Marrakesh may be quite busy and hectic, but it’s indeed one of the most beautiful Moroccan cities. As soon as you step into its pink colored Medina (Old Town), you’ll realize there’s something pretty magical about it. Just around the corner of the endless, busy souks, you’ll find the serene gardens of riads (guest houses) and towering cafe terraces with the most spectacular views. Getting lost in Marrakesh is pretty easy, but that’s the only way to truly explore it. Even if you have no more than one day in Marrakesh to spend, you shouldn’t miss it for the world!
What’s the best time to visit Marrakesh?
As one of the most touristic Moroccan cities, Marrakesh is busy all year round. And while it can be a great place to visit from autumn to late spring, especially if you want to escape cold European winters, you’d better skip it during the summer. Summer temperatures can really go extremely high, and the heat is almost unbearable.
A few facts about Marrakesh
Even though Rabat is the country’s capital and Casablanca the biggest Moroccan city, Marrakesh holds the title of the most beautiful one. It’s known as the red city (sometimes called pink), due to the bright red plaster which is the hallmark of the architecture in Marrakesh and the area around it. While the region was inhabited by Berbers since the Neolithic, the city was founded in 1062 by Abu Bakr Ibn Umar. In the 12th century many mosques and madrasas (schools) were built inside the city walls. Today Marrakesh is the cultural, religious and tourist centre of the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.
One Day in Marrakesh Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Marrakesh.
Drink a fresh mint tea
Instead of a morning coffee, while in Marrakesh, start your day with a fresh mint tea. There’s no bar or restaurant that doesn’t serve it, and even if your hotel offers breakfast, the tea will be there. Moroccans have the whole procedure of preparing mint tea, so don’t be surprised when you see them pouring your tea from a pot that’s high above the glass – they do it to make the tea foam.
Visit the Majorelle Garden
Start your only day in Marrakesh at the Majorelle Garden, an enchanting landscape garden created by the famous French painter Jacques Majorelle. Actually, it took him 40 years to make this garden look both lush and artistic as it does today. The great collection of cacti and the architecture painted in a bold cobalt blue color makes the garden look pretty recognizable. Since 1980, it had been owned by Yves Saint-Laurent whose ashes were scattered here after his death in 2008.
It’s quite important to come as soon as the place opens, since it can get pretty busy during the day and the huge crowds can pretty much ruin the whole magic of the gardens. Not to mention the queues later in the day. The place opens at 8am during the whole year except during the month of Ramadan when it opens at 9am.
Relax at Atay Cafe
Great vibe, great food and amazing views of the city – Atay Cafe deserves to be visited even just for a coffee or Moroccan mint tea. It’s nicely decorated and cozy on the ground floor, but their top terrace is definitely the best part of this bar. If you’re hungry, they have a range of traditional Moroccan dishes on their menu. While their tajine is just good, their couscous and Moroccan salad are amazing. Don’t miss trying their cucumber fresh juice.
Explore the gardens of the Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace and its amazing gardens and fountains are another must-visit while in Marrakesh. They are quite spectacular, full of colorful ornaments and architectural elements common for the traditional Moroccan architecture. The palace was built from 1884-1900, designed by El Mekki, a Moroccan architect, on behalf of the Grand Vizier Ba Ahmed ben Moussa said Hmad. Only the best workmen and craftsmen of the country were working on this masterpiece of Islamic and Moroccan style. It’s an amazing place for capturing some great photos.
Check out the El Badi Palace
The grandiose El Badi Palace commissioned by the Saadian king Ahmed El Mansour will surely leave you with a lot of impressions. Even though some parts are in ruins, it was the most luxurious palace in Marrakesh at the time of its construction at the end of the 16th century. The whole site is quite big, with beautiful pavilions, gardens and basins. Don’t miss a visit to its underground parts, and finally visit the terrace on the left side of the entrance for a nice bird’s eye view of the city.
Check out the area around Koutoubia Mosque
Koutubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakesh with the traditional minaret tower built in Almohad style. This tower became one of the main landmarks of Marrakesh. And while the mosque itself is not really open to non-Muslims, you shouldn’t miss checking out the area around it. Besides the square in the front of the mosque, there is a nice lush park next to it which is a great place to rest for a bit and people watch.
Spend some time on the Jemaa El Fna square
Jemaa El Fna is a lively square and the busiest place in the whole Marrakesh. There’s no thing you won’t find here. Food and spices stalls, souvenirs, storytellers, henna tattoo spots, snakes, monkeys and dozens of cafe bars and restaurants – it’s all there. As a tourist, expect a lot of attention from the vendors and keep in mind that everything they do, they do to sell. The square is an amazing place for people watching, just get on one of the many terraces that overlook the square and enjoy the hectic but amazing atmosphere.
