Seven Must Visit Cities In Morocco

Morocco is a country of mosques and mosaics, with every city built around an ancient maze-like medina. Here there’s no end to finding hidden treasures in markets full of hand-crafted purses, pottery, and textiles in every hue.  Must-do’s in Morocco include visiting a hammam (the famous Moroccan spa), trying local dishes like tagine with mint tea, or riding a camel under the bright stars of the Sahara.  There are endless places to visit in this traveler’s paradise, and here are a few of our favorites. 

1. Marrakech

Souvenirs on the Jamaa el Fna market in old Medina, Marrakesh, Morocco

The dynamic chaos and beauty of Morocco’s ‘Ochre City’ make it the most popular in the country.  It has 16th century palaces and dreamy riads, a type of traditional Moroccan house with a decorated, central courtyard full of fountains and skylights.  Start by visiting Jemaa el-Fnaa square to barter, get a mystical reading, get some intricate henna paint, and take photos of the exotic fare. 

Afterwards, consider escaping to a rooftop cafe to decompress from the hectic market before heading to the nearby Koutoubia Mosque.  For more stunning architecture, visit the Palácio da Bahia (meaning brilliance) in the medina.  Once done taking in this vibrant UNESCO world heritage site, head to the nearby palace of El Badi with its gardens of citrus trees.  We also recommend having a meal at the Le Riad Yasmine which has to be one of the most picturesque raids in Morocco.  

Though not actually a secret, Le Jardin Secret is a stunning garden with fantastic views of the Atlas mountains. Lastly, one of the top rated attractions in the country is a city oasis called ‘Jardin Majorelle’.  These luxurious, botanical gardens were designed by the French designer Yves Saint Laurent and feature bold blue buildings, reflection pools among a collection of cacti. If you can only visit one city in the country, it should be Marrakech!

2. Merzouga

Caravan in the desert, Merzouga, Morocco

One of the most memorable experiences you’ll have in Morocco will surely be taking a camel ride through the Sahara desert.  To see the vast dunes, we recommend heading to Merzouga, a village on the edge of the Erg Chebbi desert.

Due to its close proximity to the desert, it’s the best place to go for a single day desert excursion.  Here the sand dunes rise an incredible 350 m (1148 ft) above the plain and the Saharan sunsets are amazing. After the sun goes down, the breathtaking photography opportunities don’t end.  No light pollution brings the stars to your fingertips and the night continues with traditional Berber songs around the campfire

3. Fes

Leather dying in a traditional tannery in the city Fes, Morocco on January 18, 2020.

The cultural heart of Morocco is one of the oldest cities and a very aesthetic city. Dating back to the 9th century, the Medina of Fes is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There you can admire the ancient city walls and famously ornate blue gates. 

Inside the Medina, make sure to see the beautiful water features of Jnan sbil Gardens as well as the grandest madrasa in the city, the Bou Inania Madrasa. The Bou Inania Madrasa is known for its marbled courtyards, seafoam green mosaic tiles, and intricate wood carvings. 

The second largest city in the country is also famous for its spices, pottery, and tannery. Visitors wishing to see the earthen tannery pits should head to a rooftop for a birds eye view of this iconic site. However, due to the intense smell, make sure to bring a scarf to cover your nose.

4. Chefchaouen

Beautiful street of blue medina in city Chefchaouen, Morocco, Africa.

Morocco’s famous all blue city, has been ranked 6th prettiest city in the world for good reason.  The Blue Pearl of Morocco is completely blue and sits prettily in the Rif Mountains.  The bazaars, selling ornate rugs and delicate handicrafts, offer splashes of colors against the beguiling blue talc of the city. 

It’s no surprise that the top thing to do here is to simply walk the city while taking photos of the cool hues. Though, if you’d like the streets to yourself you might want to consider getting up at the crack of dawn.  Visitors to the city also enjoy hiking up to see the view from the Spanish Mosque at sunset and afterwards sitting down to the live music being played in the square in the evenings. 

Locally grown specialties include fresh hand-squeezed juice as well as maurijuana.  The latter is illegal though many do ‘kif in the Rif’, so use your best discretion.

5. Essaouira

Aerial view on old city of Essaouira in Morocco

Essaouira is a darling port city that some might recognize as ‘Astapor’, from Game of Thrones. With historical roots as a trading hub between the Middle East, Europe and  Africa, you’ll still be able to find priceless gems from all over. 

It’s way too easy to lose yourself in the Sunday souk. Among vibrant plates, ceramics, hand painted tiles, raffia shoes and the hypnotizing patterns of handmade baskets.  Other fun cultural activities include taking in the city’s many art galleries and visiting the blue bottomed boats of the Old Fishing Harbor. 

Other ocean related activities include taking a camel or horse ride down the beach. You can also kite surfing, or simply enjoying the sea breeze at a cafe while sipping tea. After a few days here you’ll see why this vibey Moroccan city is one of our favorites.

6. Meknes

Bab Mansour Gate and El Hedime Place in Meknes, a city in Morocco which was founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement

Though smaller than the other cities on this itinerary, this 11th century imperial city and UNESCO world heritage site is certainly worth visiting. The main draw to the city is the roman ruins of Volubilis, known for its beautiful mosaic floors depicting mythical figures.

Other top sites include Bab Mansour, a massive city gate considered to be the most opulent in Morocco. As well as the mausoleum and decorative gardens of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl within walking distance next door. Lastly, visit the Bou Inania Madrasa (not to be confused with the one with the same name in Fes) and the harem in the Dar Jamai museum. 

When you have finished seeing the sites of this laidback city, consider celebrating with a camel burger before heading off to your next destination

7. Tangier

A Seagull Flying Above Tangier At Dawn

Located in North Morocco, Tangier is a fascinating city that offers a wealth of cultural and historical experiences to any who visit.  Most tourists head to Cape Spartel to see the Cave of Hercules, where mythology says the demigod rested.

You also have to see the 17th century architecture of the Kabash, inside of which you’ll also find the Kabash Museum and Cafe Detroit, known for hosting expat writers and artists in their 1960’s heyday.  Walk down the French-inspired Ville Nouvelle and upon reaching the end of  Boulevard Pasteur you can see the harbor offering interesting views of the Strait of Gibraltar and distant Spain (only 14 km away). 

As there might be less in Tangier to do than in other cities, consider getting your hammam experience here. It usually includes a full body scrub, hot and cold water treatments, and a full body massage. Locals come here to these bathhouses to socialize fully nude -although seperated by sex -so be prepared to strip down.

An important note about visiting Morocco for women: many females travelers have reported that they would not solo travel in Morocco due to sexual harassment.  It would be safer to travel with a group or with a male traveler, and additionally, it’s important to dress more modestly as it is still a very conservative and male dominated country.

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