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Marrakech isn’t even close to being the largest Moroccan city, but it’s often considered the cultural heart of Morocco. The old-world allure of Marrakech has a mysterious, almost-ethereal quality; there are local souks (markets), sacred ruins, and tucked-away palaces begging to be explored. Marrakech is also known for its scenic gardens, history-steeped attractions, and luxury spa culture. All this to say that Marrakech—called both the “pearl of the south” and the “Red City”—is one of the most-visited destinations in Morocco for good reason.
Here are the things to do in Marrakech if you only have 24 hours:
9:00 a.m. Start your day off in the heart of the city at Patisserie des Princes. Widely known as one of the best pastry shops in Morocco, Patisserie des Princes has a global reputation for its excellent baked goods. It’s also a perfect place to experience the extremely tangible French influence found throughout Morocco. At Patisserie des Princes, have a cup of Moroccan coffee with a few slices of toast, served with a selection of marmalades. And don’t forget to grab a few cookies and petit fours to have as a snack later in the day.
10:00 a.m. From Patisserie des Princes, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the Bahia Palace and Gardens. Both the palace and gardens were built in the 19th century by Si Moussa and the exteriors are meant to reflect the national style of Morocco. After the build was completed in the 1860s, Si Moussa lived here with his four wives and his concubines. The palace features artistic stained glass windows, elegant, tiled fireplaces, and intricately painted interiors. And the opulent two-acre gardens have a tropical feel, filled with orange trees and fountains.
11:30 a.m. Marrakech is generally a convenient sight-seeing town, because a lot of the main attractions are near the city center. Saadian’s Tombs are about a mile from the Bahia Palace, and the walk should take no more than 20 minutes. Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur built the first tomb for his father, who founded the Saadian empire in the 16th century. The site of the tombs was deliberately chosen because of its proximity to Kasbah Mosque, one of the most notable Islamic houses of worship in Morocco. Sultan Ahmed el Mansour, the last ruler of the Saadian empire, really made Saadian’s Tombs the elaborate attraction they are today. He imported marble and gold from Italy and sought to make each detail, down to the last tile and decorative carving, luxurious. There are 66 tombs total within the two mausoleums.
You’ll want to have lunch after the tombs before heading to the Medina souks, so grab a bite near Saadian’s Tombs. Head to Kasbah Cafe, which has reliably delicious Moroccan comfort food, cozy interiors, and a lovely terrace.
1:00 p.m. Visiting the local Moroccan souks (or markets with hand-crafted goods) is one of the essential things to do in Marrakech. The best place to experience the souk culture of Marrakech is in the Medina quarter of the city. The Medina, considered the Old City of Marrakech, can feel a bit overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan. Enclosed by pink walls built in the 1100s, the Medina is home to vibrant souks, including the famous Jemaa el Fna, and historic mosques. From Saadian’s Tombs, you can either walk to Jemaa el Fna or take a car to the northwest corner of the Medina, winding up in Bab Doukkala. Bab Doukkala is a slightly quieter part of the Medina, whereas Jemaa el Fna is much bigger but tends to be more congested. While Jemaa el Fna still promises to be a spectacle during the day, most of the street vendors won’t come out until dusk, which is why you’ll want to eat before coming. If you decide to venture to Bab Doukkala, be sure to walk through their Jardin Secret (secret garden), an elegant botanical garden sitting in front of a 19th-century palace.
3:00 p.m. To get the full Moroccan experience, you’ll want to spend some of your afternoon relaxing at a hammam. You can visit Hammam Ziani, a classic Moroccan spa that has two outposts: one in Casablanca and the other in Marrakech. Or, if you’d prefer, you can schedule some time at the hammam in your hotel. The Royal Mansour Marrakech has an opulent marble-lined spa, while Le Spa at Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech is “designed like a modern Riad.” The primary goal of visiting a hammam is just to soak in the hot baths and relax, though you can also add treatments like a hammam scrub.
7:30 p.m. Head to dinner at Al Fassia Guéliz for traditional Moroccan fare—the restaurant specifically serves the best of Fez cuisine. Owned by the Chaab sisters, the place is run entirely by women. Al Fassia actually means “the woman from Fez.” They have two branches of Al Fassia now, but you’ll want to dine at the original restaurant in Guéliz, a chic Marrakech neighborhood worth exploring. Pro-tip: If you want to sample any of their specialty dishes, some have to be ordered in advance, so call the restaurant the day before your reservation.
Where to Stay
The Oberoi Marrakech offers the five-star eastern hospitality that luxury travelers have come to expect from this renowned hotel brand. Sitting on 28 acres of lush gardens, The Oberoi has gorgeous rooms with private terraces, as well as suites and villas overlooking the lavish gardens and the Atlas Mountains beyond. Book a Deluxe Villa, Presidential Villa, or a Royal Suite, all of which come with a private pool.
The pools and palm trees leading up to the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech will blow you away. With clusters of orange and olive trees, this property feels completely serene even though it’s just 20 minutes from the bustling Medina of Marrakech. They have 134 guest rooms, suites, and villas, and the must-book room is, of course, the Prince Villa with a private pool and courtyard.
The palatial Royal Mansour Marrakech, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, features both old-world style and state-of-the-art wellness facilities. The high-end interior design exudes Middle Eastern luxury, and Le Jardin at Royal Mansour is one of the most relaxing spots in the city. Choose from a superior, premier, privilege, prestige, or grand riad at the Royal Mansour. There is no wrong answer, each one of the 53 private residences are exquisite.