Visit Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque

Perhaps the most popular attraction in the city, Koutoubia Mosque is a bustling architectural attraction filled with picture-snapping tourists, but it's well worth the hassle of the crowds.

The magnificent structure stands 220 feet tall. Its lofty minaret casting its massive shadow over the Medina—the city's oldest historic district.

To the people of Marrakech, the minaret is as beloved as the Eiffel Tower is to Parisians. It's a relic from the past, dating back to the 11th century when it was named after the prominent booksellers market. Keep in mind that, as with most Moroccan mosques, you must be of the religion to enter, so non-Muslims will have to observe from outside.

For the most exquisite view, come at night when it's lit to a gentle glow.

Meet the Locals at Jemaa el Fna

Just south of Medina is where you'll find the Jemaa el Fna, a city square that has been thriving for eight centuries. It's an exotic, fairy tale experience with storytellers, snake charmers, magicians, peddlers, and Barbary macaques dressed in elaborate costumes.

Around dusk, the market starts to come to life. Traditional Moroccan dancers, acrobats, and drummers perform in the streets, and spice merchants will haggle with any and everyone. This is also when a procession of wooden carriages line up along the square to form a channel of food stalls. The prices are surprisingly low, but be wary of eating any unrequested appetizers, which many vendors charge for at the end of the meal without warning.

Taste Sheep's Head

With all the delicious, authentic Moroccan food that can be found throughout the streets of Marrakech, sheep's head might not sound like an appealing option.

The Tanjia is a regional dish loved by the locals, though it's stereotypically eaten by single Marrakech men (or those in the dog house) due to its simplicity. It requires only one pot to cook and can be purchased at the market in its own portable slow cooker (the term "Tanjia" actually refers to both the pot and the sheep's head inside). It's not popular among tourists, particularly Westerners, so those who dare try the sheep's head delight have a truly unique experience.

If you're looking to enjoy some Tanjia at a restaurant, head to Dar Rhizlane Bejgueni, a Marrakech staple situated in Jemaa el Fna square.

Tour El Badi Palace

Marrakech has a history of wealth, which can be explored through its many lavish homes, mansions, and palaces. The palaces, called riads, are known for their high walls, colorful gardens, and open courtyards, and there are dozens throughout the metropolis.

The most notable is El Badi Palace, which was built in the 1500s. It's seen some wear and tear since then—it was looted and stripped bare less than a century after its creation—but the ruins that remain are proof of the grandeur of the sultan's home.

Leave yourself at least an hour to explore the lush grounds, palace interior and its subterranean rooms hidden away from the world, as well as find your way out of a complex labyrinth. There's also a small museum that houses artifacts recovered from the old pulpit of the Koutoubia Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Marrakech.

Stroll through Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle

A visit to Jardin Majorelle, or Majorelle Garden, will cost a pretty penny (50 Moroccan dirham or about US$6), but it's worth the money. The 2.5-acre garden is the creation of French painter Jacques Majorelle, who envisioned a fantastic open space that takes you through meandering streams, lotuses and water lilies floating atop ponds and tranquil fountains.

The museum and artist studio serves as the focal point, drawing visitors in with its intense blue color. The color has been dubbed "Majorelle blue," a hue that was inspired by the sight of the Atlas Mountains. It's a peaceful retreat from the bustle of the city beyond the earthen walls, and the garden is a mecca for birders—you can expect to see house sparrows, blue tits, grey wagtails, turtledoves, robins, blackbirds, and others who have settled in this utopia.

Shop at Bab El Khemis

Bab El Khemis

Take a journey off the trodden path and visit Bab El Khemis, located among through the backstreets off the Medina and a wonderland for treasure and bargain hunters alike. While this open-air marketplace is open everyday, the name actually stands for "Thursday," the day it blossoms into a teeming flea market. Vendors sell handmade goods, secondhand items, and rare oddities you won't find anywhere else in the world, like a wooden chair carved painstakingly by a local's hand or dentures from a deceased Marrakech resident. Metalworkers create beautiful pieces, the smells of warm mint tea fill the air, and horses gallop along the stone paths.

Be sure to stop by the area filled with doors—even if you don't plan on taking one home, the intricate carvings and ornate designs will bedazzle.

Find Adventure in the Atlas Mountains

The Atlas Mountains fill the landscape with gorgeous snow-capped peaks, beckoning anyone who isn’t afraid of heights. Take a break from the heat and let the high elevations cool you during a relaxing stroll along the foothills, or work up a sweat as you scale the Atlas Mountains' highest peak, Toubkal mountain (it stands nearly 14,000 feet tall and gives you a magnificent view of the Sahara).

There are also several small villages located among the peaks. Ourika, for instance, is a lush valley about 35 miles south of Marrakech where rivers and waterfalls surround an assembly of quaint Berber villages. Keep in mind that the trek can be arduous, so you'll need rugged walking shoes ideal for walking atop rocks and through shallow waters.

Walk About the Saadian Tombs

Discover the history of Marrakech at the site of the Saadian Tombs, which is located at the south end of the Kasbah Mosque grounds.

This burial ground, which takes on the form of a walled garden, was discovered at the start of the 1900s, and archaeologists have found evidence of burials from the Saadian era of the 16th century, though it's believed to have been used far before that.

As you walk around, you'll find early mosaic graves that hold those whose names have been lost with time. There are also three beautiful pavilions that serve as a testament to the reign of sultan Ahmed el-Mansour, who ruled the Saadian empire.

A tomb contained in the Hall of Twelve Columns, filled with stunning marble pillars, contains the bodies of El-Mansour, his son and his grandson. Another interesting structure—the Prayer Hall—contains the graves of several princes from the 1700s.

Experience Marrakech Art at the Maison de la Photographie

Even though the Maison de la Photographie is a fairly new institution (opened in May 2009), it has quickly become among the most beloved. It gives you a look into the past three centuries of Marrakech history and, though the building is small, it houses a massive collection of more than 4,500 photographs, 2,000 glass negatives, and 80 texts dating as far back as the mid-18th century.

Explore the series of exhibits arranged by style and period, such as "Photographic treasures of Morocco," renowned for its Tangier period portraits and Le Grand Tour depictions. There are also rotating displays, such as the photograph of the month, for which the institution selects one picture and one text of particular importance from the library.

One of the rarest works here is a full-color documentary of Marrakech from 1957, "Countrysides and Faces of the High Atlas" which lets you view the journeys of the Seksawa tribe of the High Atlas. After you've seen all the exhibits, head to the top terrace of the museum to snag a delightful vacation photo with the Atlas Mountains as the backdrop and enjoy a tasty lunch at the cafe.