The best things to see and do in Marrakech, from specialized souks to colourful gardens
You cannot say that you know the reality of Marrakech until you are lost in its souks, or have a mint tea while contracting the purchase of an ancient Berber carpet. But even moving away from the souks and shopping you will find some of the most fascinating historical sites such as the long hidden tombs of the Saadian sultans, the wonderful Jardin Majorelle of Yves St Laurent and the architectural jewel of the Ben Ben Youssef Madrasa.
Take a walk in the unique atmosphere of the main city square
One of the most fascinating spectacles on earth is Djemaa el-Fna square, a UNESCO world heritage site, characterized daily by a convulsive rhythm. The name of the square means “assembly of the dead” – since it was originally a place of public execution, but today Djemaa el Fna, attracts the crowd of visitors and natives, for pastimes such as storytelling, astrology, spells with snakes and the extraordinary stunts of the Gnaoua troops.
Insider tip: even if the juice sellers and the henna artists are already in the square in the middle of the morning, the real show begins at sunset, when the chefs light their grills creating one of the largest and most famous barbecues in the world. In this case, don’t be shy, sit down.
Find inspiration in the most elegant museum in Marrakech
The beautifully maintained Musée Yves St. Laurent is the first serious contemporary museum in Marrakech. It celebrates the work of the Algerian couturier Yves St Laurent, whose revolutionary collections have drawn inspiration for over 40 years, from the red city of Marrakech. Designed by Studio KO, the building is made of ocher-colored Tetouan bricks and includes a splendid permanent exhibition of the collections of the famous designer as well as a temporary gallery which displays the works of emerging Moroccan artists and designers.
Insider tip: book a visit to the library whose design is characterized by oak panels, where on the upper floor you will find an extraordinary collection of books on Morocco, Berber culture, North African fashion and architecture, botany and landscape of the desert, all part of Pierre Bergé’s private collection.
Search for treasures in the last urban maze
Nowhere else in the world is there a medieval and at the same time modern atmosphere like that of Marrakech. A visit to the Medina allows you to do all this. Dive into the Souq Sebbaghine (Dyers Souk) where the skeins of freshly dyed saffron wool are hung up to dry; o Souq Lebbadine, where visitors gather around wooden and leather stalls. Souq Smata (Slipper Souk) and Souq Semmarine (Leather Souk) are in the center of the action.
Insider tip: follow the flow, enjoy the jokes and never be too proud to bow gracefully. Souk newbies can immerse themselves in the experience of the Souk Cherifa, where young designers sell their products at fixed prices.