Marrakesh – just the name conjures up exotic images – snake charmers, colourful souks, palm trees, classy riads. If only that was the reality. Marrakesh was our least favourite stop on a two week Morocco tour largely because it’s turned into a noisy, polluted city. In the last five or six years cheap Chinese made motorbikes have been permitted inside the medina, so now do you not only have to dodge them, but you have to listen to them and breathe their dirty exhaust.

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If you still want to see Marrakesh keep your visit short. Two nights and a full day is all you really need. While there are loads of day tours run out of the city why not find one of the more charming towns to stay in and do the tours – like treks in the Atlas Mountains and visits to the Sahara from smaller more interesting towns like Tamedaght and Imlil.

Put on your walking shoes, hire a local private guide (well worth it) and check out these Marrakesh places to visit when you only have a day.

Djemaa el-Fna

Djemaa el-Fna is the famous square in the medina in Marrakesh that comes alive when the sun goes down. Look for row upon row of open air food stalls, storytellers, jugglers, snake charmers along with a portion of hustlers and loads of tourists. At the edges of the square are fruit and juice stalls – and surrounding the square are a lot of hotels, most with patios for watching the sun set. Expect to pay a huge premium for the privilege of sipping a soft drink or a glass of water with a view. I do think it’s worth “the price of admission” as it’s quite a sight to see all the action.

Marrakesh Places to Visit When You Only Have a Day

Watching the sun set over Djemaa el-Fna

Marrakesh Places to Visit When You Only Have a Day

It is quite a sight to watch the market come alive in such short order

Palais de la Bahia

Built at the end of the 19th Century, as the residence of Si’ Ahmed ben Musa, the Grand Vizier of Sultain Moulay al-Hassan I, the Bahia Palace is a rambling structure that includes, gardens, fountains, living quarters and courtyards. A visit here is like a breath of fresh air and tranquility as its peaceful and quiet – a huge contrast to the noise and chaos outside the gates. That doesn’t mean it isn’t packed with people but it all seemed very orderly when we were there.

Marrakesh Places to Visit When You Only Have a Day

The entrance to the palace is very calming with gardens and green space

Marrakesh Places to Visit When You Only Have a Day

Some of the tile work is extraordinarily beautiful

Souqs of the Marrakesh medina

Consider hiring a guide to take you through the souqs of Marrakesh – as much to avoid being hassled as anything else. What you’ll find is a maze of shops selling everything imaginable across the quality spectrum. Look for carpets galore, arts and crafts, apothecary items, spice and perfume shops, leatherwork and jewelry. You’ll also see people hard at work – often under less than ideal work conditions including carpenters, blacksmiths and dyers. An hour or two will be plenty of time to see everything.

Why You Only Need 24 Hours in Marrakesh

Walking the souks of Marrakesh

Why You Only Need 24 Hours in Marrakesh

Working conditions are harsh – dirty and noisy

Marrakesh Places to Visit When You Only Have a Day

There’s lots of junky stuff around

Marrakesh Places to Visit When You Only Have a Day

Babouche (leather slippers) in a rainbow of colours

Take time to just wander and soak in the sights. That really is part of the joy of traveling and in Marrakesh there are no shortage of colourful scenes. We found that doing what I described along with a quick tour of Maison Tiskiwin – a small public museum filled with Berber doors, jewelry, textiles and carpets – is plenty of ground to cover in a day. Of course there are more sights to uncover – several beautiful gardens around the city and the Saadian tombs but I think there are far more interesting sights to see in the country and would move on.

Why You Only Need 24 Hours in Marrakesh

Street scene in Marrakesh

Marrakesh Places to Visit When You Only Have a Day

Walking alongside the walls that encircle the medina in Marrakesh

Marrakesh Places to Visit When You Only Have a Day

Exiting the medina through this gate

Before you head to Marrakesh I’d recommend picking up the most recent edition of the Lonely Planet Guidebook and a map of Morocco – at least if you plan to see more of the country.

Other posts related to the Morocco trip you might enjoy:

What you can do when you have only one day in Marrakesh

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Bertie Cowen says:

    I usually recommend a day trip to the Cascade d’Ouzoud but mostly love sitting drinking mint tea and watching the Djema al Fna in all its crazy glory.

  • Cindy says:

    Marrakesh was our least favorite spot too, but I actually wish we had more time there – it seems like a place that takes awhile to adjust to and I think it would have grown on me. We loved Bahia palace and actually went back a second time to have a bit more time before it became a zoo. And, of course, I loved Majorelle Garden, but I’m really into gardens. The Saadian tombs are amazing, but they are also a major attraction for Moroccans, so super crowded and all you get is a peek inside – it’s a long, unpleasant wait for a quick look. Not worth it!

  • Giovanni Esposito says:

    Ben Youssef Madrasa was worth a visit, too. Though I just found out it’s closed for renovation currently so check before you go.

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