since 2009

9 things to do and see in marrakech

 Mamounia gardens and High Atlas 

What to do and see in Marrakech in 2024 when here for 48 hours or more.

After the pandemic, Marrakech was burgeoning with new openings: museums, art galleries, restaurants or riads. We’ve taken our time to test and try some out so that we answer the simple question: What should you do and see in Marrakech if you only had 1 day ?  We’ll skip the obvious highlights such as Jemaa El Fna squarre, Medersa Ben Youssef or the Majorelle Gardens. This is addressed to those that either 1) have already toured the main sites of Marrakech or 2) want to experience the city from a more intimate and local angle. Because we have lived in Marrakech since 2006, some of these sites are personal favorites and won’t be found on the net or in Forbes/ Lonely Planet guides. 

MAISON DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE – historic prints and commanding roof terrace.


maison de la photographie 1

What is Maison de La Photographie ? The name would want us believe that it’s a photo gallery. And in a certain way, it is. Old black and whites ( and some color prints) from decades ago don the walls of a tiny reconverted foundouk in the Kaat Bennahid district, on the eastern fringe of the medina, not far from the tanneries. To me, personally, it’s more than that. It’s a vehicle of culture. The 3 stories of white washed plaster packed with exposes that change once or twice a year, the 1950’s documentary on the Berbers that runs on a loop on the second floor, the Friday couscous concocted by Mohammed the cook,  or the 360 degrees rooftop view are certainly worth the detour. 


But it’s the man behind the project, Patrick, and his team, that have made this ( and the sister property Maison de la Musique) staples in the cultural circuit of the medina. Their collection pays homage to some of the first European photographers that ventured into Morocco, as early as 1880’s, true pioneers, when taking photos meant trundling along a wagon of gear. The staff is earnest, speaks English and always ready to help. If you happen to meet him on site, it’s worth asking Patrick about photography and Moroccan culture – the man is a trove of information.

Best visited all year round, especially in winter for the Atlas and medina views from the terrace. In summer, it’s best to visit before lunch time. 

MAP MUSEUM – finally, a world class museum in the medina.

monde des arts et parures marrakech

Just a stone’s throw away from Palais Badi’ lies the newly opened Le Mondes des Arts de la Parure ( The World of Arts of Adornment), a private collection of more than 3000 pieces of ornaments, jewelry, clothing, textiles and other ethnographic items. As one wanders through the exhibits, bricks, wood, skylights and concrete staircases resonate with the collection. Its 22 distinctive sections introduce one to the symbolism, history, techniques and uses of adornment in vernacular societies.

monde des arts et parures marrakech 2

Horse saddles from Caucasus and India, massive gold jewelry from West Africa or caftans from Morocco and Arab world are stunningly presented and highlighted here. The building itself is not just another old riad converted into a museum, but a completely new edifice dedicated solely to this project. And it shows.  Having lived in Marrakech for 15 years, it delights me to say the medina of Marrakech has finally gotten a world class museum.

Best visited all year round. For impatient/bored children/ teenagers, there is a terrace with restaurant and open spaces. 

DAR EL BACHA – sublime architecture and craftsmanship. And the café.

dar el bacha museum 1

The house of the pasha. On a walk from Jemaa El Fna square down Fatima Zahra street towards Riad Laarousse, one can not help but notice the huge walls girding what looks to be lush gardens on the inside, just on the corner of the district it gives its name to. Years ago, stories about its history abounded. Among other gossip, it was said many had tried to purchase the palace over the years, but for some reason it never happened. Some said it was haunted. After all, it is said that some that went for an audience with the pasha were never seen again…

dar el bacha museum 2

Whatever the truth, this was the main residence of Pasha El Glaoui, a highly controversial, picturesque and stately figure of Morocco, a fine politician, a lover of perfumes, a man that used to have tea with Winston Churchill or the Queen of England at a time when France occupied Morocco. Having finally opened its doors to the public in 2015, as a Museum of Confluences, it hosts rotating exhibitions on topics as diverse as craftsmanship of wood or modern Moroccan painters.

Beyond all that, what’s truly worth it is the building itself – one of the most lavish noble houses Marrakech has ever known through its arches, marble columns and wood ceilings. Just scoot over to the Douiria pavillion and awe at the refinement of stucco and carved wood craftsmanship, reminiscent of that epitome of monument that shone its influence on anything erected after it in the Islamic world- the Alhambra. PS: Do not miss the café !

Best visited all year round. In high season, try and visit early in the morning, before the crowds gather. Tip: before starting on the visit, book a table at the cafe.

BELDI COUNTRY CLUB – chic pools and acres of gardens for families or couples.

beldi country club 1

If you just returned from a Morocco private tour and you wish to unwind and give some space to your children to free up some of that energy locked in during the long driving hours, there’s hardly a better venue than Beldi Country Club. Close to the city ? Check. Outdoors swimming pools ? Heated ? Check. Lunch restaurant with Moroccan and International options ? Check. Acres of lush gardens and shade to shield from the sweltering sunshine ? Check. A spa, shop and glass workshop complement the offer. The restaurant serves alcohol and there are several formulas to choose from: lunch and pool, pool and drinks, etc. The grounds are immense so you are sure to always find privacy and quiet, with or without children.
Make sure to avoid weekend and especially Sundays when residents flock to.
beldi country club 2
Best visited all year round especially in the warm season.