Drink a fresh fruit juice from the stalls
It’s hard to miss all of those fruit juice stalls on the Jemaa El Fna square. Orange, lemon, ginger, pomegranate, avocado, watermelon, strawberry and many other seasonal fruits make for a variety of juice options. It’s a great and super healthy refreshment, especially during the super hot days. However, the orange juice is a must-try and costs only 4-5 dirhams (50 euro cents).
Relax at Le Salama Bar
Le Salama bar is a nice western bar, pretty close to Jemaa El Fna square. It’s a nice spot to drink some coffee, juices and even some alcoholic beverages (which is not easy to find in Marrakesh). They may seem quite expensive, but they have a happy hour “2 for 1” that instead of an hour lasts pretty much the whole day. It’s beautifully decorated and the view from the top floor is quite amazing.
Do some shopping in the Souk Semmarine and Rahba Lakdima Square
You’ll surely bump into many souvenir stalls along your way, but the best place to shop for Moroccan products are the souks. The best souk, the so called Souk Semmarine can be found on the north-eastern end of the Jemaa El Fna square, and it goes all the way to the Rahba Lakdima Square.
Anything from spices, clothes, jewelry, rugs and artworks can be found there. Make sure to shop for argan oil and its beauty products, as it is one of the best Moroccan products. Keep in mind that you MUST bargain, otherwise you’ll end up overpaying the stuff.
Check out the Iron works and leather souks
North of Souk el Maasi square you’ll find the Iron works and leather souks. As the name says, they sell pretty much all the leather and iron made products you can find in Marrakesh. Whether you want to buy Babouche (Moroccan slippers), wallet, bag or a jacket that’s made of a real leather – you’ll find a wide selection of all those products here. Iron works souk offers some nice lamps and lanterns, teapots and jewelry.
Visit Ben Youssef Madrasa
Another amazing palace to visit is Madrasa Ben Youssef. It used to be an Islamic college and was named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf . The college was closed down in 1960 and 20 years later reopened to the public as a historical site. The building is quite impressive because of its plaster work, wood carvings and colorful zellige tilework. Don’t miss the student living quarters and the student rooms on the upper floor.
Buy at a fixed price at Ensemble Artisanal
If bargaining truly isn’t your thing, make sure to visit Ensemble Artisanal with lots of different shops with the products at a fixed price. They may be 30% more expensive than the final price at the souks, but if you’re not good at bargaining it’s still a great deal. It’s also a great place to escape the sun, since there are many small squares with shades around the Artisanal.
Have a dinner at Café Arabe
While it surely isn’t the budget option, Cafe Arab still shouldn’t be missed because of the amazing culinary experience. It’s also one of the few restaurants where you can order a bottle of wine. Their menu consists of traditional Moroccan dishes prepared in a modern way, but they also have some Italian dishes on their menu. Don’t miss their eggplant salad – it’s really super delicious!
Where to stay in Marrakesh?
Marrakesh is home to the most beautiful and inspiring hotels, apartments, but most of all – riads. Riad is a traditional Moroccan palace with an interior courtyard with a fountain or a pool. With their stunning architecture and furniture, some of them really are among the most impressive places to stay in the whole world. If you want to stay closer to all the attractions, choose those located in Marrakesh Medina.
Here’s the selection of the most beautiful riads and hotels in Marrakesh:
N: 31 Derb Jdid Lakssour Medina Marrakech, Medina
Located only 150m from Jamaa El Fna Square, Riad Kechamara offers panoramic views of the lively Medina. They serve traditional Moroccan breakfast each morning in the living room by the swimming pool or on the shaded terrace. Guests can also enjoy local Gnawa music and oriental dancing while dining.
2 Derb Moulay Abdellah Ben Hezzian Bab el Ksour, Medina
El Fenn is a boutique riad in a traditional former palace that combines grandeur and historic architecture with hideaway nooks, terraces and gardens. It’s only a five minutes’ walk from Jemaa El Fna and features a rooftop terrace with a pool and views of the famous Kotoubia Mosque. This riad has a collection of art, a piano bar and a spa.
Hotel & Spa Riad El Walaa
138 Arsat Moulay Touala ( Moulay Moussa) Derb Laafou médina
Hotel & Spa Riad El Walaa is another beautifully designed riad inside of the walls of the historical center – Medina. This riad provides a sun terrace and views of the pool, and services such as SPA and amazing dining experience.
