8 must see places in marrakech

Initially I wasn’t so keen on visiting Marrakech. The reason is a bit stupid – it’s because everyoneee visits Marrakech and having visited countries like Latvia and Estonia that same year I was very keen on seeing more underrated beauties in the world. But I’m glad I made this trip!

Marrakech is literally a place fit for a princess. When you’re flying into Marrakech you’ll see a red city sitting amongst a red desert. Exotic buildings, amazing history and some of the most colourful souks in the world. I had been to Istanbul the year before and so I expected the two cities to be very similar – how wrong I was. Marrakech is very very traditional unlike Istanbul which is much more modernised. So here’s a list of must see places in Marrakech!

1) Koutoubia Mosque

The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest and most important mosque in Marrakech. It’s name means Mosque of the Booksellers, you will realise why when you see the numerous colourful book stalls that surround the mosque. I was fascinated by both the interior and exterior architecture of the mosque. Although non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque you can still appreciate the beauty of it from the outside. The mosque is located in the middle of the Medina and opposite Jamaa el Fnaa (see below).

2) Ben Youssef Madarasa

The Ben Youssef Madrasa is the largest Islamic college in Morocco and is also the most important. A madrasa is an Islamic school and is specialized in religious studies. The school was built for the students who attended the Ben Youssef Mosque. The Madrasa was closed for renovation until middle of 2020 which unfortunately meant I was unable to see the amazing architecture within the building. However, it didn’t stop us from praying at the mosque!

3) Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace was definitely one of the most eye catching sights in Marrakech. Commissioned by the Grand Vizier Ba Ahmed ben Moussa, the palace took over ten years to complete and has over 150 rooms that leads to various different private gardens and patios. It’s almost like a maze – I definitely kept walking back into the same room several times. Not that I’m complaining since each room is decorated so magnificently it was worth the repeat. The palace was also the residence of Bou Ahmed, his four wives and several concubines.

You may also be interested in El Badi Palace which is the complete opposite of Bahia palace in terms of structure and architecture since it’s basically the ruins of a palace.

4) Le Jardin Majorelle

What an unique place this was! The rich blue architecture, the magical garden, the overflowing cacti, the water fountains… Le Jardin Marjorelle is like a little haven in the midst of the usually hot and crowded Marrakech. The gardens were originally designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 1930s and later discovered after his death. I had just arrived in Marrakech from Chefchaouen so it was like entering one blue world from another. Jardin Majorelle is located at Rue Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech, close to Avenue Yacoub el-Mansour in the north of Bab Doukkala.

5) The Medina (souk) – also the main entrance

The Medina was a reminder of how well Marrakech had preserved its rawness. Since I had been to Istanbul the year before I half expected the Medina to be similar to the Istanbul Grand Bazaar – how wrong I was. I remember walking into an area near the centre where they were skinning real cows with rows and rows of raw leather piled along the side. Needless to say I left quickly! The Medina with its rows and rows of souks (markets) were full of untarnished culture – no attempt at appealing to outside tourists. Ofcourse this meant that the Medina was slightly unfriendly as well with literally no Wifi connection and the possibility of getting lost in the maze like structure of it. But if you want to see an unadulterated Marrakech head over to this place!

6) Le Jardin Secret

Le Jardin Secret literally felt like a secret place in Marrakech!

Le Jardin Secret is located within the Medina. Amidst all the revving of bikes, the dust, the shouting of vendors you’ll suddenly find a secret door which leads you into this magnificent oasis. Le Jardin Secret is actually one of the lesser known gardens in the city which meant it was relatively quiet as well. There’s a small covered patio in the centre of the Islamic Gardens where I sat around for half an hour doing nothing. It was such a beautiful place. Another thing I loved about the place was the abundance of water. The garden is filled with flowing streams and water fountains. There is also a small café on the sun terrace where you can enjoy a nice slice of cake and coffee.

I admit it’s really difficult to find this place, even with Google Maps we kept going around in circles. But thankfully the shop owners nearby were very friendly and showed us the way when we asked them for directions.

7) Saadian Tombs

The Saadian Tombs are the resting place of over 60 members of the Saadi dynasty and dates back to the end of the sixteenth century. The Saadian Tombs is definitely one of the most intriguing of the historical architectures in Marrakech and does not really resemble a typical cemetery. We went here right after Le Jardin Marjorelle and loved the contrast. It was so quiet and peaceful with pigeons nesting in the walls, fewer tourists and a general sense of respect and calmness. For those interested in history, I recommend reading up on a guide regarding the different tombs and their significance.

The Saadian Tombs is located near to the Koutoubia Mosque, El Badii Palace and just outside the Medina so you can cover these places together easily. There are several doorways outside the structure itself which I found quite cute for taking photos.

8) Jamaa El Fnaa

Jamaa El Fnaa is essentially a large open market place in the centre of the Medina. Jemaa el Fnaa dates back to the founding of Marrakech by the Almoravids in 1062, so yes, for over a thousand years this place has served as a gathering place for the people of Marrakech. That in itself warrants a visit because I feel if Marrakech had a heart – this place would be it! I also highly recommend visiting after sunset. I went in the morning and evening and the difference is phenomenal. The place comes to life after sunset with all the storytellers, henna artists, fortune tellers, snake charmers coming from all over the city to entertain.

Beware of vendors constantly chasing you to buy their products, the snake charmers who will ask for money just because you stood there for a few minutes to watch them and, ofcourse, the excessive number of people who visit on a regular basis. If you’re looking for a more relaxed holiday, this might not be the place for you.

Final thoughts…

Some final words about the accommodation in Marrakech which happens to be one of its best tourist attractions. If it falls within your budget, book a Riad in Marrakech to get the complete Marrakech culture and design experience. Riad is basically a traditional Moroccan house with artistically crafted inner courtyard or garden often with a fountain in the centre. Each room in a riad is richly decorated with hanging lanterns and colourful textiles and some of the more expensive riads have private hammams and swimming pools too! La Sultana Marrakech, Riad Yasmine, Riad Azzar, Royal Mansor Marrakech and L’Hotel Marrakech are some of the prettiest Riads in Marrakech.

All in all Marrakech has carved a permanent place in my heart. Previously I had never visited Africa so it was a trip full of new experiences. It was such a change from all the European countries I had recently visited and the whole city was filled with such authentic Arabian vibes.


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