We think that Morocco has some of the best cities for you to visit in 2021 for several reasons. Morocco has always been a top class holiday destination and this year will be no different. Morocco is still very much an exotic location with a philosophy and system of its own. It is anything but ordinary. If you are looking for something beautifully different, Morocco can offer you many kinds of different. This post is the beginning a comprehensive list of all the most attractive cities to visit in Morocco.
In This Post
- 1 Table of contents
- 2 Marrakech
- 3 Meknes
- 4 Chefchaouen (Chaouen)
- 5 Ifrane
Table of contents
Marrakech is one the best-known cities in Morocco, and North Africa in general. Marrakech is not very far from the Atlas mountains and if you book a seat on the left side of the place, you will get to see a nice view of the city surrounded by the Atlas mountains. Marrakech city extends on a 600 ha making it the 4th largest city in Morocco. Marrakech is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. The heart of the city, the old Medina has been and still is an attraction for many tourists from around the globe. With narrow streets, fountains, and majestic gardens, Marrakech certainly owns the charm of a historical city. Marrakech is colorful, vibrant, and easy to fall in love with from the first visit. Marrakech is home to a lot of landmarks, monuments, historical mosques, gardens, and Riads just waiting for you to visit.
Best places to visit in Marrakech
1. Old Medina
The Medina Quarter in Marrakech is a densely packed and busy area. Home to a large souq (Marketplace). The souq contains hundreds of maze-like streets where it’s almost impossible NOT to get lost at some point. In the Souqs, you can find all sorts of traditional Moroccan products and souvenirs including rugs, clothes, paintings and pottery. Getting lost in the Souq is one of the greatest and daunting experiences you can have visiting Marrakech. It can be quite challenging to get out of the maze at first but the colors, people and scents bring the whole area to life magnificently. So, get lost but look like you are having a good time.
2. Jemaa El Fena
Moving on to the immense square of Jemaa El Fna, with its vibrant and amazing animations and entertainment shows. This place alone is worth visiting Marrakech for. Visit Jemaa El Fena at night and surrender yourself to a magical experience of culture, Moroccan music and songs. From a giant hub of trading, selling and buying, at night, Jamaa El Fena is surprisingly transformed into an open-air restaurant, a concert, and a caravan where everyone is having fun, chanting, and enjoying the Moroccan street food.
3. Marrakech Gardens
Another way of enjoying the charm of Marrakech is to visit its gardens and Riads. In Islam, Heaven is a garden, and Marrakech gardens are a part of heaven on earth. You can easily find your inner peace strolling around the trees and plants of the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech. Even better, The Secret Garden is another escape from the busy and hectic life of Marrakech Medina. If you visit The Secret Garden, order Moroccan Mint tea while enjoying the smell of lavender and orange trees.
4. El Bahia Palace
Many places in Marrakech feature Arabian-Andalusian architecture, magnificent interior decoration, and garden arts. However, Al Bahia Palace combines them all. Bahia Palace has more than 150 rooms and multiple gardens with orange, palm, and pomegranate trees. The center of the palace features a 1500 sqm square decorated with beautiful mosaic (Zellige). There are currently only 2 parts of the Bahia Palace open to the public.
5. Saadian Tombs
Saadian Tombs is where over 60 members of the influential Saadi Dynasty were buried. For those unaware of their history, the Saadi Dynasty ruled Morocco in the 16th and 17th centuries. Their tombs were discovered in 1917 and the site is open to visit now for tourists.
6. Al Koutoubia Mosque
Al Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakech. It is located in Medina and easy to spot from far thanks to its 253 feet (77m) tall Minaret. The Koutoubia mosque was built in the 12th century and was an inspiration for other prominent buildings in the country and worldwide.
Morocco is famous for its traditional leather tanneries. In fact, leather bags, leather shoes, and other products are commonly sold items in the Souqs. Most tanneries are located in the Northern part of Medina.
