This action-packed public square in Marrakech’s medina quarter (old city) has a dazzling array of merchants, sellers and entertainers, and is popular with tourists and locals alike. Street theatre has been practised here since around 1050 AD and UNESCO declared the square a 'Masterpiece of World Heritage' in 2001. During the day, it is largely occupied by orange juice stalls (orange trees are abundant in Morocco) and snake charmers. As the afternoon progresses and the sun sets, the food stalls start to fire up and lively performances from acrobats, Berber musicians, Shilha dancers and magicians take centre-stage.
Must-see cultural highlights of Marrakech
A visit to a souk is essential for any Marrakech experience. A labyrinth of alleyways and stores, it’s easy to whittle away hours inside the Medina walls, haggling for one-of-a-kind finds. Ornate silver tea sets, handcrafted babouches (leather pointed slippers), tagine pots, jewellery, spices and exquisite interiors are all up for grabs for a fraction of the price available back home. You’ll find everything here and no matter how far you wander, it’s never difficult to find your way back to the Jemaa el-Fnaa for a refreshing juice.
One of the most popular attractions in Morocco since their re-discovery in 1917, the Saadian Tombs are ornately decorated with vibrant tiles, intricate carvings and Arabic scripts, some of which date to the time of the Saadine dynasty of sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603). Located on the south side of the Kasbah Mosque (also well worth a visit), the tombs have been lavishly restored by the beaux-arts service. You’ll be amazed at their beauty, alongside magnificent arched ceilings, marble and mosaic carvings. Exit the tombs and explore the busy Kasbah right outside, home to souks, street-food vendors and hip cafes.
Originally inspired and owned by landscape painter Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s, the Majorelle Gardens and its adjoining Cubist villa were later purchased by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in the 1960s. After years of enjoying the magnificent property, Yves gifted it to his adopted home, Marrakech. Head here to delight at the striking cobalt blue villa that pops against the botanical backdrop of lush green cacti, groves of bananas, bougainvillea and coconut, lily ponds and fountains – a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of the souks.
A significant Moroccan ritual, the hamman is a place where locals typically go every week to bathe and cleanse themselves, emerging a few hours later radiant, relaxed and rejuvenated. While the experience may vary from place to place, a trip usually consists of an extra-hot steam room to open the pores, followed by an olive oil–based black soap, a scrub down with a kessa glove to remove any dead skin and finally an invigorating plunge into cold water. In some instances, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your hotel to enjoy a hamman.