What are the best things to see and do in Marrakech?

Luke O’Brien

Marrakech offers a wealth of things to see and do; you could spend days just bouncing around the alleyways of the medina. Here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors say are the five best things to see and do in Marrakech:
 
1. Get lost in the souks. For shopping experiences, nothing compares to the riot of the souks, a warren of alleys where merchants pull out every stop to sell passersby slippers, carpets, lanterns, spices and whatever else the imagination desires.
 
2. Hang out at the Djemaa el-Fna, Marrkech's central plaza. The "big square" is one of the world's most amazing spectacles, mobbed at almost any hour with juice vendors, henna artists, snake charmers, bellydancers, and hawkers and hustlers of every stripe, especially at night.
 
3. Visit the Bahia Palace, which was built in the 1800s by some of Morocco's finest artisans for a grand vizier who wanted to house his four wives and 24 concubines. The gilded wood ceilings in the palace are spectacular.
 
4. See the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa. This Quranic school, now closed, is a masterpiece of the colorful Moroccan mosaic work known as zelij.
 
5. Relax at the Jardin Majorelle. Yves Saint Laurent donated this lush and shady garden filled with rare plants to Marrakech. It's the perfect reprieve on a hot afternoon.

  • On February 6, 2013
    Alex Skjong answered the question: Alex Skjong

    What’s the best way to get to Marrakech?

    Traveling to the Moroccan city of Marrakech is easy, comfortable and convenient with a private jet from NetJets. Through the company, acquiring an aircraft is as simple as deciding what flight plan is right for you based on how many hours you spend in the air each year. A pre-paid card stocked with 25 hours of the private jet experience is perfect for the jetsetter who flies less than 50 hours a year. As a Marquis Jet Card holder, flight time is available for 25 hours in 18 months or 50 hours in two years, with different aircraft combinations. If your in-air time increases, securing fractional ownership is as simple as an upfront payment for access to NetJets’ fleet of 650 aircraft worldwide. Once your personal jet is booked, the history-filled streets of Marrakech are just hours away, meaning less airport hassle and more time to spend exploring the artisan-rich souks, munching on a honey-drizzled beghrir and more.
  • On October 3, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to eat in Marrakech?

    People have always flocked to Marrakech for the local cuisine, a refined mix of Berber, Arab, Moorish and Mediterranean influences. But now that the city is a hub among the jet-set circuit, acclaimed chefs have also arrived to put their own twist on traditional flavors. The result: Marrakech has become one of the most diverse and desirable gastronomic destinations anywhere. Visit these top restaurants when you’re in town:
     
    1. Dar Moha. Star chef Moha Fedal gets creative with his nouvelle Marocaine dishes, whipping up a medley of couscous combos made from both durum wheat and Berber barley and laced with ingredients like caramelized pumpkin. Enjoy cucumbers soaked in orange water and apples stewed in saffron while Gnaoua and Andalusian musicians play poolside in this former home of couturier Pierre Balmain.
     
    2. La Grande Table Marocaine. Given that the ultra-deluxe Royal Mansour Marrakech hotel is owned by the king of Morocco, it's no surprise that the restaurants inside are fit for royalty. With menus created by Yannick Alléno, a notable chef at Le Meurice in Paris, La Grande Table Marocaine serves up delectable veal-and-apricot stews, spiced duck and artichoke tagines, and shredded pigeon in layers of millefeuille. Its sister restaurant, La Grande Table Francaise, is reputed to have the best French food in Africa.
     
    3. Le Tobsil. Lip-smacking five-course prix fixe traditional meals that include Moroccan salads, tagines, couscous and pigeon pie make Le Tobsil a hit. So does the romantic candlelit ambience of this rose-petal-strewn former palace in the medina.
     
    4. Le Marocain. Amid the lavish gardens of the La Mamounia hotel, this to-the-hilt restaurant inside a three-story riad serves up extravagant 14-course meals that fuse traditional and modern Moroccan fare. Try expertly cooked lamb shoulder and date-stuffed quail in a setting that's hard to beat — under the stars, in a courtyard terrace and surrounded by a pleasure garden that would embarrass Xanadu.
     
    5. Le Crystal. When you need a break from Moroccan food, try this Mediterranean restaurant in the Pacha nightclub in the Ville Nouvelle section of town. The menu comes from the Pourcel twins from Montpellier and features innovative dishes like shrimp and mascarpone risotto and dried fruit polenta. Stick around after dinner for a thumping party in the biggest nightclub in Africa, a regular stopping point for superstar international DJs.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What’s the best way to haggle in Marrakech?

    Marrakech doesn't have a baseball team, but it's in the big leagues when it comes to professional fleecing. As any local will tell you, the real sport in town is haggling. Here's a primer for souk success: 1.) Check bargains in different places to get a sense for the market 2.) Be nice when you knock at least 50 percent off the first quoted price 3.) Point out flaws in the merchandise, again while being nice 4.) As you get closer to settling on a price, express dismay and/or benign outrage 5.) Walk away. Yes, walk away. You don't need a couture kaftan. You don't really want it. You don't even like it anymore. As soon as you convince yourself of all this, the couture kaftan will be yours.
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  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What is the best thing to bring home from Marrakech?

    Nobody leaves Marrakech without buying something, and the best gift to bring home is a hand-woven Berber carpet. Made from sheep wool or camel hair, these durable carpets are famous for their intricate geometric designs with tribal symbols to ward off evil or boost fertility. You'll find a carpet for sale on every corner but don't forget to haggle. And if you'd rather pick up a more portable memento, consider an exotic lantern made from filigreed metal or a bottle of argan oil, a mouthwatering cooking ingredient that comes from a rare nut.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What are the best Marrakech food experiences?