Where to stay in Marrakech
The best places to stay in Marrakech are Riads. The word Riad means garden, but now Riad is a type of luxurious and traditional accommodation ( Boutique Hotel) in Morocco. Riads are mostly found in the imperial cities, such as Marrakech, Fez, and Meknes. All Riads have a central garden and/or a roof garden.
- Riad Kniza: Located in Marrakech old Medina, the hotel retains the authentic old Moroccan layout, charm, and beauty reflected on all its rooms. Our experience in Riad Kniza was amazing and the food was really delicious.
- Riad Maison Belbaraka: Maison Belbaraka is a charming little place situated just a few steps away from the famous Jamaa El Fna, a great accommodation to enjoy both an authentic Moroccan experience and the surrounding city treats.
- Riad La Sultana Marrakech: La Sultana Marrakech is a luxury hotel with magnificent rooftop views. La Sultana Riad puts you just moments from the royal palaces, museums, and souks of the magical city of Marrakech.
Meknes is one of the four imperial cities in Morocco. Located towards the North of Morocco, between Fes and Agadir. Meknes was first inhabited by an Amazigh (Berber) tribe, called Meknassas, and this is where the name originally came from. It was fortified as a military city by The Almoravids in the 11th century. The city later served as the capital of The Alaouite Kingdom under the rule of Sultan Moulay Ismail. Sultan Moulay Ismail turned Meknes into an impressive city in the iconic Spanish-Moorish style. Surrounded by high walls with great gates, Meknes is an imperial city with a lot of historical monuments and natural sites that reflect its different historical influences. It is also the nearest city to the Roman ruins of Volubilis. Even though Meknes holds a rich history and a lot of interest in tourism, the city still does not attract as many tourists as it deserves. For me, Meknes should definitely be on the to-visit list in Morocco.
Best places to visit in Meknes
1. Meknes Medina
Like many cities in Morocco, Meknes Medina is a maze of narrow streets hiding years of history. Medina is not so crowded and busy. You will enjoy walking around in the calm and just after you pass 2-3 streets from Lahdim Square, you will no longer see tourists or shops for tourism, only locals.
2. Madrassa Bou Inania
Founded in the 14th century by Abu Inan Faris, Madrassa Bou Inania is one of the most remarkable places in Meknes. In case you’re wondering what a Madrassa is, it’s a Quranic and Islamic school, usually a part of the Mosque that serves to teach kids reading, writing, and also the Holy Quran. Bou Inania Madrasa in Meknes is one of Morocco’s ancient Islamic law colleges. It was the first Madrassa I’ve ever visited in Morocco. I was surprised at the stunning architecture, the mosaic tiles of the walls of the courtyard, the carved wooden doors and windows, the geometric patterns, and Islamic calligraphy. Everything about the Madrassa was just stunning. If you find yourself in the beautiful city of Meknes, be sure to make a stop at Bou Anania Madrassa.
3. Bab Mansour
Bab Mansour or Bab Mansour el-Aleuj is one of Meknes city gates (Bab means door in Arabic). Located not far from Lahdim Square, The monumental gate can’t be missed. Bab Mansour was built in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and it was the main entrance to the Kasbah of Sultan Moulay Ismail. Today, it is one of the most famous and admired landmarks in the Meknes city. Bab Mansour is living proof of the amazing Moroccan touch, easily seen on elaborate Arabic inscriptions painted on the tiles and the heavy decorations of Zlej (Mosaic tile work).
4. Lahdim Square
Lahdim Square is situated between Bab Mansour and Meknes Medina. It’s one of my favorite places in Meknes. This vast square has several restaurants and cafes, my favorite one is a rooftop cafe nearby the square giving an amazing look at the whole area. Lahdim Square has a nearby Souq as well where you can go for an authentic shopping experience. At night, Lahdim Square is magically transformed into a mini Jemaa El Fena with all the vibrant lights, sounds, and delicious street food.
