To many people, Marrakech is what dreams are made of. This place has the potential to feel surreal, from its regal palaces to its tight, winding markets. Honestly, imagine this: snake charmers and fortune tellers in the main square, vendors selling leather and spices on narrow streets, colorful palaces imposing their will on the city in every direction, and camels and horse-drawn carriages slowly making their way through the streets.
Marrakech is in many ways a city of wonder, and I felt this way both times that I visited. There is just something special in this city that is hard to find in other corners of the world. This is what earned it a place on my list of the best cities to visit in 2022.
Going to Morocco can really be a once in a lifetime kind of trip if you plan it the right way. There are some really incredible things to see and do, and normally all at a great price. The food is outstanding, the desert activities like camping and camelback riding are always a blast, and the history is just everywhere. Marrakech is always a great starting point for a Morocco trip because it is fairly central, very busy, and very tourist friendly. From here, Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, and all of the other major cities are very accessible by train.
This blog post is going to take a look at everything you need to know when visiting Marrakech, including the best things to do in Marrakech, how to get there, safety in Marrakech, and more. While this post won’t cover what to wear when visiting Marrakech, I did write a whole post on what to wear in Morocco that I recommend reading before your trip.
Is Marrakech, Morocco Safe to Visit?
Morocco is usually the first country that westerners visit in the Arab World, and this is largely due to its level of familiarity. Morocco kind of bridges the gap between European and Middle Eastern culture and influence, and it truly does make for a great first Arab country to visit. In truth, Morocco is unique in and of itself, and while there are components of both European and Arab cultures in Morocco, it has developed a culture of its own over its 1000 years of existence. Personally, I think that Morocco’s culture is much more similar to the cultures of Middle Eastern countries, but it is still very unique in and of itself.
Regardless, my point is that if this is your first time visiting an Arab country, you are likely to be apprehensive. As an American, I heard plenty of stories of terrorism, violence, and crime associated with “the Middle East,” and even I was a bit apprehensive about visiting Morocco for the first time. Well, there are several things wrong with that fear, but I think the most important one to note is that Morocco isn’t even in the Middle East. Morocco is as far from the Middle East as New York City is from Mexico City, or London is from Istanbul. Italy and Greece are both closer.
Morocco is a very safe country to visit. There are few threats of violence here, and I would argue that there is no more threat of violence here than there is in Western Europe or the United States. While you want to take caution in any new place that you travel, there is no need for any different level of caution than you would have in Paris or Rome. Personally, in all of my experiences in the Arab World, I have felt just as safe as I would in Europe. This includes cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Muscat.
Marrakech, specifically, is one of the safest places to visit in Morocco. There are very few threats of violent crime here, as the city is so internationally famous for tourism. Marrakech authorities do a great job of keeping control of their city, and the locals know the value of foreigners to the Moroccan economy. After all, scaring away tourists means everyone in Marrakech loses.
In Marrakech, your biggest concerns shouldn’t be violent crimes, but petty crimes. Pickpocketing is a real issue, and you should never keep things in your back pockets. Especially with the close nature of the markets, having a phone or wallet disappear is very easy if you aren’t careful. However, as long as you are careful and keep an eye on your things, there is very little threat to you in Marrakech.
Best Things to Do in Marrakech
1. Hang Out in the Djemaa El Fna in the Evening
The Djemaa El Fna is the main square in Marrakech, and it is an absolutely electric place to hang out – especially after dark. This square is probably the place you imagine when you think of Marrakech. This is where you can find snake charmers, fortune tellers, food vendors, singers, dancers, fire jugglers, and other performers. There are great restaurants and cafes lining the perimeter of the square, and the vibes here are nothing short of energizing. If you are looking for the best things to do in Marrakech, spending an evening in the Djemaa El Fna is easily going to land toward the top of any list. I recommend grabbing dinner in one of the restaurants overlooking the square and then proceeding down into the square to hang out afterwards. Beware of scammers here, though, as nothing is truly free. Everyone will want a tip for their services – even the guys with the monkeys.
