There’s more to Marrakesh than the Majorelle Gardens, the Saadian Tombs, the Bahia Palace, Maison de la Photographie, Dar Si Said and the Menara Gardens (but I had to mention them, so I have them covered…).
If you venture further afield, you have the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert (the former is perfect for a day trip; the latter requires two to three nights).
However, there are plenty of other things to do in Marrakesh that you shouldn’t miss when in town.
1. The souks
Head to Jemaa el-Fnaa (the Big Square) to see the street vendors, snake charmers, jesters, magicians and other characters who gather there to sell their wares and entertain people.
Then, head into the souks—the covered streets that make up a maze of shops like one big outdoor mall consisting of small boutiques with handcrafted goods. There are different sections for different goods, though this isn’t strictly adhered to, so there’s also some random shops here and there.
You have to know two things. First, if you go here with a guide, chances are they have made deals with certain shops they take you to and get a cut from your purchases. In other words, they aren’t necessarily going to take you to the best places.
Second, you need to haggle. You should pay no more than 30-50% of the offering price. I had some heated discussions with sellers in the souks. In the end, those who I ended up buying from really respected me, but I did anger some people in the process as they’re used to tourists giving in to their demands.
If you go at night, you can buy food in the food stands on the square. Don’t miss out on having an appointment with a herbalist/witch doctor in one of the many old-fashioned pharmacies surrounding the square. If they’ll cure anything, who knows, but it’s worth the experience!
2. A romantic or exotic desert stroll
If you have always fancied a stroll under the stars in the desert, or dinner in a luxurious tent, then visit La Pause. You can stay the night, enjoying the combination of natural beauty and luxury in one of their tents, inclusive of an open fireplace.
3. Coffee shops
I don’t know about you, but I love sipping coffee, or tea, and watching life go by. I have come to the conclusion that when I travel, finding a place the locals love, or simply an outrageously amazing coffee shop, is essential.
Where else can you relax, catch up on work and simultaneously enjoy exploring the city you are in?
When I was in Marrakesh, I fell in love with Café du Livre, which is a café targeted at expats and travelers. It’s perfect if you intend to move to Marrakesh or want to meet fellow travelers and get tips on what to do.
Your chances of food poisoning are also low.
Café de La Poste, with its pompous grandeur, however, reminds me of the kind of places Europeans would visit in the late 19th and early 20th century. If you ever fancied being one of those travelers, then this is where you should go.
If you are looking for a café with a view, Café des Epices is a great choice. Here, you can watch the Atlas Mountains from the terrace as the sun sets, or head down to the courtyard to be in the midst of the craziness that is the spice square.
If you fancy learning Arabic, sending your kids in a Kids Club or, for that matter, getting a henna tattoo, then Henna Café is for you. You can attend free classes (a lot are targeted at the local community), grab a coffee or volunteer to help out yourself!
For tea, check out Riad Yima instead—a tongue-in-cheek take on Moroccan culture. Want more inspiration? Check out this article.
4. The hammams
A visit to Marrakesh is not complete unless you visit a hammam. This is the Moroccan version of Russian banjas, Swedish saunas and international spas. Here, you will be covered in a special, oily soap made with black olives.
After it has softened your skin, you will be rubbed down with a rough sponge.
You can also ask the locals for a traditional hammam, which I did and ended up naked, flat on the floor in front of all the neighborhood women, scrubbed from top to toe.
If this is a bit much for you, there are the more sophisticated tourist versions.
You can also visit places like Les Bains de Marrakesh, which is like stepping into an Arabian dream. If you want something romantic, this is it.
Each place has a scent and while you might remember Marrakesh more for the scent of the delicious food than anything else, you will also want to visit some local perfumeries.
Places like Natus, L’Orientaliste (there’s more to this shop than scents!), Heritage Berber, Les Parfums du Soleil and Keros are not to be missed. If you believe in using natural scents, some of these shops offer them.
When in Marrakesh, you have to pay a visit to the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa. Go at night to indulge in the street food, see the performers and be entertained. Head into the souks for shopping unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
While in town, don’t miss out on the incredible perfumeries and the gorgeous coffee shops, where you can relax and mingle with locals and travelers alike. Head to the desert too where you can stroll beneath the stars.