The historic heart of Marrakech and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the medina is the first port of call for most visitors to the city. Known for its famous Jemaa el-Fna square, a dizzying maze of souks, and a magnificent array of mosques and palaces, this is Marrakech’s most atmospheric district.
No visit to Marrakech is complete without a visit to the medina, and a guided walking tour is the best way to navigate the labyrinth of lanes and sprawling souks. Tours take in highlights such as the Royal, Badi, and Bahia palaces, the last of which is open to the public; the Koutoubia Mosque, with its towering minaret visible from all around the medina; Ben Youssef Madrasa; and the 16th-century Saadian Tombs.
Also popular are guided tours of the souks, where myriad stalls sell everything from spices to exquisite handicrafts. Tours often include a visit to the tanneries and a chance to watch carpentry, carpet-weaving, or leather-work demonstrations. Some tours include a Moroccan cooking class.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Pickpockets are common in the medina, so keep an eye on your belongings and leave valuables at your hotel.
- Haggling is expected in the souks, so don’t accept the first price; you might end up paying less than a third of the original offer!
- Many of the narrow lanes and souks are only accessible on foot, so wear comfortable shoes and expect to do lots of walking.
- Modest dress is required inside mosques and other places of worship, so both men and women should have their shoulders and knees covered.
- While Jemaa el-Fna and most of the main attractions are accessible, the narrow and uneven roads of the medina, especially the souks, can be challenging for wheelchair users.
How to Get There
The medina is surrounded by ancient walls with a number of gates; the most popular are Bab er-Robb and Bab el Jedid, both of which offer easy access to Jemaa el-Fna. Taxis run into the medina, stopping close to Jemaa el-Fna, where you can walk or take a caleche (horse-drawn carriage) to the main sights.
When to Get There
Head to popular attractions like Bahia Palace in the early morning to avoid the crowds, then spend the afternoon exploring the souks. Many of the stalls stay open late, but it’s not advisable to explore after dark without a guide. Jemaa el-Fna comes alive in the evening hours and makes a popular spot for dinner or post-sightseeing drinks.
The central square of Jemaa el-Fna is the cultural heart of the medina, and the starting point for most walking tours. A visit is very much about the atmosphere, with the fragrant aromas of street foods filling the air, musicians playing a traditional soundtrack, and street performers, snake charmers, and henna-tattoo artists appearing everywhere you turn. Many bars and restaurants around the square offer rooftop terraces, where you can watch the action from above.