Dar Rhizlane, Palais Table d’hôtes & SPA
Avenue Jnane El Harti Hivernage, Hivernage, 40000 Marrakech
Dar Rhizlane, Palais Table d’hôtes & SPA is a very nice retreat with stunning decor and outdoor spaces. A beautiful pool area with lush greenery is a great place to relax away from the busy souks, but it’s still quite close to the historical center.
Riad Be Marrakech
23 Derb Sidi Lahcen o Ali, Bab Doukkala, Medina
One of the top riads in the city, Riad Be Marrakech is one of the most inspiring examples of traditional architecture, design and decoration in general. It is located in the historical Medina, only 10 minutes from Jemaa El Fnaa square.
day trips from marrakesh
This fascinating city has so many sights you can see, but if you head out of town you will have a blast, too. Indeed, day trips from Marrakesh will leave a lasting impression on you because there are so many spectacular destinations.
By far the most popular day trip from Marrakesh is that to Atlas Mountains. Majestic hills and lush valleys create a surreal surrounding for your adventure, all topped off by a visit to Ait Souka Village. The Berber people who live here are indigenous to this part of the world and are more than happy to welcome you, even to their homes! Try their food, learn about their culture and you will come back with loads of stories to tell.
Speaking of Atlas Mountains, you can also visit Ouarzazate, a city on a plateau in the mountains and the capital of the Ouarzazate province. On the way there, visit Ait Ben Haddou, a spectacular fortified town listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city itself is right next to the Sahara Desert and often serves as a location for filming movies. Therefore, you can be sure it’s going to be beautiful. Just seeing all the kasbahs there will sweep you off your feet.
To enjoy some incredible nature, head to Ouzoud Falls. These are the biggest waterfalls in North Africa. You can swim there, take a boat ride and even meet some curious monkeys who dwell in the area. Feeding them is always popular among travelers. Olive trees surrounding the area create a unique mix of African and Mediterranean mood, and there are numerous cafes and restaurants right along the river where the spectacular view will add to a very memorable lunch.
How about hitting the coast? On Moroccan shores of the Atlantic Ocean lies the city of Essaouira whose medina is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Stroll the city’s historic old town, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the life of a seaside community all around you. Excellent seafood is a must-try while in town, and all in all you will be in for a relaxing but fascinating day here.
Reaching the Sahara Desert may not always be possible if you don’t have a lot of time, but this can be remedied with a day trip fro Marrakesh to the Agafay Desert. Visit the local villages, enjoy the impressive dunes and for those of you who like a rush of adrenaline, there is also the option of renting out quads and going on an adventure that way. You won’t regret coming here, that’s for sure.
Extra tips for visiting Marrakesh
No matter if you’re male or female, it’s advised to dress modest while visiting Morocco. It doesn’t mean you need to be fully covered, but it’s in culture to cover your knees and shoulders, and of course cleavage.
Insist on the taximeter
When taking a cab, make sure to insist on the taximeter. The ride around Medina usually costs no more than 10 dirhams. If you find it hard to find a driver who uses a taximeter, give no more than 20 dirhams. Keep in mind that their initial price would be more than 50 dirhams.
Bring some warm clothes
Even though the days are usually much hotter compared to the European weather, nights in Marrakesh can be super chilly if you’re traveling during the colder months. Bring some warm clothes.
Use offline maps
There’s no way you won’t get lost while in Marrakesh. And while you can always ask locals for directions, this is not always a good idea, since there are many people who will either ask for a money for helping you or just give you wrong directions. Therefore, the best thing to do is to download a free offline map. One of the best offline maps services is definitely Maps.me, available for both iOS and Android.
When it comes to bargaining, the most important thing is that both sides are satisfied with the final price. The initial price could be 2 to 10 times bigger than the final, but at the end all that matters is how much you’d like to pay or how much that product is worth to you. If you’re fine paying 5 euros for a magnet, you can be sure the vendor will take that opportunity. Even though they are going to set up pretty high prices, don’t make a mistake by setting up extremely low price cause they’ll easily get offended and maybe even won’t be talking to you anymore.
Rough prices of Moroccan souvenirs that can help you with the bargaining:
Pashmina scarf – 70-100 MAD, Babouche – 40 MAD, Magnets – 5 MAD, Imitation earrings – 5-20 MAD, Imitation necklaces – 20-40 MAD, Argan oil – 50 ml – 15-30 MAD, Leather wallets – 30-60 MAD
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).