Marrakech Travel Guide

Marrakech Travel Guide

Affectionately labelled the 'Paris of the Sahara', Marrakech is one of the most alluring urban travel destinations in the world:

A mysterious labyrinthine medina, snake charmers and acrobats on the panoramic central square, colourful bazaars, the aroma of sizzling delicacies, an overload of ancient sites, and beautiful Moroccan architecture await travellers in Marrakech. The intoxicating city was an ancient caravan trading post, and retains its traditional atmosphere along with a lively modern tourist trade which draws millions of visitors to Marrakech each year for an exotic getaway.

Marrakech is not always an 'easy' destination as it is a chaotic city which can be bewildering, but the challenge is part of the appeal for many adventurers. The city's souks and restaurants are a treat for travellers and Marrakech is a great stop for foodies and shoppers. History buffs will find plenty to interest and enchant them, and those in search of a fun nightlife will not be disappointed. Anyone who has a yen for exciting cultural destinations, or is looking for something different and unique, will be charmed by a holiday in Marrakech, which can feel like a trip back in time to medieval Morocco.

Best time to visit Marrakech

The sun shines nearly all year in Marrakech, which has an almost Mediterranean climate. Those who enjoy the heat should holiday in Marrakech during July, but the best time to travel to Marrakech is during spring (April to June), when bright blue skies offset the rosy hue of the city's clay buildings and temperatures are comfortable. Read more on Marrakech's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Marrakech

-Marvel at the incredible interiors of the Ben Youssef Madrasa, once an Islamic college.

-Watch street performers and browse stalls at Djemaa el-Fna, the city's main square.

-Wander through the Museum of Marrakech, housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace.

-Explore the ruins of the once-magnificent El Badi Palace.

What to do in Marrakech

-Enter the medina through Bab Agnaou, the most ornate of the city's ancient gates.

-Stroll through the gardens of the famous Koutoubia Mosque and hear the haunting call to prayer.

-Take refuge from the heat in the stunningly colourful Majorelle Garden.

-Visit the Saadian Tombs, a 16th-century necropolis with beautiful mosaics.

Beyond Marrakech

Marrakech is a fantastic base for excursions into the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert and there are numerous popular daytrips from the city: for a beach break head to the popular resort city of Agadir; for an experience of ancient Morocco visit the UNESCO-listed Ait Benhaddou; to appreciate the natural beauty of the mountains explore the Todra Gorge; and for a touch of skiing in the winter months head to Oukaimeden.

Getting there

Marrakech-Menara International Airport, situated four miles (6km) southwest of Marrakech, is among the busiest airports in Morocco and can be a bit chaotic. There are direct flights to Marrakech from a number of cities in Europe and the UK and indirect flights from the US. Get more information on Airports in Marrakech.

Did you know?

-The name Marrakech means 'Land of God'.

-The classic Hitchcock movie, The Man Who Knew too Much, was filmed in Marrakech.

-Somewhat unexpectedly, there are six golf courses in Marrakech.

Bab er-Rob, Marrakech © Judith Duk

Traversing the alleyways and souks of Marrakech, particularly in the Medina (Old City), it is easy to believe you have been transported back in time or stumbled onto a movie set for a medieval 'Arabian nights' production. It is this enchanting, fairytale quality that brings thousands of sightseers to the most-visited of Morocco's three Imperial Cities, Marrakech. The heart of the Medina is Djemaa el-Fna, an irregular 'square' where everything seems to happen and the place to which tourists are drawn time and again to soak up the carnival-like environment. Tourism, though, has not spoilt the atmosphere: if anything, it has only added to it. The modern side of Marrakech (called Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle), with its luxury hotels, banks and streets bursting with motor scooters, blends well with the past in a metropolis made up of people from the Berber Atlas tribes, Mahgrebis from the plains, and Saharan nomads.

Marrakech was founded in 1062 by Youssef bin Tachfine of the Almoravid dynasty, and his son perfected the city by bringing in architects and craftsmen from Cordoba to build palaces, baths, mosques and a subterranean water system. The city walls were raised from the red mud of the plains, with the snow-covered peaks of the High Atlas Mountains forming a backdrop for the city, though they are often hidden by the heat haze.

One of the many ways to soak up the sights and sounds of Marrakech is in one of the hundreds of horse-drawn carriages (known as caleches) that are for hire, but it is also necessary to take in the Medina's souks on foot, plunging into the hurly-burly maelstrom of passages where tradesmen ply various crafts, from cloth dyeing, copper beating, and leather working to herbalists, perfumers and slipper makers; and where shopkeepers cajole passing tourists into taking a look at their glorious array of colourful crafts.

Our Travel Expert

Abdessamad is a tourism expert based in Marrakech, with lots of advice to share with travellers in Morocco.

>Read Abdessamad's tips on Marrakech
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