PIKALA – great coffee in the medina.

pikala cafe marrakech

Are you a fiend for coffee and you find yourself in the medina ? Look no further. An offshoot of Pikala bikes, an outlet renting out hip bikes to tourists, the cafe sits in a courtyard a short distance from Dar El Bacha and the Mosque of Bab Doukala. Think terraces and alcoves overflowed by bougainvillea, hammocks swinging in the breeze and wicker sofas. What’s also different from other places is the staff – Khaoula, the coltish hostess who greeted me in let me on that the students working there on internship appreciate the experience while the Dutch owners get to help the younger generation of Morocco with their career choices. And it does feel more like a social club than a typical 9- to- 5 staff. A vegetarian menu is also available on site. Bring your novel along, americano or latte, you’ll likely reorder.
pikala cafe 2
Best visited all year round except July and August. 

RIAD DENISE MASSON – Where the Lady of Marrakech lived

Do you wonder what a true riad used to look like back in the days, decades before the riad- guesthouse craze took over Marrakech ? Forget all the renovated riads of nowadays – to begin with, there were no pools where patrons would bathe. Public hammams filled that function. Denise Masson was a French lady from a well- off family that ‘landed’ in Marrakech in the 1950’s and acquired a house not far from Bab Doukala mosque. She took a very active role in the social issues of Marrakech and Morocco and volunteered for the Red Cross, yet she is more famously known for the translation of the Koran into French.
riad denise masson
She passed in 1994 and her house was legated to the French Institute of Culture. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, it’s certainly worth a visit to the house that has been her residence of the Dame of Marrakech for almost 60 years.
The French Institute often organizes exhibitions and music concerts inside the gardens. The immense patio, strewn with cypresses and orange trees, the high ceiling alcoves and even her piano are still there. Try to attend one of the evening music concerts organized during Ramadan.
Best visited all year round. 

DOUIRIA MOUASSINE – live traditional music in Marrakech

douiria mouassine marrakech

After having opened Maison de la Photographie on the east of the medina, Patrick indulged his other passion: music. Housed inside a 18th century gem of a house with the original painted woodwork mostly intact, the Musee de la Musique may sound pompous. In reality, the tiny alcoves and high- ceiling halls are an architectural marvel and convene to create the ideal background for a meeting place ( and sharp acoustics). 
douiria mouassine marrakech
A carefully curated if somewhat concise collection of music instruments and photographs from Morocco and Africa occupies the ground floor. The first floor is dedicated to live music shows three evenings a week. Under the most splendid carved wood and flourishings, patrons are swept away by Andalusian, Moroccan or Gnawa rhythms. After the show or at sunset, walk up on the the roof terrace and sip a mint tea taking in the views on the Koutoubia mosque and the High Atlas crests.
Best visited all year round especially on the live music nights Mondays, Wednesday and Friday.

GALERIE 127 – insight into Moroccan culture past and present

galerie 127 marrakech

Sometimes the best things are far from obvious. For this one you’ll have to leave the medina and venture out into Gueliz with its mad traffic and Europenized avenues. On the second floor of an unassuming French era immeuble lies arguably the most consistent photo gallery of Marrakech. In a city where businesses change hands every 5 years, this gallery is almost blowing its 20th birthday candle. The building also hosts doctor cabinets, training academies and even a driving school. Climbing up the building stairs, amongst the constant come- and- go of patients and students, you’d wonder for a second if you got the right address. Thankfully, once you’ve stepped in, you realize that this place takes photography seriously.
Nathalie, the owner, having previously worked  for the likes of Cartier, decided to follow her passion and open a photo gallery in Marrakech in 2006, when everyone else were busy opening a riad. Having already hosted more than 100 exhibitions, the gallery regularly lends works for institutional exhibitions – (Contemporary Morocco to’IMA, Africa Capitals at La Villette, New York University and Boston). Why is it worth visiting ? Photography yields a great introspection into the Moroccan culture, both old and new. Although modern, the gallery always had Morocco as its common thread, either showcasing Moroccan photographers or else foreign ones with a focus on Morocco.
Best visited all year round, open Tuesday through Saturday from 2 PM to 7 PM. 

MAMOUNIA GARDENS – the most romantic gardens of Marrakech

Marrakech teems with gardens, resembling much its sister city on the Guadalquivir, Seville, some public and some private. I know what you’re thinking: Majorelle. Well, bad news: unless you visit at opening time and book your ticket on the internet, you risk of stumbling into someone’s selfie every step you take.  Instead, take a step back into Marrakech’s past and enter La Mamounia. Yes, the hotel. Its story begins in the 18th century with the Alaouite Sultan, who used to offer a domain as a wedding gift to each of his sons and thus Arsat Al Mamoun inspired the name of a hotel. Winston Churchill, a regular guest, told Franklin Roosevelt about Marrakech in 1943: “This is one of the most beautiful places in the world”. The Rolling Stones stayed in 1968. Many celebrities and statesmen followed.

mamounia gardens

But you are not here for the suites – it’s the gardens that mesmerize. One can’t think of a more romantic site in Marrakech than these gardens when the afternoon turns to dusk, here, among the hundreds of well- manicured olive, lemon, pine and orange trees. Once inside, it feels like you’ve suddenly been extricated from the white noise of the neighboring medina and its traffic madness and landed into an oasis without leaving the city. And you won’t even need a taxi – it’s 10 minutes walk from Koutoubia mosque.


Tip: The gardens not being public, tell the concierge at the entrance that you wish to have a coffee on the terrace overlooking the gardens. And then, go for a stroll. Important: please note the hotel has a strict dress code and sandals, flip- flops, shorts and mini skirts are not allowed.

Best time of year: all year round except high season ( Easter and New Year’s Holidays).

All of the above experiences and sites are included with our private bespoke tours of Morocco. For more information, write to us at [email protected] or fill in this form.

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