Home of riads, the medina and souks

Marrakech in Morocco is a popular destination for a city trip. It's famous for its architecture, the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, its souks and the flavoursome Moroccan cuisine.

Marrakech is one of the four famous imperial cities of Morocco, together with Fez, Meknes and Rabat. The city is located on the fertile soil of the Haouz plain, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains.

It is a mysterious city, where you’ll struggle to take in all the sights and sounds. If you spend any time pondering its history, you’ll soon discover it’s not entirely clear where the name came from, and there is debate around its etymology. It’s likely to have come from the Berber words amur (n) akush, which mean Land of God, but this is not entirely certain.

Main square of Jemaa el-Fnaa

The main square of Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech. ©Corno van den Berg

It’s been the main attraction of Marrakech for decades. This central square is the beating heart of the city, and there’s always something happening. When you visit it, you’re bound to be amazed. The best time to go is the late afternoon.

The temperature drops pleasantly and the square fills up with people, there will be dancers, musicians, acrobats, story tellers, snake charmers and much more besides.

Sunset from a balcony

Visit a balcony around the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Around the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa, the restaurants and bars often have terraces and balconies. They offer a great view across the busy square, especially late in the afternoon and around sunset. These are great locations to take photos. Especially the shadows that fall across the square will give a great effect. Take a seat and watch it all happen.

Food stalls on Jemaa el-Fnaa

Food stalls on Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech. ©Corno van den Berg

In the evening, on Djemaa el Fna square, you will see numerous eateries with Food Stalls. They are barbecues on which mostly meat and vegetables are roasted. When you walk past you are approached by men who recommend their eatery.

Keep in mind that the food is especially for tourists. As a result, the taste is not too special. It is fresh and rarely causes stomach problems. The atmosphere is good and it is an experience.

Dentists or Tooth Pullers of Marrakech

One of the dentists or Tooth Pullers of Marrakech.

It’s a real spectacle here, but also in other parts of Morocco. There are several tooth pullers who wander the main square armed with pliers and other instruments looking for people with toothaches.

They will pull the tooth out on the spot, usually with lots of commotion, as it is draws a crowd. So if you’re wandering around the square, keep an ear out for people screaming!

Don't do this in the square!

Marrakech's main square is notorious for its animals. Think of snake charmers, where the snakes are almost constantly stunned. But also men who let monkeys do all kinds of tricks. These monkeys often have their front teeth removed so that they cannot bite. You already understand: You shouldn't spend your money on these excursions.

Visit a Moroccan hammam

Visit a Moroccan hammam in Marrakech.

An invigorating body scrub- and wash, a cold plunge and then a massage: your skin will feel like a baby’s! Visiting a Moroccan bath house is a popular tourist activity, and Marrakech has many options on offer. For centuries, this city has had places where people can bathe (or be bathed) and converse with in the meantime. It’s wellness the Moroccan way.

Spend the night at a riad

Overnight in a riad in Marrakech.

Don’t waste your money on hotels in Marrakech, stay at a traditional riad (or ryad). It’s an ancient form of house with a central courtyard, which often has a pond in the middle. Most of them are in the medina, so you’re nearly always walking distance from the main square, for example. There are many riads to choose from.

Shopping in a souk

Shopping in a souk in Marrakech.

There are many souks (bazaars) in Marrakech. The largest and most famous is the one in the medina. It’s a maze of little alleyways with endless scents, colours and flavours, as well as the usual souvenirs and completely unusual objects.

Here, haggling is part of everyday life and it’s practically impossible not to buy anything. It’s a wise idea to make sure you have room in your suitcase for souvenirs when you visit Morocco. You can visit the souk anytime during the day, as well as at the start of the evening.

The tanneries of Marrakech

The tanneries of Marrakech.

The tanneries of Fez are world famous, but they can also be found in Marrakech, though you cannot photograph them from above like you can in Fez. You’ll be able to see the three-week process used to prepare the hides of cows, goats, sheep and camels to turn them into leather. One of the steps is to soak them in vats of water and blood to strengthen them, after which they are covered in animal urine and a grape mixture to soften them again. Last, they are dyed.

The tanneries are located near the northern medina, near the Bab Debbagh: the tanner’s gate, and also along the Rue de Bab Debbagh. This trade is slowly disappearing, so there are less tanneries these days, also because of the smell of the process. Tourists are offered fresh mint to hold near the nose to mask the smell.

The famous Argan Oil

The famous Argan Oil in Marrakech.

Argan oil is also known as ‘liquid gold’. This oil is often used in Moroccan kitchens as well as in cosmetics. It has therapeutic qualities: scientist have proven that argan oil can stimulate blood circulation, lower cholesterol and improve the immune system. The oil is made of the fruit of the argan tree (Argania spinosa).

Remarkably, nobody really knew about this oil outside of Morocco, but it’s becoming popular. Marrakech is in a region with many argan trees, so there is lots of trade of this oil here. It’s not a cheap product, but its’ very special.

Try a tajine with chicken or fish

A tajine in Marrakech.

A tagine (or tajine) is a shallow North-African earthenware pot, and the dishes cooked in them are named after it. Thanks to the tagine’s unique conical shape, the condensation drips back into the dish and enhances the contents. It’s a very popular dish.

Tagine dishes are easy to distinguish on menus because the word is always in its name. Lamb tagine is very traditional, but those with chicken and fish are also very tasty. Make sure you try the different ones.

Keep in mind that most restaurants in Marrakech serve a tourist version. Especially the eateries around the main square. This one isn't nearly as flavourful as it should be.

Taste real saffron

Many dishes in Morocco are prepared with saffron, such as sauces, rice dishes, fish dishes, doughs, desserts and milk. If you take a guided tour past the old apothecaries, you’ll quickly learn about this special spice, which is derived from the saffron crocus flower.

You’ll also learn about it if you do a cooking course here. Make sure you ask how to distinguish real saffron from imitations, so you can use this knowledge when buying it in the future.

Moroccan Kitchen Cooking Classes

The rich flavours of the Moroccan kitchen are a huge attraction for many tourists, and cooking classes are very popular. And rightly so, because it’s really worth learning all about the Moroccan spices and how to blend the flavours just right without them becoming overpowering. 

More information: and

Nightclubs of Marrakech

Marrakech is also very hip because of its vibrant nightlife. There are many bars, as well as nightclubs. One of these is Pacha, which claims to be the biggest night club in all of Africa. Another popular one is called So, which is part of the Sofitel hotel. It won’t be a cheap night out, but it will definitely be memorable.

Dar Cherifa literary café

Dar Chefira is the oldest house in the medina of Marrakech. After it had fallen into disrepair for a long time, it was carefully restored to its former glory by renowned craftsmen in 2000. These days it’s a real cultural centre, a hip literary café. There are exhibitions of paintings and sculptures, and there are concerts and other cultural events. You can also enjoy a meal there with likeminded people.

Best time for Marrakech

Marrakech is delightful anytime of year, the climate here is wonderful with mild winters with snow, and warm, humid summers. Spring and autumn are perfect to enjoy a few rays of sunshine.

The weather is usually very pleasant, but it can get hot in summer (above forty degrees Celsius), so many people choose to take a siesta in the afternoon. It’s a good time to spend some time by a pool!

Please note in Marrakech!

It can be tricky to take photos here, and it’s recommended to ask for permission to take photos. You can expect one of two reactions:

People will either turn their faces away and shout something, others are happy to have their photo taken but only in exchange for payment. You can give them dirhams, but they might also accept other currencies. Do make sure you agree on a price beforehand, it’s likely the photos will be worth it.