hammams, men and women have separate days or times to bathe. In private hammams that are operated by hotels or run as a business, it will likely be just you and the attendant.
When you arrive, you’ll be guided to a changing room to strip down to your underwear. You’ll then step into a hot steam room with the attendant, who will pour warm water over you, along with black soap, a special soap made with olive oil. The soap will be left to soak in for a few minutes, and then the attendant will rinse you off and scrub you with a special glove to remove the dead skin. After the exfoliation, you’ll be directed to wash yourself off with soap and shampoo.
Stay in a Riad
When it comes to seeking out accommodation in Morocco, one option will show up in nearly every city: the riad (Traditional Moroccan Guest House).
Read a handful of riad reviews, and you're likely to find words like “oasis” and “retreat” used over and over to describe the riad experience. People agree that a riad can be a relaxing escape from the chaos of many of Morocco's large cities – and this is especially true in Marrakech.
In a riad, rooms will be situated around a central courtyard garden, often with a fountain or pool. If there's no garden, the accommodation should technically be called a “dar” – but the terms riad and dar have come to be somewhat interchangeable, especially when you're searching for a place to stay in Marrakech.
Discover the city's Souks (Markets)
Marrakesh is famous for its lively markets, also known as souks. From spices to tea sets and from clothing to ornate rugs, the markets of Marrakesh offer a wide assortment of goods for sale. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, strolling around Marrakech’s vibrant markets is an experience not to be missed. With the myriad goods lining the jumble of narrow streets that snake through the Medina, it can be tricky at times to discern where one market ends and another one begins.
In a typical souk, and at its edges, you’ll find that products are mixed together. Lamps, clothing, wood works – everything. You don’t have to wander in more than a few meters to find all of these things.
Excursions and day-trips from Marrakech
Marrakech is a great base for unique excursions and day trips. From Marrakech, you can explore the surrounding deserts, waterfalls, Berber villages, and rocky valleys. Here are some cool places to visit from Marrakech:
- Ouzoud Falls: they are an incredibly impressive set of waterfalls that plunge from high cliffs far down into a huge basin.
- Palm Groves of Marrakech: Known as the Palmeraie, the palm groves of Marrakech are a dense area of land that is completely devoted to the growing of palm trees.
- Sahara Desert: Marrakech is surrounded by desert, however, the really brutal and almost unbelievable landscapes of the famous Sahara Desert don’t truly begin until you are at least a few hour’s drive outside the city itself.
- Agafay Desert: If you would rather stay closer to Marrakech and experience a desert closer to your accommodation, then the Agafay Desert – although not quite as famous or as sandy as the Sahara – is within easy reach of the city.
- Essaouira: It is a vibrant port city found on the Atlantic coastline of Morocco. It’s a welcome escape from the desert and the dry climate of Marrakech, and a trip here makes for a long but rewarding day trip.
- Ourika Valley: The beautiful Ourika Valley is found 50-kilometers to the south of Marrakech in the cool shadows of the Atlas Mountains. The valley is full of small, local villages that have stood here for centuries, while the cool climate makes it a lush and verdant place to explore, particularly during the hot summer months when Marrakech can become scorching.
Moroccan and Marrakech cuisine
Marrakech historically was one of the main trading posts and markets in North Africa. Goods and spices were carried up the Saharan trade routes by camel. The Arab influence brought mezze and fruits from the east. French rule left its mark too, as did occupation of Andalucia. Stews are scented with honey and saffron, cumin, preserved lemon, olives, and dates. Stalls in the Medina are piled high with spices and mint and figs.
The main dishes associated with Morocco are tagine and couscous. You’ll never see these served together, they are separate dishes. In Marrakech, you’ll also find tangia, a stew cooked in a clay pot in the embers underneath the hammam (as opposed to on a stove top in an earthenware tagine).
Moroccan cuisine is well known around the world and features so many delicious dishes beside tagine and couscous. So while in Marrakech, make sure to try some other great dishes like Pastilla, Briouates , Harira, Rfissa, Bissara, grilled Sardines, Mechoui...