5. Kara Prison
Kara Prison is an underground prison in Meknes. It was constructed in the early 18th century by a Portuguese prisoner in exchange for his freedom. Kara Prison is probably one of the most unusual and bizarre prisons in you have ever seen. The prison was designed in the form of a maze, with no doors or bars to lock the prisoners in. It is said that it can accommodate up to 40 000 prisoners and none of them had ever escaped. The entrance is located in Ismaili Qasba, but the labyrinth goes on for miles. Some believe it’s roughly the size of the city itself, while others say it reaches the city of Taza, over a hundred miles east of Meknes. According to legend, a team of French explorers entered the prison and attempted to discover the vastness of the prison and were never seen again. Today, only a small part of the prison is open to tourists. Kara Prison is really worth your while but be careful not to get lost. The last thing you need to get lost in an ancient Moroccan prison.
6. Heri Es Souani
Meknes Hri Souani landmark of Meknes certainly deserves a visit. The huge granaries of Meknes were constructed in the 17th century during the rule of Moulay Ismail. They are divided into various 4 meter thick rooms to allow them to maintain a cool temperature in order to preserve the food. the granaries are also equipped with small wells which used to serve for water supplies and the leveling of Souani’s pond. Heri Es Souani monument is a little bit far from other attractions but it is easily accessed either by taxi or walking. This historical place was used to film some scenes from “The Last Temptation of the Christ” and “Jesus of Nazareth” movies.
7. Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail
The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail in Meknes is a historic Islamic funerary complex. It contains the tomb of Sultan Moulay Ismail, who ruled Morocco from 1672 until his death in 1727. It is a major historic and religious site in the city and it is open to the public. When I visited Meknes back in 2018, I wasn’t lucky enough to visit the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail because it was under renovation. But if you go to Meknes make sure to visit this magnificent tomb.
Where to stay in Meknes
It depends on what type of accommodation you prefer to stay in but there are 2 options: Stay in the new city in a conventional hotel or opt for a more traditional and authentic option that I would choose to stay in.
- Riad Hiba is an ideal option for low budgets. With just $30 you can get a decent double bedroom. The Riad is located at the entrance of the Medina and a is a great deal forthis price.
- Riad d’Or is also an excellent place to stay in Meknes. The Riad is situated next to Lahdim Square. The hotel is so elegant and it’s just $40 a night for a double bedroom.
- Riad Yacout is my final recommendation in Meknes. The Riad is located in Lalla Aouda square. The place where Kara Prison and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail are located. The hotel is in a great location to stay in which is just 2 or 3 minutes by taxi from Lahdim Square.
Chefchaouen is one of many beautiful cities in northwest Morocco. It is also well known as The Blue City because of the vibrant blue color of its buildings and streets. Chefchaouen is closer to Tangier, making it a popular tourist destination. The city is surrounded by breathtaking mountains. The ancient Medinah with many narrow streets hides ancient Kasbahs and tiny Moroccan houses. Chefchaouen is heaven for influencers and Instagrammers with plenty of photo opportunities and instagrammable places in every corner of the city. The city is also popular with many hand-crafts and traditional Moroccan products such as woven blankets, and clothes.
Best places to visit in Chefchaouen
In the Medina, you can mill around peacefully and find your way easily through the narrow streets while enjoying the soothing blue color of the tiny houses and doors. The Medina is quite small with beautifully designed streets with flower pots and Moroccan decorations. This experience is nothing like walking through the busy Marrakech or Fez Medinas, it’s much better. Here, you can walk at your own pace in empty, light blue colored, calm alleys.
The Kasbah is a haven for nature and fresh air in the heart of the city. It is located in the Place Outa El-Hammam. To enjoy the fascinating view of the Medina, you should climb high up to the Kasbah. The building of the Kasbah accommodates an Andaloussi museum with its vibrant garden. In the same place you will get to visit not only the Kasbah but also the biggest mosque of Chefchaouen city. If you are visiting Chefchaouen, this stop is a must.