2. Wander Through the Souks in the Medina
On any visit to an Arab city, you will likely encounter the word medina a lot. As background, this is the Arabic word for city, and it is usually used to refer to the walled-in portion of any Arab city. Many Arab cities have city walls, and as time went on, civilization expanded beyond those city walls. Now, the old city inside of the walls is often referred to as the medina, and everything outside of the city walls is just considered the new city. This is the case in Marrakech.
The medina is usually the most traditional part of the city. This is also where the Djemaa El Fna is located. In Marrakech, the iconic markets, or souks, are also located inside the walls of the medina. These markets are known globally as some of the best things to do in Marrakech, and you can buy anything from spices, to leather goods, to animals, to clothing, and more in them. I got a nice pair of pajama pants and a backpack there that I still wear to this day!
When shopping in the souks, remember that the first price they offer you is never the price you should pay. You are expected to haggle, and you can often get the goods for less than half of what the vendor initially offers you.
3. Visit the Koutoubia Mosque
While Marrakech proudly celebrates religious tolerance and has vibrant communities of Jews, Christians, and other major religions, the overwhelming majority of Moroccans are Muslims. The Islamic influence is evident all throughout the city, resulting in some stunning architecture and gorgeous mosaics. The Koutoubia Mosque is no exception to this! This mosque is giant, and its minaret is over 200 feet tall. I always love learning about the interplay of religion and society in the places that I travel, and the Koutoubia Mosque is one of the best places to see the locals’ faith on full display.
One of my visits to Marrakech was during Ramadan, and the religious devotion was simply extraordinary. While you can only enter the mosque if you are a practicing Muslim, admiring it from the outside is still worth the time and effort if you aren’t a practicing Muslim. This building is stunning, and it is one of the most important places in the city without a doubt.
4. Go for a Marrakech Camel Ride in the Palmeraie
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Marrakech is go for a camel ride. This is an iconic thing to do as a western tourist, and there are countless great places to do it. You could ride a camel in the Atlas Mountains, through the city, or in the Sahara Desert. Personally, I think the best place to ride a camel in Marrakech is in the Palmeraie, or Palm Groves. This area just outside of the city is filled with over 100,000 date palm trees, and there are lots of cool things to do here. From biking and ATV riding to horseback and camelback riding, The Palmeraie is definitely worth checking out.
While camel rides in the Atlas Mountains or the Sahara Desert might be bit more epic, camel rides in the Palmeraie are often much more accessible. The Palmeraie is not very far from central Marrakech, and the price points tend to be very affordable, all things considered. For more information about Palmeraie camel rides, check out this company’s website. They offer free transportation from your hotel to the Palmeraie and back, and their price points are very affordable.
5. Visit the Marrakech Museum
The Marrakech Museum is the city’s main museum, filled with collections of old artifacts, artworks, and treasures. The treasures that fill this museum are simply invaluable, and it is really unique to see the prized possessions of this area from so long ago. While the artifacts are great, the actual museum itself is also a spectacle. The Marrakech Museum is housed in the Mnebhi Palace, which is the former residence of one of the rulers of Morocco. This building is grand and stunning, and imagining the lives of the people that once lived here is awesome. I always love seeing the grandeur of palaces and castles, and this museum is a perfect example of that.
6. Meander Through the Majorelle Garden
The Majorelle Garden is a breath of fresh air amid the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. The garden is the work of French painter Jacques Majorelle, who lived here for a significant stretch of his life. The garden is beautiful, and is accented by the bright blue residence where he lived. When he died, the property was purchased by Yves Saint Laurent, who lived here for decades until his death in the early 2000’s.
The garden is by no means a full-day activity, but it is certainly a nice place to stop and relax for an hour or two while you are in Marrakech. The greenness of the plants just miles from the Sahara desert is really a cool juxtaposition, and there is a small museum here dedicated to the property and its former owners.
7. Go for a Walking Tour of the Medina
While you could visit some of Marrakech’s palaces and important places on your own, there is no better way to see them than via a tour – especially a free one. There is so much information to be learned about each of these places, and I think that going without a guide only gives you 10% of the experience. In my opinion, one of the best things to do in Marrakech is hire a local guide who can take you through the city to stop at its most famous points. There are several stunning palaces, mosques, and other structures in the city that are best visited with a guide who knows the full history of each one. Visiting the souks with a guide is also a great idea, as your guide generally knows what a fair price for each item is.