    Marrakech offers a myriad of food experiences. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors give us a list of the best things to try: 
     
    1. Start the day with beghrir, crumpet-like crepes made from semolina and drizzled with honey. Butter or jam make good toppings, too.
     
    2. Tagine is the classic Berber dish, a chicken or lamb stew slow-cooked over charcoal with olives, apricots, prunes, lemons or other ingredients in a clay pot.
     
    3. Marrakshis drink mint tea in the morning, at night and at all the hours in between. Made from strong green tea and loads of sugar, this "Berber whiskey" lubricates every aspect of social life.
     
    4. Traditionally eaten to break the fast during Ramadan, harira makes a tasty snack anytime. This fragrant lentil and tomato soup usually includes chickpeas, onions, celery, parsley and spices like pepper, ginger, saffron and cinnamon. Clean your bowl with a piece of khubz flatbread.
     
    5. To win bragging rights back home, tuck into a boiled sheep's head at the Djemaa el-Fna. The local delicacy is what it sounds like—the head of a sheep with the cheek flesh falling off and the eyeballs still attached.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    Where is the best nightlife in Marrakech?

    Marrakech has a surprisingly vibrant nightlife, just not in the medina area. A few decent options exist in the old town, like the charming KosyBar, which has a great deck from where to sip sundowners while admiring the giant storks guarding the walls of the Badi Palace. If you want to crank up the energy, you'll need to head to the Ville Nouvelle neighborhood outside the medina walls, where clubs and bars abound. The best known is Pacha, an outpost of the Ibiza megaclub transplanted to North Africa that has two restaurants, a pool and a lineup of star DJs that keep the crowd moving.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What is the best way to see Marrakech in one day?

    If you only have one day in Marrakech, you can't miss the souks and the Djemaa el-Fna. It’s easy to get lost in the mazelike alleyways so consider hiring a guide who will make the mayhem manageable. You might still wind up in his uncle's lantern shop, but it's worth it and should also give you time to see the Koutoubia Mosque and the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa (the former college features breathtaking architecture). The other option is to go it alone and lose yourself in the streets of the old town, as visitors have for a thousand years, soaking in all the colors and craziness.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    Where is the best shopping in Marrakech?

    Even if you don’t love shopping, a journey into the free-for-all of the souks, where you can see artisans hammering metal and dying wool in their shops is an essential experience in Marrakech. You can, and will, get lost in these covered alleys, and that's part of the fun. Remain patient and polite with the scores of merchants who will try any gambit to draw you into their stores. If you do go in, remember that haggling isn't just allowed here, it's encouraged.
     
    Among the best souks to investigate are the spice souk near the Bahia palace, where you'll find pungent cones of paprika, cumin and curry; the carpet souk with hand-woven Berber carpets piled two stories high; and the slipper souk, where an endless array of slippers in different designs and colors awaits. Should you tire of the crowds and the bartering, head over to the Ensemble Artisanal, where the prices are fixed (if higher) and you can try your hand at weaving your own carpet.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What are the best things to do with kids in Marrakech?

    Marrakech can be quite the adventure for little kids. Regale them with stories of magic carpet rides on the plane ride over and then check out our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best things to do with the kids in Marrakech:
     
    1. Run around the Djemaa-el Fna. The big square will provide hours of entertainment for kids. From the Gnaoua musicians to the dancers, it's a bewitching and magical scene they'll always remember. Just make sure to hold on tight to their hands, as it gets crowded. And beware the henna artists. Not only do they overcharge, their henna dyes sometimes include some nasty chemicals.
     
    2. Ride a camel. Hop in a taxi for a short trip outside of town to the Palmeraie neighborhood, where you'll find mostly friendly dromedaries waiting to carry riders through desert scrub and date palm trees.
     
    3. Listen to the adhan at the Koutoubia minaret. Five times a day, the muezzin at the top of the Koutoubia minaret, which is part of the main mosque off the Djemaa-el Fna offers up a beautiful call to prayer (adhan).
     
    4. Meet the bunnies at Flower Power Cafe. Nestled among exotic trees and plants, the Flower Power Cafe has a rabbit run, pony rides and a playground with a trampoline to entertain the kids while the adults dine on tasty organic food and juices.
     
    5. Enjoy some playtime at Kawkab Jeux. When they’ve had enough of the markets, swing by the Kawkab Jeux play center, where the kids can engage in arts and crafts with the friendly staff. They’ll also find video games, playground slides and lots of toys.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What are the best things to see and do in Marrakech?

    Marrakech offers a wealth of things to see and do; you could spend days just bouncing around the alleyways of the medina. Here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors say are the five best things to see and do in Marrakech:
     
    1. Get lost in the souks. For shopping experiences, nothing compares to the riot of the souks, a warren of alleys where merchants pull out every stop to sell passersby slippers, carpets, lanterns, spices and whatever else the imagination desires.
     
    2. Hang out at the Djemaa el-Fna, Marrkech's central plaza. The "big square" is one of the world's most amazing spectacles, mobbed at almost any hour with juice vendors, henna artists, snake charmers, bellydancers, and hawkers and hustlers of every stripe, especially at night.
     
    3. Visit the Bahia Palace, which was built in the 1800s by some of Morocco's finest artisans for a grand vizier who wanted to house his four wives and 24 concubines. The gilded wood ceilings in the palace are spectacular.
     
    4. See the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa. This Quranic school, now closed, is a masterpiece of the colorful Moroccan mosaic work known as zelij.
     
    5. Relax at the Jardin Majorelle. Yves Saint Laurent donated this lush and shady garden filled with rare plants to Marrakech. It's the perfect reprieve on a hot afternoon.