3. Bazaar town
The little bazaars across Chaouen Medina are a real wonder and a unique sensory experience. Locals display their traditional Moroccan crafts such as clothes, unique souvenirs, and arts. If you happen to be in Chefchaouen on a Monday or Thursday, you should definitely pay a visit to the local “Souq” where the Valley Rif farmers gather to sell their products in Chefchaouen streets.
4. Spanish Mosque
Spanish mosque in Chaouen is located uphill the Rif mountains providing the best sunset view in the whole city of Chefchaouen. As the story goes, the mosque was built by Spanish Muslims during the Rif War between the Spanish who were colonizing the region and the Berber tribes of the Rif mountains. According to the same story the mosque was never used for worship.
Where to stay a Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen is one of the best cities in Morocco and absolutely a great place to spend a few relaxed days away from the hustle and the bustle of the busy cities.
- Dar Echchaouen: Located in the borders of the Medina, Dar Echchaouen is a great place to stay. The hotel is just minutes walking distance from the city center. The hotel rooms offer an amazing view of the Medina and also the nearby Rif mountains. They also have a pool. If you want to stay in Dar Echchaouen, consider booking early.
- l’hôtel Casa Khaldi: This hotel is great if you are looking for a decent place to sleep with a small budget. The hotel is located in the Medina borders, basic but clean. The price is around $25 for a double bed room.
- Lina Riad & Spa: If you have more to spend on accommodation, I would recommend staying in Lina Riad & Spa. The classic Riad is located in the heart of Chefchaouen Medina. At around $120 for a double room with breakfast, go for Lina Riad & Spa.
Morocco is generally associated with the Sahara desert, busy souqs and markets, and snake charmers. Ifrane, however, is unlike any other city in Morocco. Located at an altitude of 5460 feet above sea level in the Middle Atlas Region, this small hill town has a Swiss Alpine feel to it with its red-roofed buildings, blooming flower beds, and snowy winters. This remarkable European style city is often referred to as the little ‘Switzerland’ of Morocco.
Best places to visit in Ifrane
1. National Park of Ifrane
The biggest cedar forest in the world is located in this park. The park offers exceptional forest and mountain landscapes with many lakes or Dayats surrounding the area including Dayat Aouda, Dayat Ahechlaf, Dayat Ifran, and many more. Ifrane’s National Park is a favorite place for hikers and fishermen and also Barbary Monkeys, an endangered species of monkey living under the protection of the park.
2. Michlifen Ski Station and Resort
Michlifen is one of Morocco’s beautiful ski resorts. The station is located in the Middle Atlas Mountains, a few kilometers away from Ifrane. The ski resort contains 5 skiing tacks and is surrounded by immense and superb cedar trees. People love coming to Michlifen in the winter with families and friends, since all the facilities are open to everyone and prices are quite cheap. Not far from the ski station, you will find the absolutely gorgeous Michlifen Resort, a 5-star hotel.
3. The Lion of Ifrane
Sitting majestically in the city center near Chamonix Hotel in Ifrane, the lion statue is one of Ifrane’s masterpieces and one of most photographed places in the whole Meknès-Tafilalet region. The statue was crafted by a German soldier during World War II. The story behind the lion statue was to commemorate the last Wild Atlas Lion that was shot near the area in the early 1920s. Taking a picture with the lion has become somewhat of a tradition for Moroccans visiting the city.
Where to stay in Ifrane
- Michlifen Resort & Golf: A picturesque Mountain resort with all you’d expect. The suites and chalets are exquisite and everything is done in style. You are looking at about 250 USD for a single room. Much more for the bigger options.
- Gite du Barrage: This is a more affordable option. It is set in a beautiful valley with epic views. There are also some good hiking trails nearby and the staff are said to be very friendly and welcoming.