How to Get to Marrakech
Marrakech is an incredibly popular tourist destination, and its airport is well-equipped for tourist traffic. This airport offers great flight options to places all over the world, and the signage is mostly trilingual in Arabic, French, and English. While Marrakech doesn’t have the biggest airport in Morocco, it does have the second-biggest airport in Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK). If you want to fly into Marrakech, this airport is going to be your best best most of the time. It is located very close to the best parts of the city, and there are usually many great flight options right into it from all over the world. Morocco retains very close ties with France, and you can get a flight to Marrakech from most places in the world with just one stop in Paris. In my experience, flying into Marrakech’s airport is generally the same price as flying into Morocco’s biggest airport, which is in Casablanca.
Casablanca is the biggest city in the country and also has its biggest airport. Casablanca Mohammed V Airport (CMN) is by far the best airport to fly into in Morocco in general, as it has direct flight routes to countries all over the world, including the United States. I mention in my post on finding cheap airfare that typically, bigger airports offer better flight options. This is true for Casablanca! If you plan on going to Casablanca at all, I recommend either starting or ending there so that you can fly into Casablanca and take advantage of the direct flight options. However, if you are only visiting Marrakech, your best bet is probably not to fly into Casablanca, as you would then need to transit a few hours south to Marrakech. While I normally recommend alternative airports that might offer cheaper airfare, there really isn’t one for Marrakech. Just fly right into Marrakech.
Regardless of which airport you choose, the best way to get from the airport to your hotel in Marrakech is by booking a private transfer with our partners at Welcome Pickups. Welcome Pickups offers personalized, private, comfortable rides from the airport into the city for about the same price as a standard taxi. They monitor your flight status while you are in the air, and a driver will be waiting for you holding a sign with your name on it as soon as you arrive.
How to Get Around Marrakech
BY FOOT | TAXI | BUS | CARRIAGE
Marrakech has very scarce public transportation. In the medina itself, there is no way to get around other than walking. This is fine, as it is very walkable. Most people stay within the medina or walking distance to it, anyway, so there is very little need for a car, taxi, or public transportation. However, if you want to get to other parts of the city, you will need to rely on a scant bus network or taxis. There is no Uber in Marrakech, either, so you will need to rely on traditional taxis. Make sure they turn on the meter or you agree on a price ahead of time, otherwise the driver may try to rip you off.
If you are simply looking for a good time, one fun way to get around Marrakech is via horse-drawn carriage. There are carriages placed all around the city with drivers who will happily take you anywhere you want to go in the city. This is a fun and cute way to see the city and get around, but you will certainly be paying a premium for the experience, as these rides are not cheap.
The Best Time to Visit Marrakech
Marrakech is very hot to visit in the summer, as it is located on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Additionally, this is when the massive crowds of tourists come pouring in. I think that the best time to visit Marrakech is between February and May or between September and November. February and November are slightly chilly at times – like in the high 50s – but overall very pleasant. At these times, the crowds of tourists will be much smaller, and you will be able to have a much more pleasant experience with no waiting in lines for restaurants or activities. I advise against visiting Morocco in the middle of the summer, as the heat is just very unpleasant. Most of the best things to do in Morocco are outdoors, and hanging out in the Majorelle Gardens with the sun beating down on you in July isn’t nearly as nice as it is in April.
Is Marrakech, Morocco Worth Visiting?
You can probably guess that this question has a very easy answer. If I included Marrakech on my list of the best cities to visit in the world in 2022, it probably is worth visiting, right? This city is filled with unique experiences, and I absolutely love it here. I think that it is the best city to visit in all of Morocco. While there are components of it that are absolutely touristy, Marrakech is still very authentic and is likely one of the most unique places you will have ever visited. The cuisine is delicious, the architecture is beautiful, the markets and squares are vibrant and electric, and the culture is entirely unique. If you were to ask me “Is Marrakech, Morocco worth visiting?” I wouldn’t even hesitate to say it should be towards the top of your bucket list.
That’s all we have for you about Marrakech! Hopefully this post is helpful as you start planning your journey to one of my favorite cities in the world. I really do think that Marrakech is worth visiting, even if you need to fly across the world to do it.
If you’re planning a trip to Marrakech, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!